IT’S Brass Band Festival time again at the Royal Northern College of Music, and this year’s theme is ‘Hands Across The Sea’ – a tribute to transatlantic links, with US visitors the James Madison University Brass Band joining the UK’s finest.
It’s the only event in Britain which brings all the top bands together in a non-competitive environment, and among those appearing are the Black Dyke Band, the Fairey Band, Foden’s Band, the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the Cory Band.
Artistic director Paul Hindmarsh has organized a programme that also highlights the work of composer Martin Ellerby (60 this year), Howard Snell’s 80th birthday and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s centenary, and there will be eight world premiere performances and five UK premieres.
“The best US bands are comparable with the top bands in England,” says Paul, “and they play a lot of British repertoire as well as US composers. There’s a connecting factor too, in our programmes – the use of hymn tunes. Two of the pieces in the Fairey Band’s concert (by Bruce Broughton and James Curnow) are based on hymns, and I thought ‘Why not include a Vaughan Williams piece which is very hymn-like (Variations), and Wilfred Heaton’s Meditation on Joseph Parry’s Aberystwyth (known as the tune for Jesu, Lover Of My Soul)?”
That concert’s at 11am on January 28. The afternoon (3.30pm) one is by the Tredegar Town Band and includes The Pilgrim’s Progress by Philip Wilby, inspired by the Martin Shaw tune we know as He Who Would Valiant Be, while Celestial Prospect by Wilfred Heaton is based on an American gospel song.
Foden’s, on the Saturday night, and Black Dyke the night before, feature works by Altrincham composer Martin Ellerby, and the Cory Band programme (6.30pm Sunday January 29) includes his Cabaret Concerto, one of the few piano concertos written to be played with brass band – soloist is Benjamin Powell.
This concert is to be recorded by the BBC and broadcast soon afterwards in a week featuring brass band music on Radio 3. It ends with a piece by Philip Sparke called Raveling, Unraveling – “a kind of deconstruction and reconstruction of La Valse”, Paul Hindmarsh calls it.
And there’s much more to the festival, including the RNCM and Junior RNCM Brass Bands, and a showing of the D W Griffiths silent film from 1909, The Salvation Army Lass, with a brass band score by Dorothy Gates.