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Triumphant musical celebration in Manchester

The RNCM in Manchester played host to a feast of fabulous brass playing over the weekend.

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Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music resounded to some of the finest brass bands in the world over the weekend at the Festival of Brass.

Entitled, a 'Spirit of Celebration' of which its two main musical themes were to celebrate the 70th and 80th birthdays of Prof. Edward Gregson and Elgar Howarth respectively, the revamped RNCM Concert Hall played host to a feast of top class music-making.

Double winners set the standard

The opening concert witnessed the reigning 'Double' winners, Black Dyke under Prof. Nicholas Childs set the high barometer for the weekend in front of the biggest audience.

Dyke's challenging programme included Howarth's 'Sonatina for Cornet and Band', which was conducted by the composer with Richard Marshall as soloist; Gary Curtin in the world première of Martin Ellerby's 'The Four Elements' and Gregson's 'The Trumpets of the Angels'.

Mead's showcase

Saturday morning's programme came from Garry Cutt and Fairey's who showcased Steven Mead in Philip Sparke's 'Diamond Concerto for Euphonium and Band' alongside music from the pens of Eric Cundell, Percy Fletcher and Herbert Howells.

For Gwyndreath

Tredegar Town's concert performance under Ian Porthouse on Saturday afternoon was dedicated to Gwyndreath Press, their BBb tuba player who tragically passed away just forty eight hours prior to their appearance at the event.

The South Walian's impressive programme included Heaton's 'Full Salvation', Howarth's 'A Bandsman's Tale' and the world première of Gavin Higgins 'Suite from Dark Arteries' which has been commissioned by the Rambert Ballet and will be premiered in full in May.

Saturday night is Tovey night

The traditional Saturday night concert by Foden's witnessed the band under the inspirational leadership of Bramwell Tovey and Michael Fowles. The large audience was treated to a truly superb concert programme of which one of it's highlights was Tovey's 'Songs of the Paradise Saloon — Concerto for trumpet', which was receiving it's UK premiere with Mark O'Keefe as the featured soloist.

Foden's also acknowledged the twentieth anniversary of Glyn Williams' association with the North West outfit with a wonderful portrait picture illuminated by a number of quotations from some of the leading conductors he has worked under during his time with the Sandbach band, including Howard Snell, Allan Withington and Bramwell Tovey.

Into the studio

Just over twelve hours after concluding their concert, Foden's with Bramwell Tovey along with Mark O'Keefe, were due to record pieces featured on Saturday night, for release later this year.

Sunday morning's concert saw Elgar Howarth and Anthony Payne in conversation with Artistic Director, Paul Hindmarsh, during the concert given by the RNCM Brass Band and James Gourlay.

Cory & Grimethorpe maintain standard

In the RNCM Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon, Cory under Philip Harper were in sparkling form with music from Hans Werner Henze, Fank Bridge, Elgar Howarth and Prof Gregson's Tuba Concerto which received a fabulous rendition by James Gourlay.

Sunday evening's concert witnessed Grimethorpe under Dr Robert Childs maintained the high standard throughout the Festival. Grimethorpe showcased Iain Culross in Howarth's 'Concerto for Cornet and Brass Band' and Gregson's magnificent 'Symphony in Two Movements'.

The whole weekend concluded with Elgar Howarth being invited by Dr Childs to conduct his own composition, 'American Dream'.

With a masterclass from James Gourlay and additional concerts by Junior RNCM under Les Neish, the Kings Division Band, the RNCM Brass Ensemble and Crown Brass, their was a real vibrant buzz around the respected music conservatoire all weekend.

As always at this prestigious Festival, many members of the audience were present for the entire weekend and they came from not just all parts of the UK, but overseas including Canada and The Netherlands.

Radio 3 highlights

Once again, the Festival was recorded with the BBC in attendance on Sunday and Paul Hindmarsh announced that highlights are expected from Cory, Grimethorpe and Black Dyke from 9.30pm between Tuesday and Thursday this week although the exact repertoire that will be aired is unknown.

Brass on Classic FM?

During the weekend, Paul Hindmarsh chaired a forum that featured Elgar Howarth, Prof. Gregson, John Miller, Anthony Payne and the respected journalist and broadcaster, John Suchet.

Paul's first question to John, 'why is no brass band music played on Classic FM?' ensured a passionate debate and discussion amongst the panelists who also discussed the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the music of Raymond Steadman-Allen.

It wasn't until the end of the forum when British Bandsman Editor, Kenneth Crookston asked John 'How can we get brass band music on to Classic FM?' that he responded by saying that people should give serious thought as to what they believe listeners of Classic FM would like to hear and email him at john.suchet@classicfm.com

Later that evening, John addressed the audience at the Foden's concert and admitted it was the first brass band concert he had attended and it certainly wouldn't be his last.

Thrilled

Reflecting on the weekend at the end of the Festival, Artistic Director, Paul Hindmarsh thanked the bands, conductors, soloists along with composers and everyone else who'd played an active role in making the weekend such a success including the audience.

Paul later told 4BR he was 'absolutely thrilled with the weekend, by the standard of the playing especially from the soloists', before confirming next year's Festival will be held between Friday 29th-Sunday 31st January.

This year's Festival of Brass featured some truly outstanding solo and ensemble playing that won't be forgotten by those involved or present for some time to come 4BR

Reviews

Reviews from a truly memorable RNCM Festival of Brass will appear on 4BR.

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