Wingates Band

14-May-2010

Great Northern Spring Brass Arts Festival
Conductors: Alan Morrison & Mark Peacock
Soloist: Lesley Howie
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Sunday 9th May


WingatesThe opening concert of the 2010 Great Northern Spring Brass Arts Festival was provided by Wingates, on uneven form, under the direction of Alan Morrison and Mark Peacock.

Focus

With their Grand Shield appearance less than a week away, rehearsal priorities would have dictated their focus towards the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, but it still came as a surprise that through their extended programme (well over an hour of solid playing) some noticeable lapses of concentration crept in.

’Blenheim Flourishes’
provided an upbeat start (although the elongated last bar seemed out of place), before an enjoyable romp through Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ (conducted by Mark Peacock) brought colour and a touch of atmosphere to the theme park ride into the unknown.

Lucy Pankhurst’s pulsating ‘Wired’ provided a neat left turn of style (and some of the band’s best ensemble playing), with its clever references to 1970’s funky cop show theme tunes. All that was needed was for DCI Gene Hunt to take the baton and fire up the Quattro.

Excellent premieres

The featured soloist was Lesley Howie, who produced two excellent premiere performances of Andy Scott’s ‘…and Everything is Still’ and Dr Peter Meechan’s ‘Triptych (on a Theme by Handel)’.

Scott’s flowing work evoked a sense of timelessness in its reflective musical vista - like lying in a field on a hot summer’s day watching the clouds slowly float by, a stem of long grass in the mouth and a chilled glass of cider in the hand.   

The soloist’s ability to lovingly shape the suspended phrases made for engrossing listening.

So too with the inventive variant take on the Handel ‘Sarabande’ (the Levi Strauss jeans commercial music to the uninitiated), which saw the composer playfully intertwine the theme between soloist and band by underpinning it with a measured foundation pulse.

The solo pyrotechnics therefore remained tastefully restrained, played with remarkable facility in what was a commanding performance of an intriguing work.  

Interesting

Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Scheihallion’ made for interesting listening – an evocative portrait of a Scottish mountain with its ciphers of community activity sporadically appearing into earshot on its slopes – from echoes of playful child like reels to church bells.

The brace of Michael Nyman arrangements were a disappointment however – poorly played and sounding more than a touch under prepared.

Stun gun

‘The Mistress’ was tastefully led by Andy MacDonald on principal cornet, to end deliberately (as all mistresses would know) with no satisfying resolution to the affair, whilst ‘Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds’ endured a horrible moment when it appeared the flock had been herded into the cross hairs of a slaughterman’s stun gun – it very nearly came a nasty cropper.

Thankfully, the band recovered its poise with a tasteful communion interlude with ‘In Love for Me’, before they rounded off an enjoyable, if variable concert performance with a battled scarred rendition of the ‘Heroic March’ from ‘Epic Symphony’.

Iwan Fox


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