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FOUNTAIN OF KNOWLEDGE - Brett Baker meets American music dynamo, Lee Harrelson

2021 Brass in Concert Championship: live

Saturday 20 November, 2021

Live coverage of the 44th Brass in Concert Championship from Sage Gateshead

Adjudicators: Mark David, Dr Howard J Evans (Quality of Performance)

Lt. Col. David Barringer MBE, Jayne Murrill (Entertainment and Presentation)

Peter Moore (Programme Content)

Dr David Childs (Soloists and Individual Awards)

 

Helen Douthwaite-Teasdale reporting

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Issue 6117 digital November 18, 2021

Results

1. Cory

2. Foden's

3. Flowers

4. Carlton Main

5. Tredegar

6. Grimethorpe

Trevor Caffull Trophy Audience Entertainment Award - Friary

World of Sound Trophy for the Best Performance in Entertainment and Presentation - Cory

Banks Group Trophy for the Band Placed Highest in Quality of Performance - Foden's

Cyril Beere Memorial Trophy for the Best New Composition or Arrangement – Beyond the Sea, Cory

Musician’s Union Trophy in memory of Danny Longstaff, for the Band Placed Highest in Programme Content - Cory

Geoffrey Whitham Trophy for the Best Soloist – Isobel Daws, Friary

Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council Trophy, for the Best Soprano Cornet – Paul Richards, Flowers

Harry Mortimer Trophy, for the Best Principal Cornet – Tom Hutchinson, Cory

Bennett Family Trophy, for Best Flugel Horn – Mark Walters, Grimethorpe

Gordon Higginbottom Trophy, for the Best Tenor Horn – Ross Dunne, Tredegar

North of England Regional Committee Trophy, for the Best Baritone – Ben Stratford, Tredegar

Thomas Bulmer Memorial Trophy, for the Best Euphonium – Glyn Williams, Cory

Don Lusher Trophy, for the Best Trombone – Isobel Daws, Friary

John Fletcher Trophy, donated by James Gourlay, for the Best Bass Section - Cory

Louis and Colin Johnson Memorial Trophy, for the Best Percussion Section - Foden's

Dougie Grieve Trophy, in association with The Musician’s Union for the Youngest Player – Haydn Osbourne, Hammonds

Frank Johnson Memorial Trophy, for the Secretary of the Winning Band - Cory

Peter Hartley Memorial Trophy, for the Conductor of the Winning Band - Cory

*****

The adjudicators have a very difficult job today with so much fine playing on display and programmes of such variety.  Results will be announced shortly but for fun we will take a punt.

Prediction

Cory

Fodens

Friary

Carlton Main

Dark Horse – Tredegar

 

10)     Friary (Chris King)

 

Our final band of the day takes to the stage with Chapter 2 of the Tales of Princess Isobel: - The Magical Bluebells

Howard Snell’s arrangement of Bach’s In Thee is Joy summons the arrival of Princess Isobel with great full band sounds.

Our witty compere guides us through the story to the fantastic arrangement by Callum Au of What a Wonderful World.  Cornet Soloist Richard Straker’s mellow sound shines.  There is a minor rock in pulse when the snare enters but the band are back on track with big band style.  Very classy and confident playing from Friary’s soloist.

Lightning strikes across the hall and we travel across the magical kingdom with The Duke’s Journey. The band really capture the style of the music, echoing Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn with lush warmth and excellent solo contributions.  Technical dexterity is on display as the band move through famous big band motifs and the kit player really takes centre stage.

We really get a masterclass in solo performance as Isobel Daws, our Princess, plays Blue Bells of Scotland.  She leads the band through the increasingly more difficult variations.  Friary react with sensitivity to the change tempos and rubato.  The audience shows appreciation for this truly outstanding solo effort.

The finale Circle of Life is rhythmic and showcases soloists across the band in an uplifting close to today’s contest.

A humorous and well thought out programme, showing variety paired with excellent ensemble playing and outstanding solo efforts.

 

9)     Grimethorpe Colliery (Dr David Thornton)

The 16 times Brass in Concert Champions take to the stage with a programme inspired by the innovative work done by the band during lockdown - Eastern Horizons (A Celebration of Eastern Musical Culture)

The band's Solo Euphonium provides an atmospheric opening taking us to the City of Diamonds, accompanied by images of western India. 

