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The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

Conductor: Dudley Bright
Soloist: David Childs
Albert Hall
Nottingham
Saturday 4th August

The National Youth Band of Great Britain does so many things so well, but its marketing strategy is still awful. 

In this day and age worthiness alone won’t sell tickets for a brass band concert - even one featuring some of the most talented young players in the UK; and this concert had that attribute written all over the yellow A5 leaflets forlornly pinned to the doors of the venue in a vain bid to attract passing listeners.

Tastes

Dudley Bright was the guest conductor (and when was this announced?) with David Childs the featured soloist. But as with far too many past events, it still made little or no impression on the wider musical public of Nottingham, let alone brass band fans either end of the A52 Brian Clough Way road. 

Even if the music was perhaps a little too devoutly inspired for some tastes, these outstanding performers deserved better than to be faced with a half empty hall.  

The MD’s obvious familiarity with Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Lord of the Sea’ and ‘The Lord is King’, as well as ‘The Shepherd’s Farewell’  from ‘The Childhood of Christ’ by Berlioz, the quirky ‘Chalk Farm No 2’ march by Edward Gregson and ‘Wondrous Cross’ by Philip Wilby made for performances of warmth and endeavour - if at times lacking in adventure. 

The best playing came at the end; and a classy ‘Dances & Arias’ featuring excellent solo contributions and confident ensemble work building to an authoritative climax; the MD’s conservative leash at last loosened with splendid secular verve. 

Last pips

It was like turning on peak time Saturday evening television and being faced with ‘Songs of Praise’ instead of ‘Top of the Pops’. Bram Tovey would surely have squeezed out the last pips of emotion.

Eric Ball’s Salvationist ‘Songs of the Morning’ wasn’t featured, but Wilby’s ‘Breathless Alleluia’ and Evelyn Glennie’s ‘Little Prayer’ were; the former giving the concert a bold opening, the latter, a moment of sumptuous tenderness.

An untidy ‘Hungarian March’ and a curiously gutted ‘Relaxation’ from Vinter’s ‘Salute to Youth' lacked the requisite brio, whilst the unnecessarily heavy accompaniment to the ‘Stratos Concerto’ almost submerged the heroic playing of David Childs.  The exotic gypsy flamboyance of ‘Zigeunerweisen’ made up for it though in spades. 

The best playing came at the end; and a classy ‘Dances & Arias’ featuring excellent solo contributions and confident ensemble work building to an authoritative climax; the MD’s conservative leash at last loosened with splendid secular verve. 

The lollipop encores left an enjoyable aftertaste - but you still left for home chewing over the thought that 21st century talent like this desperately needs modern marketing nous if it's to turn introverted worthiness into an extrovert exhibition of excellence.

Iwan Fox



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Ian Holmes

BA (hons), PGDip (RCM), ARCM, ALCM
Conductor, piano accompanist and educator