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National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

Guest Conductor: Mark David
Guest Soloist: Allen Vizzutti
Morley Town Hall
Saturday 20th April

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In temperatures more accustomed to the height of summer, the NYBBGB rounded off its Easter course with splendid musical endeavour at a baking Morley Town Hall.

With the large band on the floor of the hall and percussion on the stage, it also made for an occasionally uncomfortable listening experience for those upstairs, as neck muscles and Achilles heels were strained to get a glimpse of the action.

Elemental links

Guest conductor, Mark David did a super job as both MD and MC (although he’d have been helped greatly by a microphone) with a programme cleverly, if occasionally tenuously linked to the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

After the protocol of the ‘National Anthem’, the rousing march, ‘The Thunderer’ got things off to an excellent start – followed by peaceful mystery of ‘Venus’ and vibrant joyfulness of ‘Jupiter’ from ‘The Planets’.

The guest soloist (who not only inspired the players but gave selflessly of his time) was the remarkable Allen Vizzutti. 

His own composition ‘Out of the Dark/Into the Light’ may have been abstract in style (the title a musical metaphor) and somewhat daunting on the occasional listener’s ear, but the three continuous movements (coming in at around 17 minutes) made for an engrossing display of virtuosity and free flowing thinking.  The central section had an eerie, haunting quality that on a hot night sent a welcome chill down the spine.

One of Mark David’s personal favourites, ‘David of the White Rock’, also had a mystic quality before the first half closed with a colourful account of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ - played with just the right touch of increasing mischief. 

‘Ritual Fire Dance’ and ‘Aristotle’s Air’ featuring Alex Barron (euphonium) and Joe Heartfield (trombone) were fine examples of mature contrast before the band closed with a descriptive portrayal of ‘Cloudcatcher Fells’ - combining bucolic beauty with rugged majesty in a highly accomplished performance.

Mature contrast

The welcome interval allowed for a breath of fresh air, before the audience returned for a sprightly rendition of Elgar Howarth’s ‘Fireworks’.  It may no longer retain that same sense of bold adventure as it did when it created such a furore in 1975, but it still retains its sparkling invention even if it now seems tame in comparison to some of today’s ‘shock and awe’ test-pieces. 

More Vizzutti followed with a ridiculously high octane ‘Carnival of Venice’, before the languid flugel sounds of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ was a gem of tender relaxation.

‘Ritual Fire Dance’ and ‘Aristotle’s Air’ featuring Alex Barron (euphonium) and Joe Heartfield (trombone) were fine examples of mature contrast before the band closed with a descriptive portrayal of ‘Cloudcatcher Fells’ - combining bucolic beauty with rugged majesty in a highly accomplished performance.

The encores of a slick ‘Thunder & Lightening Polka’ followed by the traditional NYBBGB hymn, ‘St Clement’, ‘The Day Thou Gavest Lord has Ended’ rounded off a very fine night of music making, despite the crick in the neck.   

Malcolm Wood

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