Black Dyke Brass Symposium Gala Concert


Conductor: Dr Nicholas Childs
Featuring: Ian McMillan and Tony Husband
Gandhi Hall
Leeds Metropolitan University
Saturday 12th June

black dykeThe artistic centrepiece to an impressive Brass Symposium weekend took place on Saturday evening at Leeds Metropolitan University with Black Dyke featuring no less than five premiere performances.

Remarkable collaboration

At its core was a remarkable collaboration between Dr Nicholas Childs, the band, poet Ian McMillan, cartoonist Tony Husband and composer Philip Wilby, in the first performance of ‘Brass’; an unique tone poem of warm sentimentality, underpinned with a steely edge of black wit and sharply observed melancholy.

’Brass’ told a simple love story, played out against a background of social change. The word itself fell a hundred times from the lips of the poet like a ground bass theme that allowed him to build his descriptive tale on a foundation touch stone that never for a moment stopped repeatedly beating at its heart.

Musical accompaniment

The dark humour was enhanced both by the superb musical accompaniment provided by Philip Wilby’s descriptive, and witty, counterpoint score (which asked a great deal of the musical performers too), and Tony Husband’s lightening quick cartoons, some half prepared, others whisked off with a slight of hand that were projected onto the huge multi media screen behind the band.

The result was a piece of acutely observed theatre - a combination of genres that worked to splendid effect and brought prolonged applause from an audience richly entertained. It is a work that demands repeated performances.

4 minute special

ended a first half that started with a Paul Lovatt-Cooper 4 minute special entitled ‘Home of Legends’, which will soon have the cash tills ringing with its mix of virtuosic excitement and high energy impact themes.  

Nicholas Childs then inserted a ‘bonus track’ with a cracking run through the pastiche mix and match of Peter Graham’s ‘Cats Tales’, before Brett Baker displayed his talents to the full with a mature performance of the all too rarely heard ‘Dance Sequence’ by Gareth Wood.


With the Gandhi Hall still buzzing from the effects of ‘Brass’, Dyke opened the second half with a little gem of a high paced ornate baroque opener from Pete Graham entitled, ‘The Remarkable Monsieur Rameau’, before Paul Duffy went all laid back cool jazz with a James Morrisonesque ripper ‘Only for You’.

David Thornton’s solo contribution to the evening was a personal celebration of his late father’s life in Philip Wilby’s ‘Concertpiece’, played with a sense of deep lyrical emotion that was an exhibition of musical class in more ways than one.

English premiere

That just left an overdue English premiere of ‘Red Priest’ – the work that may have failed to impress the judges at the European championships in Linz, but which brought the house down nonetheless.

In the more intimate acoustic of the Gandhi Hall, the extended periods of quiet dynamic playing (much of which is softly muted) were revealed in all their glory – full of nuanced movement and colour, fragmentary motifs, subtle ciphers and quotes from the Vivaldi inspiration.

Inspired from

In contrast, the full blooded baroque episodes were played with razor sharp clarity, with the stage choreography enhancing the sense of spaciousness which the composer sought to reveal in what it turned out was a very personal journey to Venice and Vivaldi’s church, that was book ended by flights to and from Bristol airport that were anything but serene.

On second hearing it is a masterful work of insight, wit, and deep emotion – played by a band on inspired form under the baton of their MD.

It also rounded off a quite inspired evening of brass in all its senses too.

Iwan Fox