Guest conductor: Phil Chalk
Reviewer: Audrey Pointer
Formed over a hundred and thirty years ago in the West Riding of Yorkshire, The Brighouse &Rastrick Brass Band is now regarded as one of the UKs premier brass bands. They have established a high profile and a professional reputation – even though its members are amateurs – through a busy programme of concert engagements and brass band championships. In 1998, they simultaneously held three prestigious titles: English Masters, British National Champions and European Champions.
The elegant interior of York’s Grand Opera House was a fitting setting for the regal purple and gold of the Brighouse &Rastrick insignia. When the band of twenty-nine players had taken their seats, guest conductor Phil Chalk entered and soon the air was filled with the breezy sounds of J.J.Richards’ march ‘The Waltonian’. Chalk suggested this piece referred to a keen angler or fisherman, named after English writer Izaak Walton, the J.R.Hartley of his time.
The water theme continued in the next piece – Berlioz’s Overture ‘The Corsair’. This features dazzlingly technical sections with liltingly emotional chords and melodic structure, using an incredible palette of brassy sounds.
Principal cornet player Stuart Lingard gave the first of the evening’s four solos, a piece called ‘Virtuosity’ which marked Lingard out as a virtuoso who can play with breakneck speed and precision. Throughout the evening, other impressive solos were performed by flugel horn player Lucy Murphy, horn player Sheona White and euphonium specialist David Belshaw. Murphy’s control of her instrument extended right to the very end of the work, where she was required to hold a very long note. Lingard also featured in the rendition of ‘Cornet Carillon’ – famously used to advertise Webster’s Pennine Bitter some years ago – along with three fellow cornet players.
The band’s repertoire extended to pop music too, with a version of Queen’s ‘Innuendo’ – complete with flamenco influence – and a reworking of ‘Music’ by John Miles. These numbers were driven along by a beat pounded out on a drum set. In addition, the four percussionists used a wide variety of instruments throughout the concert, from tambourine and bongos to the big bass drum. They played with great subtlety at times, adding glitter and sparkle, a percussive rumble or delicate flash. They worked hard, moving around at the back of the stage as required to cover all the percussion instruments at their disposal.
Film music was also featured, and the version of ‘Independence Day Suite’ arranged by James Bond composer David Arnold – which ended part one of the concert – brought rapturous applause.
Part two began with a favourite march from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Day Concert, namely ‘Where Our Flag Waves’ by Strauss. Renditions of ‘The Irish Blessing’, Rossini’s ‘La Danza’ and Mario Lanza’s most famous song ‘Be My Love’ also featured in this half. Dave Brubeck’s rhythmically intriguing ‘Blue Rondo a La Turk’ gave the trio of trombonists a chance to shine, with sassy flare.
The finale was preceded by a humorous introduction by Chalk, keen to point out the association between the music to follow and York’s Roman heritage. The piece was Respighi’s ‘Pines of Rome’ which begins quietly – as if with the distant sound of Roman soldiers – and ends in a thundering conclusion, with the bass drum hammering out the rhythm of their noisy arrival. Much applause followed, in tribute to a band of musicians who are not only good but great.
Predictably perhaps – but no less unwelcome – the encore was Brighouse &Rastrick’s most famous tune, ‘The Floral Dance’. Chalk did not even feel he needed to stay onstage to conduct this, allowing the band to fly solo on a tune they must have played dozens of times.
The band draw on many musical traditions and many different composers for their repertoire. They play with remarkable precision to convey a wide range of musical moods. They are a must-see for any fans of brass band music and will also entertain anyone else who enjoys top class musicians giving of their best.
Reviewed on: 2nd February 2014. Next performance at the Liverpool Philharmonic on 9th February 2014.