Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag


2007 RNCM Festival of Brass
Conductor: Bjarte Engeset
Narrator: Cecilie Løken
Saturday 27th January

EikangerThe importance of the RNCM Festival of Brass within the movement is such that it now attracts visitors from overseas both to perform and enjoy the feast of music on offer over the one weekend.  During its days at the BBC, Eikanger made its first appearance at the Festival and over a decade later returned to give a performance that was at times mesmerizing in its execution.

Having taken the banding movement by storm in recent years with some terrific contesting performances, (that have not always found favour with the judges) concerts and CD recordings that have received numerous accolades, their performance here was a reminder that their single minded pursuit of excellence remains undiminished.   

Whether you listen to them live on the contest or concert stage or on a recording, their overall quality of sound is phenomenal and so adaptable to the music they're performing.  It's so rich and ethereal at times that it can send shivers down the spine – although the phenomenal bass section can also dislocate a few vertebrae too with their efforts.  Around the stand, they've got some of the finest principal players in the business: Jayne Westervik on cornet, Tormod Flaten on euphonium and Frode Rydland on soprano, not forgetting Martin Winter, who on this occasion, didn't perform with the band.

What made the band's performance here even more impressive was the contribution of the conductor, Bjarte Engeset.  Mr Engeset's conducting technique was a joy to behold; minimalist conducting gestures that produced a stunning musical effect.

Eikanger's programme itself was challenging and demanding on the players but this was the one programme where despite the eclectic nature of the repertoire it was never less than totally engrossing.

The first half was devoted to scenes from the Prokofiev ballet, ‘Romeo and Juliet', brilliantly arranged by Frode Rydland, Reid Gilje and Svein Henrik Giske.  With narration from Cecilie Loken, ten scenes were performed in just under an hour - and what a showcase for band this is. If they do record it, a real musical treat awaits.

What really impressed throughout was the rhythmic drive, the control of the tempo variations and the balance of sound and colour. The MD gave the music time and space and nothing was over-powering, whilst there was not the slightest hint of over-blowing throughout.

The audience couldn't wait for the second half and once again the band didn't disappoint opening with the popular ‘Prelude' to Grieg's ‘Holberg Suite' taken at a superbly measured tempo.

‘Festival Music' is a classic of the brass band movement ‘s genre, although it has been sparingly used over the years (and notably ignored for the Nationals a few yeas ago losing out to a second rate piece of Ball arranging). Once again the performance benefited from the MD giving the music time and space to breathe and with a lovely Mozartian feel of understated reserve in execution. It had some wonderful moments.

To close, Gareth Pritchard's arrangement lasting around twenty five minutes of the ‘Symphonic Dances' from ‘West Side Story'.  This was a piece of real musical theatre and made for enthralling listening with the band sounding totally at home with the music.  The basses in particular were immense, testing the foundations of the Haden Freeman Concert Hall to the full whilst the percussion team enhanced the performance (as they had done during the whole afternoon) with some magnificent playing. Congratulations too to the band's solo horn for a fabulous contribution during ‘Somewhere'.

At the conclusion of the performance, the band received one of the longest ovations without an encore being played, as it was a truly magnificent concert that deserves nothing but the highest adulation. 

Malcolm Wood