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National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

Proud displays of optimism and ambition propel a new generation of players to meet stern challenges in Cardiff.

Conductor: Dr Robert Childs
Soloist: David Childs
RWCM&D
Cardiff
Saturday 6th April

Time may well be the subtle thief of youth, yet it cannot steal its enduring sense of optimism and ambition.

Generations of players have proudly shown that with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain - from the founding cohort under Dr Dennis Wright to the current crop led by Dr Robert Childs.  

Kindred spirits

Those early 1950s teenagers, still experiencing post war rationing and emerging Cold War anxieties would surely identify a kindred musical spirit in their 2024 counterparts in an era of increasing conflict and growing ecological worries.

Admiration too in the bravura adventurism displayed in tackling the imposing challenges of Dvorak’s ‘Carnival Overture’  and Eric Ball’s ‘Journey into Freedom’  in a first half that paid tribute to former NYBBGB Musical Director Geoffrey Brand.

Those early 1950s teenagers, still experiencing post war rationing and emerging Cold War anxieties would surely identify a kindred musical spirit in their 2024 counterparts in an era of increasing conflict and growing ecological worries.

His inspirational qualities were also celebrated in a pre-concert reception where his influence on the youth who played under him during the exciting technological and social changes of the late 1960s was recalled with warm affection. 

The performances of energy and endeavour were worthy tributes, as was the inclusion of Edward Gregson’s ‘Sadness and Tenderness’  from his early ‘Voices for Youth’  suite (which Brand commissioned) which also held a resonance that pointedly overarched eras.

Timeless quality

So too the timeless quality of David Childs. 

His world premiere of Peter Graham’s ‘Force of Nature’  euphonium concerto, inspired by the life of American author Ernest Hemingway, captured the essence of a complex genius whose own adventurism made him a legendary figure; from matador duels under a hot Spanish sun to the intensities of his love life and the thrill of big game fishing - all of which inspired his literary output.  

‘Brillante’, ‘Danny Boy’  and ‘Hot Canary’  were brilliant little novellas in themselves. 

His world premiere of Peter Graham’s ‘Force of Nature’  euphonium concerto, inspired by the life of American author Ernest Hemingway, captured the essence of a complex genius whose own adventurism made him a legendary figure

‘Fragile Earth’  by Sir Karl Jenkins CBE was preluded by Philip Sparke’s ‘Dundonell’,  played with a Saltire swagger, as well as the funky drive of ‘Faith’  by Dorothy Gates, ‘A Little Prayer’  by Evelyn Glennie (with a tender vocal element)  and Judith Bingham’s ‘Four Minute Mile’,  played at a modern turn of pace that would have left Roger Bannister, back in 1954, in its wake.

Fragile Earth

It also enabled the composer to have time to take his seat after his own breathless car journey down from Nottingham to enjoy the world premiere performance.

Cast as a triptych, it draws on his and has wife’s concerns over global warming.

Supported by The Colwinston Charitable Trust, it was an engaging, filmatic score – its messaging clearly defined in ear-catching musical imagery

Supported by The Colwinston Charitable Trust, it was an engaging, filmatic score – its messaging clearly defined in ear-catching musical imagery; from desolate, arid landscapes ('Scorched Earth'), to the majesty of the Blue Whale spouting air in increasingly toxic seas ('The Blue') and the global migration of both humans and animals to seek new lands in which to survive ('Flight').

Time will tell if this generation of youth will be perhaps the last to enjoy nature in all its glory.  If the joyful optimism and ambition that was shown throughout the concert was anything to go by (with the encore of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ to round things off), hopefully they will not.

Iwan Fox  

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