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BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Soloist Final:

The Brown Shipley Hall, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
Saturday 14th February

Richard Kidd, Andrew King, Katrina Marzella and Thomas Osborne
Accompanied by Black Dyke Band, Dr Nicholas Childs
Presented by Frank Renton

It was perhaps already destined in the stars that the first recipient of the BBC’s Young Brass Soloist of the Year would be of Scottish origin. The prize for the winner is to be the guest soloist at the European Brass Band Championships in Glasgow on May 1st.

Three of the four finalists as it turned out had Scottish connections, so the chances were always going to be high, and in the end, the competition was won by the newly crowned Scottish Youth and Senior Brass Champion, Katrina Marzella, the superbly talented baritone player from Whitburn Band.

The brain child of the competition came from LTTB’s producer, Al Booth, and her efforts were rewarded with a good number of entries from its inception last Summer, with eight semi finalists doing battle in January and everything coming down to this final four.

The packed hall was given an absolute treat with these superb finalists, who each played with great maturity in a closely contested final, which had some magnificent playing on show - but judges Rod Ranks and Alison Balsom were in no doubt that Katrina was the worthy winner.

Andrew KingTrombonist Andrew King will consider himself a touch unlucky not to have added the title to his two British Open Solo & Ern Keller awards. Andrew chose the first and third movements of Lars-Erik Larson’s "Concertino for Trombone" for his challenge for the title, and performed superbly. It was easy to identify very quickly why this man is such a quality player. A great tone, good ear, and real understanding of the music being performed, the young man was very relaxed, and if he was nervous, it did not show.

The music came alive, and such was the maturity of the performance, you forgot that despite having played for Marple and Leyland, he is still a young man, and yet it seems he has been around the banding scene a lot longer. Celebrating his 20th birthday the day after the final, it was only Katrina’s fantastic performance that stopped him taking the title.

Trumpet player, Thomas Osborne is currently studying at the RNCM in Manchester. The former Faireys player chose Edward Gregson’s "Prelude and Caprice" for his tilt at the title. The only non brass band instrumentalist in the final, this was yet another player of great maturity, and someone you could listen to all night. As with Andrew King, Thomas was cool, calm and collective, and enjoyed every minute of the chance of playing in front of a large audience, and being accompanied by Black Dyke. Thomas produced a bright, but controlled sound, and made his trumpet quite literally sing. Whatever this young man does, he certainly has a bright future, and like Andrew King, and the other finalist, Richard Kidd, will wonder what might have been on another day.

Euphonium player, Richard Kidd, chose "Zeibekikos" from Philip Wilby’s "Euphonium Concerto" and a shortened version of "Pantomine" by Philip Sparke as his offerings. Looking dapper in kilt, the young man, clearly had a lot of fun in the euphonium concerto. Composed for Robert Childs, "Zeibekikos" is not easy. The music is fast and furious, and only the bravest players would play it. Richard brought plenty of life into the music and communicated well with the audience. The shortened version of Sparke’s "Pantomine" produced a lovely sound from the Scotsman, and although his performance overall was not glitch free, he certainly seemed at ease, and on the outside, happy with his performance.

Katrina MarzellAnd so to Katrina Marzella. Following Andrew King on stage, the newly crowned Scottish Youth & Senior Brass Champion, gave members of Whitburn Band who had come to Manchester to support her, the perfect leaving present. Katrina is currently studying law at Glasgow University and was leaving for Australia the day after the competition as part of a university exchange programme.

Judges Rod Franks and Alison Balsom had no hesitation in awarding her the title. At the end of the competition, Rod and Alison told everybody assembled that the winner was chosen, due to her sound, sense of flair and the ability to communicate with the audience. This is something the twenty-year-old did in abundance. From the moment she commenced her programme with "Sun" by Bruce Fraser, Katrina captivated the audience with her playing, and how much enjoyment she was having. The music written by Bruce Fraser has plenty of African style rhythms within it, and it kept the music alive as well as entertaining.

Katrina certainly has a lovely tone, and having been crowned Scottish Schools Champion for five years in a row, is totally at ease when performing in public. In total contrast to ‘Sun’, Katrina closed her challenge with music from the pen of John Golland. ‘Peace’ is originally music for organ, but was arranged for euphonium for Faireys, and was the real moment of the instrumental solo final for this reviewer. The Whitburn player displayed her wonderful tone, and the slow, reflective piece of music demonstrated why this young lady is making a name for herself in the world of banding at the moment.

Anyone present in Glasgow in May where Katrina will be accompanied by a band she graced so well, (The National Youth Brass Band of Scotland) is in for a real treat. In addition, so is the Brisbane Excelsior Band and conductor Howard Taylor whom Katrina will play with whilst on her exchange programme.

Whilst the judges were making their decision, Black Dyke who had accompanied the soloists superbly all night, entertained the audience in a short programme. The band has just returned from a successful tour of Philadelphia and Bermuda and showed no signs of jet lag with a tribute to The Beatles in "Lady Madonna" and "The Cossack Wedding Dance" from "Call of the Cossacks". Flugel player, John Doyle performed a memorable rendition of "Children of Sanchez" before Dyke wrapped everything up with a lightening performance of Finale from Tchaikovsky’s "Symphony Number 4".

The night though belonged to Katrina Marzella and the smile on her face as she was presented with the trophy by Peter Fraser MBE will probably still be present when she arrives in Australia. Shocked at winning, the young lady certainly has a bright future in banding, and perhaps Whitburn conductor, Andrew Duncan might have a composition up his sleeve to commerate her achievements and showcase her versatility. One thing for sure, the BBC will be promoting the young lady at every opportunity they get over the next year.

Congratulations to all the finalists and to Al Booth, who came up with the idea and no doubt this event will be repeated next year. Highlights of the semi-finals are broadcast on BBC Radio 2 (www.bbc.co.uk/radio2) on Friday 20th/27th February, with the final being broadcast on Friday March 5th.

Malcolm Wood
Copyright 4BR

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