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EC 2022 – Premiere to Birmingham – 4 bars left

The European Championships are back – and although its attractions may look familiar, events and ambitions are very different …



EM returns …

Immediately, nothing has changed.

The European Brass Band Festival returns to Birmingham with all the regular features and attractions back in place.

It’s almost as if the two-year Covid-19 break (let alone the 15 years since it was last here) had never happened.

11 bands will compete for the Blue Riband Championship title, four for the Challenge Section award. The European Youth Championships are included again, while the European Youth Band and European Composers’ Competition hope to attract a more ‘occasional’ audience into the cultural heart of an inviting city.

However, take a closer look, and everything has changed – and not just cosmetically.



It’s not just cosmetics that have changed

The European Championships were scheduled to be held at Sage Gateshead in 2024 Рthe third part of a four-year cycle that would have seen the event travel to Palanga, Malm̦, England and Stavanger.

As Covid-19 swept across Europe, that plan became redundant.

Bold endorsement

And then, with an economically fragile European Brass Band Association that needs a solid foundation on which to build its post-Covid future, and with the brass banding infrastructures of Lithuania or Sweden understandably unable to offer a cast iron security of that, BBE stepped in to bring their event forward.

It was a bold adherence to self-confidence; even though the ambition of their original cost-neutral proposals was to be somewhat dampened by having to meet the EBBA’s desire to retain some of its more commendable but expensive ‘festival’ attractions.

In response, BBE has worked hard to make positive change work and function well.

It was a bold adherence to self-confidence; even though the ambition of their original cost-neutral proposals was to be somewhat dampened by having to meet the EBBA’s desire to retain some of its more commendable but expensive ‘festival’ attractions.



The European Youth Championships have been moved forward to Saturday morning

Rebuilt

The European Youth Championships, which for too long were a worthy if sparsely supported addition to the main competition menu, have been brought forward to Saturday morning, while the gala concert has been revived for the weekend’s ‘festival’ climax.

Securing Arts Council England funding for an outdoor Community Stage to provide a focal point for local ensembles and bands has been a major boost – one that has come with the even more significant recognition of the event’s ‘national significance’ as a whole for British banding.

National links

Meanwhile, the European Youth Band, led by renowned French conductor Florent Didier (its costs aided by a donation from a Norwegian multimillionaire) has been used to act as a musical ambassador with its concert performances, while establishing important links with other organizations.

These include the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and The Band of HM Marines (which gives a concert on Thursday night) as well as the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.



Prof Philip Wilby has written the scenography ‘Saints Triumphant’

Musical view

The musical outlook has also been expanded, with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams, where a fine new masterpiece was put into use, ‘Saints Triumphant’ from Philip Wilby as well as a spring cleaning (with permission from Phillip Littlemore) of his wonderful ‘Variations for Brass Band’.

The youth events also feature two works by composers Simon Dobson and Christopher Bond, who work to make them accessible to a wider audience.



Make sure the locals know …

National significant

Even the cosmetic changes have been noticed; the signage in and around the Symphony Hall complex that makes people aware that a “nationally significant” cultural event is taking place in the heart of their city – something that is further supported by major local and regional politicians.

All that and those who can not reach Birmingham will also be able to enjoy the action thanks to the World of Brass live-stream broadcast – one that covers all the competitions in its entirety plus what is expected to be an exciting gala concert performance from the combined forces of defending master Cory and jazz trumpet star Louis Dowdeswell.

And while ticket sales for the competition were initially slow at pre-covid levels, a positive promotional campaign and a well-thought-out ticket structure meant Symphony Hall would buzz with the healthy sound of multilingual brass band lovers once again talking about predictions and preferences.

Live stream broadcast

All that and those who can not reach Birmingham will also be able to enjoy the action thanks to the World of Brass live-stream broadcast – one that covers all the competitions in its entirety plus what is expected to be an exciting gala concert performance from the combined forces of defending master Cory and jazz trumpet star Louis Dowdeswell.



Louis Dowdeswell joins Cory for the gala concert

Huge credit

Great honor then to Brass Bands England – led by CEO Kenny Crookston, event manager Nigel Stevens and their team.

They have met the demands of Covid-19, EBBA, a renewed Symphony Hall and a brass banding audience that are both eager and a little apprehensive about returning to major competition weekends with drive and ambition.

The festival deserves to be an overwhelming success – and one that could also provide a cost-effective template from which future events can flourish.

They have met the demands of Covid-19, EBBA, a renewed Symphony Hall and a brass banding audience that are both eager and a little apprehensive about returning to major competition weekends with drive and ambition.

Kick off

It all starts on Thursday afternoon when the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain joins forces with The Band of HM Royal Marines to perform at a concert in Birmingham Town Hall (7.30pm).

Friday night will be the official opening ceremony (invitation only) in Symphony Hall, which serves as the prelude to the 8th European Composer Competition and Awards Ceremony with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band at City Hall (7.30pm).



Something may not change when the results, however …

Blockbusters

The competition (see below) starts on Saturday morning (10.00) with the European youth championships followed by the championship section set work in the afternoon (15.45).

On Sunday, the challenge section starts at 9 a.m., before the championship section band raises the roof of Symphony Hall with their self-selected blockbusters starting at 9 p.m. 11.30.

There will just be time for a quick respite before the gala concert’s climax (20.00) and the announcement of the results (around 9.30pm) before everyone can drop their hair for a ‘Players’ Party’.

Fantastic bands, world-class artists, fantastic music production – and an opportunity to have a beer or two after all the hard work is out of the way.

It’s good to know that some things never change at the European Championships.

Iwan Fox


Time schedule:
European Brass Band Festival

Thursday, April 28:

13.00: Band of HM Royal Marines Concert for schools
Birmingham City Hall

16.00 – 18.00: European Youth Brass Band
Centenary Square

19.30: National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and Band of HM Royal Marines Concert
Birmingham City Hall

Friday, April 29:

17.00: Opening ceremony (by invitation only)
Symphony Hall

19.30: Finals in the European Composer Competition
Birmingham City Hall
Featuring works by Thibaut Bruniaux, Theo Rossier and Andy Wareham
Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Conductor: Dr. David Thornton

Saturday, April 30:

8.00: EBBC Championship Section Test-Piece Draw & EBBA Challenge Section Draw
Symphony Hall

10.00: European Youth Brass Band Contest: Development Section
Symphony Hall

13.15: European Youth Brass Band Contest: Premiere Section
Symphony Hall

14.30: European Youth Band Concert followed by award ceremony
Symphony Hall Concours

15.20: Composer talk – Paul Hindmarsh talks to Philip Wilby
Symphony Hall

15.45: EBBC Championship Section Work
Symphony Hall

Sunday, May 1:

7.45: The EBBC Championship section’s own choice draw
Symphony Hall

8.00: EBBA’s Annual General Meeting
Symphony Hall

9.00: EBBC Challenge Section
Symphony Hall

11.30: EBBC Championship Section Own selection
Symphony Hall

20.00: Gala Concert: Cory Band and Louis Dowdeswell Big Band
Symphony Hall

21.30: EBBC result and award ceremony for challenge and championship sections
Symphony Hall

22.00: Player party
Symphony Hall Concours

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