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: Brass Band at the Bandstand - the cooperation band

Wednesday 22 September, 2021

Issue 6109 digital September 16, 2021

Brass Band at the Bandstand the cooperation band | Conductor: Keith Johnston | Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow | Sunday, September 12

Following a COVID-enforced absence, there was joy for members of the reigning Scottish champion, the cooperation band, as it returned to action in style for this afternoon concert in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bandstand.

The band performed as part of the West-End Festival and while the weather was cloudy, the rain stayed off. The audience mainly consisted of passers-by and other musicians who were sharing the performance space, Glasgow Barons and Brass Aye. Although the amphitheater was not at full capacity, that did not stop conductor Keith Johnston and the band from putting on a first class, entertaining performance, based around well known and classic musical items, including themes from the movies.

The cooperation band opened its set with Adrian Drover’s upbeat arrangement of the Star Wars theme. It grabbed the attention of the audience straight away, featuring an impressive performance from the cornet section, and set the scene for what was to come.

First of the band’s soloists to take centre stage was principal trombonist, Ross Bahlaj. His performance of But Not For Me captured the beauty of the work through the elegance of his playing and his smooth, endearing tone. Ross was joined by the rest of his section, Gerard Hennan (second) and Andrew Foden (bass) in Goff Richards’ familiar arrangement of I Will Follow Him, from Sister Act. The section blended beautifully and each soloist performed with swagger and a jazzy pizzazz; well done team trombone.

A change of pace came in Prelude from the 49th Parallel, which really brought out the lyrical and expressive playing of the band while maintaining a warm, full band sound. It showed the audience that brass bands aren’t all loud and proud and can play sensitively with a lush sound.

Soprano cornet player Gordon Kyle, helped whet the audience’s appetite for the impending release of the next Bond film, No Time to Die, by showcasing Alan Morrison’s arrangement of Live and Let Die. This was thrilling, full-blooded playing from a player of the highest calibre who clearly relished channelling his inner 007. New York, New York had a swingy groove to it, the cooperation band settling into big band mode with relative ease.

Nightingale Dances, by Matthew Hall, featured a warm upper brass opening with a solid foundation from bass trombone. The sudden gear change was met with ease, the band hurtling forward with gusto before the Toreador style moment, showcasing an alluring flugelhorn solo line which portrayed a Spanish dancer elegantly. Unrelenting basses kept the piece moving as the music surged to a triumphant close. 

The penultimate piece was Sandy Smith’s arrangement of The Mask of Zorro. Keith Johnston drew a wide dynamic palette from the band throughout. Solo euphonium Chris Flynn embraced the limelight in the swashbuckling cadenza (well done to trombones for holding that pause).

To conclude, the cooperation band performed Pharrell Williams’ Happy, which was fitting as, by the end of the concert, the audience had enjoyed a fine afternoon listening to the band.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable performance presented by the cooperation band. The variety in programming held the audience and there had clearly been much thought and preparation. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?!

Mark Gammon