Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag retained their hold of the Norwegian National Championship title in the most memorable fashion in Bergen.
With an immense weight of expectancy on their shoulders from a sardine-packed Grieghallen auditorium, they produced an epic rendition of their own-choice work, 'Fraternity' under MD Ingar Bergby to secure the massive National Trophy for the eighth time in the last decade and book their place as the nation's European representatives in Utrecht in 2018.
Such was the sheer musicality on show from first note until last on Thierry Deleruyelle's sumptuous work that the usual feral display of acclamation reserved for the very best performances at this event was replaced by a communal show of reverence.
As the last note rang out, the audience rose on mass to its feet like a church congregation; acknowledging that they had just been lucky enough to have heard music making that transcended simply winning one of the banding world's most prestigious major championships.
The record books will note Eikanger's 17th National title success to go with the Kr65,000 prize money for posterity, but it will be the memory of how they did it that will also last for decades to come.
"This is very special," their respected spokesperson Viggo Borge told 4BR, as the players (who had given the pre-results concert) grouped around the trophy to have their pictures taken. They all knew it was a moment to cherish for years to come.
"We have enjoyed many successes at this contest, but this was up there with the very best. The performance of 'Fraternity' was inspired — I cannot think of any other way to describe it."
He added: "It has been an amazing musical experience working with Ingar Bergby — and I think that was shown today."
And if further confirmation was needed, a little later Florent Didier, one of the own-choice judges, and the conductor of the equally all-conquering Paris Brass Band told 4BR: "It was magnificent playing — so balanced, so beautifully shaped and played. I could only admire everything."
In a way it had to be: On the Friday, Stavanger under Allan Withington, produced a stunning account of the set-work, 'Variations on a Theme of Michael Tippeatt' that also resonated deeply with a knowledgable audience as well as the screened judges in the box.
Crucially though, Eikanger was just half a point behind after delivering a very different take on the Tippeatt work, whilst Bjorsvik Brass was third ahead of Manger, Oslo and Kleppe. In reality however, the contest was between the two most successful bands in the contest's history as rivals were left in their wake.
On the Saturday, Manger did their very best to draw back into contention with a coruscating 'Journey of the Lone Wolf' under Peter Szilvay, with Jaren Hornmusikkforening showing they are becoming a serious contender for podium honours under Howard Evans, with a finely delivered 'Spiriti'.
Meanwhile, Bjorsvik rolled back the years under Andreas Hanson with a wonderfully shaped 'Dances and Arias' (with their tuba team taking the 'Best Section' award) whilst Kleppe round off the day with an exciting 'REM-Scapes'.
The crux however came with Eikanger, followed after the break by Stavanger.
The defending champion's musical magnificence was inspired to a different level in thought and execution — the MD drawing out stunning timbres and colours, his players (led by the superb 'Best Soloist' David Morton on principal cornet) showcasing such refined levels of ensemble and solo artistry.
Even their greatest rivals acknowledged it as one of the finest ever performances heard at this event.
It left Stavanger, on Simon Dobson's intriguing 'The Turing Test', with no margin for even the slightest error; a few noticeable fragilities ultimately costing them in what was an engrossing performance — the single point margin seeing them fall short overall by the narrowest of margins — 0.25 of a point.
Few people however could argue at the post-results Brass Party that Eikanger was not the most worthy of champions — with even ardent Stavanger fans acknowledging that it had taken a quite remarkable performance to beat them.
Manger will know that on this occasion a scrappy set-work cost them dearly on the Friday, whilst Bjorsvik, Jaren and Kleppe will have enjoyed the long night more than happy with their eventual outcomes.
None though would have celebrated as well, or perhaps as long, as Eikanger.
Even the most severe of early morning hangovers will not have killed off enough brain cells to have made any of their players or supporters forgot just how brilliantly they had performed to win the 2017 Norwegian National title.
Tertnes claim a fourth First
As is the case in Bergen, there was plenty of musical ambition on show in the First Division, where the eclectic own-choice selections provided the audience, as well as the judges, with an engaging competition.
