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Hammonds Band

Conductor: Morgan Griffiths
Stephen Joseph Theatre
Saturday 12th January 2019

Every January Hammonds Band gives two concerts at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Known as ‘The Round’, the auditorium, much like the old King’s Hall at Belle Vue, is unusual as the performers are surrounded by an intimately packed audience on all four sides.

The Grand Shield champion has built up a loyal following over the past few years; one that has enjoyed their user-friendly approach to repertoire that encompasses the traditional with the contemporary without straying too far from the familiar.

Purpose and drive

The energetic ‘Short Ride in a Brass Machine’ was therefore followed by the overture ‘Light Cavalry’ - each played with purpose and drive, before principal cornet Philip Varley (the first of no less than seven soloists) stood for a touching rendition of ‘Because’.

He set a high standard which the others - Mike Walsh on baritone, Matt Brown (trombone), Zoe Wright (horn), Catherine Owen (flugel), Robert Jagger (soprano) and Ashley Higgins (euphonium) matched - each performing with distinctive style and considered technique. 

Little ensemble delights dotted the programme; from the light-hearted ‘Waltzing Cat’ complete with slide trumpets, to more feline musicality with a selection form ‘Cats’. There was Norse mythology with ‘Little Knut and Sylvelin’ and a rousing first half finish with Paul Lovatt - Cooper’s ‘Tale of the Dragon’. 

He set a high standard which the others - Mike Walsh on baritone, Matt Brown (trombone), Zoe Wright (horn), Catherine Owen (flugel), Robert Jagger (soprano) and Ashley Higgins (euphonium) matched - each performing with distinctive style and considered technique. 

Properly paced

Elsewhere, the hard-core brass band aficionados certainly enjoyed a properly paced ‘New Colonial' march and a stylish rendition of Malcolm Arnold’s ‘Cornish Dances’, whilst soft jazz enthusiasts weren’t disappointed by the treatment of ‘Birdland’.

A bit of Debussy, a rousing old Gordon Langford selection box of ‘Rhapsody on Sea Shanties’ and the Moody Blues hit ‘Nights in White Satin’ drew things to the finale of Roy Newsome’s rarely heard arrangement of ‘Neapolitan Scenes’. 

Over 400 people left well entertained, and certainly impressed by a well led band on impressive early season form. 

The box office won’t worry about them all coming back again for the next time Hammonds are in town.

Paul Short 

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BA (Hons), PGCE, Dip.ABRSM
Conductor, Adjudicator (AoBBA), Composer/Arranger, Cornet & Flugelhorn Soloist