National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

Conductor: Garry Cutt
Soloist: Carol Jarvis
Victoria Hall
Stoke on Trent
Saturday 3rd August

Much is being done to bring the NYBBGB organisation into the 21st century, but it still remains in danger of being a beacon of musical excellence frustratingly hidden from becoming fully appreciated by the wider general public.

If its promotional activity can be hiked to anywhere near the level of quality displayed by the 80 performers in its ranks on Saturday evening, then the band will have no problem filling fine concert halls such as this in future.

The players simply deserve it.

Excellent programme

Once again they impressed on an excellent programme curated by MD Garry Cutt - one that eschewed over-excited fizz and fancy to concentrate on an appreciation of considered style and substance.   

It was also enlightening to hear Carol Jarvis perform with such suave musicality on a sextet of solos inspired by the immediate post war American ballad singers and big band stars such as Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey, with a pinch of Piazzolla for good measure. Her high tessitura trombone playing was a cultured delight.

Gregson’s ‘Prelude for an Occasion’ was the vibrant opener, followed by ‘Of Distant Memories’; a remarkable piece of adaptive facadism played with rich endeavour - a musical education of tasteful respect that featured the first of what were to be a number of fine cameo solo lines throughout the night.

Garry Cutt had chosen to feature six notable brass band composers - from William Rimmer to Peter Graham, with segues to Wilfred Heaton, Elgar Howarth (under his W. Hogarth Lear alter-ego), Kenneth Downie and Edward Gregson. They were fine choices.

Gregson’s ‘Prelude for an Occasion’ was the vibrant opener, followed by ‘Of Distant Memories’; a remarkable piece of adaptive facadism played with rich endeavour - a musical education of tasteful respect that featured the first of what were to be a number of fine cameo solo lines throughout the night.

The MD certainly asked demanding questions of his charges - the tender warmth of Downie’s ‘In Perfect Peace’, contrasting with the quirkiness of Heaton’s march ‘Praise’ (confidently directed by euph player Ruth Mellor) and the melancholic explorations of his surprisingly passionate, ‘Meditation on Aberystwyth’.

No less impressive

The second half was lighter in tone, but no less impressive; Rimmer’s ‘Punchinello’ played with a fat swagger, whilst his ‘Rule Britannia’ overture kept both sides of the musical Brexit debate more than happy.  

The trombone octet ‘Shenandoah’ (arranged by Carol Jarvis) was a classy bonus, whilst the ‘Symphonic Foxtrot - Samum’ was unearthed from the musical ossuary and restored to former glory; its old bones as sprightly as ever.  

Baritone soloist Rose Hancock was the excellent lead in ‘Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair’ before ‘Pel Mel’ freewheeled into ‘Shine as the Light’ to round things off with a touch of evangelical zeal.

The encores of ‘The Cossack’ (with traditional vocal reprise) and the hymn tune ‘St Clement’ (marking the end of 10 players tenure with the band) closed a fine evening - one that hopefully even more people will get to hear in the years to come.

Iwan Fox

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