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2022 RNCM Brass Band Festival
A catalyst flagship for the movement

Artistic Director, Paul Hindmarsh offers a curator's perspective on what will be on offer at the UK banding movement's most important festival of repertoire in January.


The RNCM hosts the Festival

Six outstanding brass bands, leading international guest soloists and student participation will celebrate major anniversaries as well as take a fresh look at familiar music at the RNCM Brass Band Festival on the weekend of the 28th-30th January.

And with the banding movement emerging slowly from its Covid-19 hiatus, it is a combination that feels like the catalyst for an artistic reawakening according to Artistic Director, Paul Hindmarsh as he gave an early preview of what is in store to 4BR.

Major performances

The festival will feature major performances from Black Dyke, Brighouse & Rastrick, Cory, Foden’s, Grimethorpe and Tredegar, as well as guest soloist’s Peter Moore and Rex Richardson and other major musical attractions.  

“After eighteen months of music making restricted to socially distanced or on-line activity, this feels very much like a new and exciting beginning,” he said.  

“I’ve been hugely impressed by the commitment and collaboration of the bands taking part at what will be a very busy start to the year – including the re-arranged 2021 British Open Championship.  

After eighteen months of music making restricted to socially distanced or on-line activity, this feels very much like a new and exciting beginning

However, that has enabled me to approach the curation of the 2022 Festival in such an enticing way - especially being able to link into artistic projects that the bands are currently recording or planning to create intriguing musical connections.”  


Artistic Director Paul Hindmarsh

Associations

Paul highlights an example of this with Black Dyke’s long-standing associations with composer’s Bruce Broughton, Philip Wilby and Peter Graham which has enabled the programming of three recent commissions.

‘Heroes’, used at the National Championship of Great Britain will feature alongside Wilby’s ‘Beethoven and The Light Fantastic’.

In addition, Peter Graham’s  ‘Master of Suspense’, commissioned by US trumpet virtuoso Rex Richardson, will be given a world premiere when he returns as guest soloist in the Saturday evening gala concert, thanks to the support of Yamaha. 


Welcome returnee - Prof David King will appear with Brighouse & Rastrick Band

Returnee

Another welcome festival returnee will be Brighouse & Rastrick principal conductor, Prof David King, making only his second appearance in 20 years.

Paul added: “To close the festival, Prof King has chosen a programme that sums up one of the threads running through the weekend - music founded on folk songs and hymn tunes, beloved both of brass bands and so many British composers of the 20th century.” 

This will see Brighouse perform Imogen Holst’s lively folk-dance based suite of 1929, ‘The Unfortunate Traveller’, Wilfred Heaton’s early meditation on Joseph Parry’s hymn  ‘Aberystwyth’ and end with Philip Wilby’s ‘classic’ score  ‘Paganini Variations’.

This will see Brighouse perform Imogen Holst’s lively folk-dance based suite of 1929, ‘The Unfortunate Traveller’, Wilfred Heaton’s early meditation on Joseph Parry’s hymn  ‘Aberystwyth’ and end with Philip Wilby’s ‘classic’ score  ‘Paganini Variations’.

Celebrating RVW150 and RSA100

In 1960 the Salvation Army published an exquisite, but rarely played  ‘Prelude on Randolph’ by Ray Steadman-Allen (1922 - 2014). 

2022 marks the centenary of his birth as well as the 150th anniversary of the birth of the composer of the hymn tune, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958), one of the great figures of English music of the 20th century. 


The festival will celebrate the music of Vaughan Williams

Various strands

Paul continued: “Celebrating RSA100 and RVW150 has provided me with a rich seam of invention to bind together the various strands of the weekend’s music making. 

Indeed, the festival has been designated as one of the major events in a year of celebration supported by the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust - RVW150. 

Items from Tredegar Band’s ‘Vaughan Williams on Brass’ project for Albion Records will offer fresh perspectives of some familiar pieces, with new performing editions and arrangements.”  

Paul explained that RVW founded his hugely influential creative voice on folk song, traditional dance and hymn tunes, which he and others, including Holst and Cecil Sharp, rescued from likely extinction during the early years of last century. 

Variations

‘Variations for Brass Band’ (1957) and the wind band work  ‘Toccata Marziale’ (1924) are the only band works by RVW not founded on traditional material. 

‘Variations for Brass Band’ will feature in Cory’s Sunday afternoon concert, in which Philip Harper will also conduct other notable examples of brass band variations from their acclaimed ‘Cornerstones’ project.

“I’ve long wondered whether Edmund Rubbra’s lovely 1958 National finals test piece  ‘Variations on The Shining River’ (1958) was inspired by RVW’s example,” he said.

