LIVING THE DREAM - B&R bari star Amy Ewen chats to BB

Issue 6140

END OF THE ROAD - Jeans' tenure at GUS comes to a close

CONCERT REVIEW - Tredegar shines at Newbury Spring Festival

SADLY MISSED - Richard Evans laid to rest

BIDDING FAREWELL - Stephen Allen says goodbye to Lancaster British Brass Band

2022 European Youth Brass Band Championships: Development Section - live

Friday 29 April, 2022

Live coverage of the Development Section of the European Youth Brass Band Championships.

Issue 6137 digital April 28, 2022

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Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Mark Good reporting

 

Development Section

Adjudicators: Grethe Tonheim and Adam Cooke

Draw

1) Wardle Academy Youth Band (England) Lee Rigg
2) Brass Band Aukštyn (Lithuania) Bjørn Breistein and Remigijus Vilas
3) Elland Silver Youth Brass Band (England) Samantha Harrison
4) Smørås Skolemusikk (Norway) Magnus Brandseth
5) South Wales Youth Band (Wales) Carol Flanary-Davies
6) National Youth Brass Band of Scotland (Scotland) John Boax

 

Result

1) Wardle Academy Youth Band (England) Lee Rigg
2) Smørås Skolemusikk (Norway) Magnus Brandseth
3) Elland Silver Youth Brass Band (England) Samantha Harrison
4) Brass Band Aukštyn (Lithuania) Bjørn Breistein and Remigijus Vilas
5) South Wales Youth Band (Wales) Carol Flanary-Davies
6) National Youth Brass Band of Scotland (Scotland) John Boax


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The six bands in the Development Section should be very proud of their performances at the European Youth Brass Band Championships. On display were some very different outfits; some very experienced, some younger in their development. Some rehearse week to week; others have only had a handful of rehearsals, at most - but the standard remained high and the healthy audience enjoyed what they saw and heard.

In Wardle and Smørås Skolemusikk were two particularly special performances. The level of polish and discipline was quite something, as was the musical maturity on display. Separating them could be tricky; the razor-sharp, pristine nature of Wardle or the unashamed beauty of the Norwegian band. It really could go either way. By the tiniest of whiskers, we’ll opt for:

Prediction

1) Wardle Academy Youth
2) Smørås Skolemusikk
3) Elland Silver Youth

 

 

6) National Youth Brass Band of Scotland (Scotland) John Boax

NYBBS was due to have two conductors at this European Youth Championship. Alas, the organisation has joined with the wider banding world in mourning the loss of its musical director emeritus, Richard Evans. 

Epic bass trombone sounds punctuate the open of Dan Price’s Starburst. Cornets relish the intricate rhythmic writing and the confidence is shared around the stand.

It’s another healthy-sized band, this time from NYBBS, and the players do well to overcome the ensemble challenges which can arise in such a setting. They also do well to find a lightness of touch in the rare delicate moments in the Starburst score. 

Charlie Boax takes centre stage in Carrickfergus and is the epitome of calm as she begins in tender fashion. It’s a little bumpy underneath but soon settles into a groove. John Boax, playing the dual role of conductor and proud dad, ensures Charlie is never smothered by the considerable forces of the accompaniment, all the way to a measured conclusion.

NYBBS offers Elegy for Dunkirk as its tribute to its musical director emeritus. Haunting chords fill Symphony Hall, over which grows a nicely understated euphonium melody; dark and brooding in outlook and perfectly suited to the score. The haunting strains of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind rise to the fore. It’s not immune from intonation frailties and a touch of nerves but the players work hard to retain their composure, not least as they remember a much-missed member of the NYBBS family in Mr Evans.

A quick pause for breath was followed by set test, Corineus. Some special sounds ring forth when it’s their time, notably in soprano cornet, bass trombone and flugel. Limited in its rehearsal time by its very nature, there are no constraints on the enthusiasm or full-blooded commitment of these young players as NYBBS embraces the style and contrasting musical colours in Christopher Bond’s score. 

******

 

5) South Wales Youth Band (Wales) Carol Flanary-Davies

 

A big, bold opening as South Wales Youth Band begins its programme with the set work, Corineus, by Christopher Bond. It’s a detailed reading by Carol Flanary-Davies, who looks to bring the finer points out of the score.

There are some super horn sounds on display here; well done to all. Occasionally, intonation grumbles make themselves known but the musical intentions are clear in this performance from another band which is slightly more than traditional-size - and every last one of those players is treasuring their moment on stage in one of the finest concert halls in the land.

This is a piece that plays with rhythm and for the most part, the players of South Wales Youth Band rise to the challenges; only from time to time does it lose its tightness but there’s much to enjoy from the young Welsh players.

Ar Lan Yr Mor begins with muted sounds around the stand and these soon settle into their stride. The euphonium solo playing is tender, with neat interplay with the principal cornet; the two link well. While not immune from those intonation gremlins, this is an endearing performance, capped off with some fine solo playing.

Haunting sounds mark the opening of Sosban Fach, which soon bursts into life. It’s well-measured and the icing on the cake is some spirited Welsh singing, as all the players stand and face the audience. It brings down the curtain on a performance of vigour and character. The Welsh dragons are held aloft around the hall - they loved it!

 

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4) Smørås Skolemusikk (Norway) Magnus Brandseth

 

The fragments of Beethoven 5 are immediately apparent in the opening stages of this performance of A Fantasy of Joy, by Fredrick Schjelderup, from Smørås Skolemusikk. Also evident is the delightful maturity to the sounds in this fine band; fine flugel!

