Royal Northern College Of Music – Festival of Brass 2011

RNCM Festival of Brass 28-30 January 2011

Dawkes Music were lucky enough to take a trade stand up to Manchester for the Royal Northern College of Music’s Festival of Brass. Being a self-confessed Brass Band “nutter” I volunteered for the job straight away! The weekend consists of plenty of brass band and ensemble concerts and this year, a tuba masterclass with Leslie Neish.

An early start on a cold and frosty Friday morning, and a long drive to Manchester, I arrived and set up the stand in plenty of time for the first of 2 concerts featuring young brass musicians from Venezuela.

Later that evening Black Dyke performed one of the better concerts of the festival, premiering a new piece from Paul Lovatt Cooper before taking the audiences collective breath away with Wilby’s “Red Priest”. One of the underlying themes of the weekend was the music of Derek Bourgeois and Dyke opened their second half with the classic test piece “Blitz”. The highlight of the concert was the teaming up with Barrie Rutter, who put Shakespeare’s words to the music of William Walton in “Richard III”.

Another early start on Saturday before the Tuba Masterclass and the day ahead was a real treat. I had plenty of interest in the stand, but when things quietened down for the concerts, I had a chance to try out Yamaha’s new YEP-642 NEO Euphonium.

I have played for a couple of years on a York Eminence and this new euphonium from Yamaha is the only instrument so far to come close to the sound I can achieve with my own instrument. It has a heavy gauge bell and is designed with the brass band in mind, Dynamics are easy and the instrument sings right from the top down to the very bottom of the range. The most impressive feature, though was the tuning. The euph was completely in tune with itself even on the troublesome top F# and G. Watch this space for a more comprehensive review soon!

The evening concert by Fodens was the cherry on the proverbial cake. Fodens continue to prove they are in a class of their own. The incredible band sound was prevalent throughout and their choice of music under James Gourlay was second to none. Another world premiere in the shape of Andy Scott’s new Euphonium Concerto performed by Glyn Williams had emotions in bucketloads, from the increasingly complex first and last movements to the haunting second movement, ending with Glyn mournfully singing. Bourgeois’ “Diversions” finished off the first half. The second half again was filled with exceptional playing, both from individuals and the band as a whole, Philip Sparke’s “Sea Pictures” is one of his longest for Brass Band at nearly 20 minutes but it is also one of the most evocative and underplayed. The encore was a chance for the band to let their hair down with a good old cheesy rendition of the William Tell overture at breakneck speed, the audience of course lapped it up and the band were given a standing ovation.

Sunday morning brought the turn of the younger generation. The RNCM brass band and brass ensemble gave a morning concert as did Cornwall and Gwent county youth bands before the Venezuelan’s returned with their second concert in Bridgewater hall. Unfortunately that was all I had time for before I headed back down the motorway to my own rehearsal. Another fantastic Festival of Brass and a very successful weekend for Dawkes.

Matt – Brass Dept FEB 2011