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The National Children's Band of Great Britian

Conductor: Mareika Gray
Soloist: Simone Rebello
St Andrew's Hall
The Halls, Norwich
Friday 28th July


There is an obvious inclusive awareness that now permeates the organisational as well as musical foundations of the National Children’s Band of Great Britain.  

This year’s course included contributions made by new partners such as the Wildlife Trusts Charity, whilst the musical direction came from two charismatic female leads and a host of talented youthful tutors alongside a world premiere from a 19-year-old Belgian composer. 

Collective ambition

The collective ambition is informed in outlook and delivery – embracing rather than paying lip-service to the challenges the 68 youngsters aged between 8 and 14 are sure to meet on their personal as well as musical development in the years to come.

It certainly made for a joyful end of course concert. 

Rather like the pictures hanging on the walls of Hogwart’s School in the Harry Potter movies, you could swear the usually austere portraits of the great and good of Norwich history (the venue being well over 700 years old) were animated into smiles of delight. The audience certainly were. 

Rather like the pictures hanging on the walls of Hogwart’s School in the Harry Potter movies, you could swear the usually austere portraits of the great and good of Norwich history were animated into smiles of delight. The audience certainly were. 

Sparkle

The programming based on the theme of ‘Rhythm’ was bold and accessible, enabling the performers to display their emerging talents in full – the ‘Sparkle’  concert opener from Lennert Van Laenen (runner-up in the recent NYBBGB Composition Competition) a compact pyrotechnic fizz-bomb of energised colouring. 

Simone Rebello also provided her own rhythmic fireworks display with ‘Zimba Zamba’, ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Taps in Tempo’  and ‘Summer Storm’.   It was a pity the hall acoustic swallowed up the lower timbres of the marimba, but nothing could disguise her exuberance that permeated directly to the band.   

Mareika Gray’s informed musical ebullience was also returned with interest from a well-drilled ensemble.

Mareika Gray’s informed musical ebullience was also returned with interest from a well-drilled ensemble. The evangelical zest of the choreographed ‘Joy, Peace and Happiness’  and ‘Goldcrest’  march (the signing understandably delivered with a ‘treble’ rather than ‘tenor’ pitch) were balanced by the tender hues of ‘Lady Stewart’s Air’, ‘Sleep’  and the assured quartet led ‘Sweet and Low’. 

Mature

The appreciation of Barrie Gott’s evocative ‘Glasshouse Sketches’  also showed a marked maturity of understanding, whilst Nate Chivers’s ‘body music’ ‘Surprise’  was a great little Steve Reichesque rhythmic detour. 

Interestingly though, the ‘pop hits’ of ‘Yesterday’, ‘Soul Bossa Nova’  and ‘Paint it Black’  (and the encore 'Hello Dolly') came from an era when even some of the grandparents of the players were still a ‘sparkle’ in the eye of their own mums and dads.  

Time for a few hits in future from Rihanna, Adele and Ariana Grande perhaps, but even Mick Jagger should consider sending his latest offspring to the next Children’s Band course.  

As was shown here, they would certainly have a great time.

Iwan Fox 

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