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Music Review - Releases from Jagrins Music Publications

Jagrins Music Publications is a small family music company that is owned by the brass band conductor and arranger Gareth Pritchard and his immediate family. Gareth Pritchard is a name familiar to those in the movement; first from his days as a very fine solo cornet player with bands such as Rigid Containers and Fairey Engineering as well as British Cornet Solo Champion, but latterly as a conductor who has worked with considerable success both in the UK and abroad. In May he conducted the East Yorkshire Services Band to victory in the Senior Cup and in the past has directed bands such as Besses O'th' Barn, Bodmin and in Norway, Sandefjord - whom he directed to the Norwegian National title.

In his "pre brass band life" he worked as an "Inkie" - the Fleet Street name for a professional printer, and the combination of high-class musician and latter day William Caxton, led him to set up his successful business.

In the past few months he has concentrated on bringing to publication a growing number of new and original works from many of today's talented and somewhat undiscovered brass band composers as well as delving into the archives and exhuming the great arrangements of the colossus of brass banding writing and arranging, Alexander Owen.

We were sent a small number of these arrangements from the new Jagrins Catalogue, which features a growing number of releases. We've cast our eye over them and think that Gareth Pritchard has possibly set new standards in presentation and format as well as quality in terms of the finished product.

The first music we got our hands on was the score and parts of Alexander Owen's 1906 composition, "Around the World" - a fine sounding march which was written for Besses O' th' Barn for their World Tour of the same year. The music itself is a little bit of a cheat, as Owen in fact wrote it as a march entitled "The President" - in honour of Theodore Roosevelt and renamed it "Around the World" after it was performed in the great mans presence. Owen was never a man to waste a good idea.

It is a quick step march very much of it's time - difficult but playable for today's bands, and as always with Owen's music, it has some lovely little touches that make it rather better than the average run of the mill marches. A good quality band will manage it well, but it will take a good quality band to make it sound very good.

The second work is also a march - although this time it is one written by a young man who has a great future ahead, rather great past behind him. "Eccleston March" is set in 6/8 time signature and is a short and neat bit of writing from Stuart Pullin. Aimed at lower section bands, it gives a new and welcome twist on the traditional "Punchinello" style of march, that for younger bands can be very difficult to make come off. It isn't too hard, but the scoring is full and there is plenty of interesting work for all concerned. The Trio moves back into 2/4 time signature before a return into compound time to finish - so it will take a bit of work to capture thee right style and feel. Good stuff though.

The third piece we looked at is the euphonium solo "Che Gelida Manina" or for those of you without a degree in cod Italian, "Your Tiny Hand is Frozen" from the famous Puccini opera, "La Bohme". Old Rudolfo catches the young and beautiful Mimi at the café and as she drops her key, he clasps her hand and sings the immortal words - with plenty of good ol' Italian emotion.

Gareth Pritchard has given us a very faithful rendition of the aria and had ensured that the technical demands are well within the scope of a competent player. However, it will take a player with a very musical brain to make the most of the flowing emotion charged melody lines - again faithfully reworked by following the libretto. Careless breathing in the wrong place will ruin the effect, so the arranger has thoughtfully ensured that the phrase lines are clearly delineated. The use of mutes in the accompaniment give colour and don't subdue things, so there will be a need for some tuneful band playing to add to the effect.

The piece also comes in a Bb cornet solo form, and although this is just as good, it is the euphonium (in good hands that is) that will give the most accurate rendition of this famous tenor solo. All those budding Pavarotti's please stand up!!!

"Danse Baccanale" from Samson and Dalila by Saint Saens is a famous old pot boiler and has been subject to any number of good, bad and indifferent arrangements over the years. Gareth Pritchard once more remains faithful to the original and gives the conductor the opportunity from the start to feature either his solo cornet or soprano player in the famous recitativo cadenza. (Whoever fits the bill best, as the wayward hairdresser should go for it!). Although not tremendously difficult the music is well planned out and gives plenty of work to all sections of any band.

Some will find some of the sections tougher than others, but all are well within the capabilities of a good quality outfit - as long as they don't go for it tempo wise too soon. It has a lovely lilt in the "Belly Dance" section and the players will enjoy getting into the mood. Lots of colourful writing and arranging means that the excitement is maintained not just through speed alone and the finish will set the pulses pumping.

"That's Brass" was originally written for the BTM bands 10-piece brass ensemble - a very successful outfit, and is a fast swing item based on a series of linked melodies that are underpinned by a "walking bass" theme. It is a super bit of writing from the pen of Mark Hutcherson, the former British Solo Champions and very fine euphonium player of the BTM band, and will be a hit with audiences as it is jaunty, happy and infectious piece. Not difficult technically, it will come off best if the players and MD get into the "swing" - if they do, then it will become perhaps their most popular concert item of the year.

"Sinfonietta" by Leos Janacek is a different kettle of fish altogether - Janacek isn't regarded as a laugh a minute composer by any means, but his "Sinfonietta" has proved a very popular opener for bands - this arrangement by Gavin Pritchard was used by Besses when they performed at the Brass in Concert Contest at Spennymoor in November 2000. It will take some playing to perform well though, with all 9 cornets parts written separately (so no room for a weak player anywhere), three troms and a timp player who knows what they are doing. If it is done well it's a cracker - and this arrangement helps with clear lines for the MD and players to follow and understand their importance in the ensemble. It's not all about just standing there and blasting away - it's so much more than that, and if you stick to the neat score, you could find yourselves with a starter to really make the audience sit up and listen.

Finally, the great arrangement of "Rossini's Works" by Alexander Owen. Much has been said of this almost mythical work over the years, and it is a great achievement that it has been brought to life in such a fine way by the publishers. Around 20 minutes in length, it has been cleverly and sensibly arranged so that it can either be played in its entirety or broken into three equally fulfilling parts. The Opus is a fine collection, or selection as it was called and is delightfully crafted. Again, a good quality band will make a very good job of playing the music in whatever form it chooses and although the technical demands are there, a band prepared to work at the music will be amply rewarded.

The tricky cornet solo from the famous "William Tell" bit is not included so Principal Cornets of a nervous disposition can sigh with relief, but thee is more than enough to satisfy the players, conductors and audience alike. A great addition from a great old master.

We are very impressed by the releases on offer from Jagrins - neat, not too clever and all with the audience of music lover in mind. The players will enjoy them too, as they set out to test rather than humiliate. The biggest joy however is the standard of the workmanship on display in the presentation. Dr. David King no less seemed pretty pleased when he had a gander, announcing, "Exceptional presentation and score lay….". We have to agree, with these scores being the best bit of "dry knackering" we have ever come across. (the art of writing scores and parts).

The layout is very easy to follow, with the print large enough to make the technical aspects clear and the flowing lines of phrase markings making things just about idiot proof. There are very welcome insert notes as well, which give the MD some idea about what the music is about - a boon when they have to stand up in front of an audience and explain the pieces!

Excellent stuff all round then from the Welshman - not forgetting an old master and a few young guns!

For further details about these releases and others, please contact:

New Music Review
Jagrins Music Publications
180 Edgeley Road,

Tel: 0161 718 6627
E Mail: jagrins.musicpublications@ntlworld.com

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