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WFEL Fairey Band

Conductor: Adam Cooke
RNCM Brass Band Festival
RNCM, Manchester
Sunday 30th January


The late withdrawal of Cory and Foden’s from the published programme of festival attractions saw WFEL Fairey Band step into the rejigged schedule with an informed regard to its thematic requirements.

Artistic Director Paul Hindmarsh played a crafty hand in selecting the repertoire for Adam Cooke and his Stockport ensemble; balancing the affectionate considerations of Malcolm Arnold with the classic structures of Holst, the austere reflections of Heaton alongside the visceral emotions of Simon Dobson.

Whimsical character

The band (aided by guest principals Kirsty Abbotts and Steven Mead) responded with resourceful appreciation; the familiar triptych elements of Arnold’s ‘Little Suite No. 1’  full of whimsical character - the central ‘Siciliano’  ebbing and flowing on a languid tide of relaxation.

In contrast ‘Pilgrim Variations’  revealed a darker, enquiring exploration of the hymn ‘Monksgate' and its text of, ‘He who would valiant be’.

This was poignant Heaton; seemingly incidental in its deliberations, the questioning less direct yet crucially just as searching. Realised with affectionate authority by Paul Hindmarsh – a steadfast and true Heaton pilgrim, it was also performed as such.

This was poignant Heaton; seemingly incidental in its deliberations, the questioning less direct yet equally as searching. Realised with affectionate authority by Paul Hindmarsh – a steadfast and true Heaton pilgrim, it was also performed as such.

The emotional maturity of Simon Dobson’s ‘Penlee’  still retains its astonishing sorrowfulness some 14 years after its premiere, and over 40 years since the disaster itself. Here it was presented with a restrained note of respect. 

Deeply personal, immensely moving, the darkest currents of a cruel sea seeped into the senses from opening to closing bar, the sacrifice of the crew of the Solomon Browne etched into every line of the music, from playful pride to unimaginable bravery.   

Fresh and engaging

The MDs approach to Holst’s ‘A Moorside Suite’  was fresh and engaging; the opening ‘Scherzo’  played at a brisk canter over hill and dale.  It was the central ‘Nocturne’  though that soothed the traditionalist’s soul – deliciously led by Kirsty Abbotts on cornet, allowing the music to breath the night time air, tender and sweet.  

 It was the central ‘Nocturne’ though that soothed the traditionalist’s soul – deliciously led by Kirsty Abbotts on cornet, allowing the music to breath the night time air, tender and sweet.  

And whilst the ‘March’  seemed more Gurkha than Grenadier in tread, it did seem that the battalion was heading quick step to the Cornish coast for a rambunctious day trip to see the ‘Padstow Lifeboat’  in action.

The odd splash of sea spray in a few lines was a playful reminder that Malcolm Arnold’s mischievous sense of fun still required a firm footing on the decks. 

Iwan Fox 

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