CD cover - A Golden YearA Golden Year


Black Dyke Band
Conductor: Dr. Nicholas Childs
Doyen Recordings: DOY205
Total Playing Time: 75.45

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2005 was indeed a golden year for Black Dyke, although in contesting retrospect it was fashioned more in 18 carat than pure 24 carat aurum.

The 150th year celebrations brought many memorable events, and a many truly memorable performances. Given the heightened nature of expectancy surrounding the anniversary it was a magnificent achievement on behalf of Nicholas Childs and his players to end the year as British Open and European Champions, as well as runners up at the National Championships of Great Britain and the Yorkshire Regional Championships. In addition they also provided audiences the length and breadth of country with a year long celebration of concerts that at times were invariably breathtaking and only occasionally were anything other than highly polished and very professional.  This release celebrates both.

Four of the items are of the contest stage: ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth', ‘Extreme Make-over', ‘The Night to Sing' and ‘Eden'. The other, ‘Northern Lights' was the fulcrum musical contribution, which formed the centerpiece to many of their most high profile concerts – an intoxicating musical portrait through modern dance and elegiac brass composition.

The test pieces are given three excellent studio performances and one memorable ‘live' recording.

'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' is a musical adventure story from the pen of Peter Graham that was commissioned by the band for their own choice selection at the 2005 European Championships. There it literally brought the house down with its exotic mix of atmosphere and musicality, and with this performance you can hear why.

That European premiere was bedeviled by the awful acoustic at the Dutch venue, but here on the safe limestone foundations of Morley Town Hall, Dyke burrow deep into the heart of the music and deliver a thoroughly exciting account of Professor Lidenbrock's journey to the core of the planet. The result is a thumper of a performance – from the spookiness of the opening right through to the awesome battle of the Jurassic plesiosaurus and ichthyosaurus and the final whirlwind ascent up the spout of the Stromboli volcano. It really is as exciting Jules Verne's book, which incidentally was published just nine years after Dyke became an all brass ensemble.    

'Extreme Make-over' caused a great deal of fevered debate when news first leaked that part of the work required players to perform on bottles as the composer Johan de Meij metamorphosed Tchaikovsky's second movement from his String Quartet No1 in D.  In the end the fuss became redundant as de Meij's wonderful score entranced the audience and silenced the critics.

This is a fantastic piece of brass and percussion (and wind, if you like) writing. The kaleidoscopic changes in musical form never lose the elemental germs of the original quartet, whilst the ten tuned bottles allied to brilliant percussion work provide a surreal gamelan bridge between the two major brass explorations. Dyke are on top form here, with the major solo players giving their all and the MD coaxing every last drop of inspiration out of the ensemble to back them up. It is a riveting display.

'The Night to Sing' saw Dyke regain the British Open title for the first time in a decade in 2005 with a performance of warmth and musical nuance that brought Bramwell Tovey's affectionate and deeply personal musical score to life.

The live performance is not without its tiny glitches and slips, but the overall musical picture is so beautifully presented that you can almost feel the deep sense of dichotomy that must have filled the people who lined the streets of London on that VE Night. From the ever so slightly dislocated air of the inebriated reveler to the deep despair at the sense of personal loss from mothers and wives for people they would never see again; Tovey's score touched on it all, and so too do Black Dyke.

'Eden' in its own way covered much the same personal thought process. Pickard's powerful and evocative score touches on man own limitless desire for destruction, from the moment Eve picks the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden to the descent into mechanical hell as man exploits natures abundant riches with no thought to the consequences his actions entail. His finally restoration, unlike that of Tovey's work though is touched by optimism.

Dyke deliver a superb performance, full of character and sly wit in the opening sections, a driven automation as man literally digs his own grave in pursuit of wealth and finally a glorious sense of regeneration and optimism in the final almost religiously inspired ending.  It is a very broad musical canvass painted by the MD and once more all the main solo lines are played with such stature, whilst the ensemble back with precision and detail. 

Finally, ‘Northern Lights' by Philip Wilby, which is a wonderful work of insight and intuitiveness. It of course works best when seen and heard as in Dyke's 150th Anniversary Concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, but even in its purely aural form it reveals itself in all its glory. The hauntingly atmospheric sounds of pre War Dyke playing Deep Harmony send a chill down the spine, yet also gives you such a warm feeling of security, safe in the knowledge that in perhaps another 150 years time the sound of the present band will somehow be kept for future generations to admire and marvel over.

2005 was indeed a Golden Year for Black Dyke, and this release, complemented by fine production values and excellent programme notes does it justice.

Iwan Fox.

What's on this CD?

1. Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Peter Graham, 14.54
2. Extreme Makeover, Johan de Meij, 15.54
3. Northern Lights, Philip Wilby, 13.16
4. The Night to Sing, Bramwell Tovey, 16.50
5. Eden, John Pickard, 14.46

Total playing time: 75.45

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