The British bandsman’s organisational team put together a very tasty line up for their anniversary year not least when coming up with this event. Take one of the most consistently outstanding bands in the world, combine them with one of the finest exponents of his instrument, through in a special commission from one of the finest brass band composers in Philip Sparke, along with the performance from Ian McMillan and Tony Husband all fronted by the voice of brass bands himself, Frank Renton makes for a very special recipe.
The proceedings are opened with Black Dyke in the trusted hands of professor Nicholas Childs with a stately procession through William Walton’s Crown Imperial, whilst many bands try to perform this tricky piece, when in the hands of such a classy outfit the music really comes to life.
Philip Sparke is one of the finest composers of brass band music and when commissioning him you are sure to getting a piece of real quality. A Bandsman’s Overture is a fantastic concert overture based on the notes Bb, Bb, C & F as a tip of the hat to the magazine that started life as British Bandsman & Contest Field newspaper.
James Morrison is then welcomed to the stage to show his true artistry as a musician. The set begins with the well-known Caravan, Morrison uses this to show really what a fine artist he is and furthermore he appears to do it with such ease. This is followed by an arrangement from the pen of Black Dyke Soprano Cornettist Paul Duffy with Oh When the Saints. With Things ain’t what they used to be Morrison shows his dexterity performing on the trombone and demonstrating excellent multiphonics – it must be said that Morrsion comperes his own performances with a cool sense of dry wit and excellent rapport with Prof. Childs, Band and audience.
Then comes something just a little different Brass written by Philip Wilby uses the Black Dyke Band, poetry from Ian McMillan and Illustrations from Tony Husband. This most descriptive of works shows real innovation in its concept and sublime delivery.
The music of Paul Lovatt-Cooper is somewhat of a staple of most brass bands programming with his exciting audience friendly writing. When Thunder Calls is a wonderful second half opener with directed choreography to accompany the music. This work is followed by Canite Tuba (Sound the trumpet) written by James MacMillan – an exciting piece comprising three interlinked movements. This is something very different from MacMillan is a piece that truly sucks you in when you watch/listen.
James Morrison then returns with three further performances of Zog’s Jog, Basin Street Blues, and The Old rugged cross, the highlight for me being the Basin Street Blues where you get to observe piano playing of high quality and artistry on the trumpet performed but the same person at the same time – it is something quite special.
The final performance from the Black Dyke band was the readers choice and what a choice – Journey of Freedom. The work is given a masterful performance that really does pull on the heart strings in the luxurious slow section before the powerful close. All closed with a rousing encore of the Ord Hulme BB & CF.