Review: RNCM Brass Festival

Discussion in ' User Reviews' started by DublinBass, Jan 23, 2005.

  1. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    near Dublin
    While it would be great to hear others views (including players), I thought I'd toss in my two-pence worth.

    I was able to see fantastic concerts from Cory...errr...Buy as You View, Foden's, Brighouse and Dyke. Them weekends celebration highlighted many of the works of Gregson, Howarth and McCabe. It was nice to sit back and listen to some of the 2004-5 test pieces (Dances and Arias and Cloucatcher Fells) without feeling the need inside to rate the bands performances (they were of course spectacular).

    It was also great hearing some of major solo works that I don't normally get the chance to hear because they are 1) too difficult and 2) too long for some audiences to stay attentive for...However, I very much enjoyed the Euphonium solo by David Childs and James Gourlay's rendition of Gregson's Tuba Concerto.

    Last years RNCM Brass Festival was quite incredible. I thought it would be difficult to top...but this year was even better. Although I didn't get to attend Friday's festivities (work), I think the addition of the low brass day and the clinics throughout the weekend added the missing touch for a full fledged, "proper" brass festival.

    Being a low brass player I attended both Steven Mead and James Gourlays masterclasses. I keep expecting that one of these times I will think a masterclass is a waste of time because they are all going to say the same thing anyways...right? However, what I found from Mr. Mead and Mr. Gourlay were not only a few different ideas, but many different, fresh perspectives on the common ideas good music teachers try to poind into our heads. I can only imagine that the master classes from Mr. Webster and Ms. Howie were equally as good.

    The Brass Herald also sponsored a forum discussing the current state of brass playing in the UK. Unfortunatley, there didn't appear enough time to address all the issues raised. Hoever, because of all the interest, we were assured there would be another one in the near future.

    The World of Brass stand was once again appreciated (as I made my monthly 'donation' to the cause ;) ) and the foyer music was an added touch.

    This was really quite an intense and educational weekend and I've already marked my calendar for next year.

    As a side note...the weekend was also very socially fulfilling as Supa-Laura visited from the States for the Festival...I got to meet tMPer Bryan Kelly and Nuke came in from Liverpool.

    Funny/ scary moment to close with. We were in a taxi on our way back to our hotel after a curry and the taxi driver screeches to a halt as it almost hit a not-quite-sober person crossing the street (no zebra or panda crossings in sight). The pedestrian beats on the taxi window and yells at the taxi driver something like "B****y taxi in the middle of the road!!!"
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2005
  2. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    Rochester, Kent
    You didn't get to hear the ISB on Sunday afternoon then?!

    Taking part in the RNCM Festival this year was a great experience from my point of view. I went to a couple of concerts last year and was really excited when we were told that the ISB had been invited to take part in 2005.
    Many times during our performance yesterday afternoon, I was struck but the concentration that the audience were giving to listening to the music, much of which I would guess would be unknown to them. I was particularly aware of this in On Ratcliff Highway, our final programmed piece, which I find to be a hugely emotive piece of music.
  3. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Hinckley, Leicestershire
    Yes, a very fine weekend of music all round. My personal highlights:

    *The RNCM's own band and ensemble, for the uncompromising nature of their programme - and one of the most thrilling accounts of John McCabe's Images that I've ever heard - always right on the edge of the precipice.

    * B & R's reading of Salamander - really very exciting.

    * Edward Gregson's Age of Kings - what a great piece of music theatre!

    Big disappointment of the weekend - B & R's decision to replace Ascendit in Coeli and Altitude with something altogether 'safer'. Jim Gourlay justified the use of Requienscant Aberfan as a memorial to the tsunami victims. But Cory had already done that earlier, and in any case, wouldn't Ascendit in Coeli have served the purpose in its own right, perhaps? I do hope this wasn't a loss of nerve by the band, following the well-publicised walkout by a number of half-witted philistines too stupid to read the programme before buying their tickets, at a B & R concert last year.

