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Report & Result: 2019 European Composer Competition

A demonic dialogue between possessed souls claims the composer honours in Montreux.

  Daniel Hall (centre) with his fellow finalists

22 year old Daniel Hall of England has won the 7th European Composer Competition.

His evocative work, 'A Dialogue of Transmogrified Souls' claimed the 1500 Euro first prize and assistance to help with his future compositional development following an enjoyable evening of high stakes music making held at the famous Montreux Casino.

A packed audience, as well as the panel of judges thoroughly enjoyed the performances of each of the engaging, but very different works, by a polished Treize Etoiles Band.

Dr John Pickard, Lucy Pankhurst and Oliver Waespi later told 4BR that the quality of the pieces had been "fantastic" and that the winner had shown "courage" and great skill in bringing his inspiration to life.

So too second placed Paul Saggers from England, with his work inspired by the time pressured life of the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and with young Belgian composer Stijn Aertgeerts who claimed the Audience and Band Prizes in third with 'Bipolarity', a composition that looked into the dichotomies of the acute mental health illness.

Demonically possessed

It was however the ultimately tragic retelling of the 18th century story of two demonically possessed villagers, who were initially brought together by a well-meaning parish friar, that both sent a chill down the spine and claimed the honours.

However, as Daniel Hall later told 4BR, after hearing the works from his rivals, he initially felt like taking it home and scrapping it.

Thankfully he didn't.

"It was great to meet up with Paul and Stijn and I was blown away with their pieces," he said.

"My first thoughts were to take mine home and scrap it, but I'm please I didn't now, especially as the band played it like such talented demons themselves."

He added: "They really brought all of our 'ink' to life off the page tonight."

Vivid picture

That was certainly the case with a 12 minute composition that painted a vivid, excoriating picture of two, seemingly innocent souls, called Antoine Gay and Madam Chiquette, who fate decreed would be brought together.

They were taken control of by the Biblical fallen angels of Madeste and Iscaron, who entered into their bodies to torment them in a battle of wills — one which saw them "speak in tongues and bark like dogs" in an unholy battle that raged for six terrible days before Gay died.

Daniel's work, full of dark, compelling excitement and intense musical dialogue will now be published (and will surely be performed time and time again), whilst hiss, 'Sanctuary' will be heard on the weekend as the set-test in the Premier Section of European Youth Band Championships on Sunday morning.

Diverse works

What was also highly encouraging about the competition this year was the diversity in composing style shown in each of the three finalist's works.

33 year old Royal Marine Paul Saggers produced a richly descriptive portrait of the diminutive Victorian engineering genius, who immense achievements, such as the building of the SS Great Britain ship were played out against huge time pressures (acknowledged by a ticking metronome) and personal troubles.

He later told 4BR that he was "thrilled" to have reached the final and to come second, with the work which is named after the German translation 'Ironbright' of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Christian name.

Calm and tempest

There seems little doubt that Stign Aertgeert's 'Bipolarity' will also be published — especially after it won the separate 500 Euro prizes (as well as 500 Euro for coming third) as the favourite choice voted by the audience and the band.

An accessible work that brought both the calm and the tempest nature of mental health problems to the fore with musical imagination, it certainly made an immediate impression.

The 26 year old, who plays tuba with Belgian champion, Brass Band Willebroek later told 4BR that he now hopes to be able to develop his composing career further with additional works for the brass band medium.

Freddie Mercury

Before the announcement of the results, the European Youth Brass Band provided a short concert of lightweight easy listening items under the baton of conductor Bertrand Moren, with works that encompassed a homage to the great Freddie Mercury of the pop group Queen, whose statue stands just a roulette wheel turn from the Casino.

The night though belonged to the talented 22 year Daniel Hall.

He is certainly a composer with a great future ahead of him (he already has a number of commissions on his books) — although he did tell 4BR that he wasn't going to be tempted to place his newly acquired winnings on the roulette wheel as he left the building to go and celebrate with his friends long into the Montreux night.

a 12 minute composition that painted a vivid, excoriating picture of two, seemingly innocent souls4BR


1. Daniel Hall with 'A Dialogue of Transmogrified Souls'
2. Paul Saggers with 'Ironbright'
3. Stijn Aertgeerts with 'Bipolarity'

Audience Prize: Stijn Aertgeerts with 'Bipolarity'
Band Prize: Stijn Aertgeerts with 'Bipolarity'

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