Six years have passed since Foden’s Band last visited the Isle of Man, so, unsurprisingly, despite the wet squall outside the warmest of welcomes awaited them in a packed Villa Marina Theatre.
In an unusual reversal the massed bands took to the stage first under Michael Fowles – the ‘National Anthem’ followed by a rousing ‘Olympic Fanfare and Theme’ that acted as the prelude to Derek Broadbent’s ‘Manx Tales’.
Commissioned in 2020 by Manx Concert Brass (to celebrate their 25th anniversary), the Manx Youth Band (to celebrate their 50th) and the Isle of Man Arts Council, it was a evocative four-movement suite based on traditional folk tunes, played with passion and understanding.
The rest of the first half belonged to the National Champion; a red blooded ‘Ruslan and Ludmilla’ getting things off to a rapid start. Richard Poole’s superb rendition of ‘Through the Eyes of Love’, from the movie ‘Ice Castles’ was followed by Mark Wilkinson on ‘Glorious Ventures’ delivered with graceful virtuosity.
Richard Poole’s superb rendition of ‘Through the Eyes of Love’, from the movie ‘Ice Castles’ was followed by Mark Wilkinson on ‘Glorious Ventures’ delivered with graceful virtuosity.
Contrast came with Eriks Esenvald’s, ‘Only in Sleep’, with a tender lead by Melanie Whyle on flugel, before the Roman legions marched down Douglas High Street (they came over in the first century BC and stayed for 400 years) with ‘Pines of the Appian Way’ rounded things off.
More virtuosity and varied styles came after the break, with Samuel Hazo’s exciting ‘Rush’ and the coolest of xylophone cats in Mark Landon and Sam Iles on Zeb Confrey’s ‘Kitten on the Keys’.
The band’s clever 'Robin Hood' inspired Brass in Concert programme provided a highly enjoyable series of vignettes to close – from the partygoing ‘Merry Men’ to the tender Bryan Adams ‘Everything I Do, I Do It For You’ Robin and Marion duet and the gloriously OTT baddie that was Gary Curtin stealing the show like a latter day Alan Rickman on ‘Cruel Summer’.
It was great pantomime fun played with serious intent – the return of Richard the Lionheart, with hints of MGM inspired scores of cinematic old, drawing things to a close before George Marshall’s Salvationist march ‘Spirit of Praise’ and Howard Snell’s arrangement of ‘Ellan Vannin’ were the classiest of encores.
Let’s hope it won’t be another six years before Foden’s returns.