2006 RNCM Festival of Brass: YBS Band


Conducted by Professor David King
Soloist: Sheona White
Sunday 29th January

YBS BandThe most fascinating programme on paper of the whole festival came from the YBS band led by David King.  Two UK Premieres of music performed in Australia last summer, the World Premiere of a new tenor horn concerto by Derek Bourgeois and the first opportunity to hear once again the British Open and National Test Pieces from 2005. 

All of this combined to give the large audience a truly memorable concert that contained some fabulous playing within it, and at times it really was like a ride on a roller-coaster – David King and his band had the audience pinned into their seats. Come the conclusion of the concert, the audience's emotions were practically drained from what they'd been listening too. It was breathtaking playing.

Making their first ever appearance at this Festival at the RNCM (they did appear on the BBC broadcasts in the early 90s, but its strange they've never appeared here till now) the UK Premiere's from the pen of Martin Ellerby and Brenton Broadstock, were custom-written for the YBS sound, and the individual and intuitive interpretation that the MD brings to them.

Ellerby's ‘Terra Australis' is a pulsating work depicting the wonders of the Australian landscape; opening dramatically with a rhythmical feel to it, the music contains a beautiful lyrical section that was magnificently executed by the band and MD, whilst the chorale section leading into the finale was edge of the seat stuff.

Having opened with the Ellerby piece, it was Broadstock's ‘Sunburnt Land' that the band concluded its contribution here.  The music takes its inspiration from the poem ‘My Country' by Dorothea Mackellar (of which the second verse in particular is familiar to Australians) and the beautiful images of the Australian landscape unfold within the music.  At times, it's so peaceful, reflective and captivating listening but culminating in a dramatic ending.  There were some quite delightful moments within it, and no-doubt those present at its World Premiere will have been enthralled by its performance.

Derek Bourgeois' ‘Concerto for Tenor Horn and Band' is a lyrical work composed to demonstrate the really beauty of one of the finest voices of the instrument, Sheona White.  Sheona though was a little under-par in this performance, but there was ample evidence of her class with her interpretation, with some delightful melodic sounds and in her effortless freedom to guide the piece the way she wanted it to amid minimal accompaniment.

Either side of the interval came the two test pieces from The Open and Nationals last year.  Whilst written to ‘test' the bands in the contesting arena, it was interesting to listen to both works in a concert environment and within a different acoustic.

Bram Tovey's ‘The Night to Sing' opened brilliantly with the detail immediately identifiable, and the ensemble playing at times was exquisite.  The ‘Allegretto' movement had some delightful solo work and was full of character, and touches of humour. Whilst David King did take a broad approach with his interpretation which perhaps took a few liberties with regards to tempos at times, they didn't detract from the overall picture and come the conclusion, there was a beautiful pace and feel to the music with the detail prominent. The audience fully appreciated what they'd just heard and the standard it had been played at.

Dr Pickard's ‘Eden' was the ‘piece de resistance' of the whole concert, and one of the outstanding highlights of the whole weekend.  As with Tovey's work, the acoustic of the hall, gave the music a completely different feel to it, but it never lost any of its immense impact.

The opening was sublime; so delicate, with real class and with some fine euphonium playing by Steve Walsh and Kevin Donaldson on soprano towards the conclusion of the first section.  The trombone was full of rage and terror, leading into some top draw ensemble work, whilst the jazz section on trombone was so relaxed (and without the tension of the contest arena).

YBS were producing a wonderful reading of this work and the lament into the restoration section touched this reviewer so much musically (the tears were running and I am not ashamed to admit it either) and come the conclusion, the ovation was so deserved. 

Whether you get a chance to hear all of 'Eden' (or part of it) on Radio 3 in a few weeks time remains to be seen, but it was compelling listening and the band can't be praised highly enough.  Mention must also go to the inspired leadership of David King throughout this concert along with Iwan Williams on flugel, who never put a foot wrong all day, and finally, Kevin Donaldson on soprano who at times played like a man possessed.

It was a terrific concert performed by a band in great form.

Malcolm Wood