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Black Dyke Band

Conductor: Prof Nicholas Childs
Soloists: Brett Baker, Daniel Thomas
RNCM Brass Band Festival
RNCM, Manchester
Saturday 29th January


Commissions performed with tangible self-confidence projected the sound of Black Dyke into every nook and cranny of the RNCM Concert Hall on Saturday evening – and beyond.

Works by Schjelderup, Arnold, Wilby, Sparke and Butterworth were delivered almost as statements of intent. So too a surprisingly ‘political’ address made by the Director of Music before an epically proportioned rendition of Bruce Broughton’s ‘Heroes’ to close.

It may not have quite roused the emotions like JFK’s famous 1962 ‘Moon’ speech, but it was still a pertinent argument about the vital importance of trying to persuade people back to listen to live performances. 

Black Dyke remains the most popular concert performer in the banding movement, yet even they are finding the new post-Covid musical landscape challenging. A proposed event the following day was cancelled at late notice.  

Loud and clear

In more ways than one then the message was loud and clear - literally so with the huge dynamic scope on show.

It was a very particular interpretation of the festival themes. Very Black Dyke in fact; both fascinating and curious.

It was followed though by a thoroughly engaging ‘Four Cornish Dances’  - informed and boldy inquisitive; Arnold’s sardonic exploration of ‘Methodism, male voice choirs and May Days’ played with charcterised sea salt gulps of pride, sadness and mystery.  

They opened with the sounds of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ – refashioned in the modern idiom by their new Norwegian ‘Composer in Residence’ (although temporarily delayed due to Covid-19 isolation after he arrived at Manchester airport on Saturday morning).

‘A Fantasy of Joy’  was the type of upbeat amuse-bouche now regularly employed as a concert starter - an adrenaline rush of musical sugar that pops open eyes and ears. 

It was followed though by a thoroughly engaging ‘Four Cornish Dances’  - informed and boldy inquisitive; Arnold’s sardonic exploration of ‘Methodism, male voice choirs and May Days’ played with charcterised sea salt gulps of pride, sadness and mystery.  

Cannonball Express

Just as atmospheric was ‘The Royal Border Bridge’ - with a great head of steam billowing out of the funnel as the train broached the River Tweed as if stoked by Casey Jones on the Cannonball Express.

Just as atmospheric was ‘The Royal Border Bridge’ - with a great head of steam billowing out of the funnel as the train broached the River Tweed as if stoked by Casey Jones on the Cannonball Express.

With Philip Wilby’s  major new work ‘Beethoven’  dropped due to Covid-19 rehearsal restrictions, Daniel Thomas performed ‘Fantasy for Euphonium’  with passionate brio, whilst Brett Baker tripped the ‘Light Fantastic’  with Anton Du Beke fleet-footed assuredness.

It was left to the cinematically inspired ‘Heroes’  to set the seal on the evening; powered by Saturn V thrust and excitement.  

The rather curious encore of ‘The Peacemakers’  wasn’t really required – although by then all the statement points had been made.  

Iwan Fox 

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