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Grimethorpe Colliery Band

2015 RNCM Festival of Brass
Conductors: Dr Robert Childs & Elgar Howarth
Featuring: Iain Culross, Michael Dodd, Philippe Schwartz
RNCM, Manchester
Sunday 25th January

Grimethorpe Colliery, directed with imposing authority by Dr Robert Childs, rounded a memorable Festival of Brass weekend in Manchester with this impressive closing concert.

Bravura brilliance

Gilbert Vinter's sadly neglected 'Symphony of Marches' opened proceedings with a touch of bravura brilliance in the famous opening fanfare - something that was maintained throughout, as soloists (Kevin Crockford in particular) and ensemble, displayed a polished sense of style and control.

The opening martial movement, full of razor sharp clarity and briskness, made way for the darker hued middle section, whilst the off beat finale was a delicious treat - played with such a well judged swagger.  

Outstanding

Iain Culross then delivered an outstanding rendition of Howarth's 'Concerto for Cornet and Brass Band' - bold, detailed and contrasting. It was mature cornet playing of the very highest class - the plaudits richly deserved.

The first half closed with Percy Fletcher's 'An Epic Symphony' - certainly no symphony, but still epic when played with such authority and understanding.

Mind's eye

The MD laid out the music with a considered, spacious hand, the result of which was a performance rich in detail and flowing musicality - especially the poignant ‘Elegy’ where in the mind’s eye you could imagine the muffled sound of exhausted soldiers mournfully leaving a field of battle.  

Imogen Holst's 'The Unfortunate Traveller' has been superbly re-scored by Paul Hindmarsh and has been performed in the past year by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain.

A work of elegance and charm, it was given a performance of the very same virtues.

Thoughtful

Elgar Howarth's 'Cantabile (for John Fletcher)' was a written as a tribute to the composer's great tuba playing friend. Rarely performed, despite being initially written for Robert and Nicholas Childs, Michael Dodd and Philippe Schwartz were a brace of complementing solo leads delivering a deeply thoughtful rendition.

Glorious

To close, a cracking performance of Gregson's 'Symphony in Two Movements' - a work that Robert Childs revelled in as he set out the abstract motifs with such rounded purpose. 

The solo contributions from around the stand were superb, whilst the ensemble, mature in depth and balance added to the sense of exploration as motifs and themes lines became increasingly complex - inversions and retrogrades leading to a glorious recapitulation. 

It provided a pulsating close, with the icing on the cake of what had been a weekend of memorable music making seeing Elgar Howarth direct Grimethorpe once more in his 'American Dream'.

Malcolm Wood 

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