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Junior Guildhall Brass Band

Conductor: Spencer Down
Regent Hall
Friday 10th February

The Junior Guildhall Brass Band commenced this thoroughly engaging concert with the premiere of a new work by the school's ‘Composition Co-ordinator’, Jefferey Wilson. 

'Blow, Bugle Blow' takes its title from a line from the Tennyson poem 'The Splendour falls on castle walls', the text having previously been set by Benjamin Britten in his 'Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings'. The work consists of three contrasting movements, making use of appropriate bugle calls to show the role of the instrument in military life.

Service and sacrifice

'The Regiment' sets the scene whilst 'Trail Lances' depicts the manoeuvring of the formations. The lively 'Charge' portrays the battle, from mounting up through the advance and on to the charge itself, before a final coda commemorates the service and sacrifice of the troops.

The band really brought the music to life; with the mellow tones of the French horns contrasting with the clarion calls of the cornets. There was an interesting passacaglia in the middle movement, with the bass line set against solo lines with arabesques. Distant drums heralded the charge, with chromatic runs adding to the developing tension, together with the shift from compound to duple time.

Characterful quintet

Five of the younger players presented the 'Allegro Vivace' from Malcolm Arnold's 'Brass Quintet No 1', capturing the sense of fun, aided by the excellent work from the antiphonal trumpets. It was an accomplished reading that any group would have been proud of.

Will Thomas was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician Competition in 2014 and arranged one of his items from that programme for ten-piece brass ensemble. Taking up the flugel he gave a most impressive performance of Kurt Weill's 'My Ship' with a lovely sultry tone.

Impressive Mussorgsky

The remaining item was Elgar Howarth's transcription of 'Pictures at an Exhibition', something of a tour-de-force for any group, but quite an achievement for such a young group of performers. Their rendition was full of character; with a fruity tuba in 'The Old Castle' and menacing horns and tubas in 'Bydlo'. 

Special mention should be made of Clara Falkowska and Thomas Nielsen who made such a fine job of the key piccolo and Eb trumpet parts.

Peter Bale



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Mike Sheppard

B.A. (Hons) Music
Composer, conductor, teacher, author