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2014 European Brass Band Championship Test Pieces Announced

Published in Contest on 2014-03-01 by Empty Chairs

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~~The European Brass Band Association (EBBA) and Scottish Brass Band Association (SBBA) have unveiled the test pieces for this year’s European Championships, being held in Perth, Scotland on 2nd and 3rd May.

The eleven competing bands in the European Championship section will tackle “Muckle Flugga” by renowned classical composer and Professor of Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Rory Boyle. Commissioned by SBBA, this new composition has been made possible with funding from Creative Scotland.

The composer has provided a detailed programme note for the piece:

“Muckle Flugga, a small rocky island north of Unst in the Shetland Islands, is the northernmost point of the British Isles. The name comes from old Norse "Mickla Flugey" meaning 'large steep-sided island', and, according to local folklore, two giants, Herma and Saxa, fell in love with the same mermaid and fought over her by throwing large rocks at each other, one of which became Muckle Flugga. To get rid of these rivals, the mermaid offered to marry whichever one followed her to the North Pole but both drowned since neither could swim.

“In 1854 Thomas and David Stevenson started to build the lighthouse on Muckle Flugga, ostensibly to protect British ships during the Crimean War but also to prevent all sailing vessels from floundering in this wild and dangerous place. For much of the time the lighthouse was being built, the weather was so violent that the sea crashed over the summit of the rock taking materials with it, and the workmen had to crawl out of doors on their knees for fear of being pitched off the rock and out to sea. Evidently, from the day it was finished in 1857 to this day, the lighthouse has not let in a drop of water such was the brilliance of this pioneering Stevenson family whose lighthouses can be seen all around the Scottish coast.

“After a short introduction, the music deals with giants, the drowned, and the lighthouse, all in the context of the wild seas and violent winds which are indigenous to this rocky outcrop.”

Bands in the European Challenge Section will play “The Pilgrim” by one of Scotland's most talented young composers and leading bass trombonists, Josiah Walters.

Josiah describes his composition as a journey of development and emotion, encompassing three key stages of emotional state: from the opening sounds which are full of anticipation and uncertainty, through to a passage of disillusionment and frustration, then moving on to a concluding stage which reintroduces the positive elements of the opening optimism, yet closing quietly, symbolising an inner peace and contentment at the end of the musical journey.

The composer’s emotive approach to the creation of the work embraces a wealth of passion, anguish and enlightenment.  Through his use of imaginative melody, themes and harmonic texture, Josiah has represented a collection of powerful emotions.  Essentially non-programmatic, the piece opens in a contemplative manner, building with enthusiasm, and first introducing the use of bells and bell effects as a musical metaphor which is used throughout the piece to signify the journey’s destination.  As the sentiment continues, the music evolves in to an Allegro Furioso section, opening up a strong sense of frustration.  At this section’s climax, the symbolic use of the bells is reintroduced to create an over-tone of hope and purpose, although this does not last long as they fade into the Misterioso Molto Rubato section.

As the melodies and harmonies develop onwards, ‘The Pilgrim’ evolves into a more reflective phase, reintroducing the sounds and motifs of the more strident opening.  This closing section symbolises the realisation that everything needed was already available to The Pilgrim, but travelling the journey, confronting and overcoming all of the challenges was the only route of discovery – a peacefulness prevails bringing the work to a close with a sense of contentment and enlightenment.

“The Pilgrim”, highly emotive in its creation, offers a wealth of musical imagery.  Even to the uninformed listener, this fascinating, powerful and beautiful work stirs and stimulates a variety of emotional reactions – offering each listener an opportunity to apply the music to their own journey, their own personal pilgrimage.

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