Contrasts in Brass 4


Thundersley & Flowers Bands
Conductors: Roland Morris & Paul Holland
Hadleigh Temple
Saturday 30th October

Thundersley'Home' band Thundersley, opened the evening programme with a crisp rendition of the march ‘Justice with Courage’ - the band producing a vibrant, warm sound, if a little bass heavy at times. 

They continued with a sparkling performance of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Comedy Tonight’ , making the most of the fun inherent in the music, with the three percussionists employing many items from their box of toys in addition to some nifty work on xylophone. 

Exchange of soloists 

Thundersley then accompanied Flowers’ Principal Trombone Rob Marsh in ‘Feelings’

Originally arranged for horn, it gave the opportunity for some nicely sustained high register playing, although the soloist was rather overpowered at times by some over-enthusiastic kit work. 


Soprano player John Bennett provided two arrangements on the programme: the first Duke Ellington’s ‘It don’t Mean a Thing’.  John had recreated effectively the Ellington jungle style in the central section with tom-toms and growling brass, and the band adjusted well to the required style, the arranger himself adding a screaming sop part towards the end. 

After the exertions of the Ellington, Kenneth Downie’s ‘In Perfect Peace’ provided a restful interlude, Flowers’ rep player standing in for Thundersley’s Ria Tombs who had been taken ill. The playing was well-controlled with nicely judged rises and falls in a very sensitive interpretation. 

John second contribution was a lively setting of Harry Warren’s ‘42nd Street’, an imposing introduction leading into the main melody, with a stand-up solo for the arranger and a grandstand finish. 

Stately finale 

The first half closed with Richard Strauss’s ‘Feierlicher Einzug’, arranged by the band’s former soprano player Simon Dawson. 

Largely comprising of dignified, stately music, although well played, it seemed to lack a little of the sparkle one expects in a finale item. 

Help for Heroes 

During the interval refreshments were served in return for donations towards ‘Help for Heroes’, and Flowers commenced their solo spot appropriately enough with Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s ‘Walking with Heroes’

With fine solo work from Ron Marsh and Andy Smith on trombone and cornet respectively, there were also some nice touches from Chris Avison, guesting on soprano. 

There was some tight ensemble playing in ‘Festive Overture’, particularly from the cornets at the opening, the band as a whole coping well with the brisk pace set by the conductor. 

FlowersFirst-rate cornet playing 

Thundersley principal cornet Gavin Hall produced a refined interpretation of  ‘Miss Blue Bonnet’, giving the music plenty of room to breathe. His sterling efforts brought a standing ovation from his Thundersley comrades, and enthusiastic applause from both audience and band. 

The next item from Flowers, ‘Czardas’ evoked memories of the BBC Best of Brass contests, with crisp and precise playing, particularly from the bass section. 

‘O Magnum Mysterium’, written in 1994, depicts the mystery surrounding the Nativity of Christ, and Philip Littlemore’s reworking for brass band won the Best New Arrangement prize at Brass in Concert in 2009. 

Although the balance was not perfect, most of the solo lines emerged clearly from the underlying ensemble. 

Dextrous xylophonist 

It was a pity that the cameras in the hall were not in use to show the dexterity of Flowers’ xylophonist as they continued with ‘Toccata’ - his sticks flying round the keys at breakneck speed, putting the seal on an what was an impressive performance.

They closed their set with a dash through ‘Belford’s Carnival March’, with clean articulation and effective dynamic contrast. 

Massed finale 

It only took a few moments for the Thundersley players to take their places for the concluding massed items.

’Lightwalk’ needed a couple of bars to settle down, but then the bands were into the swing of it (literally), the solo being shared between Andy Smith on cornet and Nick Bailey on flugel. 

Brothers Paul and Andy Hicks then presented ‘Softly As I Leave You’. Several family members were present to hear their well-balanced reading, although unfortunately their father, George, was unable to attend, having suffered a mild stroke. 

‘Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral’ provided a fitting finale, Paul Holland ensuring the dynamics were well-controlled, thus making the final climax all the more effective. 

The encore ‘The Cossack’ bought a most enjoyable programme to an end. 

Peter Bale