I was delighted to be asked to put together an account of our latest concert which was, by any standards, an extravaganza! All of us will have our own recollections of the build up to, and then rehearsal and delivery of, the event but rather than me launch straight into my own thoughts, I will first share with you a post which appeared on social media, namely the Facebook Page of the Hampshire Police Band shortly after our joint concert at Chandler’s Ford on Saturday 1st October.
Wow! Wow! Wow! What an amazing concert. First half by our friends Southampton Concert Wind Band, second half by The Band of the Hampshire Constabulary, massed bands finale - what a sound. Both bands played brilliantly and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the programme. Thank you to SCWB for sharing the stage with us. Same again next year?
Comments after this post include:
Fantastic concert - what a sound! Brass Machine was spectacular!
Brilliant concert again, well done! Will be back to see you soon, Keep up the amazing music.
It was a wonderful concert. Well done to both bands and their conductors!
A thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal and concert with SCWB working alongside Hampshire Constabulary Band. Bravo to Gregg and Calum for super band musical direction. I do hope that this joint concert will become an annual event at Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church in future autumn months?
From my own viewpoint, I believe that the two bands worked really well together and the choice of programme gave the audience the chance to compare contrasting repertoire and genres from each ensemble when playing separately and together. Many of us had the chance to chat to our opposite numbers in the other band, and in the photos I took it is interesting to see this going on. Of course for Dawn (wife, and bassoonist) and me, we had our feet in both camps, and on the night found that there was no rest – for the wicked? We also had to include a costume change!/p>
All in all, a very worthwhile event, and of course we pay tribute to all those who made it happen, and who assisted in any capacity. A future joint event is something, I believe, that might well become a regular occurrence.
|The Seal Lullaby||Whitacre|
|Esprit de Corps||Jager|
Solo performances from professional brass players always seem, to me, to be few and far between. There's no shortage of pianists, strings, and woodwind soloists but you don't tend to get as many brass players. When they do come along locally, their performances are not to be missed. Better still, when they come along to perform with the ensemble you play with and they play the brass instrument that you've been playing since you were a little boy, BINGO! Enter trumpeter Chris Avison, our guest soloist for our Spring Concert. And boy did we hit the jackpot with this guy.
Back in January when Calum revealed the three pieces Chris had chosen to play, I will admit, they weren't what I had expected. The first half feature, the Denis Wright Concerto, was something I had dabbled with at University, but the second half pieces I had hardly heard of!
It's always a challenge playing an accompaniment during rehearsals without hearing the solo line, particularly with unknown pieces. But after some tough Thursday evenings it all started to come together. Chris joined us on the Friday evening before the concert. These rehearsals are always filled with enthusiasm and excitement, along with a hint of trepidation; will the soloist be impressed with us, have we rehearsed at the correct speed, will the whole thing fall apart the night before the concert!
We kicked off the rehearsal with what would be the concert encore, 'Don't Doubt Him Now'; a slow, reflective Salvation Army song. After an introduction from the band we heard Chris for the first time with the lyrical solo line, and WOW! Suddenly this beautiful, warm, rich tone filled the room with such ease and control. I, along with the rest of the trumpet section, was in awe of the sound he was producing. Chris's encore didn't need to be fast and technical; this piece showed off the simple but beautiful side of the trumpet.
The meat of Chris's performance on the Saturday was the Denis Wright 'Cornet Concerto'. In three movements, it's classical in form, although not a long concerto. My eyes were raised when he pulled a trumpet out of his bag rather than a cornet at the rehearsal, but as soon as I knew how he sounded I understood why. When you close your eyes and listen to his tone quality, you could easily mistake it for a cornet, which is true testament to a great trumpeter. The concerto shows the instrument off in its full mastery and is not an easy blow; the solo line, at times, would look more at home in the woodwind section! Chris, again, made this sound effortless. He has a fabulous ability to sit back and play quietly when needed but still retain the precision in his playing. This was heard with the extremely difficult lip glissandos in the first movement, which he executed with ease. But when he needs to be there at the forefront, he's there and you know it! No more so than the technically challenging cadenza which took us up to the end of the first movement, culminating in an enthusiastic applause from the audience, and rightly so. The remainder of the concerto continued along the same lines and was a pleasure to play and listen to.
