CentralConcertLive Music/GigMusicReview

Black Dyke Band – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Music Director: Nicholas Childs

Reviewer: James Garrington

Whether or not you have an interest in brass band music, you surely will have heard of Black Dyke Band, probably one of the most famous and most recognised names in the world of brass. They have a long and successful history: founded in 1833, during the past 180 years they have made over 350 recordings, been British Open champions 30 times and European champions 23 times – the most recent being last year. With that sort of pedigree, you know that you’re in for a wonderful display of brass playing.

The concert opens with the band’s signature march Queensbury, a rousing piece written for the band by James Kaye in 1937. This provides an excellent start to the performance, setting the tone for what is to follow: and what follows is a two-hour exhibition of virtuoso playing. Following Rhapsody in Brass we meet the first of a number of soloists, Richard Marshall on cornet, displaying some great control during the lyrical solo passages of Life’s Pageant.

The audience are taken to the movies with an arrangement of Wheel of Fortune from Pirates of the Caribbean before meeting the second soloist, Gary Curtin, fronting the band with the finale from Horovitz’s Concerto for Euphonium leading up to the interval with a piece written by the band’s Creative Chair Peter Graham to celebrate their 160th anniversary, Symphony in Scarlet and Gold. Avid followers of the band will find much here that they recognise, as the piece remembers some of the great moments – and great players – from the past. After the stirring fanfare opening, there is a haunting meditation section featuring two more soloists, Zoe Hancock on flugelhorn and Katrina Marzella on baritone, their instruments blending together beautifully.

While the majority of the first half mostly features items from the somewhat specialised brass band repertoire, the second half of the concert includes more pieces that will be familiar to the public as a whole. Here we get to hear Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair with a lyrical trombone solo by Christopher Binns, and a swing set containing Opus One, Mack the Knife and I Only Have Eyes for You featuring a slightly odd solo pairing of euphonium (Dan Thomas) and trombone (Adrian Hirst).

Marzella returns to give us a superb virtuoso baritone solo in Simon Dobson’s Rampage, a complex piece full of jerky staccato rhythms and clashing harmonies for the band to master before a finale of the mournful Karl Jenkins arrangement of Abide with Me and Peter Graham’s Shine as the Light. More Graham appears as an encore: Gaelforce is full of driving Celtic rhythms to send the audience home and provides a showcase for the percussion section who are, as often, among the unsung heroes of the afternoon.

If you are a fan of Black Dyke Bandor brass band music in general, there is no doubt that you will find the concert extremely enjoyable, and much of the music familiar. For those who not regular followers, it may be harder to find things here that they recognise. What is beyond dispute is the superb musicianship on display, not only from the named soloists but the entire band, many of whom also get their moment in the spotlight without being credited.

Reviewed on 17 January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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