Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Brass Band & Tredegar Band

Conductor: Ian Porthouse, Dr Stephen Allen
Soloist: Conal Bembridge-Sayers
The Bradshaw Hall
Wednesday 19th June


The Welsh champion returned to Birmingham in their role as Brass Band in Residence just a few days before their appearance at the ‘UK Band of the Year’ contest in Manchester.

Not surprisingly then their contribution was based around the programme for that event; a trio of sharply polished renditions of ‘Phenomena Fanfare’ by Jacob Larsen, ‘Eyes of a Child’ featuring flugel soloist Danny Winder and Oliver Waespi’s majestic ‘As if a voice we in them...’ highlighting trademark ensemble balance, precision and transparency.  

The MD also ensured that they were also a sympathetic counterpoint to the suave elegance of soloist Conal Bembridge–Sayers on Edward Gregson’s ‘Concertante for Piano and Brass Band’, as well providing a warmly lit glow of nostalgia with Matthew Hall’s ‘The Smile’.


The youthful Gregson (his work was written as a third year undergraduate) was seemingly a bit of a musical magpie - but one heck of a skilful one at that. 

These were shiny baubles of poise, panache and pastiche, with affectionate, remarkably mature nods of appreciation towards Gershwin, Rachmaninov, Ireland and even Elmer as well as Leonard Bernstein.

The rich colour palette and flowing lines (with the tenderest of central Nocturnes) were a joy - as were the little buds of motifs that dotted the score like seeds ready to be planted on a future fertile brass band compositional field. 

These were shiny baubles of poise, panache and pastiche, with affectionate, remarkably mature nods of appreciation towards Gershwin, Rachmaninov, Ireland and even Elmer as well as Leonard Bernstein. 


A very different type of appreciation came with Stephen Allen’s revisionist thesis into the inspiration behind Elgar’s ‘Severn Suite’ - one that certainly removed the encrusted dust of perceived opinion that has encased the work for far too long. 

According to his persuasive argument, this was no longer an iconic work of Empire and class ridden conservatism, but of personal loneliness, bitter memory and lost faith.  As a result it made for engrossing listening - Allen loosening the constraints of cloying tradition to draw a deliberately liberating sense of freedom from the score. 

So too the student’s vibrant ‘Paganini Variations’ - played with a touch of stylish panache measured purpose, whilst the massed band items of  the ‘Fugue’ from ‘Graduation Day’ (a neat touch given that some were finishing their academic studies) and ‘MacArthur Park’ rounded things off with throbbing bombast.

Iwan Fox 

Support us for less than a cup of coffee...

4BR wants to ensure that the brass band movement remains vibrant and relevant. We also want to be able to question, challenge and critically examine those who run and play in it, producing high quality journalism that informs as well as entertains our readers.

So if like us you value a strong, independent perspective on the brass band world - then why not consider becoming a supporter and help make our future and that of a burgeoning brass band movement more secure.

So one less cappuccino then?

Support us    

Contest: 168th British Open

Saturday 11 September • Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Birmingham. B1 2EA

Contest: Lower Section National Finals

Saturday 18 September • The Centaur, Cheltenham Race Course, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL40 4SH

Contest: Lower Section National Finals

Sunday 19 September • The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury, Cheltenham, GL40 4SH

Contest: National Brass Band Championship of Great Britain

Saturday 2 October • Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP

Contest: Youth Brass in Concert

Saturday 20 November • St Mary's Square, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead NE8 2JR

Essex Police Band

May 11 • Percussionist required. Preferably with experience playing in Brass Band, Wind Band or Orchestra. We do not contest but play to a good standard and play a variety of contempory and historical music.

Essex Police Band

May 11 • Musical Director required. We are a friendly band, based in Chelmsford Essex with a core of competent players and perform at a variety of events across Essex and in surrounding areas. We rehearse every Wednesday evening at Police HQ Chelmsford

St Dennis Band

May 10 • The St Dennis Band - Cornwall (Championship Section/Grand Shield) invites expressions of interest for the position of PRINCIPAL CORNET. Based in Mid Cornwall and just 5 minutes off the A30, the band rehearses every Monday and Thursday at 19:45.

Stuart Black

BA (Hons) Music
Conductor, Teacher, Flugel soloist


 © 2021 4barsrest.com Ltd