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Foden's Band

Conductor: Russell Gray
Regent Hall
London
Friday 11th October

stars 
Over the years the traditional pre-National Championships Brass Arts Festival at Regent Hall has been inspired, organised and promoted by the late Philip Biggs. 

As defending National champion, Foden’s had been invited to perform, but following his untimely death the band in agreement with his family (who were present on the night) went ahead with the event. This concert was therefore a fine tribute.

Relaxed mood

There was naturally a sombre feeling to the opening proceedings, but it soon gave way to light-heartedness too. MD, Russell Gray (celebrating his birthday) was in a relaxed mood and so were his band as they burst into full swagger mode with Safroni’s ‘Imperial Echoes’.

The lyrical beauty of Mark Wilkinson’s rendition in ‘Song for Elir’ was noted for the memories it brought of others lost too soon, before an upbeat turn of emotion with Jonny Bates’ ‘War Dance of the Red Cossacks’ and flugel player Melanie Whyle’s engaging rendition of ‘The Lonely Shepherd’.

The opportunity to hear ‘Titan’s Progress’ was a compelling one - and had ensured a healthy turn-out of Foden’s supporters and brass band fans in the hall.  

Russell Gray didn’t hold anything back in the run-out; leading a sumptuous account full of subtle detail, warm textures and structured poise. It certainly got the tongues wagging.  

The hymn tune ‘St Clement’, played at every concert of the National Youth Band of Great Britain (where he was the respected administrator) was a tender show of respect. No applause, just dignified silence.

Dignified

The second half opened with ‘The Crowning’ by Jonny Bates, before Mark Wilkinson paid a touching tribute to Philip Biggs.

The hymn tune ‘St Clement’, played at every concert of the National Youth Band of Great Britain (where he was the respected administrator) was a tender show of respect. No applause, just dignified silence.

The last quarter was showcase time. Gary Curtin was all impish fun with ‘Valfikans Dans’, before a touch of classily played Benny Goodman ‘King of Swing’ tribute and the fun of ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ . Australian composer Barrie Gott, making the trip over for the contest, was delighted by a rendition of his take on ‘Danny Boy’.

Mark Landon flew through ‘Highland Fling’ on the xylophone before a fine night of music and memories was wrapped up with a splendidly ornate ‘Nightingale Dances' and the lollipop encore of ‘Toccata in D Minor’. 

Malcolm Wood

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