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National Youth Brass Band of Wales

Conductor: Paul Holland
Soloist: Lode Violet
RWCM&D
Cardiff
Sunday 30th July


Like most 40-year-olds prone to post-Covid middle age spread, the National Youth Brass Band of Wales has taken the decision to lose a little weight. 

A ‘double-size’ band is currently a much slimmer version of itself (31 strong here) – the diet instituted by National Youth Arts Wales linked to that also undertaken by its sibling ensembles for Choir, Dance, Theatre and Orchestra.

Its Interim Chief Executive Matthew Jones said in his on-line welcome that his organisation was still, “far from realising what the long-term impacts of the pandemic might be on young people”.  As a result, the pragmatic appreciation of the ambitions needed to support “talent and potential”  are now much more clearly defined.  

Potential to flourish

On this evidence (following performances in Bangor and St Davids) the National Youth Brass Band certainly has the potential to flourish through incremental investment in a new generation of performers.

The programme was cleverly conceived by the Flowers MD – the major works of ‘Five Blooms in a Welsh Garden’  and ‘High Peak’  appreciations of musical character rather than facile technical virtuosity in both the solo lines and ensemble. 

Paul Holland (who played with the band in his not-too-distant youth) led with a clear sense of confidence in his charges, who in turn responded with quality playing of rich tonality and technical competence. 

The programme was cleverly conceived by the Flowers MD – the major works of ‘Five Blooms in a Welsh Garden’  and ‘High Peak’  appreciations of musical character rather than facile technical virtuosity in both the solo lines and ensemble. 

Mature performances

The mature performances that resulted were balanced by the energised trio of the Monopoly set inspired ‘Go!’  by Christian Overhead and ‘Pall Mall’  of Jonathan Bates, as well as PLC’s ‘Home of Legends’. 

Expressive ecclesiastical sounds came with the ‘Canterbury’  and ‘Sunken’  cathedral inspired brace from Jan van der Roost and Debussy, whilst the MDs witty critique of ‘David of the White Rock’  certainly brought a new twist of appreciation to a well-played old Welsh favourite.

Stan Nieuwenhuis’s Shakespearian inspired ‘Fortune’s Fool’ evoked a hormonal teenage Romeo of tender longing and wham bang lust.

Lode Violet was the superb guest soloist – a young performer whose musical control and stylistic flexibility was showcased brilliantly in Tom Davoren’s touching ‘Alaw’  and Liz Lane’s highland infused ‘Slate, Sea and Sky’.  Stan Nieuwenhuis’s Shakespearian inspired ‘Fortune’s Fool’  evoked a hormonal teenage Romeo of tender longing and wham bang lust.

Elsewhere, ‘Crown Imperial’  and ‘Upon the Celtic Cross’  offered an intriguing brace of pastiche imitation (Walton aping Elgar, Jonathan Bates evoking a Welsh version of ‘Riverdance’) to round off a concert that offered an authentic endorsement of the band’s new slimline health. 

Iwan Fox 

Image courtesy of Lluniau Photography
http://www.lluniau-aj.co.uk

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