Black Dyke Band


International Trumpet Guild Conference

Brown Shipley Hall, Royal Northern College of Music
Friday 5th July, 2002

It might be coming to the end of the academic year, but life is pretty busy at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester right now. The week it is has played host to the International Trumpet Gold Conference, which has meant 5 days of top class brass playing. Delegates from all over the world have been educated on the trumpet through masterclasses, lectures, presentations, recitals and of course, concerts. No surprises then, that the Brown Shipley Hall had a large and enthusiastic audience when Black Dyke Band took centre stage on Friday night in a programme of music, which for the most part, would have fitted in well at the Promenade Concerts later in the summer.

Dyke opened up in blistering fashion with a circus march written by JJ Richards. Richards was born in Wales and emigrated to the USA where in time he wrote a selection of marches including Crusade of Freedom, Con Celerita & The Waltonian. However, Dyke's choice was Midwest, which immediately brought the memories flooding back from the mid 80s, when under Major Peter Parkes, they took the stage to entertain having won the British Open in their 'lap of honour concert, and this was their opener. From the opening notes, it was evident that unlike Tim Henman earlier in the day, that the band was certainly on top of their game and well done to the cornet section. Anyone familiar with the march will know that it contains a series of chromatic scales which the section took in their stride and played extremely well.

Glinka's opera Russlan and Ludmilla is based on a charming and satirical fairy tale by Alexander Pushkin. He completed the score in April, 1842 after working on it sporadically for six years. Its music is drawn largely from Russian folk music. Many misfortunes befell the work's premiere which took place on December 9, 1842. The show was hissed by the audience, and the critics gave it bad reviews. During Glinka's lifetime, and for years afterward, audiences did not appreciate the work.
Today Russlan and Ludmilla is recognised to be the composer's masterpiece. The work was a pioneer of Russian nationalism and in a single stroke cast the style of modern Russian music. The Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla is now in the standard concert repertoire of many of our top bands. Its contrapuntal effects and rushing scale passages are excitingly reminiscent of the music of Mozart and Weber, and it was Dyke's next offering. Needless to say, if Glinka had been around today, he would have been extremely proud of this bands interpretation of the overture.

Dr Philip Wilby is a man well known in the brass band world of course. Over the past 8 years, he has worked with Black Dyke as composer and arranger. When you get the chance to work with a music ensemble of the calibre of the Yorkshire champions, you get to learn about the band's personnel and what they like and dislike. Such a case in point is Roger Webster, and Dr Wilby worked with Roger in writing Concerto 1945, which we were to hear next. Roger wanted to expose the opportunity to play off stage and in fact, ended up playing an echo-cornet at the back of the stage. The work lasts about 15 minutes and is in five movements. The title of Concerto 1945, was given to depict a sense of optimism felt of course by many at the end of the second world war. For the majority of the piece, some of the cornets and the trombone section were standing to add effect to the piece. Roger's ability has been discussed before and once again, his standard of performance of this difficult work was absolutely top draw. Hopefully, this performance will not be a one-off and many more people will get the chance to hear Dr Wilby's latest work for Black Dyke.

The year 2000 was a very special year for the Fodens Courtois Band. They were celebrating the centenary year as National Champions and commissioned the Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, Edward Gregson to compose music for a celebration concert in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall. The Trumpets of the Angels was based on a work which was actually written for the BBC Philharmonic and Huddersfield Choral Society in 1998, and its starting point is a biblical quotation from Revelation.

Without question, this a very dramatic work and can only be played in concert halls with plenty of room. Besides the band we have an organist and seven trumpeters which commences with four of the trumpets on the stage, the remaining three off it. As the piece develops, only one of the trumpets, stays off stage and is rewarded with a very dramatic and extended cadenza. As the piece was played, the word stamina came to mind. As National Champions, Black Dyke are in constant demand, and in fact, this was their second visit to Manchester in the space of a week. We had just heard Roger Webster's cornet concerto and now Trumpets of the Angels. Black Dyke excelled throughout this performance and must be congratulated to put together such a challenging programme.

After a well-earned break, the second half began with an arrangement by Peter Graham of John Williams' Olympic Fanfare and Theme, which was written for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Carl Saunders a very distinguished cornet player within the ranks of the Salvation Army. He is currently Principal Cornet with the Household Troops of the Salvation Army, and has had active involvement with the ISB, Enfield Citadel and Egon Virtuosi Brass. Carl chose to play Eric Ball's Clear Skies and he demonstrated why he is in demand to perform in many parts of the World. The audience were spell-bound as Carl charmed us with his beautiful playing and you could see what a thrill it was for him to be playing with this famous brass band.

Next up was the music of Bizet and the Trumpet Soloist, Danny Barber, with Carmen Fantasy. Using two trumpets, we were treated to some skilful trumpet playing which if honest, at times was just a little bit loud, but very well accompanied by Nicholas Childs and the band.

Anyone that read our recent review of Black Dyke at Uppermill, will have learnt about Call of the Cossacks. Understandably, Dyke chose to close this concert with their recent commission by Peter Graham. It doesn't matter what it is, but when you see something on more than one occasion, you always spot things that you didn't previously. This music really does expose every section in the band, as during the five movements, they get the chance to shine front of stage and display their virtuoso skills as performers. With the audience actively encouraged to get into the spirit of the music, it is evident that Black Dyke Band respond with some inspirational playing. As the 20 minute extravaganza came to an end, the audience as one, rose to its feet, and gave the National Champions an ovation which was truly deserved. We had witnessed a concert which was very challenging in many ways and Black Dyke just took it in their stride, and demonstrated what am exceptional set of musicians they are.