Even the remarkable statistics of Eikanger Bjorsvik's success in winning the Norwegian National Championships in Bergen on the weekend failed to adequately represent the magnitude of their victory.
For the 18th time they lifted the imposing National Trophy, fittingly accompanied by the King's Cup. It was their third win in a row and their ninth in the last eleven years. They also topped both elements of the contest for a second year in succession and once again were awarded 99 points out of 100 for the performance of their own-choice selection.
However, all that paled into insignificance in relation to the manner in which the Kr 65,000 first prize and qualification to the 2019 European Championships was secured under the direction of Ingar Bergby.
In front of a worldwide audience (thanks to the excellent live-streaming of the event) they responded to the inspired challenge of their great rivals Manger Musikklag by taking contest music making to a new level of sophisticated excellence.
It culminated in a rendition of Wilfred Heaton's immense 'Partita' that was worthy of any honours board that would mark the finest orchestral performances to have graced the wide expanse of the Grieghallen stage since it was opened in 1978 (the previous day they topped the set-list with a sumptuous performance of 'Aubade — Dawn Songs of the Fabulous Birds').
The Heaton though left the packed audience stunned by the scope and creativity inspired by a conductor of such intensity of purpose that the 27-minute performance became almost ritualistic in its transfixing power of extraordinary musicality — from the Waltonesque rhetoric of the opening 'Prelude', through the vicious elegance of the 'Scherzo' and acidic beauty of the 'Canzona' to the dry power of the final 'Rondo'.
By its close the contest may have been won, but a new era of Elite level competitive brass band music making had opened up before those fortunate to have heard it.
Here Bergby unlocked a portal of such insight into the austere spaciousness of Heaton's own thought processes that even the silences between the notes had a musical imprint of their own.
Little wonder their Band Manager Viggo Bjorge and Eikanger player's spoke in almost reverential terms about their rather shy and humble MD — describing him simply as 'incredible' and 'intensely musical'.
It will also be hard to think what rivals across the banding world make of the pathway Eikanger is now exploring with their MD — and what other musical avenues they will seek to explore together: 'Partita' was a masterpiece given a truly masterful performance.
Touch of cruelty
Victory also came with touch of musical cruelty. Manger Musikklag's fantastical renditions under an electrifying Peter Sebastian Silvay would surely have won any other contest anywhere in the world — yet here they ended up a clear margin behind their Hordaland rival.
The presentations of 'Aubade' and of 'Raveling, Unraveling — in search of La Valse' were stunning examples of the MD's synaptic wit emanating through music making that conjured up imagery of remarkable inventiveness; kaleidoscopic colour and energy pouring out of every pore of malleable creativity over two days of sensational playing. And still it wasn't good enough to claim a first title since 2010.
If Eikanger go on to retain their European title in Utrecht in May, Manger will join them in Montreux in 2019. On this form that will be one heck of a Viking challenge to the rest of Europe.
In the meantime Stavanger will head to Utrecht on the back of a brace of excellent performances that saw them come third. Just the occasional moments of unease in two superbly realised interpretations by Allan Withington stopped them from catching on more firmly to the tail-coats of their rivals.
Behind the 'Anger' top three came a solid Oslo Brass, who pipped the flamboyant individualism of Bjorsvik Brass and the emerging substantive credentials of Tertnes Brass, whilst such was the overall standard that behind them came performances that would have graced any top section contest.
Krohnengen under Prof Nicholas Childs took the special award given by the Norwegian Composer's Society of the performance of 'Aubade' which they felt resonated most with them, whilst individual awards to Manger's splendid trombones and Jaren's Benjamin Mortensen as 'Best Soloist' were thoroughly deserved.
Levels of ambition
The level of ambition on show this year in the other sections of competition was also tempered by a new found appreciation of musicality rather than technicality.
In a high quality First Division, Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn claimed the Kr 40,000 first prize under Rune Gundersen, with a passionate rendition of Edward Gregson's 'Of Distant Memories' that secured a narrow half point margin of victory over Oslofjord's controlled 'Sinfonietta No.3' and Ila's vibrant 'Metropolis 1927'.
It's understood that Gjallarhorn and Oslofjord will now lock horns with Krohnengen and Kleppe to see who will perform in the Elite Division next year.
Friday morning saw 13 Second Division bands produce fine performances for Katrina Marzella and Elisabeth Fossan to enjoy. In the end they picked an ornate 'Dances & Arias' by Oster Brass subtly directed by the giant tuba star Eirik Gjerdevik, to claim a well deserved victory.
