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European Countdown: 5 days to go

We pick five pieces of music that in their different ways changed the face of the European Championships for good...

  From Eric Ball to conch shells...

4BR picks five pieces of music that in their own way changed the face of the European Championships forever.

1. Daphnis & Chloe (Ravel arranged Howard Snell) — 1986

No one so this one coming.

Until 1986 own-choice selections came from the traditional established brass band repertoire — Eric Ball, Gilbert Vinter, Edward Gregson etc.

This was from a whole new sound world.

So much so that there were even demands from some quarters to disqualify Howard Snell and Desford as they had somehow broken the rules of the contest.

Nothing was ever the same...

2. Music of the Spheres (Philip Sparke) — 2004

The first of the bespoke blockbusters.

Yorkshire Building Society had already won five titles in a row and were going for an unprecedented double hat-trick in 2004 under David King.

How could they top the performances of 'Concerto Grosso' which had helped win the trophy in 2002 and 2003?

With something that was out of this world, that's how.

It was like listening to a brass band version of each of the star players the Harlem Globetrotters being giving the basketball and just being told to show off.

Everyone else's own-choice efforts were made redundant overnight and the blockbuster space race had begun...

3. Extreme Make-Over (Johan de Meij) — 2005

There were rumours circulating about this piece for some time before it was eventually released to the competing bands ahead of the Championships Groningen in 2005.

Was it true players had to play half filled bottles of water? And what on earth was Gamelan music?

In the end it was true — but what a piece it turned out to be.

It also opened the door for composers to be even more adventurous with the addition of percussion exotica — from starting pistols and conch shells to sheet metal beating and air raid sirens.

And it all started with a half empty bottle of Amstel beer...

It was like listening to a brass band version of each of the star players the Harlem Globetrotters being giving the basketball and just being told to show off4BR

4. Aragorn (Hardy Mertens) — 1991

There have been quite a few complaints over the years about the suitability of some of the set-works that have been used at the event.

It is no secret that many have had to have undergone considerable reworking surgery before they could be used.

Even 'Fraternity' was sent back and forth on numerous occasions to be amended before it was used.

In 1991 though 'Aragorn' was picked as the set-test and sent out to the bands to start rehearsing for the contest, only for it to be found to be 'unsuitable' and replaced with 'A London Overture' by Philip Sparke.

No reworking or amending — just cancelled before a note was blown. It has never resurfaced since (not in a brass band version anyway).

Some conductors may well think that should have been done with quite a few others too....

5. Contest Music (Wilfred Heaton) — 1978

An honourable mention here for arguably one of the greatest works ever written for the brass band medium.

Originally considered for the 1973 National Championships of Great Britain, it was felt to be too contemporary in nature it was replaced by 'Freedom' by Hubert Bath.

Then, at the very first European Championship contest at the Royal Albert Hall in 1978 it was performed by Solna Brass from Sweden.

The scales fell of the eyes of the musically blind and in 1982 it was used finally used at the National Finals. The rest is contest music history...

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