Festive Brass and Voices


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From today's Yorkshire Post:

Festive Brass and Voices
Ripon Cathedral, Saturday 14th December 2002
featuring: The Harrogate Band, Lucy Rhodes (BBC Radio 2 Choirgirl of the Year 2002), & York St. John Chamber Choir


Concert Reviewed by Neil Richmond:

In the fine setting of Ripon Cathedral, The Harrogate Band presented a concert of Festive Brass and Voices with the their guests Lucy Rhodes, BBC Radio 2 Choir Girl of the Year 2002 and the York St. John Chamber Choir. With such an array of musicians, the audience was treated to an excellent programme of widely differing music.

David Lancaster, Musical Director of The Harrogate Band used the generous acoustics of the cathedral to great effect with players being moved to various parts of the nave and side aisles to produce unusual aural effects.

The evening began with the band playing an arrangement of "Gaudete", and an excellent seasonal march "Christmas Joy" by Eric Leidzen.

In their first group of songs the Chamber Choir sang three Christmas works from the 17th century composer Samuel Scheidt to two from the 20th century composers, Peter Warlock and John Tavener. The choir under their conductor Ralph Bateman produced a pleasing well-placed sound. The choir was some distance from the audience yet they projected well and their diction was very clear.

The main work of the first half was "Kingdom Triumphant" by Eric Ball, a fine work in the strong tradition of Salvation Army composers. The centenary of Eric Ball’s birth is next year when I am sure many of his works will be performed, celebrating this great composer’s life and work. This piece was ideal for the band in order to display its full sound and the acoustics of the cathedral.

Lucy chose two well-known songs for her first group, Michael Head’s lovely setting of "The Road to Bethlehem" and "Panis Angelicus". Each was beautifully sung showing Lucy’s clear voice, well projected and with the band carefully modulating their accompaniment.

To close the first half the band played two pieces, the first an original work by the band’s Musical Director, "The Ripon Jewel". This was named after the famous medieval jewel and also the new ale commissioned by the cathedral for their preservation fund. For this the cornets were placed in various parts of the cathedral giving various antiphonal effects most effectively, using plainsong and folk dance material. The second piece in the final group was Bach’s "Toccata in D minor", after a full opening sound, some of the toccata patterns were unfortunately lost in the lofty expanse of the cathedral when the tempo increased.

The second half began with the band contributing two pieces, "Vitae Lux", with good work from flugel horn Lynne Stobbart and Principal cornet Robert Illsley and "Three Kings Swing", an upbeat arrangement with repiano cornet Neil Davidson producing the solo work.

The choir sang "Autumn Leaves", "’S Wonderful" and "Night and Day", all excellent arrangements in which the college singers produced real feeling for this style of music. "Cartoon Music" by Peter Graham gave the band a chance to relax with this excellent fun piece allowing the first trombone and percussion to play their Tom and Jerry roles.

From the "Snowman", Howard Blake’s song "Walking in the Air" was Lucy’s next choice along with Harold Darke’s wonderful setting of "In the Bleak Midwinter", again lovely singing, thoroughly enjoyed by the large audience, who I am sure were thrilled to hear Lucy so soon after winning the BBC Radio Competition.

To close the concert "Christmas Fantasy" by Gordon Langford brought soloist, choir and band together in a typical work by this composer. This seasonal concert was very enjoyable and fully appreciated by this discerning audience.

Neil Richmond

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