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Cory Band

2019 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductor: Philip Harper
Soloist: Chris Thomas
RNCM Manchester
Sunday 27th January


Cory’s outstanding performance of Wilfred Heaton’s epically proportioned 'Variations' brought the 2019 RNCM Festival to a close.

It was a fitting way to end a memorable event - the immense challenges imposed by the composer’s blueprint, and which were so skilfully brought to life by Howard Snell’s understanding of its intentions, made it a valediction of Heaton’s life and work.

Indelible memory

Twelve variant elements grouped into a triptych of moods and enigmatic reflections, it touched on the composer’s deeply personal questioning of issues of mortality - youthful as well as aged.

It left an indelible memory in the listener’s mind - Philip Harper deftly allowing the music to find a natural flow, at times robust, at others fragile and fitful.  

Cory opened with two rarely heard works from the pen of Ray Steadman-Allen.

'The Beacons' was written to celebrate the centenary of the British Bandsman magazine, and although subsequently used as a regional set-work it has only occasionally resurfaced.

Reflecting on the effective cliff-top form of pre-industrial communication, although with no narrative tale to tell, it moved through spirited acclaim to peaceful tranquillity, fear and ultimate jubilation - a portrait of resolute Britishness at a time when the reporting of the concept itself is being questioned.

Reflecting on the effective cliff-top form of pre-industrial communication, although with no narrative tale to tell, it moved through spirited acclaim to peaceful tranquillity, fear and ultimate jubilation - a portrait of resolute Britishness at a time when the reporting of the concept itself is being questioned. 

Rare gifts

The contemporary sounds of the trombone solo 'Immortal Themes' was not only a reminder of the composer’s ability to write in a different harmonic language and stylistic range, but also of the soloist’s finely honed talent for consummate musicality.  It was a wonderful display of rare gifts from both. 

James Macmillan's setting of Robert Burns' 'The Gallant Weaver' was adapted by Paul Hindmarsh for the brass band medium; the three soprano voices of the original replaced by a trio of cornets stood behind the band. 

In an age when a wedding has certainly become a commercial commodity, it was a touchingly askew reflection on a 18th century woman’s desire to marry for love not money.

Riches couldn’t buy the type of quality shown with the ethereal playing of the hymn tune 'Martyn' played an encore - the simplest and perhaps most telling of all Heaton’s works heard on a remarkable weekend. 

Malcolm Wood 

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