Lord Mayors Gala Concert


Lord Mayors Gala Concert "Bold as Brass"
Brisbane City Hall
Russell Gray and the Brisbane Excelsior Band
The Greater Gwent Youth Band from Wales
The Ipswich Orpheus Chorale
The Queensland Highlanders

Brisbane City Hall was the backdrop for the beginning of a fabulous night of entertainment.  The council of the newly elected Lord Mayor of Brisbane was holding their first Gala concert involving the Brass Bands of Brisbane.  It was a warm still evening and the South Brisbane Federal band, conducted by the exuberant John Kennedy, were playing a program in the King George Square, outside the City Hall to get the audience into the mood.   The atmosphere was created as a transient audience of around 400 were smiling and some even dancing during this pre concert entertainment. 

The concert began appropriately with the "Olympic Fanfare" played by the Brisbane Excelsior Band conducted by Mr Howard Taylor and accompanied by the Ipswich Orpheus Chorale.  The lighting displayed the Olympic Rings of the walls of the hall and the mood was set.   This was followed by a change of mood with the Excelsior Band performing "Sing Sing Sing".  The audience for the evening were not typical for a brass band performance. The concert was open to the general public and the response was amazing.  The publicity machine had been working overtime and the 1600 concert tickets were gone within the hour.  The majority of the audience probably did not know what to expect of a brass band.  By the time the second item was over, it was obvious that the audience was impressed.   Brisbane Excelsior played well and their conductor instantly had a rapport with the audience. 

Russell Gray was the featured soloist of the evening and his first item was the bubbly "Le Cornet Polka" arranged by Simon Kerwin.  Russell seemed to be on special form this evening.  His playing was exceptional and his general presence on stage was captivating.  Russell has a special ability to make every person in the hall feel like he is performing just for them, and this concert was no exception. 

Next to perform was the 100 member strong Ipswich Orpheus chorale conducted by Major Neville Hammond.  Recently crowned the Champion choir at the Queensland State Eisteddfod they sung a beautiful arrangement of  "On A Clear Day".  It was classy and in keeping with the quality of the evening.  Following on was a performance of John Farnham's classic "You're the Voice" played by the Brisbane Excelsior Band.  They were accompanied appropriately by the Australian champion pipe band, The Queensland Highlanders.  They looked smart as they marched on to stage and tunefully accompanied the band.

"Call of the Cossocks", played by Brisbane Excelsior was the next item on the program with Russell featured as the slightly inebriated trumpeter.   The soloists featured in the piece were Brent Hoy, Lorne Barry and Ashley  Gittens, and all were dazzling.  Russell, having played the introduction form the back of the  balcony, had a quite a journey to rejoin the band on stage for the end of the piece and was seen running back onto stage just in time to play the final cadenza. The band was relieved and the audience amused.  Russell stayed on stage to introduce his next item and shared information with the audience the famous Arban cornet he was performing on and the Arban project.  He performed "Cavatine de Beatrice di Tenda" at such a speed and with such clarity that the audience was applauding at the end of every variation.  He remained on stage to introduce some friends to join him in a crowd favourite, "Buglers Holiday".  He was joined by Howard Taylor, John and Edward Kennedy, Ben Beavis, and the wonderful Rodney Everitt, all members of the various Brisbane Bands.  They were joined by Gregory Aitkin who conducted the item.

The finale of the first half was an item arranged by the famous Australian composer Barrie Gott entitled "Australian's In Song".   It was specially arranged for this evening and once again featured the talented Brisbane Excelsior Band and the Ipswich Orpheus Chorale.  As the name suggests, this piece is a collection of Australian songs which began with the amazing talents of local artist Stephen Bond on the didgeridoo and gave the night a patriotic feel amidst the international influences.   

The Greater Gwent Youth Band, under the direction of Andrew Jones were the special guests for the evening and opened the second half impressively with "Fanfare and Flourishes".   Their magnificent sound filled the city hall and I would imagine shocked the audience by the standard and quality of their performance.  They have been traveling around New Zealand and Australia for the past three weeks to rave reviews.  They have enjoyed the experience and described this concert as the climax of their tour.  It was also their final performance before flying back home and they were determined to enjoy the experience.  Their second item featured Russell playing "Children of Sanchez" arranged by Reid Gilje. 

The band was visually stunning throughout and so as not to be outdone by the band, Russell performed this piece in his eye catching orange suit.  Russell had accompanied the group during their tour and both were obviously so comfortable with each other.  Russell and Andrew exited the stage to the sounds of the percussion section performing a piece that they had composed themselves.  This was closely followed by the band performing "Ejala" and "Kongalela" without their conductor.  Lighting and smoke effects assisted in their performance whilst they played, sang and danced.  The audience was overwhelmed and applauded them throughout.  The Greater Gwent Youth Band and all of their 50 or so supporters are to be congratulated by presenting the people of Brisbane with such a quality performance.

On with the show and the audience was treated to a short display by the Queensland Highlanders pipe band.  The entertainment continued with the choir performing their rendition of Freddy Mercury's "Bohemian Rhapsody".   As his final solo for the evening, and much to the crowds delight, Russell played Puccini's "Nessun Dorma".  His musical and florid style was capped by a flawless performance which was sensitive yet dramatic.  He was persuaded by the audience for an encore and entertained with another favourite, "The Post Horn Gallop".  He wandered throughout the audience whilst he played and again had the audience captivated. 

The Brisbane Excelsior Band had a final opportunity to show off their style by playing "Cry of the Celts".  They were joined on stage by the Cathy Crocker School of Irish Dancers.  The dancers were brilliantly costumed and their performance was of the highest standard.

The finale of the program was "Land of Hope and Glory", played by Brisbane Excelsior, sung by the Ipswich Orpheus Chorale and conducted by Russell Gray.  He came back onto the stage wearing his kilt, which caused quite a stir amongst the audience.  Russell whipped the audience into the frenzy and had them up of their feet singing at the tops of their voices.  The balloons dropped and the confetti shot out and the audience left wanting more. 

It was a top quality evening for all.  The standard of the entertainment remained high throughout and there are as usual some people to thank for the success of the evening.  Thanks to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane Cambell Newman, Roz Trappett and Athol Young from the Brisbane City Council who funded this event to be free for the people of Brisbane.  Pam Schryver and Howard Taylor were the events produces and managed to convince City Hall that Brass bands can be used at such a prestigious occasion.  The Greater Gwent Youth Band for their wonderful performance, and last but not least to Russell Gray.  On behalf of the people of Brisbane, thank you so much for the wonderful evening of music and entertainment.