European 2002: Special Gala Concert


Yorkshire Building Society Band
Conductor: Dr David King
Black Dyke Band
Conductor: Nicholas Childs
Soloists: Ivan Meylemans and Stef Pillaert

Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels
Saturday 04 May 2002

In complete contrast to went on 24 hours before, the Gala Concert on the Saturday night was a tremendous success and the organisers must be congratulated on their choice not only of the bands, and their programmes, but also of the soloists. Given the horrors of Maurice Andre and son the night before, this was top class stuff from all concerned.

First up were Yorkshire Building Society under Dr King and they provided an amazing mini concert that was built around their newest commission, Philip Sparke's "Hymn of the Highlands". Approximately 35 minutes in length it is the third of the works the band has commissioned in the same vein and this proved to be an immensely satisfying experience. It is essential a showcase for the bands superb set of solo players, but it also makes huge demands on the entire ensemble as well. YBS were on top form and the soloists were excellent.

The piece has seven movements and all take inspiration from geographical areas of the highlands rather than specific places. The six solo players Michael Howley, Peter Roberts, Stuart Lingard, Iwan Williams, Sheona White and Margaret Antrobus were quite outstanding, with invariably Peter Roberts giving a performance of the slow "Flowerdale" that brought the house down. Overall it was a piece that was unmistakably Sparke in colour and shape (the last section brought memories of Harmony Music to mind) yet it also had nods we thought to Arnold's "Scottish Dances" in particular. It was a very enjoyable and YBS performed as you have come to expect and they even performed their accompaniment part to the excellent Ivan Meylemans, the trombone player with aplomb. It made for a very fine first half indeed.

The second half was given over to Black Dyke and Nicholas Childs and they too had a new commission up their sleeves in the form of Peter Graham's "Call of the Cossacks". We don't know why there is a fashion to use alliteration to such effect on all these new compositions perhaps we will have to wait to hear the "Wail of the Welsh" before it ends - but once more this was a top class arrangement of music from behind the old Iron Curtain.

The "Call of the Cossacks" is made up of five movements and takes its inspiration from the Cossacks themselves, who were a nomadic tribe made up of various ethnic peoples who were lively, brave and hardy folk. Each of the movements takes its moods from their character and so we have a Procession of Tartars, Gypsy Dream, Cossack Fire Dance, Doyle's Lament and a final tumultuous Cossack Wedding Dance. As a showcase, it is an amazing pot pourri of styles and colour, but it is essential uplifting music of celebration and requires ensemble and individual techniques of immense proportions. The featured soloists were Roger Webster and Chris Turner, John Doyle, Leslie Howie, David Thornton and John French, Joe Cook and Chris Wood and Paul Judge and all were on fine form especially John Doyle on flugel and percussionists Chris Wood and Paul Judge. Roger Webster was simply superb.

It also involves the audience as well as there was much clapping and shouting as everyone got into the spirit of things. It was another immensely enjoyable feature and the players certainly enjoyed themselves a sure sign that the piece is a good one.

They also performed more traditional concert repertoire in style as well with top class playing in "Olympic Fanfare" and their usual brilliant "Lucerne Song" before a whip through the "Waltonian" to end their show. It was very high class playing. In addition, Stef Pillaert gave a fine rendition of "Carnival of Venice" that showed why he is held in such esteem on the continent.

And with it all over, the slick machinery of the EBBA set about the results in exemplary fashion. It ended a very enjoyable night of entertainment.