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Tredegar Band

Conductor Ian Porthouse
Soloist: Mark Fewer (violin)
Barry Memorial Hall
Friday 22nd September


The enforced closure of St David’s Hall in Cardiff meant a late change of venue for this opening concert to the 2023 Vale of Glamorgan Festival.

Founded in 1969 it remains at the forefront of contemporary music production in Wales, with its loyal, knowledgeable audience making the trip to Barry for the rearranged event which included pre-concert talk from composers David John Roche and Ben Wallace.

World premieres

Their works were given world premieres, whilst violinist Mark Fewer had flown from Canada to be the featured soloist in Bramwell Tovey’s wonderfully entertaining ‘Nine Daies Wonder’.

The concert opened with ‘The Vow’, David John Roche’s elegiac work that explored in major proportions the sense of belonging and obligation he feels to Tredegar, the town of his birth.

Multi layered with a solemn intensity of creative ‘Hiraeth’ spirit, it spoke of a deep-seated respect for its political and musical culture, and the belief that they should not be forgotten. The threads of connection, sometimes obvious, sometimes more opaque, gave it an atmosphere of richly textured intensity.

Although the enforced change meant that ‘So Spoke Albion’ by Gavin Higgins could not be performed, his evocative gem ‘Ar Lan y Mor’  provided the tenderest of contrasts before the second world premiere of Ben Wallace’s ‘4 Marches About Nothing in Particular’.

Acerbic wit

The American video games composer based in New York had also made the trip over to hear it performed; his four-character trait movements recalling the acerbic wit of Hans Werner Henze, Brecht and Weill – intellectually ironic as well as damn clever. 

The American video games composer based in New York had also made the trip over to hear it performed; his four-character trait movements recalling the acerbic wit of Hans Werner Henze, Brecht and Weill – intellectually ironic as well as damn clever. 

This was all about the meaning of nothingness; from the frothy manufactured joy of 1980s American television sit-com music to a Bach/Purcell funeral march for a coffin without a body, a Sousa/Joplin march heralding the arrival of snake-oil salesman extolling the virtues of illusion, and the numbing obliqueness of a computer screen cursor waiting to create on an empty page.  

Perfect persona

The second half was taken up with ‘Nine Daies Wonder’  and a tour de force performance by Mark Fewer as the Shakespearean actor Will Kemp who undertook a famous 110 mile Morris Dance trek from London to Norwich in 1600.

Fewer inhabited Kemp’s persona to perfection – an artist playing a fool’s role with the seriousness of Hamlet with a violin

Fewer inhabited Kemp’s persona to perfection – an artist playing a fool’s role with the seriousness of Hamlet with a violin, his quips and quotes from ‘Twelfth Night’ to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ drawing in the audience to shout and sing, as well as seriously admire his playing in a joyfully rumbunctious bacchanal journey.

Iwan Fox 

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