CD cover - JubulaniJubulani

17-Jun-2009

What do you get when you cross The League of Gentlemen with HG Wells? Something along these dark Norwegian lines...

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Stavanger Brass Band
Conductor: Allan Withington
Soloists: Eva Bortne, Ingvild Rosenberg, Neil Gallie
Egon Recordings: CDSFZ 147
Total Playing Time:  54.20

There is something about these Norwegians and their ability to confound us. 

Take the Brass in Concert weekend last year for instance.  What many thought would be a traditional pre contest Gala event of the tried and tested, turned into something quite extraordinary, thanks to some wonderfully inventive music making and a quirky humour that veered into the realms of the surreal from Stavanger and Allan Withington.

League of Gentlemen

Whereas Brighouse & Rastrick entertained the packed hall to a musical diet that never veered further off track than an occasional foray into 80’s soft pop, the Norwegians went on a musical mystery tour inspired by a mix of the ‘League of Gentlemen’ meets HG Wells.

Those who left The Sage to journey home last November, left somewhat breathless and perhaps a little bemused. They certainly left entertained.

This super recording (put together just a couple of days before the contest) reprises the music performed that weekend, both at the Gala Concert and the Brass in Concert contest – where the band came runner up to Cory.  It’s a delight.

Steely professionalism

What we get is colourful dolly mixture bag of exotically flavoured bon-bons – all played with a steely edge of professionalism that is earmarked by balance, detail, precision and style.

The first six items are the band’s programme at the contest itself – a delicious mix of stylised music making that featured two wonderfully composed soloists in Ingvild Rosenberg on bass trombone and cornetist Eva Bortne.  

There are few bass trom players in banding circles who can make a sound like Miss Rosenberg – a timbre that has a depth of sound that makes Paul Robeson sound like a boy soprano. Miss Bronte is equally as impressive too, whilst Robin Dewhurst’s lean arrangements are compact and colourful, and never over flavoured with misplaced spiciness.    

Wacky wonderfulness

The rest of the release reprises that Gala Concert programme – a musical story of wacky wonderfulness in theatrical technicolour glory.  

The premise of an exotic ménage a trios between Edvard Grieg, Edward Elgar and Queen Victoria, is perhaps one that belongs in the realms of a particular kind of fetish magazine, but by suspending reality for around half an hour you can really enjoy a musical trip to the darkest recesses of the Freudian mind: Only those with the mangled fervour of the late Mary Whitehouse’s conservative Presbyterianism won’t come away deliciously, almost subversively, entertained.

Theatre of the grotesque

This is musical theatre of the grotesque – a story of repressed sexuality and Oedipal mayhem, all glued together by a very intelligent sense of the quixotic absurd – a bit like the Rocky Horror Show meets the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Olde London Town. 

Allan Withington is the ring master of such dark mischievousness that he make the League of Gentlemen’s Pappa Lazarou look like a well meaning social worker.   

Inventive

It is what it is – inventive, darkly hued, slightly subversive entertainment.  

It is also quite brilliantly performed too - from a stunning ‘Nimrod’ and breathless ‘Holberg Prelude’, the overtly camp ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and authentically husky ‘What a Wonderful World’ played by trombonist Neil Gallie.   Each excellently arranged track has a dislocated sense of purpose that fits the narrative with a delicious sense of dark Nordic wit.  

Stavanger and Allan Whithington has completely confounded our expectations with this release. Take the risk and take the plunge with this one – it may result in a trip to see your local NHS psychiatrist, but it will be money very well spent.

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Flamenco, arr. Dewhurst, 2.40
2. Jabulani, Shabalala arr. Dewhurst, 3.37
Bass Trombone—Ingvild Rosenberg
3. Reflection—Rejoice, Dewhurst, 4.50
Cornet—Eva Bronte
4. La Cumparsita, Rodriguez arr. Dewhurst, 4.47
5. Hunting Wabbits, Goodwin arr. Dewhurst, 4.47
6. Mambo to Go!, Dewhurst, 4.01
7. Abide with Me, Monk arr. Steadman-Allen, 1.22
8. EDAG, Stalheim, 0.38
9. Storm & Homecoming, Grieg, 2.41
10. What a Wonderful World, Weiss & Douglas arr. Stalheim, 2.39
Trombone—Neil Gallie
11. Nimrod, Elgar arr. Wright, 4.09
12. WMB, Stalheim, 0.38
13. Morning, Grieg arr. Stalheim, 3.54
14. EDU, Stalheim, 0.54
15. The Wicked Queen, Stalheim, 0.42
16. Anitra’s Dance, Grieg arr. Stalheim, 3.34
17. Stomptation, Stalheim, 2.04
18. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Crewe & Gaudio arr. Stalheim, 3.39
19. Forspill, Grieg arr. Stalheim, 0.35
20. Prelude—Holberg Suite, Grieg arr. Stalheim, 2.38

Total Playing Time: 54.20

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Rath clinician, conductor, teacher, adjudicator, editor