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RNCM Brass Band

2019 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductors: James Gourlay; David Thornton; Melvin Tay
Soloist: Seth Livingstone
RNCM Manchester
Saturday 27th January


Repertoire by some of the brass band movement’s established compositional voices sat comfortably alongside a world premiere by a leading light of a new generation for this concert given by the RNCM Brass Band.

Any early morning drowsiness was soon dissipated by the chilly brilliance which blew through the RNCM Concert Hall with the crisp bite of Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen’s ‘Circius - Wind of the North’.

Loose ice

As he did less than 12 hours earlier with his interpretation of iconic Elgar with Foden’s, James Gourlay erased any ingrained preconceptions of familiarity as his baton acted like the broom in brushing away loose ice from the path of a curling stone. 

The thematic safe haven ending came with an uplifting Lutheran climax that had travelled a sure footed pathway underpinned by frosty sharpness and icy breathlessness. 

The thematic safe haven ending came with an uplifting Lutheran climax that had travelled a sure footed pathway underpinned by frosty sharpness and icy breathlessness. 

The featured soloist was talented RNCM graduate Seth Livingstone - currently balancing his PGCE studies with finding time to be the solo euphonium of Rainford Band. 

His take on the formidable challenges of Philip Wilby’s ‘Euphonium Concerto’ was driven and passionate - a sturdy technique aided by the warmth of his tonality and stylish endeavour. 

Further virtuosic subtleties will surely emerge as he matures, but for the moment there was much to admire in his fearless confidence - despite the percussionist seemingly having to use a health & safety rubber plate for the final bar of the Zeibekikos dance. 

Elegant direction

Another emerging talent led the band in John McCabe’s ‘Northern Lights’ - a work whose straightforward episodic structure (compared to his other banding output) ends with a spirited fugue. Melvin Tay’s elegant direction emphasised the remarkable textural cohesion of the writing, also bringing fresh insight to a composition whose opaque qualities have been rather under-valued.

Jonathan Bates’ ‘Song of Ascent’ brought the concert to a fine close - the obvious touches of homage to McCabe and Cwm Rhondda inspired by biblical psalms 120 to 134, maturely intertwined with thematic material that echoed the journey from the tuba led depths of darkness to redemptive light.  

Iwan Fox

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