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BASBWE 2005 Conference

First XII - MY TOP 12 Repertoire Choices From Basbwe 2005

Joe's Last Mix Tanner Menard
Missa Brevis Pacem Edward Gregson
Contrast Geir Sunbo
October Eric Whitacre
The Palace Rhapsody Aulis Sallinen
Magnum Ignotum Giya Kancheli
Clarinet Concerto Stephen McNeff
American games Nicholas Maw
Winter Dances Fergal Carroll
Dark Raindrops Andy Scott
Vranjanka Kenneth Hesketh
Elements Adam Gorb

Eight Pieces For Grade 2/3 School Band - Genesis

Bridgewater Breeze Adam Gorb
Treason and Plot Adam Gorb
The Piper of Brafferton Fergal Carroll
The Fir Darrig Fergal Carroll
Shaftoe's Hoedown Malcolm Binney
Nancy's Lament Malcolm Binney
Tortilla Wrap Gareth Wood
Game On Gareth Wood

Genesis

Regrettably, the only session purely aimed at school bands was on Saturday morning, sponsored by Maecenas, who launched their new series of easy band music called Genesis. The session was played by the University of Manchester Wind Orchestra, conductor Phil Robinson. Contact Maecenas Music for catalogue of this series

Adam Gorb's Bridgewater Breeze still remains for me an outstanding work for school or amateur bands, five movements each with a catchy tune, each presenting a few teasing problems for the players but none to mar the enjoyment of the audiences. His Suite for the Genesis series, For England, Harry and St. George comprises three straightforward movements, much simpler in style and technical demands. I very much enjoy the melancholia of Treason and Plot , though the outside dances have considerable energy.

Fergal Carroll has the advantage of being able to try out his compositions on his band back in Ireland. The Piper of Brafferton is in the same genre as Fergal's Song of Lir, a two and a half minute setting of a simple Irish folk tune, while The Fir Darrig is an energetic dance of a leprachaun in a straightforward 7/8, reminiscent of the verve and gusto of those dances in River Dance. The programme ended with his Winter Dances , great score for a community, military or good school band with its engaging mix of minimalism and fragments of Irish and other traditional tunes.

Malcolm Binney is presiding inspiration behind Maecenas Music and this new series, and he has contributed three movements to the series. My two favorites are Shaftoe's Hoedown an ingenious and energetic mix of Bobby Shaftoe with elements of American square dance and Nancy's Lament , one of those rare works in the school band repertoire, a slow movement which is full of sentiment without getting sentimental.

Gareth Wood is a seasoned composer at Grade 4/5 level, and he brings to the Genesis Grade 2/3 series a quirky humour with unexpected harmonies and turns of phrase. Of his three works, I enjoyed Game On , and Tortilla Wrap , both full of surprises for the audience, pieces which I am sure lead many conductors on to explore his major works for wind band such as The Cauldron, Legends of the Bear, A Wiltshire Symphony and Three Mexican Pictures .

Educate And Entertain

There were a number of excellent performances and plenty of good music at this first new-look RNCM International Wind Festival in association with BASBWE. The international flavour came from excellent bands from Norway and USA, and USA also contributed a number of speakers and clinicians including of course Clark Rundell, until this year the stalwart Artistic Director of the Festival/Conference, and the great Bob Mintzer. Now in the safe hands of the virtuoso tuba player and conductor, Jim Gourlay, Head of School of Wind and Percussion, the concert repertoire of the weekend was perhaps a little more centred on RNCM rather than BASBWE, although as usual the RNCM created dozens of opportunities for teachers and young conductors to study, learn, grow and develop; with classes on every orchestral and band instrument from international experts, with three conducting clinics, and a huge range of lectures and clinics, this was a wonderful start to the new series of Festivals, and it certainly lived up to its motto headline.

My Top Twelve

I missed the first day because of rehearsals in London. I heard great reports of the opening concert by University of Wisconsin Whitewater Symphonic Wind Ensemble, a fascinating mix of traditional repertoire and the cutting edge. Starting with Peter Mennin's Canzona and ending with Robert Russell Bennett's Symphonic Songs , I would have very much liked to hear the new work for electronics and band by Jeff Herriott and the classic of this genre, Joe's Last Mix .

