As victory celebrations go, none came better during the Championships in Oostende than those displayed by the members of the Italian Brass Band after winning the European Challenge Section title.
With players waving a large 'il Tricolore' flag and others proudly wearing ones wrapped around their heads, they burst into a rousing rendition of the National Anthem 'Inno di Mameli' — sung at such a passionate fortissimo it almost lifted the roof off the Kursaal auditorium (They also gave Eikanger a great congratulatory reception as they raised their trophy in triumph too).
It was a wonderful spectacle; players close to tears as they hugged each other and especially their inspirational conductor Filippo Cangiamila — a man of calm Roman reserve who smiled modestly and shrugged his shoulders when asked how he felt about his band's success.
"It is amazing," he told 4BR as his players eagerly grouped around him like legionnaires with their victorious general. "We are very happy of course to win for a second time — and again with a Peter Graham piece. We want to get better and better."
Filippo then showed 4BR the comments from the adjudicators, which he said made him feel so proud. "This is one of the most beautiful comments which I've ever received", he said as he pointed to a sheet that read: 'Congratulations. You were able to mix great technical expertise typical of the great bands from Northern Europe with the musicality typical of the Italian 'Bel Canto'.'"
He explained: "This was my musical goal, and I'm very happy that it is expressed by my band. Naturally we have to work hard to improve our level, but this is a good starting point!"
Meanwhile, Band President Claudio Valente added: "This prize is the result of great passion and hard work spent by everyone. This band is growing and we are really proud of it."
That very visible sense of pride was certainly expressed by others, with bass trombonist Giovanni Celestino, who made such an impression on the audience adding: "This result is one of the highlights of my professional life!", whilst solo cornet Crivello Franceso said: "We have to improve our actual level and increase our international experience, but everyone is full of enthusiasm and, in my opinion, we have the possibility to become a super brass band."
Brass band mania
Based in Rome, the Italian Brass Band is made up of players from various ensembles and orchestras in the Eternal City and survives by raising all its own funds.
They won the Challenge Section in 2015 and last year won the Championship Section title at the inaugural Italian National Championships in Ascoli Piceno — something which they aim to repeat in Bolzano later this year.
One result of their recent success has also seen the band kick-start, what their tenor horn player Daniele Arena said, was a 'brass band mania' in the country. "As we don't have a sponsor our victories are double in value," he explained. "Now several bands are starting to be created and constantly contact us to find out how to improve. Italy has a brass band mania now!"
The band certainly showed their emerging maturity; giving fine renditions of the engaging set-work, 'Insomnia' by Bart Picquer, that combined contemporary and melodic structures with a cleverly realised vocal connection to its poetic inspiration by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and their own-choice selection of 'Prisms' by Peter Graham.
The playing was bold and vibrant, (aided by a splendid 'Best Instrumentalist' award winner in solo trombone Paulo Masi) led by an MD who shaped the music with an understated flair that brought out the rich tonality of his band in the test-piece in particular.
The Italians may not quite be ready to step up in class to the Elite level, but in a few years time (helped by two new instruments and 1,000 Euros as a first prize) they will surely be knocking on the door.
Another band that also displayed a growing maturity was 1st Old Boys from Northern Ireland — a bit of an incongruous title given the number of fantastic young players they have coming through their ranks under MD Stephen Cairns.
They will surely have enjoyed a great trip home after they produced a brace of neatly delivered crepuscular performances of the set-work and 'Blackout' by Thomas Doss to secure second place. A day later, their indefatigable youngsters also performed with the organisation's youth band in the European Youth Championships — to round off a memorable weekend.
Meanwhile, there was ample evidence that the German brass band movement is now also growing in substance as Brass Band Regensburg ended third under the elegant direction of Christie Hartmann. Their confident accounts of 'Insomnia' and their own-choice of 'Fire in the Blood' showcased a band with solid foundations in place for future success.
Although the primary function of the Challenge Section is to help develop banding movements in new or emerging European nations, the inclusion of Belgian First Section champion Brass Band Panta Rhei and Scotland's Coalburn Silver certainly added interest, if not purpose this year, to EBBA's overriding ethos.
The Belgian's produced a hearty account of themselves, especially with their own-choice of 'The Bandsman's Challenge', whilst the Scots of Coalburn Silver (who worked their socks off the raise the funds to get to the event) did themselves proud, especially with a super reprise of 'The Land of the Long White Cloud'.
And with the European Championships due to be held in Lithuania in 2019, the wonderfully named Sunday Brass (because that was the day they first practiced on when they were set up) gave a clear indication of their continuing progress, especially on a cracking account of their own-choice of 'A Day in the Life of A Knight'.
The contest though belonged to the Italian Brass Band, and who to slightly misquote the words of perhaps the greatest European title winner of them all in Julius Caeser — came, saw and conquered in quite splendid fashion in Oostende.
This prize is the result of great passion and hard work spent by everyone. This band is growing and we are really proud of itItalian Brass Band President, Claudio Valente
Torgny Hanson, Jan Van der Roost, Dr Roger Webster
Test Piece: Insomnia (Bart Picqueur) & Own Choice Programme & Own Choice Programme
1. Italian Brass Band (Filippo Cangiamila) : 92
2. 1st Old Boys (Stephen Cairns) : 91
3. Brass Band Regensburg (Christine Hartmann) : 89
4. Brass Band Panta Rhei (Tim de Maesener) : 88
5. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) : 85*
6. Sunday Brass (Tadas Sileika) : 83*
Best Soloist: Paulo Masi (trombone) — Italian Brass Band
*denotes points deducted due to passing the limit of total playing time