For me the highlight of the concert was Chris' performance of 'Excursions' by Bruce Broughton. This ever-changing, fast, syncopated and fragmented piece was extremely demanding. It exceeds the normal boundaries both musically and technically. Chris opened the piece with the recurring theme before it travelled throughout the band. The piece is pulled in all directions and wandered through multiple time signatures during its six and half minutes. The trumpet line is tough, as is the accompaniment; technically stretching the players, relentless, with no room to hide. Most soloists would find it an achievement just to get to the end without stopping, but Chris accomplished this with technical excellence, keeping complete control of his tremendous tone quality.
I speak not only for myself, but the whole band, when I say we were so privileged to work with Chris. To listen to top performers is wonderful, but to play with them on stage and gain an insight into their work is truly fantastic. Having played with SCWB for best part of ten years I can say that what keeps me coming back is the drive and energy Calum and the members have to achieve great things. This band never takes its foot off the gas and will continue to perform to the highest level, with top soloists, to provide great and exciting music for our audiences.
|Cornet Concerto||Denis Wright|
|Don't Doubt Him Now||Leonard Ballantine|
Six years after first sharing the stage with this trombone virtuoso, SCWB accompanied Brett Baker once again in his performance of the world premiere of Benjamin Ellin's Pandora Trombone Concerto, transcribed for wind band by the composer.
Brett remains a pioneering figure in the world of music, having commissioned over 100 new works for trombone and, after 21 years, is still Principal Trombone of the world-famous Black Dyke Band.
In 2020 Brett was presented with the International Trombone Association's 'President's Award' for his solo performances, recordings and long-time service to the ITA.
|Pandora Trombone Concerto||Rodney Newton|
|La Chica sin Nombre||Rob Wiffin|
|Pandora Trombone Concerto||Rodney Newton|
Emma Halnan first came to prominence as the woodwind category winner in BBC's 'Young Musician of the Year' in 2010. She has since appeared at major venues worldwide and has performed concertos with orchestras including the London Mozart Players, the European Union Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Emma was principal flute of the European Union Youth Orchestra 2014-16. She has also freelanced with orchestras including the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and English National Opera.
Emma was kindly supported by Making Music's Philip and Dorothy Green Young Artists Scheme.
|Flute Concerto||Mike Mower|
|Concertino for Flute||Cécile Chaminade|
|Méditation from Thaïs||Jules Massenet|
Through the band's membership of Making Music, an organisation that supports leisure time ensembles, we were selected to participate in the 2018/19 Adopt a Composer project. In essence, Making Music facilitated a collaboration between a young emerging composer, Rob Laidlow, and SCWB, with a view to broadening the horizons of the band and giving Rob the opportunity to compose a work for symphonic wind band.
Supported by mentor Fraser Trainer, Rob visited the band a number of times, introducing sketches that he had composed and, crucially, seeking feedback from the band members. The aim was to compose a work that Rob felt reflected his musical values but also which incorporated ideas suggested by the band.
Over a period of around six months, Rob composed Jumpcut/Longshot, a 15-minute work inspired by filming techniques and the effects they create.
It's safe to say that the band was in the outer reaches of its comfort zone, performing music that was very contemporary in feel and hugely demanding in terms of concentration.
The World Premiere of Jumpcut/Longshot took place in SCWB's Silver Jubilee Concert in The Chapel at Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, in May 2019. The performance of Rob's composition was professionally recorded and broadcast in its entirety on BBC Radio 3 in January 2020.
It was a privilege to be a part of the Adopt a Composer scheme. Working so closely with Rob, experiencing the gradual development of his composition, performing it and then hearing it broadcast on BBC Radio 3 was a unique and memorable experience.
You can read more about our 'Adopt A Composer' journey in this series of blogs.
On Saturday 18th May, 2019, SCWB performed a Silver Jubilee concert in The Chapel, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, celebrating 25 years of music-making.
We were delighted to have as guest conductors the band's former Music Directors, Peter Hyland (1994 - 2004), Richard Harvey (2004 - 2006) and Claire Favell-Potter (2006 - 2007). It was entirely appropriate that the band's current Deputy MD, Simon Morgan, also conducted a piece.
