Copenhagen

1985 and the European Brass Band Championships were to be held in Denmark's famous Tivoli Gardens in the heart of Copenhagen.

Sun Life Band had qualified for the Championships for which a specially composed three movement Suite, Royal Parks by George Lloyd, would be performed. I was invited to conduct Sun Life Band in Copenhagen and looked forward to working with this dedicated Bristol-based band.

The West Country association was strong; George Lloyd was born in Cornwall, my own birthplace was Gloucester. As I studied the score of Royal Parks I became convinced that Sun Life Band would play it well. Soon, as we rehearsed for the great occasion a quiet, deep, confidence was developing. Nobody spoke about it, but the feeling was there. For the Championships two works were to be played; as well as the Suite one other work of our own choosing was to be performed. We elected to play Dvorak's Overture Carnival which I had arranged for brass band some years before when it was used as the test piece for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, held each year in the Royal Albert Hall, London. It made a good contrast to Royal Parks and offered a fine opportunity for Sun Life to display its skills.

As we entered the stage of a packed concert hall at Tivoli Gardens I saw that composer George Lloyd was present. On that day he listened to every performance of his Suite. Sun Life Band's performance was magnificent and at the close of the last movement every member of that huge audience, including George Lloyd, was standing and cheering. We left the stage knowing that our performance had gained high approval and later the composer confirmed that, for him, this was "the best of the day". But there was Dvorak's Overture still to come!

As we entered the stage for the second time the atmosphere tingled with expectation. After our performance of Royal Parks speculation ran high. Everybody was hoping for another outstanding performance from this marvellous West Country Band. And they got it! From the first note to the last thrilling chords, the performance transcended the technical challenges, as if on wings, so that the music flowed with a conviction which carried players and audience along with it. Sun Life Band had given a performance of a life-time. The response was an incredible prolonged thunderous applause which seemed to go on and on (some said it lasted 10 minutes!).

Hours later when the judges' verdicts on the performances were announced for its performance of Royal Parks Sun Life Band was awarded a four point lead over any other band. Could the European Championships be heading for Bristol? So, to the own-choice result. It took a little while to sink in as the announcer read out the marks. Sun Life Band were 5th in order of merit for its performance of the Overture Carnival, with both marks added together placing them 3rd over-all in the Championships. To this day there are those who were there and heard the performances who shake their head in disbelief. Others, and I am one, prefer to reflect on the quality of the performances which Sun Life Band gave on that far-off day and accept that it is for those who adjudicate to make their decisions and for those who perform to accept them!.

Geoffrey Brand
in reflective mood - 1999