A SONG FOR HOPE - The story of how Ryan Anthony is using music to inspire hope through his battle with cancer

Issue 5994

EUROBRASS 2019 - Comprehensive preview of the European Brass Band Championships

OWEN FARR SEMINAR - The secret to playing high

Butlins Mineworkers Festival - Championship Section Own Choice - Live

Sunday 13 January, 2019

My final verdict and purely my own personal views for just the entertainment section. The contenders for me were Desford, Friary Guildford, and Woodfalls in alphabetical order with Flowers just out of contention.

My heart and emotions tell me that Friary Guildford was pure entertainment delivered brilliantly especially soloist Isobel Daws, but my head says that probably Desford’s quality of playing just edged them ahead.

  1. Desford.
  2. Friary Guildford.
  3. Woodfalls.

So last but by no means least we have Friary Guildford Band.

 A theme, a tale, a fairy tale, the story of their principle trombone and her quest for love. 

This is all more camp than Butlins itself, with a fully robed town crier, a bass player wearing some sort of wig (sorry Ross) that I cant quite make out from my vantage point. 

The set opens with Princess Isobel seated at the piano , wearing her tiara and sparkly shoes. 

So the story of Princess Isobel and her ‘father’ King Christoph (geddit?) unfolds. Firstly with a bit of ‘All you need is Love’ some references Bach,, before ‘For the Love of a Princess’ 

I really like the sound of this band.

Anyway, back to the story, as told by Uncle Frank, a couple of dubious innuendos ( planned or unplanned?)  and now the reason for the bass player in the wig. Of course the suitor, the lowly bass player Rosalini. 

Not before of course before Princess Isobel (Daws) suspends belief for just a few moments in a breathtaking virtuosic performance of the trombone solo ‘Thoughts of Love’ - wow wow and wow. Goodness me that was good. And the best audience ovation of the day. 

 Bit more of campery it’s Rosalini, his wig, his tuba, Princess Isobel back on the piano for the finale and some Elton John, with our song. Lots of camera phone lights joining in all over the auditorium. 

One more treat as the happy couple live happily ever after, dance the night away, ‘I want to dance with somebody.’

This pantomime had it all, backed with some brilliant playing from Isobel. Brilliant and engaging leadership as well as great arrangements from Chris King. 

Any of the proverbial ‘Joe Public’ would have got this, without band or music background, they would have been engaged and would have loved it. Hoary, but uncringworthy, because the ‘cringe’ was built in and part of the act if that makes sense. The band and audience were both in on it and played off each other. Definitely the winner of today simply on the audience clappometer.

 

The penultimate band and defending champions Flowers led by Paul Holland have thrown everything at their defence of the title, which at times has seen some of the best pure band playing to date.

Here again we have a great concept of a complete themed programme based on Freedom. Simple, complete clarity, and broad enough to give you plenty of flexibility in musical choice. Great use of images and sound clips probably for the first time today seen the screen and speakers at championship level. Jonny Bates has written the whole programme. To say that this young man is a composing machine makes him sound like an automon, which is far from the case - I refer to his ability and not the time it takes to produce this consistent of level of quality and quantity. Having said that however good, just using one composer, means that if you are not careful the same voice and character pervades throughout. The freedom scope allowed Martin Luther King references, the War Dance of the Red Cossacks, and the slave spirituals from that ‘Promised Land’ as well as a tasty piece of NIna Simone starting with a lush quintet of tuba trombones and flugelhorn before developing into a real showcase for all of the band.

Fast becoming one of my favourite players, Paul Richards plays ‘Let Freedom Ring,’ demonstrating his place in the higher echelon of soprano players especially on this style of solo. Played in candle light it was almost the signal for my favourite doze of the week 3.30 on a Sunday afternoon.

The programme as a package didn’t quite knock me off my feet but I think I really liked it.

 Virtuosi GUS in their first major outing under Artistic Director Chris Jeans.

A Howard Snell original from his Desford/Foden days. Starting with a single Eb Bass, the band joins for ‘Anything You can Do’ segueing directly into the energetic brilliant ‘Starburst’ by Dan Price.

Moving swiftly to what for me must be a musical highlight of the weekend ‘Adagio’ by Rachmaninov played by the superlative James Fountain. Emotional but never over done. Sublime phrasing and control. What a masterclass in instrumental playing. What a ‘voice’. 

Band formation reset with stood cornets now flanking the band with some slick choreography of outward pointing bells for Dan Price’s ‘Big Band Tribute’, followed by Della Pearce and her flugel take on ‘Under the Broadwalk’ and closing with another version of ‘Malaguena’ this time arranged by Mark Freeh. 

This may well have been a cliched entertainment ending to their set but it certainly hit a spot with the audience so who am I to diagree. Add to that two changes of jacket for conductor Chris Jeans  and you have a eclectic mix of cheese with a delicious topping of Fountain. 

Next up are Woodfalls under Robert Childs.

Slick entry onto the stage by the band obviously meaning business. 

Simply, easy to understand theme, Inspiration and now using understated graphics that bring information and clarity to the theme.

