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Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Brass Band

Walking with Heroes
Conductors: Dr Robert Childs, Paul Fisher, Neil Brownless
Soloist: Mike Lovatt
Featuring: Timothy Boomer Jazz Trio
Dora Stoutzker Hall
RWCMD, Cardiff
Friday 8th November


The weekend residency of the Superbrass brass ensemble at the RWCMD got off to a scintillating start when arguably its leading performer claimed the ownership of the Dora Stoutzker Hall stage in Cardiff.

Nobody would have complained if Mike Lovatt was still there playing on Sunday night. He should have been given protected tenancy rights.

Stunning display

His was a stunning display of front of house style and virtuosity (the first few rows won’t need their ears syringed for some time); world class big band lead trumpet playing, from withering blowtorch blasts of high octane heat to the tenderest glow of reflective lyricism.

‘Mame’, ‘Pure Imagination’ and a ‘Louis Armstrong Medley’ had diamond edged brilliance and swagger to them, but also embraced its student accompaniment (both band and jazz trio) with a marked generosity of musical spirit (he is a very personable and witty front man). 

He extended that further in the second half with ‘El Gato’, ‘So Many Stars’ and the touching tribute ‘Song of Hope’ joined by his friends Philippe Schwartz and Dean Wright - the principal trumpets at the National Orchestra of Wales and Welsh National Opera respectively. 

At times you were pinned back in your seat, at others you heard the unmistakable soft chuckle of collective disbelief permeating around the hall - the hallmark sound of people being gloriously entertained.  

At times you were pinned back in your seat, at others you heard the unmistakable soft chuckle of collective disbelief permeating around the hall - the hallmark sound of people being gloriously entertained.  

Inspired

He certainly inspired the students of the RWCMD Brass Band (who earlier had enjoyed a three hour rehearsal/masterclass from him and Paul Fisher) with both Dr Robert Childs and Paul (who led on the solo items) drawing fine playing from the ensemble. 

‘Walking with Heroes’, ‘Ave Verum’ from Karl Jenkins’ ‘Stabat Mater’ (featuring excellent flugel leads in Klara Blomgren and Cerys Hughes) and ‘Pastime with Good Company’ were delivered with accomplished ease, as were ‘Little Prayer’ and the ‘Fugue’ from Philip Sparke’s ‘Graduation Day’ to close the first half.

‘Softly, Softly’ opened the second with an upbeat nostalgia for a time when local coppers nicked local criminals in slow Panda cars and an ‘evening all’ tip of the helmet, before student conductor Neil Brownless confidently led the band in ‘For the Fallen’ and Bob Childs in ‘The Peacemakers’ - marking a much more significant sense of nostalgic commemoration.

‘Abide with Me’ and ‘You Never Walk Alone’ rounded off a cracking opening to a weekend that will hopefully leave the same scorch marks in the memory banks as the playing of its star resident attraction did on the night.

Iwan Fox 

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