Most popular European own-choice pieces and composers

2 Apr 2013

Including the choices due to be played at this year's (2013) European Championship, there are 10 test pieces that have been chosen as 'own choice' works on at least 10 occasions.  The most popular pieces are as follows:

15 - Contest Music (Heaton)
14 - Harmony Music (Sparke), Music of the Spheres (Sparke)
13 - Connotations (Gregson), Pageantry (Howells), Dances and Arias (Gregson)
12 - Blitz (Bourgeois), Revelation (Wilby)
10 - Paganini Variations (Wilby), Montage (Graham)

At least one of these 10 'favourites' has been played in every single European Championship, dating back to 1978, until this year!  In the 2013 European, we will still hear a (brand new) Sparke, and an (almost new) Gregson but it is the first year that not one of the most popular ten pieces will be heard.  The perennial 'heavyweights' of brass band contest repertory are now being challenged more than ever before by the new breed of 'modern', and mainly, continental European, composers.

The top 6 composers in European Championship history (measured by the number of own choice performances - see below) are all British and, for the most part, still extremely popular in all brass band contesting countries, but this sextet has provided only 5 own choice performances in total over 2012 and 2013, compared with 13 penned by continental Europeans.

Compositions such as From Ancient Times, Spiriti and Audivi Media Nocte have rapidly achieved the stature of 'modern day classics' and it is abundantly clear that we have now entered a new, and exciting, era where the balance of compositional 'power' is perhaps no longer centred in the British Isles.

Top 6 composers (with number of own choice performances up to and including 2013):

75 - Philip Sparke
46 - Philip Wilby
37 - Edward Gregson
36 - Gilbert Vinter
26 - Peter Graham
21 - Derek Bourgeois

It remains to be seen whether any of the new breed of composer will prove to be a long-term 'hit', like these all-time greats were (and still are).  What is not in doubt though is that, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a-changin'.

A spreadsheet showing every piece played at the European from the contest's inception may be downloaded from