The Royal Greenwich Band's preparations for the Brass Arts Festival were hampered somewhat by the late withdrawal of some players detained by college commitments.
They also had to play with only three basses, and on this occasion the mix of cornets and trumpets seemed a little problematic, contributing to a few intonation issues.
They opened with Eril Leidzen's fine march, 'The Invincible Army', although the high-lying horn melody did not sit so comfortably with French rather than tenor horns. Nevertheless it was a sparkling account, well balanced and full of detail.
Verdi's 'Force of Destiny' overture requires considerable control to keep it flowing, and the band coped well with its demands, although the horn tremolos supporting the flugel solo were not entirely successful. Solos on horn, muted cornet and Eb trumpet were handled neatly, and the band produced a powerful sound at the climax.
Former student Ryan Hume has been appearing lately with several of the London orchestras, and was the soloist in 'Bluebells of Scotland', displaying a formidable technique as he dispatched the increasingly intricate variations, and un-fazed by the occasional uncharacteristic slip.
A minor masterpiece
Introducing Wilfred Heaton's 'Mercy's Light', Stephen Maw drew comparisons with the somewhat ethereal 'Gymnopedies' of Erik Satie. This was reflected not only in the sparse musical language but also in the exposed scoring. The band's rendition of what can be a difficult piece for both players and listeners was well received by the audience.
The best playing of the afternoon was heard in the original version of Gregson’s 'Variations on Laudate Dominum'.
From the solid trombone entry at the start through the nuances of the cornet and euphonium duet, the crisp percussion and the flowing euphonium solo the playing was full of character. The euphoniums and tubas got the fugue off to a fine start before the majestic entry of the melody, heard in its entirety only at the end.
As Stephen left the stage, the band struck up with Goff Richard's setting of 'Crimond' to close the programme.