tMP Piece of the Week #1: Journey Into Freedom, Eric Ball We start our "tMP Piece of the Week" feature right at the very top of the tMP Favourite Test piece poll, with Eric Ball’s Journey Into Freedom, which has been voted the most popular test piece for the two years the tMP survey has been running. Journey Into Freedom was written as the Championship test piece for bands competing in the 1967 National Finals at the Albert Hall with the Black Dyke Mills Band conducted by Geoffrey Brand being the popular winners. F.J Beckingham was prophetic when he wrote the sleevenotes of their 1968 LP ‘The Champions’ that said it "will stay in the annals of band music history for a very long time". The piece has been used for two area contests since then and has made regular appearances in others. It has endured as a favourite choice for bands to record on albums and has even been transcribed for Fanfare Band. Eric Ball had very clear ideas of what he wants players and listeners to realise when they come into contact with his compositions, and Journey Into Freedom has strong links for the time period it was written. Eric Ball previewing the work in the British Bandsman said this … “whether they know it or not, today’s competing amateur musicians – and the tens of thousands more they represent – are helping to keep open the ‘Windows Of Heaven’ in this harsh, materialistic age.” He goes on to say that players and listeners alike would focus on “some unexpressed longings of the human heart” and that “in the realms of the spirit, mankind’s greatest victories can be won. May today’s brass band festival brass band festival give us all hope and inspiration for these troubled times, as well as entertainment and happiness”. Eric Ball emphasised these strong images again at the 1968 Star Lake Festival when he was talking about the work. So what about the music? It is a Rhapsody that the composer starts with portraying the harsh, violent realities and struggles of a World that he wanted us to triumph over using human love and compassion. It is written in one complete movement, split into six sections and played without a break in continuity. Brief outlines for each section are noted below … Moderato & Feroce. (Violence and Materialism) The atmosphere evoked is of rigid, unyielding materialism, machine-like, enslaving and cruel. Alla Marcia. (March Of Protest) Music of protest, revolt, but in variable mood; a mixture of high resolve, bravado and fear which attempts to overcome the mood set by the introduction . Moderato E Molto Feroce. (Violence Returns) The return of the opening motifs come back with more force and new elements are introduced in to the texture and dynamics stepped up. Andante Con Expressione. (Human Love) Escape, freedom, is sought through human love of which various solo 'voices' sing hopefully. Allegro Scherzando. (Spectacular Waltz) There is some release for a short while when abandonment is displayed by a high spirited waltz. Andante Cantabile. (Love Theme Transformed) The 'love theme' returns, transfigured. Ideal love and contemplation of The Eternal bring, at long last INNER freedom. It must be noted that the basis of the love theme is derived from a hymn tune by Johan Scheffler, which Eric Ball quoted at Star Lake in 1968... "Oh love that formest me to wear the image of thy godhead here, who soughtest me with tender care through all my wanderings dark and dear - Oh love, I give myself to thee, Thine ever, only thine, to be." Eric Ball then followed this up with "Then comes freedom. Then comes freedom." Feel free to share your experiences of this fantastic piece of music, which was deservedly chosen as your choice of best test piece ever written.