A Christmas Greeting21-Dec-2012
The Guards Brass Band
Conductors: Major Simon Haw & Lt Col Stuart Watts
Featuring: Bones Apart
Regent Hall, London
Saturday 15th December 2012
The Guards Brass Band has its origins in a group formed for the Whit Friday contests under the name of Ebury Brass.
Public performances are limited due to other commitments, but they recently provided the accompaniment for Roger Webster’s solo recording ‘My Heroes’.
Here they fielded a full brass band line-up including five basses, with one civilian helper deputising on horn due to last-minute illness, with one undoubted point of interest seeing various people on unfamiliar instruments – cornet players on horn, bass trombone covering BBb bass etc.
Bright and balanced
Stephen Bulla’s ‘Proclamation of Christmas’ made an effective opener, displaying the band’s bright, well-balanced sound. Although Stuart Watts was later to comment on the lively acoustic making everything sound on the loud side it didn’t seem to bother the appreciative audience.
They followed with ‘A Christmas Carol’, compiled by Philip Littlemore from Christmas settings by Nigel Hess, a composer particularly active in the field of film and TV music.
The trombone quartet Bones Apart are no strangers to Regent Hall, having appeared on a couple of occasions as part of the annual Brass Arts Festival.
After a sparkling rendition of ‘Troika’, they continued with three contrasting carol arrangements, ‘Patapan’, ‘Coventry Carol’ and ‘Gaudete’ before completing their opening slot with extracts from the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ – with the Spanish style Mazurka ‘Chocolate’, ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ and a stunning ‘Trepak’ taken at breakneck speed.
Percussion to the fore
Rodney Newton’s arrangement of ‘Gaudete’ saw the percussion section in particular producing sterling work – not often you hear a melody split between timpani and tubular bells!
‘The Little Drummer Boy’ in the style of a military patrol came across well, and the audience joined in heartily in ‘Hark the Herald’. Light relief came with the reading of ‘Children’s Christmas in Scunthorpe’ before the first half ended with Stephen Bulla’s ‘A Christmas Suite’.
Touch of humour
A measured rendition of ‘The Carollers’ opened the second half, followed by ‘Dance of the Goblets’ from ‘Swan Lake’, arranged by Keith Manners, a former director of the Essex Police Band, which Stuart Watts gleefully informed the audience was not a silver band or a brass band, but a copper band!
Bones Apart returned with a vigorous version of ‘Il est ne’ and a sensitive account of Peter Warlock’s carol ‘Bethlehem Down’. An attractive item by Arthur Sullivan in the style of a Victorian parlour song preceded two arrangements by Roger Trigg, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’ - the latter somehow managing to conjure up the effect of a full big-band from the four players.
Kenneth Downie’s somewhat melancholy setting of ‘Bleak Mid Winter’ was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the evening, with its spare textures and distinctive harmonic shifts. ‘Carol of the Bells’ and ‘Christmas Greeting’ preceded more audience participation in ‘O Come all the Faithful’.
There was some nicely sustained playing in ‘O Magnum Mysterium’, with an impressive sound when the whole band entered.
Joseph Turrin’s ‘Rhapsody Noel’ was dropped from the programme, but Mark Freeh’s setting of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ drew proceedings nicely to a close.
Carlton Brass Nottingham 1st section require the following players to complete its line up . . Tenor Trombone . . Bass Trombo...
Scouthead & Austerlands Whit Friday Contest
Venue: Dawsonâ€™s Field, off A62 Huddersfield Road, Scouthead, Saddleworth, Oldham OL4 4AS
South London Fellowship Band
Venue: Mini Tour (4th June to 7th June 2013).. See 'Concert details'.. Further information to follow.