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Brighouse & Rastrick

Echoes of the North: Four Chapters in Time
Conductor: Ian McElligott
Stoller Hall, Manchester
Saturday 22nd July


‘Echoes of the North’  is an hour-long creative project that through inventive thinking brings together the art forms of silent film and brass bands with a twist of modern-day resonance.

First premiered in 2022, its imagery is sourced from various regional and national archives, whilst the music comes from Neil Brand (the brass band score orchestrated by Ben Palmer), the hugely respected composer, pianist and arts presenter, who also specialises in creating and performing scores to accompany iconic silent films. 

Recall experience

The alchemy makes for a remarkably evocative recall experience – the music enhancing the visual recollections of the cultural foundations that underpinned community life in the North of England of the late Victorian to post-First World War period. 

Brighouse & Rastrick has played its part from the outset (this being the final performance of a three-venue tour), the first half filled by a repertoire that also offered a pertinent reminder to an overwhelmingly non-banding audience of the musical scope of the modern day elite level band. 

The alchemy makes for a remarkably evocative recall experience – the music enhancing the visual recollections of the cultural foundations that underpinned community life in the North of England of the late Victorian to post-First World War period. 

Ian McElligott arranged three of the pieces: The celebratory Strauss ‘Vienna Philharmonic Fanfare’  leading into an energetically paced account of Shostakovich’s ‘Festive Overture’.  

A new take on the big band classic, ‘Malaguena’,  was preluded by a bravura account by Elenor Newton of ‘Brasilia’,  whilst Mike Eccles’ languid ‘Misty’,  was a lovely counterpoint to 1930s Broadway ballet with ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue’.

Echoes of the North

The second half belonged to ‘Echoes of the North’,  an imposing work divided into four headline chapters: ‘Rebuild’, ‘Recharge’, ‘Remembrance’  and ‘Rejoice’.  

Beautifully shot images, naïve yet searingly honest, filled the screen above the band – from cotton mills and shipyards to Brylcreemed footballers and wiry hikers, Stakhanovite colliers, melancholic seamstresses, grubby children and well-starched adults. The sense of community – decent, purposeful and proud, was palpable.

Beautifully shot images, naïve yet searingly honest, filled the screen above the band – from cotton mills and shipyards to Brylcreemed footballers and wiry hikers, Stakhanovite colliers, melancholic seamstresses, grubby children and well-starched adults. The sense of community – decent, purposeful and proud, was palpable.

Resonate

The score and the emotive playing it elicited, also spoke of endeavour and energy, tragedy and loss, the music flowing seamlessly to its conclusion - the applause at its conclusion an acknowledgment of the quality of the multi-genre excellence. 

In so cleverly eschewing obvious stereotypes ‘Echoes of the North’  could well resonate in any part of the country – from the mining communities of Cornwall and South Wales to the hop fields of Kent, through the pottery kilns of the Midlands to the industrial heartlands of Scotland.

Performed as well as it was here in Manchester, it took everyone back in time – even the downpour of rain that greeted the audience as it left Stoller Hall, totally in keeping with the collective memory. 

Malcolm Wood  

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