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Black Dyke Band

2018 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Featuring: Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus
Conductors: Prof Nicholas Childs & Darius Battiwalla
Soloist: Peter Moore
RNCM Manchester
Saturday 27th January

Black Dyke’s eagerly awaited appearance drew a near capacity audience to the RNCM Concert Hall to hear a trio of world premieres alongside three major test-pieces and a solo performer who stunned them into a state of sublime submission.

Inspiration came from journeys of endeavour, both spiritual and physical, as well as explorations of the allegorical complexities borne of the human condition. 

‘Journey into Freedom’ was as close as Eric Ball ever got to protest - a cultured expression of distaste for 1960s materialism, technology and moral ambiguities.

Prof Childs captured his elegant astringency in a driven interpretation of daunting bluntness and violence, before revealing its emotional core of transition to end in a triumphantly humane apotheosis.


It was followed by Peter Moore as the Chandleresque protagonist in ‘Radio City’- giving an incredible performance not even Humphrey Bogart could have bettered. 

This was film-noir dripping with seedy intrigue; a dame in a haze of perfume called trouble telling tales to a whisky soaked private-eye who solved cases with a belly hunch and a snub nosed revolver on his hip. 

Philip Marlow could have walked into the hall to take a bow and nobody would have been surprised. 

This was film-noir dripping with seedy intrigue; a dame in a haze of perfume called trouble telling tales to a whisky soaked private-eye who solved cases with a belly hunch and a snub nosed revolver on his hip. 

Emotive journey

Paul Mealor’s ‘Paradise’ was an engrossing interpretation of Dante’s poetic allegory of the pilgrimage of the soul. 

Darius Battiwalla led an emotive journey; from the realms of evil to an eventual glorious affirmation of Christian faith, richly textured in its questioning search of an eternal life bathed in ‘supreme light’. 

Not for a moment did Mealor lose sight of his goal, the text of the Requiem Mass bolstered by the subtly crafted writing for the band.   

Sense of epiphany

A triptych of major works featured after the break; opening with an affectionately characterised take on Robert Farnon’s under-rated ‘Un Vie de Matelot’  followed by the world premiere of Peter Graham’s ‘New York Movie’ - a companion piece to ‘Radio City’ inspired by the paintings of American artist Edward Hopper, a stoic realist who brought his own deeply personal sense of epiphany to the most mundane elements of  'Big Apple' life.

Graham framed seven short scenes - each a fleeting glance at his most famous works, with a perceptive sense of the amalgam Hopper created between people and their everyday surroundings - from the famous Nighthawk diners to the bleak solitude of his wife sat on a bed in the morning sun. 

An engrossing concert of musical intensity closed with a visceral performance of ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ - one that had a central ‘Elegy’ of stunning limpid liquidity featuring Zoe Hancock on flugel and Peter Moore on trombone and spell-binding final bars that that paid homage to ‘Checkmate’ in slaughterhouse blood and guts.  

Iwan Fox 

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Brett Baker

BSc (Hons), ARCM, PG Dip
Rath clinician, conductor, teacher, adjudicator, editor