In the end it was the fine number 1 marker from Tertnes under Martin Winter that proved unbeatable.
Their rendition of 'Harmony Music' not only gave the Hordaland band their fourth First Division success, but also gave Martin his first National title as a conductor — on a piece he won the National Championship of Great Britain on with Desford as a player, 30 years ago.
One point margin
The detailed account, although not error free, saw them gain a one point victory over the improving Musikkorpset Gjallahorn. They gave a persuasive rendition of 'Isaiah 40' under Rune Gundersen, with Ila's powerful 'Hypercube' led by Adam Cooke, just failing to catch the ears of the open adjudicators to end third.
Hard working accounts of 'Tallis Variations', 'As if a voice were in them' and '...Dove Descending' gave Sola, Askoy and Hasle top-six places, although it was notable that on occasions, misplaced ambition and more than a little conducting vanity saw some bands struggle to get anywhere near their selections.
Radoy go Fourth in Second
There was also a fourth Second Division National success for Radoy Brass, as they expertly fused together the conducting and compositional talents of Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen to claim the Kr30,000 first prize.
The excellent performance of one of his earliest brass band works, 'Abstractions', gave the Hordaland band a two point margin of victory over Sandefjord Brass Symposium with Sagvag Musikklag a point further back in third.
It was the avid Liverpool FC fan's second National success, making up for the news that his beloved team had earlier lost in their Premiership football match.
In banding contrast, it was a welcome return to prize-winning form for former top section champions Sandefjord, as their purposeful rendition of 'Variations on an Enigma' found favour in the hall and with judges Clare Farr and Thomas Rimul, whilst Sagvag rounded off the contest with a spirited account of 'The Plantagenets'.
The other top-six places went to Jolster ('Prisms'), Agder ('Five Blooms in a Welsh Garden') and Alexander Brass ('Land of the Long White Cloud') as the judges rewarded solid brass banding basics ahead of unrewarding brass band ambition.
Lucky thirteen for Sorum in Third
The celebratory champagne corks were popped for the first time in thirteen years for Sorum Musikklag in the Third Division, as their spirited rendition of Gilbert Vinter's classic 'Symphony of Marches' claimed a long overdue National title.
MD, Henrik Dagestad-Dalhaug also notched up his debut taste of National conducting success, as the trophy and prize money of Kr15,000 headed to the Akershus region band for the first time since 1994.
Gjovik ByBrass finished two points behind the winners courtesy of a solidly portrayed 'Harmony Festival' by Jan de Haan and also pip rivals Skui Brassband by half a point on their rendition of John McCabe's 'Salamander'.
The remaining top-six places in a contest that was an enjoyable mix of realism and rather romantic ambition went to the joint fourth place finishers of Rong Brass ('Traversada') and Bjorvika ('The Essence of Time') with Lakesvag Musikkforening in sixth ('Connotations').
First Nes in Fourth
There was a first National title success to celebrate for Nes Musikkforening in the Fourth Division. Directed by Thorbjorn Lunde, their solid account of 'Tallis Variations' gained a narrow single point margin of success over rivals Fraena Brass Band, with Floro Hornmusikk in third.
There was a great deal of well chosen repertoire for judges Tijmen Botma and Thomas Rimul to enjoy in the compact Peer Gynt Hall, as the recently relegated Fraena pushed the eventual winners close with their choice of 'Labour & Love' under Marieka Gray, with Floro just a point further back playing 'The Graces of Love'.
The remaining top-six places went to Indre Torungen Brass Ensemble ('Musica Helvetica'), Stavanger Kommunes Korps ('Heart of a Salvationist') and Kjolsdalen Musikklag ('Harmonius Variations').
Brass band aficionados also had the opportunity to hear the rarely heard Beethoven inspired Eric Ball work, 'Youth Salutes a Master' from Hetlevik Musikklag in a contest that was a joyful showcase of inclusive community banding.
