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National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

Conductor: Dr Stephen Cobb
Guest Soloist: Philip Cobb
Stoller Hall
Manchester
Saturday 8th April

The emotive repertoire of the Salvation Army provided the basis for the theme of ‘Hope, Joy and Love’ that underpinned this fine Easter Course concert.

It continued the ethos of inclusivity that drives the NYBBGB organisation’s communal outlook, and which saw the 84 players deliver mature performances of classic works from Eric Ball and Dean Goffin to the more contemporary sounds of Andrew Wainwright and Dorothy Gates.

This was no musical sermon however; Dr Stephen Cobb introducing each item with a concise template explanation, leaving any spiritual questioning to the listener themselves.  

Nobody left feeling anything other than blessed though after hearing Philip Cobb perform. 

His elegant artistry on Leidzen’s ‘Songs in the Heart’  and ‘A Lyric of Hope’  by Andrew Blyth was balanced by the nonchalant fission of ‘Virtuosity’  and the generosity of ‘Quicksilver’  spirit in the encore duet with Cory’s Tom Hutchinson.

Nobody left feeling anything other than blessed though after hearing Philip Cobb perform. 

Bristling energy

The bristling energy of Paul Sharman’s ‘Fuego’  opened the concert, boosted by the excellent percussion section, followed by the imperial tread of Dean Goffin’s ‘The Crusaders March’,  infused it seemed by both Edward Elgar and Eric Coates at the same time.

The coincidence of both Andrew Wainwright and Dorothy Gates using iconic Welsh hymn tunes as the thematic basis for their works was ‘bread from heaven’ for the Celtic diaspora who sat in a very well filled Stoller Hall.  

Their differing compositional styles in 'Horizon'  and 'Invisible Fire'  respectively made for engaging development of the source material – the former inspired by the Biblical tale of the Exodus from Egypt, the latter, a more existential appreciation of the gift of the freedom of thought.  The MD’s subtle inferences and shaping brought performances of notable assuredness from soloists and ensemble alike.

The coincidence of both Andrew Wainwright and Dorothy Gates using iconic Welsh hymn tunes as the thematic basis for their works was ‘bread from heaven’ for the Celtic diaspora who sat in a very well filled Stoller Hall.  

Germinating detail

Eric Ball’s musical ‘prayer’ to find the faith to overcome Nazi tyranny is as relevant today as it was in 1939. Although written sometime after Neville Chamberlain’s infamous appeasement, with the seeds of later works such as ‘Journey into Freedom’  and ‘High Peak’  germinating in the detail, his ‘Song of Courage’  retains a powerful protestation.

Questions about the courage shown by Shostakovich during Stalin’s dictatorship also remain; his energetic ‘Folk Festival’  from ‘The Gadfly’  a bit of 1950s Soviet idyll propaganda, whilst the slick commercialism of Karl Jenkins’ ‘Suite from Stabat Mater’  still retains its persuasiveness too. 

Kenneth Downie’s tender ‘Sunset over the River Exe’,  and Peter Graham’s spirited ‘Renaissance’  were delivered with controlled musicality, whilst Wilfred Heaton’s ‘Praise’,  with its ‘Cor Blimey’ motif as if the composer had bumped into a cockney Pearly King rounded the evening off with just the right pinch of quirky joyfulness.

Iwan Fox 

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