Dots of light fill the hall as we visit the traditional Chinese festival of Lanterns, starting sparsely and moving to a street procession with excellent percussion contributions.  This is an effective use of lighting and staging.

Trumpet Soloist Iain Culross invites us to sample to The Moscow High-Life in a work where Cossack dance meets western influences, with some Harry James thrown in for good measure.  The soloist captures the style perfectly in this real virtuosic showstopper.

Call and response opens The Turkish Rakass and a figure in purple takes centre stage. Vibrant rhythms and solo offerings from trombone and cornet are delivered with conviction.  Hats off to dancer Eleanor Gaywood. Real confidence from Grimethorpe’s newest member.

Full band sound proclaims our entrance to the Forgotten Empire of Persia.  This lament has a beautiful warm and reflective quality, with such purity of sound from Euphonium Soloists Adam Bokaris and Alex Barron.

We conclude our journey in Egypt, where a sandstorm rages and the band execute the many written textures well.  Impressive band sounds are on show in this finale Sandstorm in Cairo.  A close with impact and much appreciation from the audience.

The band really understood the differing styles and took us with them on an entertaining journey from the pen of Gareth Trott. There were moments of really excellent controlled softer playing aswell as virtuoso solo work.  This is a performance that is definitely in the mix.

 

8)     Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths)

Rhythmic percussion herald the melody of Bach but the pulse rocks slightly when full band enter. A flaming orange stage sets the scene for the original work by Sandy Smith, Bach Burner.

Tenor Horn Soloist Zoe Wright shows a full, warm and controlled sound with sensitive accompaniment from the band in Your Sweet Voice is Calling.

Muted fanfare motifs open Elgar Howarth’s Hunting Mr Lear’s Dream with precise ensemble work and soprano shines.  We segue to images of clear blue skies above the clouds and flowing lyrical lines from Solo Cornet.  The music is well balanced and is a reflective change of pace.

The bands percussionist arrives direct from his holiday in Toremawakefield, props in hand.  We get a flavour of the trip from his holiday postcards, beach bod and all.  This is a cheeky short snippet from the band.

We move straight to Russia with the traditional melody Les Yeux Noirs with string soloist contributions across the band and the band close with the fiery Ritual Dance ‘Royal Hunt of the Sun’ by Martin Ellerby.  There is good sectional teamwork on display and dynamic contrast.  Rhythmic chanting and explosive percussion close Hammonds final piece.

Some very strong solo playing on show but in a field with such great thematic programmes the question is, were the pieces chosen strong enough to compete? We’ll let the adjudicators decide but finisher had impact. Star players – Solo Horn and Soprano.

 

7) Redbridge (Chris Bearman)

The well-known Tetris theme is passed between cornet and euphonium is the opener Tetrominoes.  We move into an energetic Kalinka style with the game playing out on screen. Bach comes to the forefront in a lighter variation but the tempo is sometimes a little unsettled. Cornets are flying and everything becomes clearer as the graphics reveal Redbridge in Tetris blocks.

A young girl recites a poem and a quintet of players accompany Flugelhorn Soloist Alan Roberts in The Last Spring.  Sweet cornet sound accompany the warm flugel but ensemble isn’t always tight.  There is a beautiful stillness to close.

We are asked to consider whether technology is friend or foe as Redbridge fire all cylinders in Wired by Lucy Pankhurst.  Percussion drives forward with excellent kit playing on display.  We lose some of the solo contributions under the band sound but Redbridge take things up a gear to close with fine cornet section work.

A menacing voice talks of extinction and the Age of Machines in The Crusaders in Pskov.  This is a strange addition to the programme and becomes a little repetitive.  A little more context would maybe shed light on the words and meaning,

The band is upgraded with artificial intelligence in this witty work iBand, controlled by our tech saleswoman.  Redbridge showcases the features of the app with seamless execution, transitioning through different styles with ease.  The piece culminates with a “brass band finale” showing us the future.

Redbridge’s final item was certainly the highlight of the programme, clever and performed to perfection by the band.  There was some high energy playing on show and good use of visuals.