Two founder members of the band, Jackie Swann and Jonathan Bridger, remain with the band to this day and between them they wrote a short but informative history of the band for the concert programme.
Concluding the first half was the world premiere of Jumpcut/Longshot, a composition for SCWB by Rob Laidlow under the auspices of Making Music's Adopt a Composer project. This was recorded professionally and later broadcast in its entirety on BBC Radio 3.
Why have one world premiere in a concert when you could have two? The Chapel is all that remains of The Royal Victoria Military Hospital, the largest military hospital ever built. Florence Nightingale contributed to the hospital's design so SCWB's MD, Calum Gray, composed The Lamp Shall Ever Glow in her honour.
It was a wonderful concert with an appreciative audience consisting of so many friends of the band. Here's to the next 25 years!
Gerard McChrystal comes from Londonderry in Northern Ireland. He took up saxophone as a second study for his RNCM audition in 1982. By 1987 he had made his concerto debut with the RTE Concert Orchestra playing the Dubois Concerto live on TV. His UK debut was with The Philharmonia in 1989 premiering Out of the Cool by Dave Heath.
Gerard has performed in over 35 countries including China, USA, South Africa, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Korea and Germany. He has recorded albums with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Ulster Orchestra, London Musici, guitarist Craig Ogden, The Smith Quartet and Yan Pascal Tortelier. Orchestras Gerard has worked with include the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony of Ireland, Stuttgart Staatsorchester and the Orchestra of San Francisco Ballet. Venues he has played are also varied to say the least and include the Royal Albert Hall and a longhut in Sarawak, Borneo.
He is Professor of Saxophone at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and also teaches at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
|Fantasia for Alto Saxophone||Claude T Smith|
|Pequena Czarda||Pequena Czarda|
Steven Mead is a euphonium virtuoso and teacher who has played an important role in achieving worldwide recognition of the instrument. He has played solo concerti with symphony orchestras, including: the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra and the Japan Chamber Orchestra. He has also premiered works by numerous major composers often with those works composed expressly for him.
He is Professor of Euphonium at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and also at teaches at several specialist schools across Europe and in Japan. He has been responsible for the first ever euphonium masterclasses in Italy, Portugal, Lithuania, Slovenia, Russia and Austria.
He is widely regarded as one of the most successful professional euphonium soloists in the world today, performing over 75 concerts per year with some of the leading orchestras, wind bands and brass bands across all continents.
|Concerto for Euphonium||Andy Scott|
Brett Baker is a leading brass performer, educator and musical pioneer. Working closely with composers he has commissioned numerous new pieces for the solo repertoire while maintaining a packed performance schedule. He is currently the most recorded trombone soloist in his genre and has made many broadcast and TV appearances, sharing the stage with world renowned soloists including Wycliffe Gordon, Christian Lindberg and Joseph Alessi. In 1992 Brett was a brass finalist in BBC's 'Young Musician of the Year' and quickly established a reputation as one of the finest players of his generation. He has played with Britain's top brass bands and had spectacular recording success with the Black Dyke Band as player and soloist, garnering many awards and international recognition. Brett has travelled to all corners of the globe as a celebrated guest trombone tutor and brass clinician. As well as his performing, he is now acquiring a burgeoning reputation as a conductor and adjudicator.
|Trombone Concerto||Rob Wiffin|
|Rhapsody for Trombone||Gordon Langford|
|Fantastic Polka||Arthur Pryor|
Les Neish is a performer of international standing having performed with some of Britain's top brass bands. He is a member of the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble and also the Brass Band of Battle Creek, a professional, by-invitation-only brass band in America. His first solo CD Salt of the Earth won numerous awards and he now travels the world performing and teaching. As a youngster, the first brass instrument Les played was a trumpet. His teacher soon felt that he might be better suited to the tuba and the rest is history. That teacher was Gabrielle Horne, a member of SCWB's trumpet section.
|Concerto - Salt of the Earth||Andy Scott|
|Amazing Grace||arr. Øystein Baadsvik|
|The Carioca||arr. Luc Vertommen|