Fabulous opener by Bruce Broughton in the style of Bernstein 'inspired,' by Shostakovich. What a piece and scintilating playing too.

'Battleground' next by Paul Sharman and originally written for David Childs and Philip Cobb. Today those roles are taken by Jan Boler on cornet and Fabian Bloch on euphonium. Both displaying great tones and scintilating playing across the whole range. Bravo. This was entertaining. [no attempts at comedy or dressing up] Nice touch as the Fabian tastefully presents Jan with a rose at the conclusion. Nice job.

More inspiration for Bob Childs reminiscing on his days with Grimethorpe Colliery under the leadership of Elgar Howarth. Some vintage entertainment material fom that era with Cops and Robbers by W Hogarth Lear. Great fun and just a bit of Keystone Kops style humour.

The band finishes with original music by Jonathan Bates. His finale ‘Triumph’ paying homage to the inspiration of composers James Curnow, Edward Gregson, John McCabe and Peter Graham, therefore remains totally on theme. Great band playing here and especially from the soprano. 

Great programme and a great exercise in the use of a theme. Great clarity and keeping it broad enough so that all material fits naturally without resorting to a musical shoe horn.

 

 

 Before our third band we have another delay and an announcement of apology from our MC Frank Renton. Despite everyone's best efforts, the AV, which is so central to the theme and the performance is not compatable and will not be shown.

However, the two entertainment adjudicators have a lap top version and will be able to follow it through in time with the band's performance.

Haverhill Silver Band [Paul Filby] start with 'Chaos' written by one of the band's percussionists. I think the theme maybe something to do with the black hole and the exploration therof?

Next up, a very weak attempt at brass band humour, as a kaftan wearing and bearded [false] flugel player takes us through Demis Roussos, 'Forever and Ever.' This also featured a soprano player blowing into a tuba bell for some reason. Flugel despite, everything else, sounded lovely.

An original performance 'Ether' again written by band member Craig Saunders was undoubtedly the highlight of the programme.

More weak, even cringeworthy, humour in a version of Zorba the Greek which would send even the most ardent 'Remainer' rushing to Brexit.

The finale Elysium packed a punch and brought the set to a lively conclusion but again, despite the undoubted preparation and hard work [with all compositions and arrangements originating from playing members of the band], is unlikley to trouble the leader board unduly.

 

 

Second band - Redbridge Brass conducted by Richard Ward.

Firstly, we have an announced delay as its explained that the AV that is central to the presentation is not quite ready.

Commemorating 50 years of landing on the moon, we start with some Shostakovich and lots of video images of the US/Soviet space race.

We then move onto some hippy thoughts and pyschadellic images as the band plays 'East Meets West' by Philip Harper. Unlucky for them but Desford had just done a better take on some Bollywood Brass in the previous set and so this pales somewhat. 2 band full of Eastern promise but this time maybe a little more East London than the mystical east.

The lovely contemporary worship song 'All is Well' I guess is played to represent the successful landing on the moon, and maybe the Sea of Tranquility but without having the title announced maybe a step to far to link.

A great tuba solo and well played 'Salt of the Earth' by Andy Scott [tubist I think Craig Bearman] but set against some jokey images of Neil Armstrong supposedly as a tuba player. An underwhelming 'Fly me to the Moon' [although dead on theme] before a finale from Nigel Clarke's test piece 'Earth Ride'.

Brave attempt to use media but do the images add or take away fom the musical performance? Does an honest attempt at a themed programme end up with music being shoe horned in rather then being built upon the undoubted stregths of the band. I guess the jury is still out.

What you can't dispute is the hard work from all concerned in preparing the music and the media but not sure it often comes together.

Huge apologies to our readers as the dreaded technology (and it’s operative) play catch up. 

Great start from arguably the overnight leaders Desford Colliery under Michael Fowles. They start with a transcription of a Stan Kenton take on Malagueña. Chris Gomersall sets the style with his trombone playing and it’s rounded of by a terrific bit of Kevin Crockford a la MacArthur Park. 

Another quality trombone player Nick Hudson proves that class is permanent in the wonderful Ballet of the Starfish by Martin Winter. Loads of atmospheric underwater bubbl machines but not detracting from the quality lyrical playing of Nick. What a class act.

More Martin Winter and his Karma Naan takes us to the realms of Bollywood Brass. Contemplative brass players standing round the stage with heads bowed, lots of Indian ‘bagpipe’ sounds and whirling hosepipes. Cornetist Gary Wyatt does his best to charm all of the snakes from around the Skegness marshes. Lovely stuff. If anyone would dare question the intonation I don’t think there was meant to be any.

’Not to be Forgotten’ gives the band the opportunity  to display its lush and lyrical playing including a delicious pp ending. 

Great finale by John Barber (principal trombone at Foden), ‘Thy Tribute Bring’ - a fantasy on the hymn Praise My Soul the King of Heaven. Stirring stuff for a Sunday morning and particular for those who may have skipped church to be here.

This is a fabulous marker from Desford. No perceivable theme here but a well constructed programme and brilliantly executed. This will take some beating today

Comments by Julian Bright.