Krohnengen Old Stars shine in Fifth
Former players from the Krohnengen Band made a winning debut on their first Nationals appearance on the Fifth Division.
Their performance of 'A London Overture' under MD Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen proved good enough to repel the strong challenges of their rivals — led by a delighted Sotra Brass.
Conducted by Ben Hirons (who played solo cornet with Eikanger later in the day) their rendition of 'The Dark Side of the Moon' just pipped third placed Moen Musikkforening playing 'Inspiration'.
The remaining top-six places in a highly enjoyable contest (that has more of an ethos of musical inclusion rather than sheer competitive endeavour), went to Filadelfia Hornorkester ('Spirit of the Pioneers'), Rosendal Musikklag ('The Saga of Haakon the Good') and Skeie Brass ('Rhapsody on Negro Spirituals').
With its own far-reaching ambition, highly professional organisation and sense of outward inclusion, both to the city of Bergen and the rest of the country (the nmbrass sign could be seen projected onto the Grieghallen like a welcoming beacon), the Norwegian Championships continue to blaze a trail of innovation and re-invention that the majority of the banding world can only envy.
Those lucky enough to have listened to Eikanger playing 'Fraternity' to win the Elite Division title, will also know that it is also a contest topped by exceptional music making too.
We have enjoyed many successes at this contest, but this was up there with the very best. The performance of 'Fraternity' was inspired — I cannot think of any other way to describe itViggo Borge, Eikanger Bjorsvik
Set Work: Tijmen Botma , Mark Heron , Yngve Slettholm
Own Choice: Dr Michael Ball, Florent Didier, Ivan Meylemans
Set Work/Own Choice = Total
1. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar Bergby): 95/97 = 96
2. Stavanger Brass (Allan Withington): 95.5/96 = 95.75
3. Manger Musikklag (Peter Sebastian Szilvay): 92/95 = 93.50
4. Bjorsvik Brass (Andreas Hanson): 93/93 = 93.00
5. Jaren Hornmusikkforening (Howard Evans): 87/94.5 = 90.75
6. Kleppe Musikklag (Philip Hannevik): 90/91 = 90.50
7. Oslo Brass (Geir Holm): 91/87 = 89.00
8. Molde Brass (Russell Gray): 88/89 = 88.50
9. Krohnengen (Bjorn Breistein): 86/88 = 87.00
10. Oslofjord Brass (Rune Hannisdal): 85/86 = 85.50
Soloist: David Morton (cornet) — Eikanger Bjorsvik
Best Section: Tubas (Bjorsvik Brass)
Adjudicators: Thomas Beiganz, Yngve Slettholm
1. Tertnes Brass (Martin Winter) — 95
2. Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn (Rune Gundersen) — 94
3. Ila Brass (Adam Cooke) — 93. 5
4. Sola Brass Band (Frederick Theodoloz) — 92.5
5. Askoy Brass Band (Reid Gilje) — 92
6. Hasle Brass (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 91
7. Tomra Brass Band (Stian E. Svendsen) — 90
=8. Flesland Musikklag (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 89
=8. Brottum Brass (Ray Farr) — 89
10. Haukas Musikklag (Jan Egil Jorgensen) — 88
11. Tertnes Amatorkorps (Bengt Florvag) — 86
12. Oster Brass (Joseph Cook) — 85
Best Soloist: Soprano (Askøy Brass Band)
Best Section: Tuba Section (Sola Brass Band)
Adjudicators: Clare Farr, Thomas Rimul
1. Radoy Brass (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen) — 97
2. Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Jon Terje Svendsen) — 95
3. Sagvag Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 94
4. Jolster Musikklag (Arvid Anthun) — 93
5. Agder Brass (Eirik Gjerdevik) — 92
6. Alexander Brass Band (Morten E Hansen) — 91
7. Manger Old Star Brass (Marit Tommermo) — 90
8. Tysnes Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 89
=9. Tromso Brass (Geir Davidsen) — 87
=9. Orskog Brass (David Roberts) — 87
11. Trondheim Politis Brassband (Espen Andersen) — 85
12. Lindas Brass (Hilde Brevik Grytten) — 84
13. Folleso Musikklag (Bjorn Breistein) — 83
Best Soloist: Euphonium (Sandefjord Brass Symposium)
Best Section: Trombone Section (Sandefjord Brass Symposium)
Adjudicators: Thomas Beiganz, Ivan Meylemans
1. Sorum Musikklag (Henrik Dagestad-Dalhaug) — 97
2. Gjovik Bybrass (Christian Tenfjord) — 95
3. Skui Brassband (Thor-Willy Karlsen) — 94.5
=4. Bjorvika Brass Band (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 94
=4. Rong Brass (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 94
6. Laksevag Musikkforening (Helge Haukas) — 93.5
7. Gjesdal Brass Band (Jonas Skartveit Rogne) — 93
8. Bergen Brass Band (Sindre Dalhaug) — 92
9. Valdres Brass (Thorgeir Thunestvedt) — 91
10. Stangaland Brass (Melvin White) — 90
11. Salhaus Musiklag (Bengt Florvag) — 89
12. Tysvaer Brass (Martin Kinn) — 88
13. Flora-Bremanger Brassband (Philip Goodwin) — 87
14. Fjell Brass (Paul Fensom) — 85
15. Langhus Brass (Thomas Swatland) — 84
Best Soloist: Soprano (Sørum Musikklag)
Best Section: Percussion (Bjørvika Brass Band)
Adjudicators: Tijmen Botma, Thomas Rimul
1. Nes Musikkforening (Thorbjorn Lunde) — 93
2. Fraena Musikkorps (Mareika Gray) — 92
3. Floro Hornmusikk (Torgeir Halvorsen) — 91
4. Indre Torungen Brass Ensemble (Lars Bjornar Strengenes) — 90
5. Stavanger Kommunes Korps (Gwyn Evans) — 88
6. Kjolsdalen Musikklag (Arvid Anthun) — 87
7. Lyshornet Brass (Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen) — 86
8. Brumunddal Brass (Per Kristian O Syversen) — 85.5
9. Hetlevik Musikklag (Andreas Heier Roe) — 85
10. Holmestrand Ungdomskorps (Svend Erik Andersen) — 84
11. Fla Musikkorps (Odd Steinar Morkved) — 83
12. Frei Hornmusikk (Stein Age Sorlie) — 82.5
13. Lismarka/Mesnali Brass (Anders Harstadhaugen) — 82
14. Lillehammer Brass (Jon Kristian Solberg) — 81
15. IMI Brass (Per-Erik Petersen) — 80
Best Soloist: Solo Cornet (FrÃ¦na Brass Band)
Best Section: Corent Section (Nes Musikkforening)
Adjudicators: Dr Michael Ball, Florent Didier
1. Krohnengen Old Stars (Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen) — 96
2. Sotra Brass (Ben Hirons) — 95
3. Moen Musikkforening (Ole Kristian Egge) — 94
4. Filadelfia Hornorkester Drammen (Pal Andre G Worren) — 93
5. Rosendal Musikklag (Paul Hughes) — 92
6. Skeie Brass (Nigel Fielding) — 91
7. Saksumdal Musikkforening (Andres Halla) — 90
8. Borge Brass Band (Ken Goran Mikkelsen) — 89
9. Grenland Brass (Kenneth H. Gudmundsen) — 87
10. Alvik Musikklag (Torbjorn Dagestad Jnr) — 85
11. Randaberg Musikkorps (Pal Magne Austernes-Underhaug) — 83
12. Haus Musikklag (Christopher Roedvang) — 82
13. Fjordbrass Lavik (Jason Burn) — 81
14. Lalm Musikkforening (Odd Ivar Svelstad) — 80
Best Soloist: Solo Euphonium (Grenland Brass)
Best section: Tuba Section (Sotra Musikklag)