Dinner Guests - Philip Harper's ultimate brass band dinner guest list


Philip Harper tells us who he would like to invite to come to dinner...dead or alive.

Philip HarperGiven the opportunity, the wish list, the ability to mess about with the Space-Time Continuam like Doctor Who, and the skill to cook like Heston Blumenthal, who would you like to invite around to your place to enjoy a meal and chin wag with?  

We've been fairly generous with our criteria too: The 10 people can come from any time in history, but must have some link, in however tenuous a form, to the brass band movement. 

The budget for the meal and drinks comes out of their own pockets though...

4BR started it all off a few days before Christmas with our 10 dinner guests, so we thought we had better ask a few more brass band personalities who would be on their all time dinner list too...

This time it’s Philip Harper, conductor, composer, teacher, adjudicator and one of the most respected musicians in the brass band movement…

Choosing just 10 dinner guests isn't the easiest thing in the world, but I think I have a nice mix for a very enjoyable evening! 

1.  Derek Bourgeois

Technically one of the most rigorous and inventive composers for bands, also with links to Sun Life Band and the University of Bristol – both things we have in common.  So many masterful works have come from Dr Bourgeois - some favourites are the 'Trombone Concerto', 'Concerto Grosso' and the 'Devil and the Deep Blue Sea'.  

He’s also an expert on wine so he can serve the drinks.

2.  Steve Sykes

One of the most enjoyable to work with musicians you can find.  A joy both as a soloist with a wonderful stage presence and sense of timing, and also as a raconteur with a wealth of superb anecdotes, all of which sound even funnier told in a thick Yorkshire accent.  He can get the after-dinner chit-chat underway.

3.  Philip Sparke

One of the personalities who has been like a guiding light for me in the brass band world and so generous with his time, whether replying to all the fan mail I sent him in my youth, giving me lifts in his car (I thought I was dreaming!), or offering detailed advice on many of my own scores.  I could do something for him for a change by providing dinner.

4.  Derek Greenwood

Having heard many wonderful stories about Derek’s time at Cambourne Band, I finally met him at a contest in Weston-Super-Mare in the same year that my piece ‘Sword, Jewel and Mirror’ had been used at the Areas.  His opening line to me was: “That test-piece you wrote – I thought it were bloody crap!”  You can’t beat honesty like that to keep your feet on the ground – I wish more people were so straight-forward

5.  Wilfred Heaton

Another banding God for me, I wrote a dissertation about his music in the final year of my first degree.  The late Brian Lingley took me to Harrogate to meet Wilfred Heaton at his home and, looking back, my questions to him at the time were really lame!  So, I’d like another chance to chat to the man with perhaps the most striking compositional voice in the repertoire.

6.  Maurice Murphy

One of the earliest memories of my ‘musical ambition’ coincided with watching Star Wars at the cinema.  What a musical score!  And, although I didn’t know it was him at the time, Maurice Murphy, the guy bringing the music to life, seemed like the coolest guy in the galaxy.  I’d ask him to bring his trumpet and if he could play that theme just once for us all, I’d retire happy.

7.  Sir Edward Elgar

A fascinating character who produced some of the most wonderful orchestral and choral works, defining ‘Englishness’ as a musical characteristic.  But his propensity for ‘japing’ around as revealed in some of his letters and diaries reveals a remarkable human side to the character of this musical giant.  He’s invited because I think we’d get on.

8.  Chick Corea

The American jazz keyboardist and composer (whose father was a Dixieland trumpeter) is, in my experience, one of the great experimentalists in music.  I very much subscribe to his theory of pushing boundaries and appreciate a creative mind which can meld musical conventions to create something new and original.  I’d like his opinion on serving the roast pork with ice-cream as an option. 

9.  Rimsky-Korsakov

He was Inspector of Music Bands of the Russian Navy and is one of my favourite composers.  I love the flavour of Russian music anyway but RK’s sense of the exotic and fantastical really appeals to me.  On top of that his creativity with orchestral colour is astonishing and one to whom I often turn for inspiration when scoring for brass band.  I’d like him to look through some of my latest pieces and offer some scoring advice over a vodka or two. 

10.  Walter Hargreaves

Another conductor about whom I have heard many tales.  Whether it’s banging Steven Mead on the head repeatedly with his baton saying: “You silly, silly boy!” or on stage at the Open holding the last note of a slow movement long after it had actually finished and the audience craning-in going “Wow, that’s quiet!” this man could certainly teach me a few tricks about conducting a brass band.  Although I wouldn’t try that with Steven now…. 

Previous dinner guest lists:

Previous guests have included the 4BR selection; Chris Wormald; David Read; Pete Meechan; Alan Jenkins and Derek Broadbent. 


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