CD cover - Bridgewater Hall Live 2001Bridgewater Hall Live 2001


Great Northern Brass Arts Festival
Total Playing Time: Approx 75 minutes

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Steve Sykes, Derick Kane, Carl Saunders.
Conductors: Nicholas Childs, Howard Snell, James Gourlay, Bryan Hurdley, Bramwell Tovey, Lynda Nicholson.

Now in it's fourth year, the Great Northern Arts Festival has become one of the foremost brass music shindigs of the calendar. Fine bands, great soloists and a very appreciative (and usually full) hall full of brass band lovers combine to give the day at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester a true festival feel.

The 8th September last year saw a top class line up of bands and some top flight soloists and this CD gives the listener the opportunity to relive the performances "live". No retakes here this is a CD of "as it was" performances, warts and all, and for this we should be very grateful, because although there are many thrilling shows from the bands, there are also quite an abundance of blips, blobs and slips of varying degrees.

Black Dyke start things off with a roller coaster of a ride through "Russlan and Ludmilla" which is breathtaking all right, but also has more than it's fair share of untidiness and more splits than a Russian gymnastic team. Plenty of applause (and rightly so) but it's not quite top drawer Dyke. Fodens give a fine rendition of "The President", before we get three tracks from the St. Helens Youth Band, which feature Steve Sykes in playful mood as guest soloist.

He does his usual brilliant rendition of a tuba on speed on "Sweet Georgia Brown" which comes over well even in the derided acoustics of the Bridgewater, and the Youth Band continue with a nice sense of style in "Mr Jums" and "Borage". Good sounding band this with an excellent bass trombone honking away like a mad goose on "Borage". Williams Fairey then go into warp drive on "Folk Festival" with one of the percussion team having a bonkers moment on the tambourine. Brilliantly OTT.

Derick Kane shows why he is regarded as the true guardian of traditional euphonium playing with very musical and understated performances of "Carnival of Venice" and "A Little Prayer". No jumping through hoops for effect here just top quality rounded euph playing, before Dyke return to give us their rendition of "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" and once again we get plenty of good band playing and great percussion, but it's a performance that is as square as your parent's attitude to soft drugs and it feels flat and rather insipid, rather than joyous and carefree. More Junior Aspirin than a tab of E.

The RNCM gives a neat 2.44 minutes of Martin Ellerby's "Ovation", which seems strangely placed on the CD before Carl Saunders of the Salvation Army gives a rather uncomfortable performance of "Caprice for Cornet and Band" accompanied by Fodens. It's good quality playing, but he's as flat as a proverbial witch's dooda at the beginning and it takes a while before both soloist and band link in style and tempo. He recovers well and ends splendidly, but it never quite came off for us.

Williams Fairey round off their contribution with a charged up "Force of Destiny" complete with trombone coming in early on the very first chord (we can just imagine the look he received from Mr Snell) and the cornet section getting a bit tongue tied on the difficult triplets towards the end. Nobody we have ever heard as done this bit as good as Jim Shepherd all those years ago but who could eh? Still it's a fair old work out.

Dyke return once more and give their best playing in "Gaelforce" that trips along with plenty of Irish fiddly, higgledy piggedly stuff that gets you tapping your feet like Michael Flattely and the rest of his gang of dancers, before Fodens end matters with a very nice rendition of "The Irish Blessing".

Plenty of good stuff then, and a reminder that even the best have their uncomfortable moments. We are sure that many in the audience may have left thinking how superb the bands were, and for the most part they lived up to their reputations, but there were enough moments to remind you after to listening to the CD that even the great and good are only human. Gives us all some hope then.

What's on this CD?

1. Russlan and Ludmilla – (Glinke arr. Hargreaves) - Black Dyke – 5.18
2. The President – (German) – Fodens Courtois – 5.30
3. Sweet Georgia Brown – (Benie/Pinkard arr Richards) Steve Sykes and St. Helens Youth Band – 3.35
4. Mr Jums – (Hazell arr. Catherall) – St. Helens Youth Band – 2.24
5. Borage – (Hazell arr. Catheral) – St. Helens Youth Band – 3.04
6. Folk Festival – (Shostakovitch arr. Snell) – Williams Fairey – 2.44
7. Carnival of Venice – (Trad arr. Rimmington) Derick Kane and RNCM Band – 5.55
8. A Little Prayer – (Glennie arr. R. Childs) Derick Kane and RNCM Band – 3.14
9. Symphonic Dances from West Side Story – (Bernstein arr. Crees) – Black Dyke – 11.53
10. Ovation – (Ellerby) – RNCM Band – 2.44
11. Caprice for Cornet and Band – (Himes) – Carl Saunders and Fodens Courtois – 11.23
12. Force of Destiny – (Verdi arr. Wright) – Williams Fairey – 8.01
13. Gaelforce – (Graham) – Black Dyke – 7.13
14. The Irish Blessing – (Bacak arr. Bradnum) – Fodens Courtois – 3.06

Playing Time: 66.38

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