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

Concert review: European preview concert - Foden's and EYBB

Tuesday 10 May, 2022

European Preview Concert | European Youth Brass Band & Foden's Band

Conductors: Florent Didier and Russell Gray

Fallibroome Academy, Macclesfield | Wednesday, April 27, 2022


The audience who attended this most entertaining evening got a foretaste of the sheer musical vibrancy that was to be such a feature at the European Brass Band Championships in Birmingham a few days later.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to discover that a few more tickets for the weekend event may have been sold to listeners of this concert who were previously undecided about attending the ‘blue ribbon’ event, such was the quality of performance and programming on show in Macclesfield.

The European Youth Brass Band, under the inspired direction of Florent Didier, opened proceedings. One didn’t need to have been at any of their rehearsals to see the chemistry that existed between the conductor and his young musicians. From their opening number, the electric Living Power by Tom Davoren, it was obvious for all to see and hear. The band’s well-rounded sound was a joy to behold – mature, balanced and not an edge in sight. It was hard to believe the age of the players and that the band had met for the first time only four days previously.

Highlights of the EYBB’s extremely well contrasted programme included the antiphonally presented Four French Renaissance Dances (Praetorius arr. Anthun); Peter Meechan’s sublime message of optimism, Song of Hope, which featured the contrasting, but beautiful tones of the band’s solo cornet section; Leslie Condon’s iconic SA march Celebration; a most impressive reading of Wilfred Heaton’s fiendish classic, Toccata: Oh the Blessed Lord and the characteristically turbo-charged Backlash by Simon Dobson.

A great arrangement of the classic French song, made famous by vocalist Edith Piaf, L’hymme a l’amour, provided a rousingly emotional finale, most appropriate, not only given the nationality of the band’s musical director, but also the message of hope and optimism it sent out during troubled times in Europe.

This wonderful band and conductor provided the very finest example of what is possible from collaboration between countries across our continent. Formed in 2000, on this evidence, the concept of the European Youth Brass Band is in rude music health. The standard of this year’s ensemble was most impressive indeed – something noted by the watching Foden’s musicians. The enjoyment on the faces of all the EYBB’s players was also obvious and fantastic to witness. Congratulations, one and all.

After a quick stage reset, the young musicians of EYBB and the not quite so young (but no less enthusiastic) musicians of the Foden’s Band swapped places. The timing of the concert offered the Sandbach ensemble an ideal opportunity to give the two test pieces it was to be performing in Symphony Hall at the European Championships an airing.

To commence, the UK premiere of Philip Wilby’s set piece for EBBC 2022, Saints Triumphant. This was a tantalising glimpse for the audience of a wonderful new work, inspired by the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams, by one of the most popular composers of music for brass band of the last 30 years or so. It was also a foretaste of the standard of performance that Foden’s was to offer the Symphony Hall audience a few days later, although I might be slightly biased!

After the interval, Foden’s presented its own-choice piece, the musically and technical formidable, Eden by John Pickard. Composed for the 2005 National Championships of Great Britain, this work has lost none of its impact over the past 17 years. Like all the finest compositions, Eden bears a timeless presence and Foden’s performance and Russell Gray’s reading (and he knows a thing or two about this piece) made it come up as fresh as ever.

Another musical message of hope over turmoil wasn’t lost on the audience. The concert concluded with the massed forces of EYBB and Foden’s performing Fanfare: La Peri by Paul Dukas, Paul Hindmarsh’s beautiful setting of another Vaughan Williams hymn Rhosymedre and Mussorgsky’s epic The Great Gate of Kiev, which, of course, given the war in Ukraine was a most appropriate finale; thought provoking, and ultimately joyous. A most enjoyable and inspiring evening in all respects.

Mark Bousie

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Issue 6138 digital May 5, 2022