    Best overheard comment of the weekend: from the row behind me during the interval in the ISB concert: "What are they playing in the second half?". "Well, the first three pieces are by Edward Gregson, so there won't be many tunes. The Victorian Snapshots should make up for it though". (The Gregson pieces were Dalaro, Symphonic Rhapsody and 'Laudate Dominum'; the piece by Steadman-Allen has more than its fair share of discordant moments). Some people!

    Best notice: seen in the gents toilet near the foyer entrance, on the condom machine: "This machine is emptied daily". Students, eh?
  4. wbrandon

    wbrandon New Member

    My first post folks, on any internet thingy, so please be kind folks.:)

    Spent 2 great days at the festival and heard some incredible playing so here are my thoughts.

    David Childs' playing was superb, the best brass band soloist on show.

    James Gourlay should be showcasing his incredible talent in bigger events than this band festival. What a player!

    Loved Dyke's Age of Kings - a great piece,


    the best show of the whole weekend was the top spot - Saturday night, 19.30, Fodens Band with Bramwell Tovey.

    Didn't like the first piece which was specially written for the festival but maybe I would if I heard it again.
    The horn playing in the Gregson Horn Concerto was out of this world - what a young talent.
    Then the first of two equal treats with Henze's Ragtimes and Habeneras. What superb writing and playing. The fun in the piece was portrayed perfectly.
    The 10 seconds of silence at the end of In Memoriam RK said it all. One of the greatest moments as a listener in over 40 years.
    Cloudcatcher Fells was a slight disappointment after the previous piece and for me the encore didn't work but after the previous pieces who cared:)
    Mark Wilkinson and Alan Wycherley and Phillip Green were superb and the fabulous Fodens bass section were immense and the stars of the show (and that is from a Eupho player).:shock:

    I'm a big Fodens fan but when they have Bramwell Tovey in front of them they're world beaters, as good as any ensemble of any kind in the world.

    After the concert we mingled with many of the stars of the brass band world including Edward Gregson, Elgar Howarth, Bob Childs etc and then went for a lovely meal in Manchester's China town

    What a fabulous night, event and weekend

    Wal Brandon
  5. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    I could only make the Saturday this time and interestingly enough, though that Foden's encore was one of the days highlights: fantastic display of controlled yet passionate and intense playing.

    Thought that 'In Memoriam RK' was a truly special moment. As the previous guy has mentioned, the silence that followed the conclusion said it all - judging by the sigh from the audience as Tovey brought his baton down, I don't think anybody breathed for the last 3 minutes!!! Saw Garry Howarth mouth 'absolutely marvellous' to Bram Tovey as he greeted the band at the end - says something I guess.

    I was sat 8 feet away from Alan Wycherley on the second row and his playing was outstanding. Just unbelievable security in the upper register and always in context of the rest of the group. Mark Wilkinson was virtually immaculate too.
  6. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    Bolton, Lancs, England
    I think that this year's event was even better than last year's, and that is saying something!

    What made this year's event so special, apart from the outstanding performances (almost taken for granted at an event such as this) was that I got to hear many pieces which I have heard of, but which I have never actually heard before.

    My personal stand-out memories:

    Hearing "Festal Brass with Blues" for the first time, played by Grimethorpe, and also their playing of "Connotations".

    Hearing "Grimethorpe Aria" and "Mosaic" for the 1st time, both played by the RNCM Brass Band.

    "Festmusik der Stadt Wien", the complete version, in a stunning performance by the RNCM Brass Ensemble.

    The emotional and moving account of "Resurgam" by the Buy As You View Band, dedicated to the victims of the Tsunami disaster, and also their playing of "A Downland Suite" and "Of Men and Mountains".

