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Cory Band & Louis Dowdeswell Big Band

2022 European Championship Gala Concert
Conductor: Philip Harper
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Sunday 1st May

After the brilliance of the own-choice blockbusters just a few hours earlier, this fusion of cross-genre sensory overload set the seal on an outstanding European Championships.

Gala Concert ‘one-offs’ rarely linger in the memory. This concept though (thought up by Brass Bands England and joyfully concocted by the wizardry of Callum Au) will hopefully leave its lasting impression on audiences many more times in the future.

Ostentation

The musical alchemy revelled in its ostentation; high octane, risky and thrilling. Its exhilarating essence could have been bottled and sold to the audience as a juju juice souvenir. 

Dowdeswell was the front man; a charismatic totem of soaring dazzlement, his band grooved like the furrowed brow of an aged W H Auden; serious but poetically inspired with a kit-man that pinned everything in place with voodoo magic in his sticks.

Dowdeswell was the front man; a charismatic totem of soaring dazzlement, his band grooved like the furrowed brow of an aged W H Auden; serious but poetically inspired with a kit-man that pinned everything in place with voodoo magic in his sticks.

Cory and Philip Harper were equal partners in providing way more than a tincture of accompaniment familiarity with repertoire deconstructed and revived with an infectious sense of exhibitionist fun. 

Even the usual lachrymose sentimentalities of ‘Myfanwy’, ‘Deep Harmony’  and ‘Nimrod’  were spiced to heighten the taste-bud senses, ‘The Champions’  march turning into something of a premonition.

Polished choreography, clever as the colourful repertoire, enabled the performers to blend as well as bounce off each other – the spotlight moment Louis Dowdeswell and Tom Hutchinson on ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’.

It was the finale though that took things into orbit; Calum Au’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ curated with a particular genius that turned the familiar framings into the eye-popping works of Damien Hirst and the Chapman Brothers.  

Eye-popping

‘A Few Good Men’  and ‘Zero to Hero’  snapped at the leash. ‘Danse Macabre’  revived the spirits of any flagging souls, whilst the pastiche cartoon caperings of ‘The Incredibles’  were added to by a pulsating ‘La Fiesta’  and atomic powered Glyn Williams on ‘Grandfather’s Clock’.

It was the finale though that took things into orbit; Calum Au’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’  curated with a particular genius that turned the familiar framings into the eye-popping works of Damien Hirst and the Chapman Brothers.  

The sheer ballsy boldness to carry it off with such tongue in cheek insouciant glitter-ball brilliance left you breathless in admiration for all concerned. 

The encore simply slapped you in your smiling chops. 

Iwan Fox 

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