Report & Results: 2016 European Championship: Challenge Section

Germany's Brass Band Sachsen takes strength from Samson to claim Challenge Section title.

Italian Band Euro 2016

As the Championship contenders rested ahead of their own-choice performances on Saturday afternoon, bands from six nations set about producing a thoroughly enjoyable contesting aperitif full of high quality playing in the Challenge Section.

After lacking a sense of purpose for a number of years the event has been rejuvenated, thanks to EBBA's renewed focus on it featuring representative bands from emerging banding nations: Those that have an existing, but small national contesting structures, or who are in the process of constituting one.

Future growth

Ireland and Northern Ireland (who fall into the former category), France, Italy, Germany and Lithuania (in the latter) are at very different levels of structural organisation, but EBBA rightly feels that each has an essential part to play in the future growth of a brass banding culture throughout Europe.

And with the news that both Germany and Italy will become fully fledged EBBA members (allowing representative bands to compete in the Championship Section) in the coming weeks and months respectively, EBBA has started to succeed with its long-term aims for the event.

Current standard

They will also have been delighted at the current standard of playing, with each band required to perform Rodolphe Schacher's biblically inspired 'Samson' alongside a major own-choice work to mirror the contest format of the senior Championship contest.

The set-test was originally considered for that, but at just under 12 minutes in duration and less challengingly scored, the EBBA Music Commission found it to be more appropriate for this event. It was a very good decision.

Like 'Fraternity', it was also a welcome return to tonality and poetic writing as the tale of the hirsute hero unfolded with themes of faith, heroism, love, betrayal and vengeance tackled along the way. All that was missing was Tom Jones and a chorus of 'Delilah'.

In the end the adjudication team of Michael Bach, Michael Forsyth and Fabrice Millischer opted for the impressive talents of Germany's representatives Brass Band Sachsen under the direction of Englishman Bryan Allen, with the defending champion Italian Brass Band close on their heels in second, and the local French favourites of Douai Brass in third.

They later told 4BR that they were both 'impressed and delighted' by the standard of playing on show, stating that the winners were 'excellent' in what had been a close but clearly-defined battle between the top three, with the others just a little bit behind.

New champion

The new champion also sent out a clear message to their domestic rivals as they head to the German National Championship in Bad Kissingen in Bavaria this weekend. They are a very compact, talented ensemble with some strikingly good main soloists.

'Samson' was given a bold, operatic sense of musical sweep, whilst their own-choice of 'Blackout' by Thomas Doss was (perhaps as expected) another journey into the darkly hued mindset of the Austrian composer. It certainly suited the band's tonal textures and impressive technique.

"The band works so hard, and the commitment is amazing,"their delighted MD Bryan Allen told 4BR as we finally caught up with him heading towards a welcoming bar with some of his players late on Saturday night.

"The desire to improve, understand and develop as a brass band is incredible. I really enjoyed working with them and I'm sure they are going to do well at the German National Championship next weekend. This result has given everyone such a huge boost."

Freiburg reverse

The result was a reversal of the outcome in Freiburg last year, with defending champions Italian Brass Band this time having to be content with a fine second place.

A balanced reading of the set-test was followed by authoritative rendition of Philip Sparke's 'A London Overture', that although pushed dynamically at times, would have more than held its own against the best First Section contenders in the UK when the piece was used at the Regional Championships in 2015.

They were also aided by some splendid direction by Filippo Cangiamila and a simply stunning contribution from principal cornet Giuliano Sommerhalder, who just happens to be a former first trumpet player of the world famous Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Flag waving

Although the hall was by no means full, there was a splendid atmosphere throughout — especially when the very vocal flag-waving supporters of Douai Brass made the auditorium of the Nouveau Siecle Hall look like the terraces of the local football ground when Euro2016 comes here in a few weeks time.

It wasn't quite enough to propel their band to glory, although they did produce a brace of fine performances on the set-work and their own-choice selection of 'Abbadon — The Dark Angel' by Kevin Houben.

Evenly matched

Just behind the podium finishers came an evenly matched battle between Murley Silver, Sekmadieninis Brass and Lourdes, with the Northern Irish taking fourth place with two well-worked renditions — including a splendid account of 'Glorifico Aeturnum' by Dean Jones.

It proved just enough to pip the emerging talents of the Lithuanians, who continued to show their development as a banding force with an atmospheric take on 'The Saga of Tyrfing' as their own-choice selection, whilst Lourdes, packed with youngsters, produced a brace of spirited performances, especially on the classic Dean Goffin work 'Rhapsody in Brass'.

In the end though it was a triumph for Germany — and with their football stars heading here in just a few weeks time it could well be an omen for further contesting success.

Malcolm Wood

The desire to improve, understand and develop as a brass band is incredible. I really enjoyed working with them and I'm sure they are going to do well at the German National Championship next weekendMD, Bryan Allen


Michael Bach, Michael Forsyth, Fabrice Millischer

Test Piece: Samson (Rodolphe Schacher) & Own Choice Programme

1. Brass Band Sachsen (Bryan Allen): — 96
2. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila) : — 95
3. Douai Brass (Olivier Degardin): — 94
4. Murley Silver (William Hill): — 92
5. Sekmadieninis Brass (Tadas Sileika): — 91
6. Lourdes (Michael Hannan): — 89

Best Soloist: Giuliano Sommerhalder (cornet): — Italian Brass Band

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