A classy rendition of 'The Essence of Time' by Tertnes Amatorkorps, led by Eirik's great friend and fellow Norwegian Sjoforsvarets Musikkorps (who gave a cracking pre-results Gala Concert) colleague Tormod Flaten was second, with a well worked 'Connotations' from Manger Old Star Brass in third.
The Third Division that took place in the more intimate surroundings of the Peer Gynt salen saw Fjell Brass take the honours led by former Black Dyke and current Manger tuba star Joseph Cook.
Their exciting rendition of 'Flashback' by Jan de Hann gave a narrow one-point victory over Stangaland Brass, whose performance of 'Spectrum' was aided by the insight of the experienced Melvin White. The final podium spot went to Folleso Musikklag's 'The Saga of Tyrfying' conducted by its composer Jacob Vilhelm Larsen.
The influence of Welsh experience certainly made its mark in the Fourth Division, where Gwyn Evans of Beaumaris Brass made his regular trip to Norway to inspire Stavanger Kommunes Korps to victory thanks to a finely shaped account of 'Images for Brass'.
In what was an impressive contest of well delivered performances, it was good enough to pip a respectful take of 'Pageantry' by Krohnengen Old Stars and 'The Prizewinners' by Kjolsdalen Musikklag, to the first prize of Kr 14,000.
As always there was plenty of great enthusiasm and endeavour on show in the friendly Fifth Division, where a super performance of 'Lake of the Moon' by Randaberg Musikkorps led by Pal Magne Austernes-Underhaug took the honours by a clear margin.
Second place went to Frei Hornmusikk, who set the marker from the number 1 draw with a colourful 'Three Saints', whilst the final podium place was snatched by Rosendal Musikklag's performance of 'Portrait of a City'.
Looking forward not back
With 2018 being the 100th anniversary of the formation of Norge Musikkorps Forbund, the organisers of the championships certainly took the opportunity to show the rest of the world that Norwegian banding is looking forward rather than being hamstrung to its past.
With an excellent free live streaming of all the sections, a wonderful communal 'Brass Night' celebration party, the use of open adjudication utilising the musical knowledge and experience of varied sources (only the Elite Division set-work was closed) and an ethos of inclusive participation overriding competitive exclusivity, Norway sent a message out that spoke of confidence and cohesion from elite level to grass roots.
And with Eikanger at its apex — it also made sure that the world knows that it is doing so with a standard bearer that is leading the way in manner that can only inspire others to try and imitate.
The Heaton though left the packed audience stunned by the scope and creativity inspired by a conductor of such intensity of purpose that the 27-minute performance became almost ritualistic in its transfixing power of extraordinary musicality4BR
Set Work: Stig Nordhagen, Hakon Berge, Per Kristian Svensen
Own Choice: Niels-Ole Bo Johansen, Jens T Larsen, Davur Juul Magnussen
Set Work/Own Choice = Total
1. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar Bergby): 98/99 = 98.5
2. Manger Musikklag (Peter Sebastian Szilvay): 96.5/97 = 96.75
3. Stavanger Brass (Allan Withington) : 95/96.5 = 95.75
4. Oslo Brass (Robert Solberg Nilsen): 96/93.5 = 94.75
5. Bjorsvik Brass (Andreas Hanson): 93/95.5 = 94.25
6. Tertnes Brass (Martin Winter): 94/94 = 94
7. Jaren Hornmusikkforening (Florent Didier): 91/94.5 = 92.75
8. Molde Brass (Russell Gray): 92.5/92.5 = 92.5
9. Krohnengen (Prof Nicholas Childs): 92/92 = 92
10. Kleppe Musikklag (Philip Hannevik): 90/91 = 91.5
Soloist: Benjamin Mortensen (cornet) — Jaren Hornmusikkforening
Best section: Trombones (Manger Musikklag)
