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Brass Gala Concert

Cory Band & Black Dyke Band
Conductors: Philip Harper & Prof Nicholas Childs
Symphony Hall
Birmingham
Sunday 12th September


Two bands that would have held realistic heavyweight ambitions of claiming the British Open title, instead left Symphony Hall on the weekend with deserved plaudits for their somewhat more lightweight concert programme efforts.

An enthusiastic audience, many of whom didn’t cancel their Birmingham weekend following the postponement of the 2021 contest, certainly appreciated the upbeat entertainment on offer.

Covid-19 concerns remained though. As a result, the triptych of band sets was admirably compact; adequate interval times allowing for a stretch of the legs, fresh-air and hand sanitising.

Tone set

Cory set the tone with a bubbling ‘Brass Machine’  opener followed by Philip Harper’s injection of metaphorical optimism into Elgar’s ‘Severn Suite’

Shaped with engaging idiosyncrasies, especially in the ‘Toccata’, which had a Sisyphus-like endeavour in Elgar’s uphill biking exertions linked to its Geraint Thomas freewheeling descents, it was refreshing to hear its familiarity explored with musical instinct rather than contest premeditation.

Shaped with engaging idiosyncrasies, especially in the ‘Toccata’, which had a Sisyphus-like endeavour in Elgar’s uphill biking exertions linked to its Geraint Thomas freewheeling descents, it was refreshing to hear its familiarity explored with musical instinct rather than contest premeditation.

A tender ‘Fugue’  and delicate ‘Minuet’  led into a ‘Coda’  that held the rapt attention of the listener right to its close – so much so that it took a good 5 seconds before the applause started.  

Polished reprises of the elephant, snake and monkey elements of their Brass in Concert winning ‘Jungle Book’  set rounded things off with ensemble and solo panache.

Queensbury fayre

Black Dyke’s bite-sized offerings were a sugar-coated afternoon treat for an audience more than happy with the familiar Queensbury fayre. 

Prof Nicholas Childs was in relaxed mood knowing which buttons to press with Paul Lovatt’s Cooper’s ‘Home of Legends’  and emblazoned ‘Fire in the Blood’  which bookended a ‘Big Band Suite’  that fizzed, subsided and fizzed again like a Sunday afternoon Prosecco. 

Prof Nicholas Childs was in relaxed mood knowing which buttons to press with Paul Lovatt’s Cooper’s  ‘Home of Legends’ and emblazoned ‘Fire in the Blood’ which bookended a ‘Big Band Suite’ that fizzed, subsided and fizzed again like a Sunday afternoon Prosecco. 

Meanwhile, Daniel Thomas and Brett Baker provided the amuse-bouche ornate flamboyance on ‘Zigeunerweisen’  and ‘Stardust’  to add to the enjoyment.

The 20-minute break was a well-considered appreciation of current Covid-19 concerns before the massed bands returned for ‘Liberty Bell’, ‘Procession to the Minster’, and  ‘The Lost Chord'  encore.

After 18 months or so of almost complete concert inactivity from the bands, the latter was an apt way to remind people of what they have been missing from them.

Iwan Fox 

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