Announcement: NABBA 2017 & 2018

On behalf of the NABBA Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce that the 2017 & 2018 NABBA Championships will be held in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

We have locked in the dates for the next two years as follows:

March 10-11, 2017
April 6-7, 2018

We have received overwhelming support from local entities in Fort Wayne, including Visit Fort Wayne, The Historic Embassy Theatre, The Grand Wayne Convention Center, and, of course, the local NABBA member band Old Crown Brass Band. We are grateful for all the groundwork they have laid that will continue to make our contest weekends a success in Fort Wayne.

We would also like to thank Sweetwater Sound and Mynett Music for their very generous sponsorship. They pledged support for the NABBA Championships for 2016, 2017, and 2018, as well as continuing to supply our much-needed percussion equipment for the weekend. If you have a chance, please support these companies throughout the year, and make sure to stop by their booth this year in the NABBA Vendor Area.

I look forward to seeing you in Fort Wayne in April…and in 2017 and 2018!

Randi L. Bulla
North American Brass Band Association

Live Streaming NABBA Championships 2014

We are excited to announce that, in another NABBA first, all of the two-day events in the main hall will be live-streamed onto the internet for both days of the Championships, Friday and Saturday 11-12 April. The cost is $12.95 per day. You simply need to go to to sign up. Once there, you can select the days you are interested in watching. Once you pay you will have a login to the website. The live stream will become active on the days that you have chosen. Go to the ‘Files’ on the NABBA Facebook page for the schedule.

Wherever you are in the world, you can now join us for two whole days of amazing North American brass band playing and competition. We will be delighted to have you with us–enjoy!

–NABBA President Dr. Stephen A. Allen

Championships Test Pieces: Championship Section

photo by Laurel Daunis Allen

photo by Laurel Daunis Allen

Editor’s Note: I asked NABBA President Dr. Stephen Allen to provide some background for each of the 2013 NABBA Set Test Pieces.  This is the fourth and final installment.


On Friday night, we will be treated to eight performances of Martin Ellerby’s popular Elgar Variations, written in 2007 for the European Band Championships as a 150th celebration of the music of English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934). Although Ellerby claims not to have based the work on any of Elgar’s themes, it is clear that many of the shapes derive directly from the Theme of his Enigma Variations (1899) and, indeed, Ellerby claims that his Elgar Variations also depict one of his own friends, never to be revealed. So now that we know that (as with the Elgar original) we can forget about it! Rather what Ellerby does depict for us—that is relevant to our direct experience of the music—is a highly colored progression through a series of emotional moods, very much in the Elgarian vein. Each one of us might have a different idea of what these colorful moods are: for example I feel that, in some curious way I cannot quite explain, the work seems to combine many feelings I would associate with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol—not a literal telling of the story, but definitely capturing its essence in some way. Dickens was a contemporary of Elgar’s, too!

The music begins with joyous waltz-like fanfares—a breezy open-air sound that leads to a jazzy syncopated lick, which breaks out into another waltz. We are dancing! Suddenly the music slows into a beautiful song on the solo cornet—little calls echoing through the streets. What words might you put to this tune? It is a song without words. Suddenly the mood breaks and we are back with the jazzy lick that now leads to a slightly tipsy (and rather portly) gentleman who is wobbling down the street (trombones). The waltzing couples swirl around him as the mood suddenly switches to chattering (Tchaikovskian?) cornets as Mr. Tipsy is joined by a couple of friends who noisily raise their glasses to loud shouts.

Suddenly the music takes off: A troubled dream? A ghost from the past? Chattering teeth dancing on a cold winter night? A final big shout and the disturbed chattering spreads from the tubas through the entire band, like a neurosis or panic attack, before evaporating on a snatch of the old Christmas carol “…the Angels did say” (from ‘Hark the Herald’) on the percussion.

This leads to our second beautiful song, this time on flugel horn. A stately Elgarian tune, this music would be quite at home in Downton Abbey: music that evokes an olden time. But the jazz lick and waltzing return like an old friend and we are whisked away until a rather prim and proper couple come tripping along in a lighthearted call-response patter (at letter L). But they, too, vaporize like a dream off into the distance.

Now the euphonium sings a melancholy passionate third song for us, reflecting perhaps on opportunities missed, and a past life largely wasted or mis-directed, we can almost hear the smile through the tears of regret at the end.

“Boom, boom, bang-bang boom!” and the melancholy is blown away as we are whipped up into turbulence and the trombones exchange thoughts with the horns as we whirl through the air. The wind gusts propel us through the night until suddenly we view the waltzing couples through the clouds below.

We awake from the dream in a big leather armchair (Letter P—the very heart of
this piece) where an internal reflective monologue proceeds. Lots of questions and
statements flow thorough the mind, head-in-hand: solo horn, flugel, trombone, solo
cornet, euphonium, soprano cornet—all colored by the gentle bells of vibraphone and
glockenspiel. Is there snow falling outside?

The bell tolls (midnight?) and a gentle hymn (in Ellerby’s clearest reference to Elgar’s
original Enigma theme) wafts up through the window (Letter R). We get out of the chair
and lo, the jazzy waltzers breeze through one last time. A moment of sudden realization (Letter T) and the second flugel song returns, now fully clothed in glorious resolve. We have grown through this experience.

Ellerby’s Elgar Variations concludes in what the American poet, Walt Whitman, would
call a “barbaric yawp”—a great shout of laughing joy! An instant classic, Ellerby’s Elgar
Variations connect the best of the old with that of the new.

As always, I’d like to remind and strongly urge bands and band members participating in the NABBA XXXI Championship to refrain from posting any information about their Own Choice piece on any websites or social media. This includes concert advertising and online programs. Our adjudicators take all pains to avoid deliberately seeing any such information on the internet, but please assist them as much as you can in these respects. Many thanks indeed for your collaboration in this matter. Very much looking forward to seeing and hearing you in Cincinnati. Very best wishes with all your preparations.

Dr. Stephen A. Allen, NABBA President