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Fairey Band

2015 RNCM Festival of Brass
Conductor: Garry Cutt
Featuring: Steven Mead
RNCM, Manchester
Saturday 24th January

Fairey, under Garry Cutt, made the short journey down the A6 to provide an impressively enjoyable concert on Saturday morning.

The musical repertoire, with its theme of pageantry, was played with splendid verve and no little sense of nobility throughout, with Percy Fletcher's march 'Spirit of Pageantry' opening proceedings with sharp edged vigour and luscious ensemble warmth.

Feature throughout

That was certainly a feature of Fairey’s playing throughout, especially on Edric Cundell's intricate symphonic prelude 'Blackfriars'.

Something of a long neglected musical gem, it remains a composition of carefully constructed consideration; melodic as well as mysterious. 

Performed at the request of Prof. Gregson, Garry Cutt shone a tantalising, beautifully focussed light on its elegantly opaque, minor keyed, inner workings. It is a work that deserves further performances, although not many will be as good as this.

Superbly cultured

The featured soloist was Steven Mead, who just 24 hours or so before he departed on yet another long haul musical flight, produced a superbly cultured rendition of Philip Sparke’s 'Diamond Concerto' - full of subtle variances of colour and timbre; the closing 'Blue Heart' movement, with its bebop style, wonderfully enhanced by some cracking accompaniment from the band.

Timely reminder

Neil Richmond's arrangement of Ernest Farrar's 'Heroic Elegy' that at its core utilises 'The Agincourt Song' was a timely reminder not just of pageantry, but of sacrifice, played with heartfelt poignancy that never once strayed into over-emotional no man’s land.

Ultimate expression

It was a fine way to provide context to the classic 'Pageantry' of Herbert Howell’s - perhaps the ultimate expression of timeless brass band excellence: Age has not wearied its challenges or dulled its precision edge of clarity of thought. 

The MD’s insightful interpretation, aided by refined solo and ensemble contributions made for a fine performance - from the bold heraldic opening and solemn ‘Cortege’ (played with a beautifully judged tempo) to the bravura clarion call to the climatic ‘Jousts’.

In the context of the concert, Fairey's signature march, 'Beaufighters' was certainly not out of place either; delivered with a wing tipping sense of swagger to round off a very impressive concert appearance from the local favourites.

Malcolm Wood

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