 

6)     Flowers (Paul Holland)

The band start on Go! : Rags 2 Riches with their Monopoly themed programme with cornets front of stage.  Tubas lay down the bass line with principle players taking turns to show their virtuosic side.  The style is cool and crescendos to a close with flying monopoly notes across the stage.

We move around the board to the exclusive luxury of Mayfair: Evening in Town, enjoying a Michelin star meal with Mr. Moneybags.  The band stylishly accompanies our diner, with percussive glasses and tableware. We hear classy contributions from trombone and soprano and the pop of the champagne bottle to close. 

Bird song can be heard with warm horn section sounds and chiming bells as we enter the grandiose of the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Cornet Soloist Jamie Smith sets the scene with impressive agility across the range. The stage is bathed in the red colour of Fleet Street and the soloists sound is sweet.  A considered change of mood is a welcome addition to the middle of the programme.

We roll the dice and move now to Pall Mall, showcasing the technical dexterity of each band section in this work by Jonathan Bates.  Flowers have a fine full band sound on display.

A policeman’s whistle signals that we are off To Jail! As our player desperately tries to roll a double, we have the rhythmic clank of chains.  The band set the mood of urgency and we here the agile conversation between cornet and euphonium. Its game over as the soprano ascends across a full blooded finale.

This was an interesting and well executed programme with some really fine soloist work.  Star players – Soprano and Principal cornet.

 

5) Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

The band's programme combines film and music to portray the dark elements of human nature in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde...a musical exploration of the alter ego for Brass Band and Percussion

Bells chime with gothic horror in Erlkönig, accompanied by the projected black and white film. Energetic percussion juxtapose flowing flugel lines.  The band the capture the light and dark of the story, with effective stage lighting.  Tredegar bass section lay a solid foundation as the music winds its finale.

Do You Take This Monster to be Your Lawful Wedded Husband?

Percussion and flowing euphonium lines set the scene for Tenor Horn Soloist Rosse Dunne.  Slow trombone glissandi depict the unease of the impending marriage and doctor’s increasingly erratic behaviour.  Our soloist has a beautiful warm sound and leaves us hanging on the question, will she marry him?

The band syncs perfectly with a film down the local and chaos ensues.  We hear echoes of a well-known theme tune and the queen of the Vic Peggy Mitchell comes to life in Get Out of My Pub.  It’s a strange homage to the original silent film but does it work – absolutely!

We move to the darkest part of the story with Slipknot’s The Devil in I.  The music is manic and heavy as the stage floods to green, Mr. Hyde is taking over.  This is a really clever arrangement with precise ensemble playing and excellent percussion work.

Tredegar changes formation for their finale A New Life, with tenor horn, baritone and flugel singing out melodic lines.  With Mr. Hyde finally vanquished the music is more optimistic and the band show of their great full sound, soprano soaring above.

An interesting programme with some really great arrangements.  Film and lighting were thoughtful and enhanced this solid performance.

 

4)      Cory (Philip Harper)

The defending champion Cory takes to smoke filled stage, lit by the moon.  The Admiral Benbow takes us to a seascape featuring Helen Williams of flugel with smooth, lyrical lines.

A Motley Crew of band sections enter full of the swagger of the high seas.  The band move through An Assortment of Salty Sea Shanties masterfully arranged by Philip Harper, with a virtuosic display from Tom Hutchinson and pirate “arghh” to close.

We travel from Bristol on The Hispaniola with Euphonium soloist Glyn Williams.  This is an epic journey of traditional sea songs, expertly delivered by soloist.  He really does make this look easy!

The band move to the joy of exploration and laidback steel pans can be heard against a tropical backdrop.  It’s not long before Cory are on fire with Island Vibe. The piece drives with Latin percussion and Tom Hutchinson and Cornet section sparkles.  This is truly virtuosic playing on display.

The sound of waves gently lapping against a distant shore open Soliloquy - A Reflection on Isolation.  Soloist Chris Thomas delivers smooth, lyrical lines with ease, soaring in the upper register.  This is accompanied by sensitive and fine ensemble.  Stylish and classy playing.

The skull and cross bones fly and lighting strikes across the hall as we hit stormy seas with the Main Theme from the Film Cutthroat Island. The band create a dramatic scene with dynamic contrast and skill.  Having lost our treasure trove we move to a relaxed crowd pleasing rendition of Beyond the Sea. 

