Saturday 18th August
Cromwell Presbyterian Church Centre
St Kilda Brass
Conductor: Steve Miles
Soloist: Kevin Lefohn
The weekend just passed featured a number of unusual happenings the first of which was a Brass Band concert which I was fortunate enough to take in at the new Cromwell Presbyterian Church Centre given by the St Kilda Band. As the title of the evening’s concert suggests, the programme was almost entirely made up of orchestral transcriptions for Brass Band with many well known works featured.
The evening got underway with Aaron Copland’s popular Fanfare for the Common Man which was delivered with a real sense of purpose despite some slight imprecision in the percussion. A brief welcome by the conductor and the band were away again this time with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. This was played with a real sense of excitement and exuberance taken at a very slick pace which seemed to be comfortable for the band.
The second unusual event was to take place next and the band welcomed their soloist for the evening to the stage Kevin A Lefohn…a Violinist. What an unusual combination of instruments. I don’t think I was alone in thinking that the work about to be performed was going to be flawed with imbalance between the two forces. How wrong I was and there was not a moment that the soloist could not be heard. There has obviously been a lot of thought put into Concerto Burlesca, from the clever scoring of the composer Peter Adams to the sensitive refinement of the bands dynamic contrasts. The soloist delivered a flawless performance full of beauty, wit, style and emotion which from start to finish had the audience in the edge of their seats. Fully deserved of the extended ovation given, all involved in bringing this work to life should be congratulated. I particularly liked the beautiful bluesy sections of the middle movement and the jazz/rock fusion in the finale.
Given no time at all for mental recovery the band continued with Percy Grainger’s arrangement of the British Folk song Molly on the Shore. A very busy piece of music that was generally well played, there was however just the odd moment lacking in clarity.
The bands finale to the first half came in the form of Respighi’s Pine Trees of the Appian Way from the Pines of Rome Suite. This was one of the highlights of the evening as the band produced some very atmospheric moments which grew and grew and grew. I hope the roof is not in need of any repair!
The second half got underway with 3 movements from Holst’s suite The Planets. Mars was delivered with a real sense of menace followed by beautiful sounds in Venus which stared a number of the bands soloists in sensational form – particularly Soprano and Euphonium who’s parts demanded playing in extreme register. The final of the suite Jupiter got off to a messy start in the florid semiquaver lines but was rescued with some very joyful sounds through the middle of the band. The hymn section in the middle of this movement was a real feature and the band showed why they are the current Hymn Champions of New Zealand. I must say this movement did get a little bit heavy for my interpretation of jollity but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Some gentle reflective music next in the form of J.S Bach’s Arioso. This left the audience in a daze with some fine contributions from the Euphonium and Baritone line and some fantastic pianissimo playing by full band.
The third unusual event was to take place next with a Tuba Soloist playing a very difficult piece of Violin repertoire. How many Tuba players can actually play Vittorio Monti’s Czardas? Thankfully the soloist for evening was 10 time New Zealand Tuba Champion Nigel Seaton who definitely had the wow factor and quite rightly brought the large majority of the evenings audience to their feet at the conclusion of the performance with cheers and whistles! Superb!
Malcolm Arnold’s Padstow Lifeboat was the next piece on the programme which was given the light and humorous touches that it deserved before the grand finale Mussorgky’s Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition. Sensational stuff from a band in top form which left us all wanting more…and wait we will have to as no encore was given despite the standing ovation and whistling.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening full of great music which I sincerely hope will be repeated soon!
(Cromwell – Central Otago)
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