BATTLE OF THE TITANS - Bands gear up for a titanic battle at the Royal Albert Hall

Issue 6016

COMPOSERS' CORNER - Dr Liz Lane looks at the subject of  networking 

HERE IS THE NEWS - Looking back at the Daily Herald's Nationals sponsorship

Review: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Great British Brass off

Monday 16 March, 2020

Review: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Great British Brass Off. Ledger Recital Room, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Conductors: John Logan and Nigel Boddice MBE. March 9, 2020.

Students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland are consistently given opportunities to showcase their art, viewed as professionals in training. The institution’s brass department does this perhaps even more than most, regularly giving students an opportunity in the spotlight in order that they can gain crucial performance experience.

This concert, part of RCS’ Mondays at One series, opened with a group primarily consisting of first and second years in Edward Chance’s arrangement of The Rover, the Ragman and the Landlord. The 12-piece group belied any lack of experience, with the standard and attention to detail very impressive under the baton of Nigel Boddice MBE, who had faced an early-morning return to Glasgow after adjudicating at the Yorkshire Regionals the previous two days.

The tightness of the ensemble and sense of organisation shone through, bouncing along with a great deal of verve. Students revelled in the compound time rhythmic figures, the spacing between the notes going a long way to retain a sense of poise.

Line Dance, from Jim Parker’s Light Fantastic, had the audience galloping through the wild west on horseback, a pleasing lightness of touch to the nimble lines. High Kicks, meanwhile, surged forward from the outset. The subtle opportunities for musical humour were drawn effectively from the score, all the way to the harmonically-uncertain conclusion.

Student ensemble Solstice Brass took to the stage to perform Dances of the Scottish Court, by the late John Maxwell Geddes. Comprising fourth year students, the quintet demonstrated a deep understanding of each other’s playing.

Trumpets Tanya McDonald and Juliette Murphy led effectively, their sounds well matched. Ellie Mead, on tuba, remained a solid base on which the ensemble’s sound was built; only occasionally did the odd splash make its way into the ensemble’s performance. Chamber music requires intricate, unspoken communication between the performers and Solstice Brass demonstrated a pleasing sense of cohesion throughout.

To conclude, senior 10-piece ensemble Conservatoire Brass took centre stage, conducted by head of brass, John Logan. The Earl of Oxford’s March retained an underlying sense of pulse throughout, players switching from accompanying layer to virtuosic solo line while understanding their role in the bigger picture.

Trumpet player Rebecca Wilson (fresh from a performance with Dalmellington Band at the Scottish Championships the previous day) played with great warmth to open John Iveson’s arrangement of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square before trombones gracefully took over. The shift in style to smoky jazz bar swing was effortless, aided by the effective muted colouring from trumpets.

Keith Bissell’s take on Norwegian Wood, with its continually shifting harmonic sands, brought an engaging hour of music making to an end in Scotland’s national conservatoire, a lunchtime treat for the assembled audience before bracing themselves for Glasgow’s winter weather.

Mark Good