It has been a few weeks since I landed back home with my new Besson BE955 Sovereign Baritone and I have been playing it almost everyday in the lead up to the Christmas season and a lot of other gigs.

The horn itself was bought brand new and I was the first to hold it after all of the plastic was removed from the case and horn. First impressions were good. The silver plating was even and incredibly well presented and there were no marks to be seen. The valves were quiet, if a little sluggish, out of the box and it blew straight and true, despite my chops being a bit confused by B-flat pitch after a few months of Tenor (Alto) Horn playing.

Since getting reacquainted with the Australian sun, I have fallen more for the horn overall. Baritone was my first instrument when I was roughly 10, and since then I have played everything in brass bands from 2nd cornet down to the BB-flat tuba. My reasoning to buy a professional baritone is to get back to the instrument I love and master my art as much as I can.

Over the years I have played a lot of professional level instruments; Besson Sovereign tubas, euphoniums and tenor horns, 6-series Yamaha horns low brass and trombones, Bach trombones and a some left of centre Seller trombones as well. Some were new, others well used. To say the new German made Besson's are easy to play is an understatement. As I have gotten used to new horn and the valves have been washed and re-oiled, the evidence is clear that these new pieces of brass are much better than what I have had in the past.

No matter the dynamic, the Sovereign holds together and offers a good core sound. The intonation on all valves is lovely and easy to manage (as no horn is perfect). I am still getting used to having a compensating system back in my hands, however it is just teaching me to listen more. The best bit for me however is how well it blends in band. Sitting on first baritone, I am next to the second euphonium player on a new XO 1270, the first euphonium player is further up on a globe-stamp Boosey and Hawkes; to my right is the rest of the baritone section, which includes a British made BE955, Boosey and Hawkes Internationall 700 Series with a small bell and a 1970's Boosey and Hawkes Imperial. Then the solo and first horn players are on a Boosey and Hawkes globe-stamp and a two year old Yamaha Neo. It's an eclectic mix, yet the new Sovereign in my hands is doing everything I ask, brightening up to match the Yamaha Neo and XO 1270, as well as becoming rich and silky when I am with the first euphonium on his globe-stamp.

I am beyond pleased with how well the horn is serving me. Never will I regret the investment I have made in having a brand new horn.

Not to say there hasn't been any issues. Three things have cropped up.

1) The mother of pearl on top of one of the finger buttons was loose and fell out; however it was easy enough to re-glue in place.

2) Where the lyre box screws in *cleanly* snapped off the lyre box itself. With my nearest repairer roughly two hours away in Melbourne, I shall be seeing if any jewellers in town would like to solder it back on for me.

3) The leather pull tab in the case which allows access to the storage compartment tore in half. Not a big deal, but a little frustrating to say the least.

I will be adding to this sometime next year, as over Easter the Australian National Brass Band Championships will be happening in Melbourne, where I will be playing in my band, as well as doing the Open Baritone Solo. By that point, I shall have figured out the horn more and hopefully have some more useful information for anyone wanting one of these horns.