“Certainly the variation form offers rich and varied pickings for any ‘curator’ of brass band concerts and Foden’s and Michael Fowles will be including the Rubbra in tribute to the former Band Manager, Alan Littlemore.” 

‘Variations for Brass Band’ will feature in Cory’s Sunday afternoon concert, in which Philip Harper will also conduct other notable examples of brass band variations from their acclaimed ‘Cornerstones’ project.


The festival will also celebrate the music of Ray Steadman-Allen

Exploration

In a welcome exploration, Paul Hindmarsh has shone a new light on Ray Steadman-Allen’s prolific output which has previously not travelled far outside the Salvation Army.

He added: “After he retired his creative skills were enjoyed by the wider brass band community through commissioned contest and concert works.

Within SA circles RSA was regarded as a musical adventurer, pushing the boundaries of hymn tune based music to the limits of contemporary tonal style. 

Within SA circles RSA was regarded as a musical adventurer, pushing the boundaries of hymn tune based music to the limits of contemporary tonal style. 

He was an eclectic stylist, highly skilled and versatile, whose music was always intended to convey a Christian message.

‘Hymn at Sunrise’ (to be played by Foden’s) is arguably his finest non-SA work, while his sinfonietta  ‘At the Edge of Time’ (Grimethorpe Colliery Band) is perhaps his most experimental poly-stylist work.

At the Cutting Edge

No RNCM Brass Band Festival would be complete without something more current or with a cutting edge to it in stylistic terms. 

On Sunday morning, Grimethorpe under David Thornton will feature its Composer in Association, Liz Lane, as well as the distinguished American composer Jack Stamp. 


Peter Moore will be one of the festival's featured soloists

Moore shift

Meanwhile, trombone star and Yamaha Artist Peter Moore will join Tredegar Band on Saturday afternoon to reprise  ‘Shift’, a 20-minute concerto commissioned for him by Paul Hindmarsh a decade ago from Cornish composer Simon Dobson. 

Paul added: “I’m also delighted that student ensembles from the RNCM will be presenting the final of the fifth John Golland Award for young composers.

Meanwhile, trombone star and Yamaha Artist Peter Moore will join Tredegar Band on Saturday afternoon to reprise  ‘Shift’, a 20-minute concerto commissioned for him by Paul Hindmarsh a decade ago from Cornish composer Simon Dobson. 

Revival

On Saturday morning the RNCM Brass Band will be reviving two substantial concert works; an engaging, colourful  ‘Piano Concerto’ by Bill Connor, which I well remember recording with soloist Kathryn Stott, and Sellars International Band with Phillip McCann 30 years ago.

This performance will mark a fresh start for this under-played work.” 


Errollyn Wallen's 'Chrome' will be featured

Paul is particularly delighted that Errollyn Wallen’s jazz inflected work  ‘Chrome’, which was initially commissioned by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and first performed under the baton of Elgar Howarth, is also making a welcome revival. 

Reappraisal and restoration

Other important works are also being given a welcome reprise – including Judith Bingham’s 1995 BBC commission  ‘Prague’ in celebration the composer’s 70th birthday, as well as  ‘These are our Footsteps’.


Fusions composer Howard Blake

Rare opportunity

There will also be a rare opportunity to recall  ‘Fusions’, the 1986 commission for the British Open Championship by composer Howard Blake, as Paul explained.

“To be frank, apart from a glorious flugel horn solo, ‘Fusions’ left many players and listeners underwhelmed. When Michael Fowles indicated that he’d like to include it in Foden’s festival opener, I got in touch with the composer, now in his mid 80s, to ask him about it. 

I knew that  ‘Fusions’ had been reworked from a Sinfonietta for symphonic brass dectet, but was totally unaware that Bram Gay, had based his brass band elaboration on a cut down version, which the composer was never happy with. 

I knew that  ‘Fusions’ had been reworked from a Sinfonietta for symphonic brass dectet, but was totally unaware that Bram Gay, had based his brass band elaboration on a cut down version, which the composer was never happy with. 

So, rather than play  ‘Fusions’, I volunteered to reshape the score as  ‘Sinfonietta for Brass Band’ (without percussion), removing the contest elaborations and restoring the substantial cut material. Foden’s is thrilled to be giving the work a ‘new beginning’.”

Catalyst

With a retrospective centenary appreciation to Malcolm Arnold, workshops discussions and a presentation by festival partners, Brass Bands England, Paul hopes that the 2022 RNCM Brass Band Festival will give a wonderful opportunity to enjoy major brass band repertoire encompassing different stylistic genres and time frames.

It's importance as a catalyst to the banding movement in the UK has never been more significant.

Iwan Fox

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