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Television review: Battle of the Brass Bands (Episode 2)

Sky Arts
Twofour Group
Tuesday 27th August

stars
The first instalment of the four part Sky Arts ‘Battle of the Brass Bands’ documentary series set out an engaging blueprint for viewers unfamiliar to the brass band contesting genre to follow.

The second followed suit.

Once again it was all about people: committed, dedicated, talented, professional; conductors and players facing the camera, speaking from the heart, the 2018 British Open providing the backdrop canvas that informed as well as intrigued.

Symphony Hall

The positivity of the Whit Friday series opener emerged once more; the Twofour production team concentrating their focus on those who spend a huge portion of their valuable personal lives in pursuit of musical excellence – this time in the lead-up to their band’s performances of ‘A Brussels Requiem’ at Symphony Hall.

The result was another well-observed insight - the features with personable players such as Daniel Thomas of Black Dyke, Kyle Blake of Cory, Brad McCulloch and Stephanie Wilkins of Fairey, neatly balanced against illuminating interviews from Phil Harper, Garry Cutt and Nicholas Childs, all of which shone a light on a very specific kind of competitive musical spirit.

The three bands featured; eventual winners Cory, Black Dyke and Fairey emerged with huge credit (especially with their performances), whilst the competitive element, which could have been treated as an arcane form of music making in the hands of a less sympathetic director, was treated with a great deal of considered respect (as shown by their link to the judges)

Huge credit

As such, the occasional moment of a lack of self awareness could be forgiven (and there were a couple of enjoyable eyebrow raisers) as the narrative drew the viewer towards the contest and the very singular 15 minutes or so displays of collective test-piece accomplishment that drew impassioned responses in the hall and cool headed critical analysis in the adjudicator’s tent.

The three bands featured; eventual winners Cory, Black Dyke and Fairey emerged with huge credit (especially with their performances), whilst the competitive element, which could have been packaged as a limited, arcane form of music making in the hands of a less sympathetic director, was treated with a great deal of considered respect (as shown by their link to the judges)

The end result was another programme that not only enhanced reputations and profiles, but also helped the uninitiated viewer to navigate their way towards fully appreciating just what brass band contesting is all about.  

Iwan Fox 

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