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Foden's Youth Band

2019 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductors: Michael Fowles & Mark Bousie
RNCM Manchester
Sunday 27th January

Foden’s long term commitment to the development of young brass band talent continues to be an invigorating source of  musical opportunity and experience. 

The National Champion has created a non-competitive ensemble that has clear ideals, ambition and structure. It enables them to link with a number of bands in a wide geographical area to give players (over 60 took to the stage) regular access to high quality tuition and challenging repertoire in an environment that compliments their own pace of personal development.  It’s been a great success. 


That was immediately clear as Mark Bousie led them through the complex patterns and counter balances of Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Vox Auri’ (‘Voice of Gold’); a triptych of instrumental groupings metaphorically representing the composer’s thoughts on the past, present and future of banding.  For this band it is certainly golden.

Kenneth Downie’s non-programmatic ‘Music from Kantara’ provided ample opportunity to exhibit an understanding of test-piece rigour; the sprightly opening followed by and expressive central section and animated finale - the solo lines in particular played with maturity.   

Works by Wilfred Heaton and Jonathan Bates - as starkly redolent of their different eras in their divergent musical outlook as could be imagined, offered a substantial and fascinating contrast.   

Heaton’s ‘The Children’s Friend’ was curiously sentimental (it seems to have been written late in life from a much earlier sketch); a detached reflection on an age of innocence and certainty - seemingly of Sunday School class hymns and war time mugs of Ovaltine.  


Heaton’s ‘The Children’s Friend’ was curiously sentimental (it seems to have been written late in life from a much earlier sketch); a detached reflection on an age of innocence and certainty - seemingly of Sunday School class hymns and war time mugs of Ovaltine.  

However, underpinning the crafted beauty was a kernel of enigmatic questioning; the rather sombre ending suggestive of Corinthians 13 (verse 11). Even in memory the composer was not thinking as a child. 

No such thought processes with ‘Repton Fantasy’ by Jonathan Bates to close – a cracking piece of 21st century verve and excitement (encompassing Willy Wonka to raindrop body percussion) all rounded off with a thoroughly modern reprise of hymnal singing that could have been inspired by One Direction let alone Hubert Parry.  

Iwan Fox

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