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Stories of Life

Glenn Van Looy
Manger Musikklag
Conductor: Allan Withington
Doyen Recordings: doycd316
Total Playing Time: 71.45

CD cover - Stories of Life

The image may be different but the end result is the same.

Hard on the heels of ‘Move their Mind’ comes ‘Stories of Life’ - another superb display of the maturing virtuosic talents of Glenn Van Looy.


Recorded in Norway with World Champions elect Manger Musikklag in equally outstanding accompanying form under Allan Withington, it provides proof positive of his remarkable flexibility as a soloist in eager exploration of the most demanding of repertoire for the euphonium.

He certainly doesn’t suffer from any hang ups about ‘second album syndrome’ either - delivering engrossing performances of major works from the pens of some of the most original thinking young compositional talent available to the banding movement.

Determined passion

‘Once Upon a Time’ was a musical 21st birthday present from his parents, in which in three substantial movements, Steven Verhelst captures the essence of determined passion and natural expressive ability to paint an engaging portrait of a musician coming of age as a performer.

Considered exploration

In contrast, ‘Kjeden’ is a much more oblique, considered exploration of a musical relationship; one that blurs boundaries without ever losing hold of the essential binding elements that provide the circuitous links to its inspiration.

Van Looy connects intuitively to the thought processes of composer Paul McGhee in such a way that the interplay between band and solo voice is malleable as well as ductile: Broad sweeping statements are interspersed with sharply pointed motifs; the musical chain tempered and stretched without losing its strength or purpose. 

Toil and sacrifice

The third major composition is in many ways a tone poem to tragedy; a story of struggle against almost insurmountable odds and cruel serendipity.

‘Uphill’ recalls the inspirational story of Somalian athlete Samla Yusuf Omar, whose personal triumph in taking part in the 2008 Olympic Games is the pinnacle of a life of toil and sacrifice – and one that is cruelly cut short as she attempts to seek safe refuge in preparation for the London Olympics of 2012.       

It is a descriptive, transparent retelling of the story – played with understanding and pertinence by the soloist.

Contrasting substance

A trio of equally inventive shorter compositions also give the release contrasting substance, with a much happier recall mechanism encountered with Peter Meechan’s lovely ‘Harry’s Song’, written with an elegant impressionist flair to reflect the joy a new born son brings to close friends.  

Meanwhile, the brace of paeans to spiritual deities are equally engaging:

The short, but complex ‘Orison’, employing a series of delayed loops is the more esoteric - a connection of sorts through a dreamlike state of mind, whilst Paul McGhee’s evocative expression of the hymn tune ‘Abide with Me’, is a more direct and ultimately chilling reminder of the pleading despair found in the words of Henry Francis Lyte: 

“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.”

It rounds off an outstanding recording - enhanced by the sympathetic musical understanding of Allan Withington and Manger Musikklag, and the excellence of the recording work of producer and engineer Adam Goldsmith.

Iwan Fox 


Once Upon a Time, Steven Verhelst
1. I. 6.12
2. II. 8.14
3. III. 6.29
4. Orison, Stan Nieuwenhuis, 2.50
5. Kjeden, Paul McGhee, 21.35
6. Harry's Song, Peter Meechan, 4.27
7. Uphill, Stan Nieuwenhuis, 16.47
8. Abide With Me, William Henry Monk, arr. Paul McGhee, 5.03

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