For the second time in three years Foden’s produced a stonker of a performance as their contribution to the RNCM Festival: It was outstanding brass band playing, from start to finish.
Flying over from the USA, James Gourlay has been working with Foden’s over the last week or so, and has been merrily tweeting on the internet like a well fed robin on a starch box, extolling the quality of the current band. You could hear why from the moment he led them trough a perfectly paced ‘Cossack’ march.
Oh, how we miss him.
On this form, with this ensemble sound, and more importantly, producing this type of almost flawless execution, they could be nigh on untouchable at the major contests of the year.
Glyn Williams was on inspired form with the world premiere of Andy Scott’s new ‘Euphonium Concerto’ – a piece that combines his retro funkmeister style to startling lyricism and inventiveness.
The opening ‘The Lure of the Red Jacket’ was a series of riffs, each in turn demanding ever so slightly more of the soloist’s technical armoury, whilst ‘The Dragon’s Den’ finale was a fusion of high energy virtuosity.
It was the central ‘Far Beyond the Stars’ – almost like a Bach chorale, full of intense emotion and bleak lyricism that held your breath though – ending with the soloist singing with a dark simplicity, the Welsh word’s, ’They are all gone into the world of light, and I alone sit lingering here.’
It send a spasm of emotional electricity down the spine.
The first half ended with a fine rendition of something of a neglected gem – Derek Bourgeois’s ‘Diversions’.
Full of wit and delicacy, rich expression and even a fleeting sense of Scottish bonhomie, the MD (who very nearly broke into a Highland fling at one point) drew rich character and style from the detailed score, with Richard Poole delivering a terrifically composed bit of soprano playing in the infamously fiendish, bum twitching second movement.
Upped the ante
The second half upped the ante.
A long overdue performance of Philip Sparke’s ‘Sea Pictures’ , brought the audience a reminder of the deep well of musical inspiration he has drawn from over the last 30 years.
The magical atmosphere created by ‘The Sea at Dawn’, underpinned by the timpani faintly echoing what seemed like the distant chugging of the engines of a old steam ship, was followed by the glistening dashes of the central ‘Sunlight on Waves’ and the drama and final repose of the ‘Storm at Sea’.
It was a performance of intense excellence.
The emotional core of the concert was provided by Peter Meechan’s ‘Epitaph for Hillsborough’, in a performance made chillingly immediate despite the fact the tragedy happened over 20 years ago.
The composer’s heartfelt introduction re-opened a long closed door to remind a whole generation who now know no different than wall to wall Sky inspired hype, that this was without doubt, the game’s darkest hour.
To close, a finely judged performance of ‘An Epic Symphony’; a work indelibly reflective of a tragedy much greater than that of Hillsborough.
James Gourlay’s interpretation, understated but glowing with emotive phrasing was impeccably shaped and delivered.
With the audience hungry for more, the Scot played a trump card by shoving the brass band world’s biggest cheesy lollipop in their gobs.
A bobby dazzler ‘William Tell’, was played at a delicious high speed canter allowing principal cornet Mark Wilkinson the opportunity show off his considerable skills in full (he was on quite stunning form all night to be fair).
Afterwards the bar at the RNCM hummed to the sound of a well satisfied audience recalling their immediate impressions on a night when Foden’s delivered in immense style.
On this form it will be a sound we hear more and more of in 2011.