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Take 5
Highlights from the 2024 RNCM International Brass Band Festival

Five things that caught the imagination and gained deserved acclaim at the recent RNCM International Brass Band Festival in Manchester.

Five things that caught the imagination and gained deserved acclaim at the recent RNCM International Brass Band Festival in Manchester. 




Dr David Thornton makes his mark

It was always going to be a daunting task following Paul Hindmarsh as Artistic Director of the most important showcase event in the UK banding calendar, but David Thornton has already made his mark.

The collegiate ethos that he now heads worked exceptionally well, the relationship with the bands, conductors and soloists clearly defined, ambitious and supportive.

The decision to make this a true contemporary international brass festival has also proved to be a significant endorsement of his and the RNCM’s future vision for the event (as was the obvious increase in ticket sales).

It was noted that there was a multi-lingual buzz about the chats heard in the bar before and after performances.

It was noted that there was a multi-lingual buzz about the chats heard in the bar before and after performances.

He, and his team deserved the plaudits as much as those who performed.


Treize Etoiles the stars

There were many highlights to enjoy in every concert and event this year – but none more so than those provided by the European and double Swiss National Champion, Brass Band Treize Etoile led by Frederic Theodoloz.

Their intelligently curated programme certainly offered the chance to shine – but it was the way in which they blazed with lustrous brilliance from first note to last will have left a lasting impression on those lucky enough to have heard them live (and the Wobplay highlights will surely do the same).

A young band led by an inspirational conductor, the precision, virtuosity, balance, tonal depth and dynamic variance was as good as anything heard here over the years. 

A young band led by an inspirational conductor, the precision, virtuosity, balance, tonal depth and dynamic variance was as good as anything heard here over the years. 

It was also a rather sober reminder to others ahead of the European Championships in Palanga and the British Open in Birmingham in September that they will have to significantly up their game if they are to stop them adding yet more silverware to keep in their Swiss bank vault.


Youth takes a deserved bow 

Although the focus of critical attention was very much on the featured elite level bands over the weekend, there was also a great deal to admire about the excellent contributions of others.

The RNCM Brass Band once again performed with a fine level of musical maturity on a demanding and varied programme (with a special mention for conductor Benjamin Voce and the members of Rosamund Brass and the Salford Quays Brass Quartet at the Festival Prelude), whilst their sibling Junior RNCM Brass Band also provided a great deal to enjoy with their Saturday afternoon set.

Meanwhile, the Grimethorpe Youth Band was a delight – and a real marker for what can be achieved when you harness enthusiasm and expertise together.

Meanwhile, the Grimethorpe Youth Band (above) was a delight – and a real marker for what can be achieved when you harness enthusiasm and expertise together.

It was also good to hear the promotion of young compositional talent too – and from voices with individuality and character in developing their craft. Hopefully they will all be encouraged to write more for the medium without restraint.


Repertoire and interests

Paul Hindmarsh’s Artistic Direction not only greatly expanded the scope of the repertoire performed at the festival over the years, but it was always balanced with a liberal sprinkling of ‘classics’.

That was maintained once more under David Thornton’s curation – the ‘featured composers’ of Oliver Waespi and Dorothy Gates providing foundation stones with works of seriousness and insight, whilst the plethora of world premieres also included a fine mix of the exciting, enticing and occasionally enigmatic.


What now...

How do you follow such an encouraging and liberating start to a new era? 

There is little doubt that the five UK bands of Foden’s, Tredegar, Black Dyke, Cory and Brighouse & Rastrick currently embrace the sense of musical vision that the festival seeks to promote to the widest possible audience.

The ability to be able to attract a world class soloist of the calibre of Mattias Hofs (above) to perform was also a significant mark of the respect and relevance the festival is held in be those in the wider professional brass playing world.

If that can be built on further (perhaps a major international soloist with each band?) as well as the regular appearance of a band from outside the UK and valuable additional conference style events and talks, the future appeal of the festival will not merely be international but truly global. 

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Boarshurst Silver Band - Sunday Brass Concert - Phoenix Brass

Sunday 28 July • Boarshurst Band Club, Greenbridge Lane OL3 7EW


Dobcross Silver Band - Milnrow Band

Sunday 28 July • Dobcross Band Club. Platt Lane. Dobcross. Saddleworth. Oldham OL3 8AD


Regent Brass - 'Brass on the Grass' at Westminster Abbey

Wednesday 14 August • Great Peter House, Abbey Gardens, 2 Great College St, London SW1P 3SE


Boarshurst Silver Band - BOARSHURST HYMN AND MARCH CONTEST

Sunday 1 September • Boarshurst Band Club, Greenbridge Lane OL3 7EW


Contest: 170th British Open

Saturday 7 September • Broad Street, Birmingham. B1 2EA


Chinnor Silver

July 23 • Require a Bass player (Bb or Eb), Bass trombone, Soprano cornet and Percussionist. We are a friendly, ambitious 2nd section band that will start 2025 at the top of their Regional league table. We are located in South Oxfordshire and have our own bandroom in Chinnor


Linthwaite Band

July 23 • We are a 4th section contesting Band, based on the outskirts of Huddersfield, and we currently have a vacancy for a tenor trombone, to complete our friendly team.


Thoresby Colliery Band

July 22 • Thoresby Colliery Band are inviting applications for a Baritone player.. We are at the top of tables for the 1st section Midlands Area, with a sensible calendar of concerts and contests.


Derek Renshaw

ABBA Member
Conductor, Band Trainer and Adjudicator.


               

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