Adjudicators: Katrina Marzella, Stig Nordhagen, Hakon Berge
1. Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn (Rune Gundersen) — 95.5
2. Oslofjord Brass (Rune Hannisdal) — 95
3. Ila Brass (Adam Cooke) — 94.5
4. Askoy Brass Band (Reid Gilje) — 94
5. Hasle Brass (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 93
6. Radoy Brass (Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen) 91.5
7. Sandefjord Brass Symposium (Chris Johnson) — 90
8. Flesland Musikklag (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 89
9. Rong Brass (Erik Janssen) — 88.5
10. Brottum Brass (Ray Farr) — 88
11. Sola Brass Band (Garry Cutt) — 87
12. Tomra Brass Band (Stian E. Svendsen) — 86
Soloist: Solo Cornet (Musikkorpset Gjallarhorn)
Adjudicators: Katrina Marzella, Elisabeth Fossan
1. Oster Brass (Eirik Gjerdevik) — 94
2. Tertnes Amatorkorps (Tormod Flaten) — 92
3. Manger Old Star Brass (Marit Tommermo) — 91.5
4. Sorum Musikklag (Ray Farr) — 90
5. Alexander Brass Band (Morten E Hansen) — 89
6. Jolster Musikklag (Arvid Anthun) — 88
7. Tysnes Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 86
8. Sagvag Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 85
9. Haukas Musikklag (Jan Egil Jorgensen) — 84
10. Orskog Brass (Jonathan Bates) — 83
11. Gjovik Bybrass (Christian Tenfjord) — 82
12. Agder Brass (Thomas Swatland) — 81
13. Tromso Brass (Geir Davidsen) — 80
Soloist: Cornet (Sagvag Musikklag)
Section: Trombone (Alexander Brass Band)
Adjudicators: Niels-Ole Bo Johansen, Jens T Larsen
1. Fjell Brass (Joseph Cook) — 96
2. Stangaland Brass (Melvin White) — 95
3. Folleso Musikklag (Jacob Vilhelm Larsen) — 94
4. Laksevag Musikkforening (Fredrick Schjelderup) — 93
5. Nes Musikkforening (Thorbjorn Lunde) — 91
6. Lindas Brass (Hilde Brevik Grytten) — 90
7. Bjorvika Brass Band (Robert Solberg Nilsen) — 89
8. Bergen Brass Band (Thor-Arne Pedersen) — 88
9. Trondheim Politis Brassband (Espen Andersen) — 87
10. Gjesdal Brass Band (Jonas Skartveit Rogne) — 86
11. Skui Brassband (Thor-Willy Karlsen) — 85
12. Valdres Brass (Thorgeir Thunestvedt) — 84
13. Floro Hornmusikk (Torgeir Halvorsen) — 83
14. Fraena Musikkorps (Randi Anita Dale) — 82
Soloist: Tuba (Bjorvika Brass Band)
Section: Cornets (Fjell Brass)
Adjudicators: Bjorn Bus, Elisabeth Fossan
1. Stavanger Kommunes Korps (Gwyn Evans) — 94
2. Krohnengen Old Stars (Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen) — 93
3. Kjolsdalen Musikklag (Arvid Anthun) — 92
4. Filadelfia Hornorkester Drammen (Pal Andre G Worren) — 91
5. Lyshornet Brass (Oyvind Raknes Nikolaisen) — 90
6. Tysvaer Brass (Paul Hughes) — 89
7. Moen Musikkforening (Ole Kristian Egge) — 88
8. Hetlevik Musikklag (Patrik Randefalk) — 87
9. Flora-Bremanger Brassband (Johnny Saelemyr) — 86.5
10. Sotra Brass (Ben Hirons) — 86
11. Fla Musikkorps (Odd Steinar Morkved) — 85
12. Brumunddal Brass (Per Kristian O Syversen) — 84
13. Indre Torungen Brass Ensemble (Lars Bjornar Strengenes) — 83
14. Langhus Brass (Tomas Austestad) — 82
15. Holmestrand Ungdomskorps (Arild Ovrum) — 80
Soloist: Solo Horn (Lyshornet Brass)
Adjudicators: Bjorn Bus, Davur Juul Magnussen
1. Randaberg Musikkorps (Pal Magne Austernes-Underhaug) — 94.5
2. Frei Hornmusikk (Jens Kristian Mordal) — 92
3. Rosendal Musikklag (Yngve Nikolaisen) — 91
4. Grenland Brass (Tommy Sorby) — 90
5. Lismarka/Mesnali Brass (Andres Halla) — 89
6. Norheimsund Musikklag (Patrik Randefalk) — 88
7. Saksumdal Musikkforening (Andres Halla) — 87
8. Skeie Brass (Nigel Fielding) — 86
9. IMI Brass (Per-Erik Petersen) — 85
10. Lillehammer Brass (Jon Kristian Solberg) — 83
11. Heroy Brass (Kjellstein Knotten) — 82
12. Alvik Musikklag (Torbjorn Dagestad Jnr) — 91
Soloist: Flugel Horn (Randaberg Musikkorps)
Section: Cornets: (Rosendal Musikklag)