James Madison University Band7-Jul-2008
James Madison Univerity Band & Freckleton Band
Conductors: Kevin Stees & Paul Dalton
Sunday the 29th June saw the James Madison University Brass Band, with founder and conductor Kevin Stees, perform the first concert of its 2008 UK tour with their hosts for the night, the Freckleton Band.
The JMU band arrived on Friday, and had already attended a Fodens rehearsal, the English National in Preston and had spent the earlier part of the day in the Lake District, including a boat tour on Windermere.
Their guest soloists for the tour are Stuart Lingard and Sheona White. Sheona has quite an association with the band, having been over to Virginia to work with them before. As such, a rehearsal had been arranged at the concert venue (Kirkham Grammar School) for 4pm to meet the band and soloists.
On hearing the band in this short rehearsal it was instantly apparent that their approach to playing is somewhat different to the British way, with no edge from any section of the band, including trombones, regardless of dynamic! Also the use of 2 CC and 2 FF tubas instead of our BBb and EEb basses made an interesting change. After their rehearsal the band headed off to the many ‘British’ takeaways in Kirkham for some refreshment!
The concert was Freckleton Band’s annual Charity concert, in support of Trinity Hospice and the Wrea Green Lifeboat association. Past concerts have featured a wind band from Perth, Australia, and the Keighley Vocal Union. When Kevin Stees put out a plea for performance opportunities for the JMU tour, Chairman Andy Cattanach immediately contacted Kevin and set a mutually convenient date.
With Freckleton being very close to Preston, the date tied in well with the chance for the students to attend the English National, which was the first time many of them had heard a British Brass Band in the flesh. Reports from band members were that they were knocked out by the playing!
The concert opened with the Freckleton Band, conductor Paul Dalton, with a March Medley of Stars and Stripes and O.R.B. to contrast American and British march styles, followed by Principal Cornet Alex Thomas in a superb rendition of Kenny Baker’s ‘Virtuosity’.
The band’s final contribution in the first half was the live premiere of Ben Tubb’s ‘In the Search for Atlantis’. This is the title track of the band’s latest CD. Ben was solo horn with Freckleton before his move to YBS earlier this year, and the CD features several of his compositions and arrangements. Ben was present and so was introduced to the audience and presented with a copy of the CD before the performance, which was received rapturously by the 500+ attendees.
The JMU band started their set with ‘Simoraine’, before moving into Stuart Lingards solo spot of ‘Lark in the Clear Air’ and ‘Zelda’. Stuarts playing was inspirational, and the bands accompaniment tasteful and sympathetic at all times, especially considering the lack of joint rehearsal.
Their next item was a new composition especially for the tour by Philip Sparke. ‘Letter from Home’ paints a picture of the home of JMU, with flowing melodies and lines and featuring several ‘corner men’. This was, for me, the best playing of the night from the band, and proved a hit with the audience, and will probably be a welcome addition to many band’s concert repertoire in the future.
After a welcome interval, the JMU band started the second half with Curnow’s ‘Fanfare and Flourishes’ followed by Sheona White’s solos ‘Demelza’ and ‘Capriccio Brillante’. Kevin spoke warmly about Sheona’s association with the band, and her performance was, as usual, stunning. They concluded their portion of the concert with ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue’, a rousing conclusion to the bands first tour performance.
After the obligatory raffle, the Freckleton band was brought back on stage to conclude the concert. ‘Blenheim Flourishes’ opened the final set, followed by Tim Bateman on bass trombone playing Bill Geldard’s arrangement of the George Roberts classic ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. Tim’s flamboyant playing, from memory, and wandering around the space, was greatly enjoyed by the bands and audience alike!
The concert was brought to a climax with a rousing performance of Peter Graham’s ‘Shine as the Light’, always a favourite with both performers and audiences.
The JMU band were travelling to Cardiff the following morning, via Warwick Castle, to visit and perform with the Cory band, and also have performances with the United Co-op Yorkshire and Milnrow bands to look forward to. If you get chance, catch them live, it’s an entertaining, and eye opening, band!
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BMus(Hons), Master of Arts, PhD in Ethnomusicology
Conductor, Performer, Teacher, Adjudicator, Musicologist, Composer, Journalist