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CD review: The Brass Band Music of Johan de Meij

Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Conductors: Johan de Meij and David Thornton
Soloists: Brandt Attema, Adam Bokaris, Chris Binns, Johan de Meij
World of Sound Recordings: WOS167


Although it is the multi-award winning music of Canadian composer Howard Shore that is most readily associated with the trilogy of ‘Lord of the Rings’ films, numerous artists have also been inspired by J.R.R Tolkein’s fantasy adventures.

Some have been better than others – rather reflecting the author’s line that “all that is gold does not glitter”; from Robert Plant’s ‘Ramble On’ with Led Zeppelin to the surreal nuttiness of ‘The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins’ by Leonard Nimoy. Yep – the bloke who played Mr Spock in Star Trek. 

Some have been better than others – rather reflecting the author’s line that “all that is gold does not glitter”

It has also inspired jazz, folk, classical and even brass band interpretations – although ‘Aragorn’ by Dutch composer Hardy Mertens was never actually performed after it was selected as the set-work for the 1991 European Championships. 

Condensed version

Johan de Meij’s take on it, on a CD of his original and arranged works for the medium (no ‘Extreme Makeover’  however), is derived from his five-movement concert band ‘Symphony No.1’  written between 1984 and 1987 (the first Peter Jackson ‘Ring’ film came out in 2001).  

It's an enjoyably condensed version (missing the ‘Lothlorien’ and ‘Gollum’ sections) that still retains its middle earth mystery; ‘Gandalf’  a sprightly wizard of powerful mischief, the ‘Journey in the Dark’  a crepuscular labyrinth of dwarfish menace and architectural splendour. It all ends with the folkish ‘Hobbits’  sailing away over the horizon back to their ‘hole in the ground’ homes.  

Away from the fantasy, bass trombonist Brandt Attema is a dark, plumb-rich lead on ‘Canticles’.  Originally written for the legendary Ben van Dijk, its dramatic lyrical flow (aided by the inclusion of harp) is played with a fine, noble sentiment. 

Away from the fantasy, bass trombonist Brandt Attema is a dark, plumb-rich lead on ‘Canticles’. Originally written for the legendary Ben van Dijk, its dramatic lyrical flow (aided by the inclusion of harp) is played with a fine, noble sentiment. 

Contest considerations

‘Sinfonietta No.1’,  composed following the success of ‘Extreme Makeover’ is a joyful triptych aimed at Dutch Third Section level and well worth contest considerations elsewhere, whilst the opening ‘Ceremonial Fanfare’  also has an optimistic sense of occasion about it.

The two duets work nicely enough – although as the famous excerpt from ‘The Pearl Fishers’  was originally for tenor and baritone voices (sung memorably by the likes of Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill) the use of two euphs (one of which is Johan de Meij) rather robs it of tonal contrast.  The ‘Don Carlos’  trombone pairing are much more complementary.  

It ends with the ’Finale’  from ‘William Tell’,   which really is something of a lollipop curiosity with new flavours added at the expense of a few familiar favourites (including the showcase solo cornet line).  

Iwan Fox


To purchase:  https://grimethorpeband.co.uk/product/the-brass-band-music-of-johan-de-meij/

Play list:

1. Ceremonial Fanfare* (Johan de Meij)

2. Sinfonietta No. 1* (Johan de Meij)
i. Energico-Andante assai-Tempo I
ii. Andante
iii. Allegro festivo

5. Canticles (for Bass Trombone & Brass Band)** (Johan de Meij)
Soloist: Brandt Attema

6. Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings** (Johan de Meij)
I. Gandalf (The Wizard)
IV. Journey in the Dark
a. The Mines of Moria
b. The Bridge of Khazad-dûm
V. Hobbits

9. Duet from The Pearl Fishers* (Georges Bizet arr. Johan de Meij)
Soloists: Adam Bokaris & Johan de Meij

10. Duet from Don Carlos** (Giuseppe Verdi arr. Johan de Meij)
Soloists: Chris Binns & Brandt Attema

11. ‘Finale’ from William Tell Overture** (Gioachino Rossini arr. Johan de Meij)

* Conducted by David Thornton
** Conducted by Johan de Meij

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