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Fairey Band

RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductor: Garry Cutt
Soloist: Steven Mead
RNCM, Manchester
Saturday 28th January

Paul Hindmarsh’s expert curatorship of the festival has enabled Fairey to become the historical touchstone of the RNCM weekend.

This year, three of the works utilised 19th century hymn tunes reaching as far back as the early 1800s, with the lineage connection ending in 1995 with Martin Ellerby’s ‘Euphonium Concerto’. Like Black Dyke the night before, it was a programme that perfectly suited the band’s persuasively blended sense of musicality.

Lucid simplicity

That was immediately apparent with Brougton’s elegantly framed ‘Covenant’, based on the well known tune ‘Cleansing Fountain’ - the lucid simplicity of the writing building in dramatic momentum to it close.

Garry Cutt was in his musical element in a persuasively shaped rendition of ‘Variations for Brass Band’ by Vaughan Williams; each of the eleven interlinked sections enhanced by subtle stylistic nuance and a luscious timbre to the ensemble sound that revealed the innermost delicacy of the ensemble writing with remarkable clarity in what was a lively acoustic.

Heroics

Ellerby’s fearsome ‘Euphonium Concerto’ has certainly not lost any of its bite in the two decades since it was written - and neither has the soloist Steven Mead, despite on this occasion, not being in 100% robust health.

The contrasts in converging tempo in the opening, linked by capriciously virtuosic bridge to the passion the third and the jazz inflections of the finale were splendidly realised - the band a sympathetic counterbalance to the soloist’s heroics.

Textural gem

It was followed by an early, idiosyncratic exploration by Wilfred Heaton of the Welsh hymn tune ‘Aberystwyth’ was revealed as a textural gem – revealing the elemental DNA of Joseph Parry’s melancholic writing in all its variant glory; the triumphant apotheosis reassembling the intriguing constituent parts in a stunningly graceful climax.  
 
The cleverly realised musical circle was completed with Curnow’s ‘Trittico’ - split evenly like a musical pie-chart with its trio of creative variations on the early American hymnal tune ‘Consolation’. 

Garry Cutt expertly paced the growing momentum to the flourishing finale with the whip hand of Kentucky Derby jockey - his band straining the sinews to hit the coda furlong with a pulsating display of energy and power.  

Iwan Fox

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