Fodens out to claim Four in a Row.
What a week it’s been for the Fodens Courtois Band. The number
one ranked band in the UK have been coming to terms with losing
their sponsors, the instrument makers Courtois SA and Fred Rhodes
Ltd and still have had to concentrate on trying to win the North
West Regional Championships for a fourth consecutive time. Whatever
the outcome on Sunday at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, Fodens future
seems to be more than a little “jazzed up” at the moment.
Whatever the precarious nature of their immediate future, the current
band stands as one of the strongest ensembles in the country at
present and has just been feted for their extraordinary performance
at the Royal Northern College of Music where they gave an exhilarating
account of Edward Gregson’s “Trumpets of the Angels” – an amazing
piece of brass writing that requires seven trumpet soloists performing
quasi cadenzas of ever more breathtaking virtuosity.
The current band therefore are on a high, and under the baton of
James Gourlay will surely be one of the favourites to lift not only
the North West title, but the National title come November. As the
band came third at the Nationals in 2000, they are automatically
qualified for this years Finals, but the urge to equal the record
of the great CWS Manchester of winning four area titles in a row
will spur them on.
Bramwell Tovey has been engaged to conduct the band at the Finals,
but James Gourlay has been specifically brought in for the Area,
not only because he has already tasted success on the test piece,
Jazz, when he led Williams Fairey to victory at the All England
Masters in 1997, but because he is a master conductor – one who
brings a musicality to everything he wags his baton (or pencil in
his case) at.
The band have recovered from losing Nicholas Childs to Black Dyke
to such an extent that they have already won last years Brass in
Concert title under the direction of Ray Farr, and were considered
by many to be very unlucky in not winning both the British Open
and National Championships under Bram Tovey last year.
Fodens are accustomed to taking bad luck in large doses however,
and their record of successes of just one National title in over
40 years and no British Open win since 1964 has been scant reward
for a band that has at times been as brittle as they are brilliant.
The Howard Snell years saw the band continually cast as the bridesmaid
at the two major contests, even though winning the Masters and European
seem to come so much easier. Today, they set out on yet another
musical adventure under an equally talented conductor – perhaps
Sunday will be the start of a new era of unprecedented success.
The current band line up is as follows:
Mark Wilkinson – nearly ten years on the end now and rightly regarded
as one of the safest top men in the business.
Peter Coulson, Tim Walters and Mike Eccles – a very strong team
indeed. Will miss Colin Short who has gone on the back row for the
Area as the “old head”.
Alan Wycherly – “The Prince” of sop players seems to have been given
an extra lease of life since joining from Leylands – a quite brilliant
Morven Gilchrist – one of the most talented young cornet players
around – could be the star of the day playing the difficult rep
Maureen Cameron, Laura Littler, Nick Lees and Colin Short – top
class bunch – very strong blowing section.
Helen Fox – has made a big impression since joining from Marple
where she was a fine Principal Cornet .
Rob Fulcher, Helen Gilder and Andy Howard- Smith – an underrated
section . Rob Fulcher has been around a long time and has been a
very consistent performer. Good back up below as well.
Glyn Williams and Neil Jackson. Glyn is a quite outstanding player
on solo euph as well as any other instrument you care to mention
following his virtuoso performance at last years Brass in Concert.
Gets good back up from Neil Jackson ex Ever Ready below him.
Steven Parsons and Bryan Hurdley. – yep that’s right. Bryan Hurdley,
resident conductor and occasional second baritone – sectionals would
have been interesting.
John Barber, Peter Taylor and Toby Bannon – quality players all.
John Barber should enjoy the piece as he excels in the jazz medium.
Toby Bannon is a great Bass Trom – nice guy too.
Phil Green, Toby Hobson, Dean Morley and Brett Wharton – the best
bass end around – and have been for some time. Phil Green is a high
class player and leader, whilst Toby Hobson and Brett Wharton are
top players in their own right The star is “Deano” though – the
best Bb tuba player, larger drinker, comic turn and committed bandsman
in the world catch one of his unique performances if you can!
Mark Landon, Chris Hall, Adam Smith and Chris Bastock – as good
a team as any, and one that has overcome the departure from regular
playing of Simone Rebello with some style.
James Gourlay – the most musically eloquent conductor currently
plying his trade in the banding world at the moment. Idiosyncratic
but always elegant – his readings of test pieces are always interesting
and invariably successful. A man to watch and a band to listen to.