    Just about the entire concert by the Foden's Richardson Band, conducted by Bramwell Tovey (who could have a second career as a stand-up comedian!) who drew out the very best that this great band had to offer. "Ragtimes and Habaneras" (another piece I have heard of but never heard) was excellent, while the playing of "In Memoriam RK" (a favourite piece of mine) was sublime. "Cloudcatcher Fells" was amazing: I can still hear those closing chords!

    The concert by Brighouse. The playing of "Salamander" was supurb, and "Requiescant Aberfan" was again deeply moving. How does James Gourlay find the time to do the amount of practice he must do to play so well? "A Severn Suite" was another magnificent memory to take away with me.

    I enjoyed hearing the world premiere of "Rhapsody on a Theme of Purcell" by Kevin Norbury (how long before it is set as a test piece?), while Susan Bickley was excellent as themezzo-soprano soloist in the "Five Folk Songs", arranged by Elgar Howarth as only he can.

    Then, to bring the festival to a close, the spectacular concert by Black Dyke. Brett Baker was on top form in the Howarth Trombone Concerto. Black Dyke's playing of "Fireworks" would have earned them top prize in a contest (and why, oh why, has this great piece never been set for the Areas, the Nationals, and even the Open again since its first use? I have it on CD, but I think that this was the first live performance I have heard since the 1975 Open!). I loved "Pulse Friction" and look forward to hearing more music from Peter Meecham. "Dances and Arias" was another first hearing for me. "An Age of Kings" - wow! Spectacular and stunning.

    It was also good to meet up with friends old and new, including BBCBari (as he has already mentioned).

    How are they going to top this in 2006? I can hardly wait!
  7. Seedhouse

    Seedhouse Active Member

    Wish I could've stayed for the weekend, but only travelled up for the Low Brass day on Friday which was fantastic. Was good to meet Nuke (who couldn't remember what I played... tsk! :rolleyes: ), Diana, and her friend Laura. :D
    What solo did David Childs play? I'm sure it was superb! :D
  8. Phil Green

    Phil Green Supporting Member

    West Midlands
    From my point of view it was one of the best concerts I've ever performed with Fodens. Playing with Bram in front always brings the best out of the individual players and you know what they say about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

    Like most who've posted an opinion, Ragtimes and Habaneras & In Memorium RK were the high spot of the whole evening. Bram always tells the band to watch him closely as he likes the flexibility to change things at a moments notice, depending on the audience, the previous phrase, the way he feels; we do, he does and he did on the night. Because it was a new interpretation to us we experienced something special too.
    That might sound really flowery and gay but hey - it's the truth, the bloke is special.

    I'd like to comment on the comment about the basses. I don't think we stole the show, the whole band played well and I'd like to praise the front row and Wych for what was fabulous playing all the way through a fiendishly difficult programme (the quiet playing in Memorium was special indeed).

    We did however have a bass section and a half though. Toby Hobson on 2nd EEb, who with Phil Goodwyn at Dyke, is the most experienced and best in his seat in the country (and please don't argue anyone 'cos you'll be wrong :) ), Laurence Barton, who is probably the most underated BBb player of our generation, who has a sound like the side of a horse, sorry House, and then Deano - who is up there with the best ever. Thanks to those guys for making my job so easy.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2005
  9. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    near Dublin
    Sorry 'bout that Carl, but not ever being a music student and only doing this as a hobby, I really had to pace myself. The programmes were quite heavy (very enjoyable though) and I haven't trained myself to listen a full day of bands/ clinic yet. So when I made a choice I went to see some of the northern bands since I don't get to see them very oftern. (Sorry again)

    My wife (who was a music major) thoroughly enjoyed your performance. I think she said it was even better than when we saw you in Columbus, OH last April. She also said that it quite a packed house for the concert.

    That reminds me...I'mso happy to see the crowds at the Festival where larger than last year. I realise certain times are easier to get there...certain bands might be more favoured, but there was definitely a difference in the crowds. In fact, I think Sunday's concerts were all almost full-houses.

