Music director Joe Johnson pumped his fist in the air as the final note of Philip Sparke’s Year of the Dragon bounced off the walls of Fort Wayne’s historic Embassy Theater. After four years of self-imposed exile, the Georgia Brass Band returned to NABBA‘s annual North American championships on March 14th, and there was some speculation among the band’s members they’d bitten off more than they could chew.
But the Saturday-afternoon performance left no doubt that the band is still among this continent’s elite.
The section’s three adjudicators (Bill Himes, Steve Bulla, and Ron Holz) were unanimous in their praise of the GBB’s offering of both Year of the Dragonand the section test piece, Gareth Wood’s Brass Triumphant, with one of the three remarking that the performance was, “Nearly flawless.” The band came away, once again, with the First Section’s second-place trophy, falling to a dominant performance by Toronto-based Weston Silver Band.
The GBB had an abundance of hurdles to clear in the weeks leading up to the contest. Due to conflicting schedules and unexpected winter weather in Atlanta, the band that took the stage on Saturday had only rehearsed together one time – at the Friday night dress rehearsal. Also, due to normal turnover since their last appearance at the championships, fewer than half of the GBB’s members had experienced a brass band competition, and there were some jittery nerves in the group.