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Brighouse & Rastrick Band

2019 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductor: Dr David Thornton
Soloist: Felix Geroldinger
RNCM Manchester
Saturday 27th January

stars
Saturday afternoon’s concert saw an impressive all-round display of qualities from Brighouse & Rastrick that encapsulated celebrations of both urban and rural vistas as well as those of major figures of banding history and potentially one of its future stars.

A fortuitous bit of commercial serendipity meant that the opening brace of compositions were also featured on the band’s latest CD release. They certainly whetted the appetite.

Fag-end imperialism

‘Greetings to a City’ by Arthur Bliss was 1960s fag-end imperialism at its best; a triptych of connected fanfares and stately lyricism aimed to impress.

Despite not employing the full antiphonal effects of the original, Paul Hindmarsh’s considered transcription certainly retained a regal sense of London’s post war faded glory.

There was also a feel of high water-mark decline about ‘Three Figures’ by Herbert Howells - written in 1960, almost 30 years after his great pre-war masterpiece ‘Pageantry’. 

In its way it signified an era passed; a tribute to the leviathans of Cope, Iles and Rimmer whose like, Howells was acknowledging, we would never see again.

That was mirrored in the style of a curious work that Howells rather uncomfortably structured in unfashionable modal limbo between an over-romanticised past and a more atonal future. Hopefully, David Thornton’s fine interpretation may well end its purgatory.

That was mirrored in the style of a curious work that Howells rather uncomfortably structured in unfashionable modal limbo between an over-romanticised past and a more atonal future. Hopefully, David Thornton’s fine interpretation may well end its purgatory.

A renaissance is also well overdue for the appreciation of the solo qualities of the baritone. 

Here, European Solo Champion Felix Geroldinger’s tonality was a welcome recall mechanism in Martin Ellerby’s accessible ‘Concerto’ for a truly unique brass band voice; a combination of lean muscularity and elegant refinement as he expertly traversed each of three movements with the assuredness of a bel canto singer of old.

Iconic status

Brighouse closed with John McCabe’s glorious ‘Cloudcatcher Fells’ - a work worthy of its iconic status; the sheer majesty and bucolic beauty, mystery and elemental grandeur of the writing still retaining every last watt of its evocative power. 

David Thornton set out his path to the top of Helvellyn like an experienced hiker using an ordnance survey map of directions made up of autumnal colours and textures to incorporate the stanchion point stops of Great Gable, Haystacks and Angle Tarn before taking Striding Edge to the final peak.  

There were the occasional small slips on the chosen path along the way, but the increasing sense of drama before the mist parts on Angle Tarn to reveal the path to the summit still sent a shiver down the spine.

Iwan Fox

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