    Another point made at the concert was that some of it would be rebroadcast on BBC radio in about a fortnight (not sure of he exact date). Listen to it!!! Then write in afterwards and say how wonderful it was. This is one of the ways we can help brass banding in Britain.
  10. Nuke

    Nuke Active Member

    Although we didnt see ISB or RNCM brass we did ge to see Liverpool beaten at Southampton and Newcastle lose at Arsenal.

    It was a great weekend and appart from the insistance that its not nescesarry i am going to replace the airbed that broke (accidentaly of course). I think the free hotel mini bar was a good idea that should be repeated.

    Ive never been to the festival before but all the bands were exceptional and the masterclasses were very good. I think the Jazz tuba player on friday afternoon was the most interesting thing i saw because like BBCbari has said the rest of it was very heavy going and serious.

    I think they said it was going to be on BBC radio 3 on the 9th of february at half seven but dont quote me on that.

    Seedhouse plays a baritone/euphonium
  11. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    Thanks for those kind words mate (who do i make the cheque out to???) Ide certainly echo your sentiments on the standard of cornet playing on sat, the lord above will only know quite how they played that encore after that lip bender of a program!!!! I knew Pete's intensive week of Botox treatments would pay dividends!!!!!
  12. Dianamite

    Dianamite Member

    Columbus, Ohio USA
    Hey Nuke- don't you mean Jazz (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) tuba player???
  13. Seedhouse

    Seedhouse Active Member

    His first piece was interesting to listen to, his aim is to bring Jazz into tuba repertoire, and at least he is trying to broaden the tuba's scope and what it is recognised as playing. :) His second piece was a bit weird though, with all the French shouting! Scared me! :-(
  14. Dianamite

    Dianamite Member

    Columbus, Ohio USA
    I thought the jazz tuba player was fantastic.....along with the rest of the weekend! Highly recommended!!!! (hope I can go next year!)
  15. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    near Dublin
    I know Diana enjoyed the entire weekend so I think her first post was more in response to Nuke's ...behaviour (to put it nicely) at some of the concerts rather than a reference to the entertainment value of the tuba player ;)
  16. Seedhouse

    Seedhouse Active Member

    Ah ok, no worries! Wasn't criticising just giving my view :D ...I thought I could hear some snoring...! ;)
  17. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Decided to turn up towards the end of the low brass day to meet some mates and heard Dave Thornton play the Meechan Concerto...and he was very usual!
  18. Parp

    Parp Member

    I heard the Staff Band and I thought they were fabulous. I'd heard them about 2 years ago but they weren't anywhere near the standard of Sunday. I don't know what the difference was but the balance was excellent.

    It was great to hear Glorifico Aeternum live - what a superb piece of music, especially for the percussion, although I did feel they got a little carried away towards the end.

    I think my highlight was My Strength, My Tower which is one of my favourite pieces and their reading of it had me on the edge of my seat. I was especially impressed with Kevin Ashman in the cornet solo. He seemed so secure and his tone was ideal for the solo. In fact, he impressed me all through the day, and his triumphant fanfare at the end of On Ratcliffe Highway had a lump in my throat!

    It was a great afternoon and I'm not ashamed to say that I was one of the people who cheered at the end of Praise!

    I also heard B&R and their playing of Salamander was incredible. Such an exciting performance and it built up perfectly to a great climax at the end.

    Also Dyke in the evening were really in a different league I thought. Brett Baker was such an assured trombonist in the concerto which I'd never heard before. Also, the final chord in Fireworks will stay with me for a while. Peter Roberts can certainly squeeze a note out of that soprano! ;)

    All in all, it was a great weekend for me. I was at the Tsunami gig in Cardiff with 61,000 people on Saturday and then on Sunday I was at the RNCM with about 250 people and they were both great concerts!

    By the way, it's my first post so you're not allowed to flame me - everything I say is correct! :p
  19. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Sarasota, Florida, USA
    And a noteworthy one at that -- thanks!
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