The percussion playing is big but well-disciplined before it’s soon turn for soprano to shine - and shine they do! Amazing to hear, especially with this band which looks, in some corners, to be quite young.

Bring Back That Leroy Brown is laced with character. It’s stylish and multi-dimensional, full of fun and swagger. Kudos, Mr drum kit player, who flies around those drums as if they’re an extension of his arms.

After the joviality of the previous piece, Letter From Home offers a moment of contemplation. It’s lyrical and heartfelt without becoming over sentimental.

Corineus sees the band on a mission, Magnus Brandseth seeking to draw every musical colour from Christopher Bond’s engaging score. Ensemble fleetingly loses its cohesion but the dynamism is there. The beautiful long lines are also evident, while principal cornet and euphonium are quite simply: lush. Close your eyes and you might expect to be hearing players 20 years more experienced.

Smørås Skolemusikk gives a performance that belies the years of its players; expressive, fulfilling and inspiring. 

******

3) Elland Silver Youth Brass Band (England) Samantha Harrison

There’s an endearing, old-fashioned quality to the sounds in the early stages of Heaton’s Le Tricot Rouge. A great deal of effort and attention has clearly been placed on articulation, pointing the sounds when required for dramatic effect. It’s spirited playing, confident and assured in its delivery.

Bass in the Ballroom is bold and passionate, the characterful tuba solo ringing around the auditorium. Not quite all the small, intricate notes spring off the stage but for the most part, the band works hard to remain under the soloist. The soloist stands - no mean feat with an Eb bass - and the cadenza sounds effortless, nicely paced and using moments of silence to good effect.

Little Prayer provides a moment of poignancy in Elland Silver Youth’s programme. While there could be a touch more blend in the lower end of the dynamic spectrum, the individual sounds are warm and elicit maturity beyond the years of those around the stand.

It’s a purposeful opening to Corineus, an engaging work which is proving a stimulating listen for the audience in Symphony Hall. Muted trombone colours fizz effectively. The dynamic between bands and their conductors is fascinating to watch; the players of Elland Silver Youth respond to Samantha Harrison’s every gesture.

There’s a hint of nerves in some of the lyrical music but the euphonium playing, in particular, is joyously expressive. 

In full flight, Elland Silver Youth makes an enormous sound, ringing confidently around the hall. Again, the players are enjoying it - exemplified by the “Come on” roar upon the band’s conclusion. Spirited, fun and underpinned by fine playing around the stand.

******

 

2) Brass Band Aukštyn (Lithuania) Bjørn Breistein

Celebrity is treated with a sense of majesty and poise. Conductor Bjørn Breistein ensures an appropriate lightness of touch during much of the score and there’s a wonderful sense of cohesion to the band’s sound.

Corineus is well-measured to open, some fine tenor horn sounds rising to the fore. Fleeting intonation gremlins raise their head in the low end from time to time but they pass.

Bravo, Mr soprano cornet, for a sensitive, lyrical and well-delivered contribution during the reflective passages.

The sounds here may not quite have the exuberant warmth of, say, Wardle but they are of good quality and well-organised. This is a band at a different stage in its musical life but the young players are not over-awed by the sense of occasion and splendour of Symphony Hall; indeed, they are relishing their moment on the stage.

After the comparative seriousness of the set test, Music for Drums sees the band let its hair down. Neat choreography, well-organised and all done with a smile. Cornets, trombones and basses make their way to the front of the stage, pointing the audience directly. Meanwhile, the kit playing is stylish and refined. Bravo, Brass Band Aukštyn; a band welcome back on UK shores any time.

******

1) Wardle Academy Youth Band (England) Lee Rigg

Opening the Development Section of the European Youth Brass Band Championships is Wardle Academy Youth Band, an organisation with a fine reputation for quality music making.

Peter Graham’s Flashback bursts into life from the off, warm sounds evident around the stand. It’s energetic and well-balanced; nothing is over-done. 

The size of this band is truly heart-warming; eight trombones! Players are immaculately turned out and the polish is evident in the music making too.

Set work Corineus, by Christopher Bond, elicits majestic sounds to open. There’s a youthful confidence to the performance, the central, reflective section featuring fine cornet and euphonium sounds. MD Lee Skipsey guides his players through every twist and turn, his singing only occasionally evident in the press gallery (he’s relishing these melodic passages) and it’s nicely handled before the work bursts into life once again.

It’s exciting - but never excited - and that is to the credit of the band and its conductor - soprano rings around the hall beautifully to close!

Trombone soloist Adam Warburton takes centre stage in The Blue Bells of Scotland. Playing from memory, he demonstrates remarkable agility, hurtling around the instrument. The theme is melodic and nicely shaped - then those variations begin. There’s a glint in the eye to this young soloist, with subtle hints of musical humour, underpinned by showstopping technique. He receives a standing ovation - and quite right too. 

The Finale from Boris Godunov sees the band take a weightier approach in this short, powerful work. It makes for a grandstand conclusion to a programme from a well-disciplined, tightly organised outfit.

 


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9.55am

The stage is set! The Development Section will get under way shortly.

******


9.30am


Good morning from Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, where the atmosphere is building nicely. Excited chatter lines the corridors, audience members filing in ahead of the European Youth Championships. The adult bands have had their draw for the contest later, with the last of their players dispersing after getting a feel for the stage.