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Christmas with the Band

Royal Greenwich Brass Band
Conductor: Stephen Maw
Regent Hall
Friday 8th December

The Christmas concert given at Regent Hall by the Royal Greenwich Brass Band is one of the highlights of the year, and the mix of seasonal classics and well-known carols seemed to catch the imagination of the substantial audience.

The band opened with Kevin Norbury's clever arrangement of 'Gaudate', incorporating references to 'Coventry Carol' and 'Unto us a Boy is Born' in a rhythmically challenging setting. The programme was then topped and tailed by 'O Come all ye Faithful' and 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing', sung with gusto and complete with the David Willcocks' descants.

The other carols were 'While Shepherds Watched their Flocks', all six verses to 'On Ilkley Moor Bah Tat' and Joy Webb's 'A Starry Night' in Andrew Mackereth's classy arrangement, with Stephen and two of his players leading the audience in accompanying actions.

Fine playing

Three movements from 'The Nutcracker' brought some fine playing; the march full of character, whilst in the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' glockenspiel, muted cornets and tuba ably substituted for the celesta and bass clarinet of the original. 'Trepak' made much of the dynamic contrasts, taken at a brisk tempo which nevertheless allowed for clarity and precision.

Soprano cornet Adam Hebditch was the accomplished soloist in Steven Bulla's contemporary take on 'O Holy Night' whilst 'Troika' saw more audience participation, jingling keys with the sleigh bells and whistling along with the main tune.

Soprano cornet Adam Hebditch was the accomplished soloist in Steven Bulla's contemporary take on 'O Holy Night' whilst 'Troika' saw more audience participation, jingling keys with the sleigh bells and whistling along with the main tune.

Fine account

Philip Harper was clearly influenced by Ravel's 'Bolero' when he penned 'Little Drummer Boy', after which the four trombones gave a fine account of 'None but the Lonely Heart'. Peter Graham is a former Bandmaster at Regent Hall, and his 'Christmas Calypso' gave an added twist to 'The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy'. 

The piece-de-resistance of the programme was William Himes' transcription of 'Elsa's Procession to the Minster', in which the rich sound of the band's six French horns was heard to good effect. Solo lines were played with confidence and the final climax was all the more telling due to the restraint shown in the earlier stages.

A crisp run through 'Christmas Joy' sent satisfied listeners home with a spring in their step.

Peter Bale



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