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Foden's Band

Conductor: Paul Fisher
Soloist: Mike Lovatt
Stoller Hall
Manchester
Sunday 22nd September

stars
The musical connection between Foden’s Band and the remarkable talents of trumpeter Mike Lovatt continues to blow away outdated preconceptions from insular brass band minds.

A pity then that so few were present (around 70) at Stoller Hall to hear such an outstanding concert take place.

Engaging excellence

The reasons why can be debated at length, but no blame should be attached in any way to the National Champion or the soloist. They, alongside conductor Paul Fisher, who led from the rostrum with humour and an osmotic link of understanding between player and band, were beacons of professional, engaging excellence. 

We may also be told that there was a much larger audience enjoying the playing streamed on-line, but that would be a pyrrhic argument to gauge success.  

At a time when brass banding has just enjoyed its largest slice of national media coverage for many years through programmes on the BBC and Sky Arts, this was a worrying reinforcement of the opinion that its direct connection to a general listening public remains fleeting and fragile.    

What was without doubt was the quality on show; the ensemble playing from the National Champion, razor sharp in its precision, suave and cultured in its musicality. Lovatt was imperious, his stage presence a reflection of gloriously majestic playing - lithe in its muscularity, expertly balanced on the cusp of controlled danger and eye-popping virtuosity.  

At a time when brass banding has just enjoyed its largest slice of national media coverage for many years through programmes on the BBC and Sky Arts, this was a worrying reinforcement of the opinion that its direct connection to a general listening public remains fleeting and fragile.   

Visceral approach

‘Cry Me a River’, eased the audience into his set before Colin Skinner’s engaging ‘Rhapsody for Trumpet’ was supported by ‘Pure Imagination’ and the Louis Armstrong tribute, ‘Pops is Tops’. Kenny Baker would have been a tad envious at the visceral approach to ‘Virtuosity’, balanced beautifully with the lyrical charms of ‘Weary Laddie’.

‘Blessed Assurance’ and the closing ‘Chinatown’, dedicated in memory to Philip Biggs were sumptuous. 

Foden’s was inspired – from the high octane ‘Malaguena’, to Jonny Bates’ duo of ‘War Dance of the Red Cossacks’ and ‘The Crowning’, John Barber’s swaggering Benny Goodman tribute ‘The King of Swing’ and even the frolics of ‘Seaside Rendezvous’. ‘Bali Hai’ was a romp. 

The lollipop encore of Bach’s ‘Toccata in D Minor’ rounded off a superb afternoon’s music-making. What a shame so few enjoyed the experience first-hand.

Malcolm Wood

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