BERLIN BOUND - Isobel Daws secures place at Karajan Academy

Issue 6125

SCOTTISH FUNDING - SBBA receives Creative Scotland award

CONTEST CANCELLED - West of England Regionals off

CURTAIN RISING - RNCM Festival set for take-off

PUSHED BACK - Australian Nationals postponed

Album review: Celebration - NYBBGB

Wednesday 12 January, 2022

Celebration - NYBBGB and NCBBGB | Conductors: Robert Childs and Capt Sam Hairsine RM | Narrator: Clara Price | Music House Productions

 

The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain is a jewel in the crown of the UK’s banding scene, a launchpad for the next generation of brass and percussion stars.

Perhaps most importantly, NYBBGB – along with its Scottish and Welsh counterparts – provides lasting memories and transformative experiences that stand members in good stead, regardless of their career destinations. Celebration neatly encapsulates the spirit of the organisation, and nowhere is that more evident than in the National Children’s Brass Band, which takes centre stage for the first few pieces.

Denis Wright’s Fanfare provides the necessary pomp with which to open the album, as cornets, trombones and percussion share the limelight. The NCBB relishes every moment in Alan Fernie’s sparkling score for Prismatic Light. The rhythmic figures are measured, while the refinement of sound and intonation in the soaring melodic lines is testament to the honing of the basics at this early stage in players’ musical journeys.

Frederick Schjelderup’s New Beginnings was premiered by the NCBB in July 2021. At more than ten minutes, it is a major work for a young ensemble and contains no shortage of interest for players and audiences alike, from dramatic tunes to pulsing, energetic accompaniments. The solo sounds are sweet and endearing, the tutti moments rich and largely well-balanced.

In 76 Trombones is a work which has become a regular encore for the NCBB and it receives a rip-roaring rendition, with the band’s youthful trombone section on top form. The music of Peter Graham features in the NCBB’s programme, Strange New Worlds a nod to the dramatic turn experienced by so many when the COVID-19 pandemic rose to the fore in March 2020. The sense of an imminent threat is palpable, a good degree of maturity evident in the musical storytelling.

The NYBB opens its part of the programme with gusto, Dan Price’s Andromeda bursting into life immediately. Peel back the layers and there are lots of intricate rhythms in this piece, a challenge met well by the young players of the NYBB, Captain Sam Hairsine ensuring a good sense of balance and an appropriate lightness of touch. Where She Sings Freely welcomed narrator Clara Price, who recited the poem she devised and which has since been set to music by Lucy Pankhurst. It sees the NYBB charting an altogether different musical landscape; at times barren and shiver-inducing, this is powerful storytelling, and an imaginative collaboration. Denis Wright’s arrangement of the Irish Tune from Country Derry acts as a sort of palette cleanser, the traditional warmth and expressive qualities of the NYBB rising to the fore, notably courtesy of horns, euphoniums and baritones. It’s a sound of great tenderness and affection.

An immeasurable loss to the banding scene came with the passing of Philip Biggs. In addition to his longstanding involvement with the NYBB, he was administrator of the Brass Band Summer School for 20 years, and the achievement is celebrated by NYBB alumnus Jonathan Bates in By Water and the Word, neatly incorporating St Clements and Aurelia, two hymn tunes synonymous with the performances of the NYBB. Understated yet imaginative, it is a tasteful tribute to someone whose contribution to banding cannot be overestimated. 

Bringing the album to a close is In Memoriam – The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, brought to life in its current version by the NYBB’s director of artistic planning, Robert Childs. As remarked in the sleeve notes, the work’s title is ironic in that Black Americans were fighting for world freedom and civilisation abroad during the Second World War, while at home being denied those same rights.

Individually and collectively, the sounds are impressive, the NYBB home to players of considerable stature, some of whom are already making their name in the wider banding world.

Celebration is a fitting way to mark 70 years of music making from the NYBB, an organisation with an outstanding reputation for broadening the horizons of those who pass through its doors. That the album was recorded in the midst of a challenging climate, for the arts and the wider world, is testament to the passion and dedication of all those involved – and a good indication of fine things to come from this shining musical light.

Mark Good

Programme: 4

Performance: 4

Overall Presentation: 4

Recording Quality: 4

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Issue 6122 digital January 6, 2022