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Brass Splendour: Past, Present, Future

Birmingham Conservatoire Band; Tredegar Band
Conductor: Ian Porthouse
St Paul's Church
Birmingham
Wednesday 21st June

Works that spanned eras of history, style and political conflict provided the engaging substance to this concert held in the wonderful Georgian Church in the heart of Birmingham.

A historic taster came with the opening ‘Knight Templar’ by a confident Conservatoire Brass Band - bold and purposeful in execution, before Tredegar’s Chris Davies delivered a commanding rendition of the Gareth Wood ‘Concerto for Tenor Horn’; his refined ability to project as well as blend making for a performance of rich, satisfying musicality.

Eerie layer

Liz Lane’s evocative ‘Silver Rose’, with narration by the talented Conservatoire graduate Harrison Williams, balanced tasteful pathos with a timeless sense of raw emotion: Isaac Rosenburg’s poetic lines aching with loss, the music providing an eerie layer of immediacy, despite a hundred years of passing time. 

In contrast, conflict of a different historical kind closed the first half: Oliver Waespi’s ‘The Raid’ pulsating with a restless mixture of 14th cattle stealing mischief and 21st century bucolic beauty.

Ryan Richards provided a classy take on Gordon Langford’s beautifully crafted ‘Rhapsody for Trombone’; the clarity and wit of the writing neatly captured by a young soloist who continues to grow in impressive musical maturity.

Musical maturity

Tredegar took centre stage after the break on what was a humid night for audience and performers alike - opening with the bubbling fizz of ‘Enter the Galaxies’ by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, before Ryan Richards provided a classy take on Gordon Langford’s beautifully crafted ‘Rhapsody for Trombone’; the clarity and wit of the writing neatly captured by a young soloist who continues to grow in impressive musical maturity. 

It was followed by the timeless quality of Herbert Howells’ ‘Pageantry’ in a performance led by the MD of considered acoustic appreciation. The neatly defined detail shown in the opening ‘King’s Herald’ led into a flowing tread to the processional ‘Cortege’ before ‘Jousts’ was heralded by a call to arms by Dewi Griffiths that would have got the gander up of any emboldened Knight Templar.

To close, a deeply affecting work inspired by an era of warfare denuded of any sense of pageantry: ‘Hope’ by Dorothy Gates providing a searching rhetorical musical question mark over the purpose and morality of modern day conflict.      

Iwan Fox  

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