The band has Sage One in rapturous applause, this team really know how to entertain! A performance that will be hard to beat.

 

3)     Foden’s (Michael Fowles)

Foden’s programme opens to darkened stage with smoke and lightening strobe across the hall.  We move to the macabre of Night on a Bald Mountain, delivered with the rhythmic and precise ensemble.

We journey Through the Darkened Streets of the notorious Jack the Ripper, with dynamic percussion and moody images of old London projected.  The piece features the band’s trombone and horn sections, with a stylish flugel solo, capturing the sense of foreboding.

Trombone Soloist John Barber is now centre stage with the softer Someone like You from the musical Jekyll and Hyde.  This is classy, with beautiful vibrato and sympathetic warm accompaniment from the band.

Red lighting signals a change in mood as we embark on a Night Flight. Technical fireworks are on display from Richard Poole and Gary Curtain and we here a reprise of the Night on a Bald Mountain in the work by Jonathan Bates.

Casper’s Lament tells of a good ghost, with a dark past and the band expertly create atmosphere with excellent dynamic contrast.  Solo cornet and baritone lines soar in this great contrast to the previous piece.

The band are a powerhouse in their finale The Dream of a Witches Sabbath, driving through the Round Dance.  There is so much skill on show here.

Foden’s are on form taking us Into the Dark with their contrasting and exciting programme.  They have really set the bar high, both in terms of music and entertainment.

 

2)     Carlton Main Frickley Colliery (Allan Withington)

The band enters to a smoke filled stage and contemporary dancer Stefania Penato portraying Anne Frank.  This programme of 7 movements devised by Allan Withington during the pandemic is a musical comment on the life of Anne Frank, as a beacon of hope and inspiration.

Fair Trading captures the hustle and bustle of a market scene, with effective cornet merry go round.  Whistles from percussion signal movement around the stage and trombone sirens pre-empt the darkness around the corner.

The air raid siren interrupts the flowing musical lines of Anne Frank’s Faces.  The movement explores the many facets of Anne including reflection and true grit.  Euphonium Soloist Toni Durrant shows the optimism in these dark times with a warm, full sound across the range.

The dancer springs into action, taking us to Holland’s dancehalls and spirits are lifted by In the Mood with great contributions from Flugel and Eb Bass.  Energetic percussion lead us into the next movement Germany Occupies Amsterdam with a quartet of Euph and Baritones providing great atmosphere resistance.  Bells chime Quarantine with effective vocals from band.

Street Tango captures power and passion portraying Anne’s influence on the arts and composers, with excellent solo contribution from solo Trombone Joe Heartfield.

Hava Nagila is sparse to start winds into a full band crescendo and celebration of optimism and moments of light.  Excellent band sounds are on show to close.

An interesting and surprisingly uplifting programme for such dark material with excellent use of stage lighting, effects and quality band sound on show.

 

1)     NASUWT Riverside (Prof. Nicholas Childs)

Local representatives, the current North of England and Grand Shield Champions Riverside make an impact with their opener A Fantasy of Joy by Fredrick Schjelderup.  The ode to joy theme is optimistic with lush, warm flugel sounds.  A great opening to the contest, brings optimism and joy.

Cornetist Tina Mortimer heralds the atmospheric opening to Peacemakers by Dan Price, followed by an agile duet with images of veterans accompanying the flowing ‘hymn like’ musical lines.  The tension builds with the Euph and Baritone section taking centre stage and percussion drive with morse code precision.

007 himself Soprano Soloist Phillip Tait enters to the classic Ray Farr arrangement of Live and Let Die soaring above the band with ease.  Slick and stylish playing, get that man a martini, shaken not stirred.

The band now move to a short new commission from the pen of Peter Graham celebrating Heroes of the North.  The band exudes energy and control with images of North East legends Grace Darling, George Stephenson, Jackie Milburn on screen.

The bands finale Heroes by Bruce Broughton takes us to the Sea of Tranquillity with flowing music capturing the mood well.  The band are then homeward bound and dynamic technical lines are delivered with poise supported by the great sounds of the lower end.

A strong and consistent performance from NASUWT but lacked slightly in the innovation we come to know from Brass in Concert.

***

After a fantastic morning of music making with the Youth Contest, Frank Renton is on stage and we are ready to go with the Championship contest.

***