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: EBBF Gala Concert | The Cory Band and the Louis Dowdeswell Big Band

Friday 13 May, 2022

EBBF Gala Concert The Cory Band & Louis Dowdeswell Big Band Conductor: Philip Harper | Symphony Hall, Birmingham | Sunday, May 1, 2022


With the competitive elements of the European Brass Band Festival out of the way, Sunday evening gave an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down, a fusion of styles as The Cory Band was joined by the Louis Dowdeswell Big Band.

It may have been 15 minutes late in starting – but the patient audience was in for a treat. Cory was drummed on stage by its percussion section before launching into the march The Champions (Cory was defending European champion, after all). The band segued into the first offering of the night from the Louis Dowdeswell Big Band, A Few Good Men, arranged by Callum Au. The groove was infectious.

A warm reception greeted Louis Dowdeswell on stage, as he took the spotlight in Zero to Hero, from Disney’s Hercules. It bubbled and fizzed, Louis demonstrating his capacity to soar to the stratosphere. Big band trombonist Tom Dunnett excelled in his fireworks-filled solo.

Philip and Louis shared compering duties, their styles as contrasting as those of their ensembles – but they bounced off each other well.

Danse Macabre saw both bands join forces in a new arrangement from Callum Au. With Philip Harper at the helm and Louis Dowdeswell on sparkling form, it brought new life to the previously-familiar Saint-Saëns piece, which also saw a fine contribution from trumpet soloist, Ryan Quigley.

Seated near the side of the stage, it was possible to catch Philip Harper’s expressions while he was conducting. He appeared to be in his element but there were flashes of weariness; could you blame him, after the contesting demands and pressures upon the conductor of the world’s number one ranked band?

Myfanwy, featuring Cory, opened with great sensitivity from horns. For his revered soprano cornet sound and delightful colouring of the famous Welsh melody, Kevin Crockford earned vociferous nods of respect from Louis’ trumpet section; the mutual respect was clear.

Addressing the audience, Louis explained that the groups were attempting to sample each other’s worlds – so his big band would perform a hymn. Deep Harmony opened featuring Louis’ trombone section, a gentle and well-balanced chorale. Jamie Davison, on flugel, and Callum Au, on valve trombone, took centre stage, their improvisatory style so natural and off-the-cuff. One can be certain Deep Harmony has never been heard the same way.

When You Wish Upon a Star saw Louis duet with Cory’s Tom Hutchinson, with Cory joined by Louis’ rhythm section. Two wonderful soloists, two contrasting styles, but Tom’s versatility lent itself so well as the pair found a blend.

The Incredibles saw driving rhythms from percussion and funky cinematic styles, amenable to both ensembles. La Fiesta, a staple of many a Cory concert programme in recent years, surged forward.

Nimrod took a moment to find its feet but settled, suitably melancholy before it was overcome with the jazz-infused harmonies, over which Louis Dowdeswell soared.

Grandfather’s Clock has never grooved like it grooved at this concert. An utterly surreal arrangement flitted between the prim, proper – and immaculate – euphonium playing of Glyn Williams and full-blooded big band vigour. Humorous and engaging.

If anyone wasn’t finding the evening surreal, they were by the time Pictures from an Exhibition came along, a very effective – if mind-boggling – arrangement from a genius in Callum Au. Among the movements was Baba Yaga’s Scandinavian Death Metal Band – but in this concert, performed by these esteemed musicians, it worked. The Great Gate, underpinned by majestic snare drum, comprising the combined forces of both bands and Louis in sparkling form, was a suitable conclusion to a brilliantly bonkers concert.

Into the Unknown, from Frozen 2, popular on Louis’ YouTube, received a live outing featuring both bands and left the audience in raptures.

There is often a risk that after a weekend of wall-to-wall contesting, the last thing an audience needs is a grey, banal gala concert. This was neither; instead, those in Symphony Hall were treated to an evening of unique entertainment, the brainchild of some astonishing musical minds.

Mark Good

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Issue 6138 digital May 5, 2022