A successful brass band is the sum of its constituent parts.
The skill of the conductor is to be able to successfully blend those disparate individual elements into the ensemble body – a task that is harder than it may first appear: Great bands are not always made up of the greatest players.
Better than most
Phillip McCann knows this better than most. His superlative playing skills were unquestionable, yet the bands he played for were primarily built on foundations of solid, collective virtues.
However, it remains an inviolable truth that it is an individual who can win or lose a contest – and at the very top level of banding you need solo performers of a very high quality indeed if you are to succeed.
The MDs work with Carlton Main over the last few years has been a shining example of excellent musical coalescence.
The soloists on display on this release all have the stamp of top class quality, backed by an ensemble that is sympathetic, malleable and controlled.
The result is a highly enjoyable display of the musical anatomy of an elite level Championship Section band.
Beacon of class
Unfortunately, the demands of maintaining such an ensemble means that there are regular changes in personnel, so the impressive trio of David Belshaw, Rebecca Lundberg and Leah Williams are no longer with the band.
However, someone who remains as a beacon of sheer class is principal cornet Kirsty Abbotts, who is in superb form in the reflective 'Here's to the Heroes'.
Kirsty is also joined by Sam Fisher (flugel) and David Belshaw (euphonium) as they tenderly portray the beautiful Mozart aria 'Soave Sia il Vento'.
A change in mood shows bass player Ben Dixon enjoying himself on 'Elphantine Polka' before Kirsty, Sam and David are joined by solo horn Leah Williams in Howard Snell's enchanting arrangement of the familiar, 'Sweet and Low', where the art of balanced quartet playing is in certainly in evidence.
Leah teams up with baritone player Carole Crompton in the contemplative 'Meiso' by John Golland – a work that was originally composed for Black Dyke's tour of Japan in 1990: It is a lovely little gem that not only showcases subtle musicality but is also enhanced by some nuanced percussion work too.
Rebecca Lundberg is cracking form with the stylised, 'Sambesi' before Leah Williams returns to display warm tonality in the popular 'The Water is Wide'.
The treatment of two engaging folk songs, ‘Dream Angus’ featuring the horn section and 'She Moved Through the Air' with baritone and flugel, are both delivered with a haunting simplicity that evokes real atmosphere.
The final solo spot sees David Belshaw deliver a thoughtful rendition of 'Michelangelo' before the CD is rounded off with an outstanding performance of Philip Sparke's 'Concerto Grosso'.
Commissioned by Howard Snell for CWS Glasgow in the late 1980s, it harks back to the baroque with superb interplay between the two cornets, tenor horn and euphonium.
The contrasts in style and balance are delivered with confidence and control.
'Solo Spots' is a recording covering a variety of musical genres, but above all it shows that Phillip McCann's intuitive understanding of the alchemy of the blending process has not been lost on either his players or his band.
1. Here’s to the heroes, Barry, arr. Drury, Cornet Soloist Kirsty Abbotts, 4.36
2. Soave Sia il Vento, Mozart, arr. Kerwin, Soloists:Kisty Abbotts (Cornet) sam Fisher (Flugelhorn) David Belshaw (Euphonium), 2.51
3. Elephantine Polka, L P Laurendau, Soloist Ben Dixon (Tuba), 3.46
4. Sweet and Low, Barnby, Snell, Soloists: Kirsty Abbotts (Cornet) Sam Fisher (Flugelhorn) Leah Williams (Horn) David Belshaw (Euphonium), 3.34
5. Meiso, John Golland, Soloists: Leah Williams (Horn) Carole Crompton (Baritone), 5.58
6. Sambesi, Sparke, Soloist Rebecca Lundberg (Trombone), 6.32
7. The Water is Wide, Trad, arr. Bradnum, Soloist Leah Williams (Tenor Horn), 4.10
8. Dream Angus, Trad, arr. Sandy Smith, Soloists: Sam Fisher (Flugelhorn) Leah Williams/ Steve Thompson/Chris Probyn (Horns), 4.11
9. She Moved through the Fair, Trad, arr. Runswick/Smith, Soloists: Sam Fisher (Flugelhorn) Heather Law (Baritone), 4.47
10. Michelangelo, Dagsland, arr.Rydland, Soloist David Belshaw (Euphounium), 5.23
11. Concerto Grosso, Sparke, Soloists: Kirsty abbots (Cornet) John Kendall (Cornet) Leah Williams (Horn) David Belshaw (Euphonium), 15.06