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View Full Version : Concert Review: Brass Band Willebroek & Ian Bousfield



Jan H
14.11.2004, 03:28
After I attended my third concert in one week time, I'm almost starting to feel like Iwan Fox or someone like that, so I thought: let's write a concert review (and to assure you: I will keep far away from 4BR-style semi-funny comparisons :-))

As a yearly tradition, Brass Band Willebroek, Belgium's top band, organises a "soloist concert" in the concert hall of the Brussels "Conservatoire" (higher school of music). The contest takes place two weeks before the Belgian National Championships (that take place in the same concert hall) and every year they manage the find a very fine guest soloist for this concert.

This year's guest was noone less than Englishman Ian Bousfield, principal trombonist of the Wiener Philharmiker, but in his younger years a member of, amongst others, the Yorkshire Imperial Band. The concert hall floor was almost completely full and also the loges were quite well filled. All together, the audience was not as big though as last year for the concert with Peter Roberts, when the concert hall was filled to the last seat...

Frans Violet and his musicians started the concert with a typical opening fanfare: "Intrada Ein' Feste Burg" arranged by Ray Farr (with the cornets spread over the stage in three groups). After this, it was time for some more serious music: this years set test piece for the National Championships: Contest Music by Wilfred Heaton. Apparently there is still some work to do, because they only played the first two parts, and the musicians seemed really nervous. The sound of the band, especially in the quiet second part was already excellent though. Just a pitty that principal cornet Raf Van Looveren missed his top note...

After that, Ian Bousfield made his first appearance with Martin Ellerby's Trombone Concerto, a very challenging piece, but excellently played bij Ian Bousfield. The first part of the evening was concluded by two more entertaining items: Paganini's "Moto Perpetuo" (arranged by Howard Snell), in which Raf Van Looveren could really showcase his amazing cornet skills, and Peter Graham's Call of the Cossacks, in which Willebroek's other soloists got their turn: Kristien Schurmans on flugel, Stijn Berbé on Tenor Horn, 2nd man Kris Binon, soprano Bert Van Thienen, trombonist Walter Hoeks, tuned percussionist Kelly Helsen and of course euphonium Stef Pillaert (who also presented the whole evening).

After the break, Willebroek continued with a beautiful "Hymn for Diana" (Joseph Turrin), followed by the highlight of the evening: Philips Sparke's newest test piece "Music of the Spheres" (commisioned by YBS for this year's European Championchips). I must admit that I only have the live recording from Glasgow as a reference (I ordered the studio CD, but it hasn't arrived yet...). The first three parts of the piece sounded very good, notting realy to remarke about them. Part four (the one with the meteors and so one) felt a little bit uneasy still. Definitely some work to do here still. Part five was not as synchronously as it could have been, and in the last part it was clear that some of the players were almost at their ends. All in all it was an excellent performance though and I really enjoyed the performance of this amazing piece.

After the heavy contesting stuff, it was time again for the guest of the evening, Ian Bousfield. First he played the beautiful classic "Autumn Leaves" and after that thé trombone classic: Arthur Pryor's 'Blue Bells of Scotland". I must say: I've already heard a few "Blue Bells" in my (relatively short) lifetime, but this really was the best one so far. I reaaly think that there were no two consecutive bars played in the same tempo. So Frans Violet really had a though job directing his band and following the virtuosity of the soloist. And one time it even went wrong: At the last variation, the band started off too fast, even for Ian Bousfield, so he stopped the band (with a little joke) and asked them to start again. But even at the slightly slower tempo, it still was the fastest "Blue Bells" that I can remember...

After his last official piece, Ian Bousfield made quite a long speech to the audiance, thanking all kind of persons and telling about how he admires people that make music for fun, and not just for their jon and blablablah. If you ask me, his sopeech was a little too long... but his envore "Londonderry Air" made it (almost) up.

In between Ian Bousfields pieces, BB Willebroek had played another Wilfred Heaton piece, the SA classic march "Praise". For the last piece of the concert, the big organ in the conservatoire music hall was used for the finale of Camille Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony. it's a pitty though that this organ is not constructed very well, and much of the sound was lost in the concert hall. So the piece was not as spectacular as it could have been with a full power organ accompaning. Thebands encore was another march, caled "Jubilee March"

As a whole, I enjoyed the concert very much. Ian Bousfield's playing was simply amazing (how can he slide that fast???). The contest pieces weren't perfect yet, but all signs were there that Willebroek is almost ready for another great performance in two weeks time!

(*The Belgian National Championchips take place on the 28th November in Brussels. Five bands participate in the championchip section and they will perform the set test piece, Wilfred Heaton's Contest Music, and an own choice piece. Amongst the choosen pieces will also be Chivalry, Isaiah 40 and Les Preludes. The first section bands will play The Essence of Time and an own choice piece*)

Jan H
14.11.2004, 03:29
Sorry, I inteded to make a short review, but the text ended up much longer then intended :-?:shock:

TheMusicMan
14.11.2004, 09:43
Excellent write up Jan... many thanks for writing it for us. It is always interesting to read what goes on in banding outside the very blinkered UK... cheers!

Dave Payn
14.11.2004, 14:55
Well done Jan. As someone who looks for an excuse to review anything and everything, I appreciate hearing about band concerts from bands outside the UK. (What a truly internatonal forum tMP is!) I have to say, however, if I was the conductor, I'd have been deeply embarrassed by being stopped in a piece by the soloist and made to start a passage again! (Actually, I KNOW what that feels like! It's happened to me!). Still, as a conductor I'm nowhere near in Frans Violet's class!

All the same, you gave a thorough and detailed review of the concert.

Kind regards

Jan H
14.11.2004, 21:53
however, if I was the conductor, I'd have been deeply embarrassed by being stopped in a piece by the soloist and made to start a passage again! (Actually, I KNOW what that feels like! It's happened to me!). Well, Ian Bousfield made a little a joke about it (making some gestures and saying "I can play fast, but not THAT fast" with a funny face), so everybody in the public was wondering if it was really a mistake or if it was "part of the act". It was only after I sporke with some musicians I heard that it was the first thing. During the rehearsels, Mr. Bousfield had apparently told to the musicians that no band ever had been able to keep up with him in with BBoS... :shock:, especially in the part were he was madly accelerating and decelerating all the time.