RNCM Euphonium & Baritone Ensembles

Conductor: Steven Mead & David Thornton
RNCM Brass Band Festival
RNCM Manchester
Saturday 25th January


Under the tutelage of Steven Mead and David Thornton the RNCM has become a worldwide centre of excellence for euphonium and baritone teaching.  And as this enjoyable set highlighted, the current production line shows little sign of struggling to inspire new talent.

There was also a global feel to the repertoire, with music sourced from Japan, France, Scotland, England, the USA, Japan, the Netherlands and the ancient Kingdom of Cornwall – each delivered with a sense of adventure to match the musical endeavour of the 17 performers.


Hidenorie Arai’s ‘Time for Euphs’  to open had a funky, bubbling intensity mixed into its engaging styles, the lightness pulsating with energy.

It was followed by Saint-Saens valedictory choral homage to French aviator Louis Bleriot’s historic flight across ‘La Mange’ (he landed near Dover Castle). Although written just a couple of years after his 1909 achievement, 'Aux Aviators'  is also considerably shorter too. 

It celebrated man’s mastery of the air (‘Peoples of the fields, people of the cities; For an eternal dream let these your, menial tasks, and look, look at the sky’) - although Bleriot crash landed somewhat on reaching his destination, comforted no doubt by the £1,000 he won from that most pro-European supporting newspaper, ‘The Daily Mail’.  The irony still permeated the music. 

although Bleriot crash landed somewhat on reaching his destination, comforted no doubt by the £1,000 he won from that most pro-European supporting newspaper, ‘The Daily Mail’.  The irony still permeated the music. 


Howard Snell’s graveside ‘Oration’  subtly combined fire and brimstone zeal with mournful peroration, whilst the oenophiles in the audience were given a trio of lusty gulps from Masamicz Amano’s ‘Croisiere de Vin Mediterrean’ suite. By all accounts Steven Mead revealed there were also quite a few bottles left unopened for this occasion.

Christopher Bond’s ‘Island in the Sky’ and a neat arrangement of Saskia Apon Eerste’s ‘Trombone Kwartet’  offered intelligent contrast to the soundscape before the two tutors joined in for a fun filled approach to Peter Graham’s popular ‘Bravura’.

The ‘Revival March’  by Sousa to close (complete with low brass and percussion from Brighouse & Rastrick) may have sounded at times if the MD had just lost sight of the back of his band around a tight right hand corner on a street parade, but it mattered little.  It had restored the post lunch time spirits. 

Iwan Fox 

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