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National Youth Band of Wales

Conductor: Ian Porthouse
Soloist: Dewi Griffiths
Porthcawl Grand Pavilion
Sunday 30th July

A substantive programme delivered with considerable style and authority were the hallmarks that resonated at the end of this well attended concert at Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion.

Over the last few years the decision of Ty Cerdd to allow the band to be led by prominent conductors such as Reid Gilje, Philip Harper, Tom Davoren and on this occasion, Ian Porthouse, has given the talented young players the opportunity to explore wide ranging, diversely stylised repertoire. 

Enlightening

In addition, the commissioning of new works from leading Welsh composers such as Paul Mealor, Hilary Tann and this year Rhian Samuel, has also proved both effective and enlightening.

That was certainly the case with her playful, increasingly febrile ‘Taliesin’ - inspired by the mythical Mabinogion story of shape-shifting love; the composer’s sparse, closely balanced scoring a welcome opportunity in an age of over-written, needless complexity, to hear the delicate inner workings of a brass band in continual motion.

That was certainly the case with her playful, increasingly febrile ‘Taliesin’ - inspired by the mythical Mabinogion story of shape-shifting love; the composer’s sparse, closely balanced scoring a welcome opportunity in an age of over-written, needless complexity, to hear the delicate inner workings of a brass band in continual motion.

Full throttle mode

The same elements were also expertly displayed by guest soloist Dewi Griffiths as the lead in Edward Gregson’s ‘Cornet Concerto’ - a subtly shaped, dynamic performance of graceful elegance and crisp edged clarity even in the full throttle mode of the finale.   

Earlier, ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ took time to settle, whilst Eric Ball’s ‘Journey into Freedom’ was given an effective, reading that balanced the dichotomies of soulless conflict and spiritual fulfilment thanks to some fine individual contributions from all main solo lines.   

Pilgrim lift

Gavin Higgins’ ‘Fanfare & Love Songs’, with its complex rhythmic patterns was handled with aplomb, whilst a neatly fused ‘Vivat Regina’ led to the finale of the allegorical delights of Philip Wilby’s beautifully crafted ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ - complete with narration (although missing the organ part).

This was music to lift the heart and soul; played with passionate endeavour and rich sonority as the Christian pilgrim (helped enormously by the MDs intuitive understanding of the musical topography) travelled the road to salvation to end in glorious affirmation at the New Jerusalem.  

And it’s not often you leave Porthcawl thinking you may have achieved that.  

Iwan Fox 



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