FORMIDABLE FODEN'S - Full coverage from the 2021 National Brass Band Championships

Issue 6112

HOW TO IMPRESS - Amos Miller on flourishing in a conservatoire audition

COMPOSER CAST - Liz Lane on her fascinating early musical life

DEPARTURE - Cornet star Kirsty Abbotts leaves Carlton Main

Review: Colossus - Wright & Round

Thursday 2 September, 2021

Colossus | Marcus Venables | Wright & Round

The Cory Band RWCMD Composition Competition has become a highlight in the brass band calendar, both for composers and those interested in discovering new music for the brass band movement. The prestigious event has produced some fine and innovative works since its inception in 2015. The competition, sponsored by Kapitol Promotions, provides a tantalising opportunity for emerging composers to hear their music performed by the world’s number one ranked brass band in one of Wales’ leading concert halls.

One new voice who has made an impression at the contest is young salvationist Composer, Marcus Venables. The 29-year-old’s work Colossus won the competition’s first prize in 2019. The work is written in tribute to Cory Band and, in the composer’s own words, is dedicated to the ensemble’s “past, present and future members of the band”.

The piece is aptly named. Colossus will provide a fierce, yet achievable, challenge for first section bands and above looking for an engaging project post-pandemic. The piece follows overall ternary form and opens with a cinematic fanfare in the solo cornets and percussion section. Letter A introduces middle and lower band instruments with similar fanfare motifs.

A call and response pattern between the lower and upper sections of the band continues to letter B. The first part of the work culminates with a soaring soprano alongside technical passages in horn, baritone and euphonium. This section of the work is rounded off as it begins, with the same solo cornet fanfare.

The middle section of the work is a rousing, con fuoco section in a 12/8 time signature. Letter C opens with trombones now taking over the fanfare subject underneath a bubbling cornet section. There is some nice writing here with a 6/4 hemiola pattern in the second cornets, which creates a very effective cross-rhythm effect.

The section builds in much the same vein as it starts. The variety in both the scoring of the leading voice and time-signatures are utilised to great effect throughout this middle section. Letter D sees a relief section with a lyrical soprano and solo horn melody.

Letter G drops down in dynamic and provides the room for another lead up, this time towards a huge finish. Solo cornets, in perpetual semiquavers above the driving rhythm of the sizzle cymbal and lower cornets, bring us to a finale that we would expect from a piece named Colossus. There is so much variety in the scoring of this work (a trademark of salvationist composition) and this is fully demonstrated from letter I. Each section of the band is provided an opportunity to showcase its technical prowess whilst the music cleverly combines the main subjects from each overall section of the work. A blistering top D in the soprano cornet to finish confirms that this is not a piece for the faint of heart.

The work will provide a fresh opener to a concert from a new voice and could work brilliantly programmed alongside a set of other salvationist works. This could also work well as a ‘big finish’ to a joint concert. Whilst the percussion required is fairly demanding with four instrumentalists called for, the instruments used are standard. The harmony used is conventional, yet inventive, and would be easy to listen to for a standard brass band audience.

This is a fine new addition to the brass band repertoire and one that accomplishes its brief as a fine tribute to Cory Band.

Andy Wareham