Black Dyke Band
Conductor - Nicholas Childs
First Concert as Band in Residence at the Royal Northern College of Music
January 18th 2002
This was the Black Dyke
Band's first concert in residence at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester:
with the emphasis very much on new, original music. In fact, they featured three
The evening started with a typical "Dyke" performance
of William Walton's 'Crown Imperial' - broad, noble and with the basses leading
the band through crescendos and phrases. This the 100th year since Walton's birth
and this will not be the last time that his music is aired this year. It made
for a very solid start to a busy evening's work for the band.
of the premieres offered was Michael Ball's 'A Cambrian Suite'. Nicholas Childs
was particularly pleased to present this three-movement suite of traditional Welsh
tunes. This intricate but accessible music will prove a welcome addition to the
concert repertoire of Championship and 1st Section bands while providing an enjoyable
test piece for outfits in the lower section. There were many opportunities to
demonstrate warm, fluid playing through the solo lines and Micheal Ball's stamp
of lyrical ensemble lines made for easy listening. The Welsh have all the best
Roger Webster was the first of two soloists on the night and had
chosen a substantial work to showcase his abilities. He performed the little-heard
work by Torstein Aagaard Neilson - Concerto for Cornet and Brass Band. This performance
underlined his reputation as possibly the world's finest cornet player at the
moment in a work that explores areas of technique and musicianship that only players
of the highest class can accommodate. There were some breathtaking moments from
the soloist - especially the way he moved around the instrument and demonstrated
power and precision throughout the range. The fifteen minute work culminated in
a valve glissando to a high Eb (are we right Roger?!) which was pin point accurate
and rang like bell. Class indeed.
The playing throughout the piece also
saw Dyke in good ensemble mode with the offstage players executing their parts
with precision and balance from the Concert Hall gallery and the middle of the
band adding warmth and texture. A first rate performance all round.
would expect from a concert of this nature, there were a number of famous composers,
conductors and players present: James Gourlay, Michael Ball, Peter Graham, David
King and some YBS principal players, Martin Ellerby, Richard Evans to name a few.
Amongst these names was Phillip Wilby, who was present to introduce his new work
Dr Wilby explained that the work was in "Concerto Grosso"
form and took inspiration from the book of Psalms - "They that go down to
the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters, These men see the
works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep". This work is to be used at
the forthcoming All England Masters Championship in May, and this incredibly difficult
composition will leave some bands wanting. It will require a band with a line
up of top rate soloists (those YBS players present, listening with interest!)
as well as a band that can extend its technical capabilities to the very limit
that will be amongst the honours at Cambridge. Musical Directors will be having
cold sweats in trying to master this one.
It's unfair to comment whether
the piece will enter the Pantheon of "Greats" from the pen of Dr. Wilby
on hearing just this single performance, but it does seem to have a great deal
going for it. Well done the "Masters" for the choice. It's perhaps also
unfair to single out any individuals in a performance containing so many high
quality soloists but special mention must go to John Doyle for his difficult Flugel
cadenza and Ben Rapp's offstage repiano solo. Both added great distinction to
a pretty stunning performance.
The third premiere, "The Alchemists Journal" took its place in the 2nd
half of the programme. For us, the work did not seem to live up to the introduction
and programme notes provided by Kenneth Hesketh, who was present. However, due
to the quality that he has produced in the past, this work certainly deserves
at least a second hearing to fully appreciate what Mr Hesketh was trying to achieve.
It was for us a valiant attempt to make gold from base metal.
minor disappointment came in the form of Salvationist composer Ray Steadman-Allen's
'The Eternal Quest', performed by Brett Baker. As usual, Brett Baker performed
with his usual style and conviction but there were too many times when the band,
soloist and conductor seemed to be disagreeing on tempo and phrasing, resulting
in some messy moments. There was however some exquisite pp playing from band and
soloist in the central movement that introduced the hymn tune theme and Brett
Baker continues to enhance his already formidable reputation.
The 2nd half
started with the unfamiliar 'Agincourt Song' and finished with Boellman's 'Suite
Gothique' that is now a central part of Dyke's concert repertoire. They offered
one encore in the form of JJ Richards quick march "The Waltonian", which
to be honest wasn't really needed and seemed out of place after the gourmet offerings
on the menu. Still a great night's quality entertainment from the National Champions.
the Black Dyke Band demonstrated why the are amongst the finest: there was more
than enough brilliant playing from both individuals and ensemble to keep the large
and knowledgeable audience happy and to keep filling concert halls (just about
on this occasion) and enables Dyke to pioneer new works. With the recent rediscovery
of contest form as well, it could prove to be a momentous year for Nicholas Childs
and the band. A late entry to the Masters perhaps?
John is currently 21 years old. His musical background has been within
the Salvation Army. He is a member of the Castleford Citadel Band in Yorkshire
on Flugel and one one of the conductors of the 40 strong Yorkshire Area Youth
Band. His trips to the summer schools have allowed to him to play under Stephen
Cobb, Keith Wilkinson, William Himes and other SA leading conductors and musicians.
He has an active interest in music as a whole, particularly the playing and performances
of the best championship bands and orchestral brass groups.
John is employed
with a large European paper merchant on the Inside sales team and lives with his
family near Leeds. Other than music, his hobbies are playing football and watching
Leeds Utd (we've got a young side but we're not dirty!)