Monday, 14 January 2019

REVIEW: The Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.

The Stoller Hall within Chethams School of Music is one of its intimate but highly impressive concert halls - a mini Bridgewater Hall if you will - and it was a delight to experience it this evening as it played host to the highly-acclaimed nationally and globally renowned Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band - one of the most successful subscription bands, and possibly the highest ranked, in the world.

Preceded by the Youth Brass Awards Semi Finals in the Carole Nash Hall next door, if ever there was a programme that had different dynamics within each piece, this was it! Led by tutor and Musical Director (and Euphonium player) David Thornton, we were welcomed by eight fanfare trumpeters made up of students from the music schools of the city, who contributed to the majestic ‘The Entry Of The King’ from the opera Lohengrin. With a crispness, it could easily be from the soundtrack of a war action film. Then came the first soloist of the evening: Principal cornetist Kyle Lawson, who returned to the band after a period back in his birth land of New Zealand for work, choosing to play (‘Te Deum’?) an intricate piece which was announced as being by William Himes and written for Chicago Staff Band. 'Reserve' followed, commonly associated with The Salvation Army, before Johann Strauss’ 'Perpetuum Mobile' which required fast fingering indeed.

William Walton was acknowledged and even featured as Sam Gibson played narrator for the introduction of each of the items within the suite that followed which included: Prologue from 'Went The Day Well?’, ‘The Bicycle Chase' from JD Priestley’s 'The Foreman Went To France’ and ‘The Lovers' from 'Next Of Kin‘. Walton was called up for service but excused later on the premise that he wrote music for film. He did so to great acclaim, including those of Shakespeare.

The second half began with Richard Strauss’ iconic and instantly recognisable theme from the film '2001 A Space Odyssey’, 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' which is probably more recently known from TV adverts and any clips of the moon landings. Whilst most of the band exited the stage, two pairs of euphonium players made their way to the corners of the balcony/choir circle and awaited the reshuffle of the remaining two euphoniums and two tubas for the presentation of James Grant’s ‘Homage’. Then came a piece commissioned by the band for their entry into the British Brass Band Championships which they sadly didn’t win; one made up of seven movements written by Danish composer Jacob Vilhelm Larsen. We heard five of the seven of ‘Our Hidden Language’ which is inspired by the magic of dance - Dancer Martha Graham claims “dance is the hidden language of our souls.”

We then heard the principal euphonium player Chris Robertson who trained at the RNCM, with John Hartmann’s ‘Fantasia on Rule Britannia’ which was brilliantly executed and oozed patriotism. Penultimately, we were blown away by the talents of percussionist (big up to all three of the percussion section) Tom Hall whose xylophone solo of ‘Taps In Tempo’ by Jan Nerneska (not from an Eastern European place but Birmingham) was mesmerising and well worth waiting for. It “featured dazzling arpeggios, scales and four-mallet chords.”

Finally, we ended the main concert with a nod to the north west; ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Richard Rogers’ musical Carousel. A style that I felt earlier in the programme when we heard and witnessed the comical part of their Danish Suite which featured principal trombonist Ryan Watkins. As the encore, we had, of course, ‘The Floral Dance’.

With thanks to everyone involved with getting the band to Manchester, we look forward to them coming back, next time to The Bridgewater Hall, on Friday 7th June, alongside Rossendale Male Voice Choir and The Scouts' Band.

Reviewer - John Kristof
on - 13/1/19

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