The vibrant strength in depth of the Swiss brass banding movement was shown at the College des Creusets in Sion last weekend when over 300 competitors took part in the Valaisian Solo & Quartet Championships.
Founded by the legendary Swiss conductor Geo-Pierre Moren and now in its 24th year, it saw keenly fought battles for three major age category and quartet titles, with Jury President Prof Nicholas Childs telling 4BR that he and his seven fellow judges had enjoyed playing of "a remarkable standard".
"I can't remember hearing solo playing of such a high level for many, many years," he said.
"It was a remarkable standard and one we don't currently have in the UK. The young soloists showed ambition, technique and musicality. The Junior Solo Final was very special with a champion who showed great musical maturity and stunning technical prowess."
He added: "The progress made in the quarter of a century since this event started is a fitting legacy to the inspirational Geo-Pierre Moren, whose foresight has now built a remarkable foundation of playing talent."
The new Junior Solo Champion, 18 year old Cedric Ritler (second from right), who plays for Brass Band Lotschental and reigning Swiss National Champion Valaisia Brass Band gave an outstanding performance of his solo choice 'Diabolical Burlesque' by Eddy Debons.
It was one that gained 99 points from the jury to pip a superb baritone rendition of Bertrand Moren's 'Myths and Legends' by Emma Roh, with an excellent performance by bass trombonist Elise Jacquemettaz of 'A Nightmare in Heaven' written by Yannick Romailler, half a point further back in third.
And it was not just the Black Dyke Director of Music who was stunned by the playing on show.
Cory principal cornet Tom Hutchinson told the local regional press who covered the event: "I've never heard technical playing like that anywhere — certainly not in England or Wales!", whilst Katrina Marzella added: "These instrumentalists play in an extraordinary way, and I think this explains why Swiss banding is doing so well. Brass banding is now rooted in Swiss musical culture."
Speaking to 4BR, Cedric's delighted teacher Angelo Bearpark said the victory had extra significance: "Cedric is the first player from his area of the upper Valais region to win the title — and it will be one that will make a huge impact. He is a wonderful young musician who is keen to learn and improve."
The victory rounds off a great year for Cedric after also successfully auditioning to play solo cornet for Valaisia Brass Band in time to play with the band at the Swiss National Championship.
Angelo added: "I know he wants to keep improving as a player and after his National Service he says he may want to study at the RNCM in Manchester. If he does, I'm sure lots of bands will be after his services!"
There was much to enjoy and savour in the other main events, with excellent performances from each of the Cadet Section Champions as well as the new Minimes Champion (aged 10-13), cornet player Julie Pralong.
The Quartet title was claimed by Mixt in Brass comprising Ophelie Vergeres, Francois Buchard, Emeline Bapst and Lionel Fumeaux, playing a specially written work entitled, 'Family Things' by Yvan Lagger.
Interestingly the organisers released figures that showed that the number of participants for the event had doubled in the past decade. The numbers from each local area had also increased, whilst this year over 130 young female players took part.
The progress made in the quarter of a century since this event started is a fitting legacy to the inspirational Geo-Pierre Moren, whose foresight has now built a remarkable foundation of playing talentProf Nicholas Childs
Junior Solo Final:
Adjudicators: Prof Nicholas Childs; Tom Hutchinson; Katrina Marzella; Serge Gros; Daniel Bichsel; Jean-Claude Kolly; Simon Estermann; Manuel Imhof
1. Cedric Ritler (cornet): 99.0
2. Emma Roh (baritone): 98.5
3. Elise Jacquemettaz (bass trombone): 98.0
4. Colin Rey (euphonium): 97.5
5. Marc Werlen (soprano cornet): 97.0
6. Alena Imseng (cornet): 96.5
7. Lucas Llor (trombone): 96.0
8. Louis-Justin Khalife (trumpet): 95.5
Tenor Horn: Antonin Darbellay
Tuba: Benjamin Schers
Cornet: Louis-Justin Khalife
Euphonium: Baptiste Sauthier
Trombone: Robin Fellay
1. Julie Pralong (cornet) — 89.5
2. Noe Boulnoix (horn) — 88.0
3. Theo Morelli (soprano cornet) — 86.0
4. Baptiste Bobillier (trombone) — 85.0
5. Victoria Rose Duc (cornet) — 83.0
6. Eve Falcotet (cornet) — 82.5
7. Evelyne Gillioz (cornet) — 82.0
1. Mixt in Brass — 89.0
2. Liberty Quartet — 87.0
3. A votre Portee — 84.0
4. Pink Ladies — 83.0
5. Smurfs Quartet — 82.0
6. Boulder Quartet — 81.0
Pictured: Tom Hutchinson, Katrina Marzella, Prof. Nicholas Childs, Emma Roh, Cedric Rietler and Elise Jacquemettaz