About six weeks ago, we received the test piece for the European Brass Band Championships, 'Muckle Flugga' by Rory Boyle. At first, we were not very happy with this composition as the piece seemed to be all about very loud nuances and solo passages. However, our conductor Frans Violet immediately started working on the piece and managed to motivate all the musicians like no other.
Last week, on Tuesday morning, Brass Band Willebroek travelled to Perth (Scotland) by bus and boat for their European adventure. We arrived the next day and Roger Webster immediately filled the vacant 3rd solo cornet chair for our first rehearsal on Scottish ground. The local brass band Lochgelly Band opened up its own rehearsal space to us, so we could continue to prepare ourselves in ideal circumstances, and in an authentic Scottish brass band space.
On Friday, Jaak provided us with a good draw: we would be performing eighth out of eleven bands. At around 08:00pm that night, Brass Band Willebroek entered the stage of the Concert Hall in Perth; 20 out of the 35 band members had never before played at a European Brass Band Championship. Frans Violet created a unique atmosphere, lifted the band to a higher level and expected the soloists to give it their all. The performance was almost perfect and the comments from the audience afterwards were heartwarming and very promising. However, we were competing against the top bands of Europe: so still focused we returned to our Scottish brass band space to work on our own choice piece 'On the Shoulders of Giants' by Peter Graham.
On Saturday, our Scottish representative drew 4th place for our performance. In the meantime, we had grown accustom to the accommodation and the stage. For an almost entirely full concert hall we performed our work of choice, as best as we could. 4barsrest commented: "As we enter the final movement it's hard not to be impressed by the confidence and security of Willebroek. They have sounded like a band reborn this weekend". Afterwards, we finally had time to relax: have a nice dinner, a drink or two, talk to old friends and get to know the new brass band colleagues. Once in a while, someone would make a careful prediction about the outcome.
Brass Band Willebroek was mentioned frequently, a lot of the audience members had really enjoyed our performances and places us between the top bands of Europe. After five years of absence (it had been since Stavanger in 2008), the band returned to the scene and we were immediately tipped as potential winners. However, we did not yet dare to dream of a title as our band is still young and quite inexperienced in big competitions. But our band consists of a beautiful mix of leading veterans, top soloists and young talents, which gives us a great growth margin and a promising future to look forward to. 4barsrest calls this future perspective of BBW "worrying" for the other top bands in Great Britain and Europe. We hope to be able to continue this trend through hard work and strong band commitment.
At the proclamation, we heard that Brass Band Willebroek had performed the best version of the set test piece (97%) and that we had placed fourth in the overall ranking. With this result we even managed to leave defending European Champion, Cory Band, behind us. The judges described us as "a fantastic band, great performance, wonderful interpretation and very nice solos with good shape. Very good dynamic and balance, fine and clear articulation in all fast parts."
After the Brass Party the band left Perth with a good feeling and lots of courage. We would like to thank our fans, whose support, both live in Perth and via social media, means so much to us! Also a special thank you to our loyal and new sponsors and to everyone who has supported us financially and made it possible for us to make this trip.
In June, we will be heading back into the studio for the Bernaerts Music CD recordings. We will end this season with the Master Recital of our soprano cornet Jeroen Corneillie in the class of Frans Violet at the Conservatory of Antwerp on June 11th, 2014.
Translated by: Kim D.H.