Information from Glenn Hayes hayesg@uww.edu

Rncm Birthday Tribute

The Friday evening gala concert, given by the RNCM Wind Orchestra under James Gourlay and Clark Rundell, celebrated the 60th birthday of Principal of the RNCM, Edward Gregson, with what was apparently an outstanding performance of his moving Missa Brevis Pacem with the excellent Kinder Children's Choirs. This is one of Gregson's finest works, with a Benedictus waiting for a solo artist who will take it into the Classic Top Twenty. Good programming here, beginning with McCabe's Canyons commissioned by Guildhall in 1991, and ending with Gregson'sThe Kings Go Forth , with its swinging pop version of ;Sumer is I'cumen in. In mid-programme, tribute was paid to one of Gregson's mentors, Alan Bush, with his Scherzo commissioned by the BBC Proms, and John McCabe was the soloist in Gregson's Piano Concerto , a substantial addition to the concerto repertoire.

Norwegian Community Band Shock

The shock was simply that nobody expected such a high level of performance from Vestidens Musikkorps, an "ordinary" town community band. Admittedly the conductor Arild Anderson is a distinguished international flute soloist and principal of a community music school, but by British, American and most European standards, this was an outstanding performance of challenging repertoire. This was a fascinating programme superbly well played. It is hard to pick a top choice but I enjoyed again Geir Sunbo's Contrast , a three movement suite, commissioned by the band for last year's competitive festival.

Their whole repertoire was:

  • Entrata Festiva Knut Nystedt
  • Chants de ThuleStig Nordhagen
  • BlowingOlav Berg
  • Reinlender FantasyTirstein Aagaard Nilsden
  • Hjalar-Ljod OvertureEyvind Groven/Kunt Aasvik

For information on the repertoire and its availability, contact WASBE member Arild Andersonaran2@online.no

Youth Concert Band

The Northampton County Youth Concert Band under their energetic conductor Peter Smalley lived up to their fine reputation garnered over a couple of decades as one of the outstanding young bands in the country. In the week after the death of the civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks, it was good to hear mark Camphouse's A Movement for Rosa , but I found much of the rest of the programme unremittingly loud and virtuosic with the exception of Eric Whitacre's evocative October . Tom Smith was the outstanding soloist in Philip Sparke's effective Clarinet Concerto .

Details from Peter Smalley ;PSmalley@northamptonshire.gov.uk

Outstanding Programming

  • The Palace RhapsodyAulis Sallinen
  • Magnum IgnotumGiya Kancheli
  • Clarinet ConcertoStephen McNeff
  • American GamesNicholas Maw

I make no apology for selecting all four works from the Saturday evening gala concert by Bolton Sinfonietta. Aulis Sallinen is seventy this year, but his birthday has generally been ignored in England and probably in USA and Europe apart from Scandinavia. One of Finland's greatest composers of opera, his Palace Rhapsody is a "Harmoniemusik" from his opera ;The Palace, full of pathos and irony, two elements foreign to most wind music. The Magnum Ignotum by Kancheli, scored for chamber wind and double bass, with its Russian Orthodox chanting and its pure simplicity, really needs "producing". A darkened hall, perhaps candles flickering, maybe a whiff of incense, would create an ambience of stillness. As it was, opinions were polarised, and colleagues emerged talking in hushed tones of its beauty, or complaining loudly that a composer should write such a load of rubbish. Written in 1994, duration is 22' and it scored for a chamber ensemble of fl.2ob.2cl.2bn/2hn/db/tp and recorded by Royal Flanders Philharmonic on ECM Label.

We are indebted to the indefatigable Linda Merrick for her involvement in yet another concerto, this time a large-scale work from Stephen McNeff, composer in residence with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. This is cast in the traditional three movements, and I find its theatricality and lyricism constantly engage my attention. Nicholas Maw is also seventy this year, and it was great to hear his very amusing American Games again, fourteen years after its premiere in the BBC Proms. This was a tough programme, and the Sinfonietta met its challenges with aplomb. Mark Heron improves in authority and musicianship every time I see him work, and I hope that he maintains his connections with the wind ensemble world.

More information on the programme and Mark Heron from his website:

Mark Heron - Conductor

Virtuoso Consortium Commission

Chethams School has always contributed interesting programmes to Conference, and this was no exception. Under the clear direction of David Chatterton, they began with David Dzubay's Myaku which I find a little repetitive, and continued with Massanella , the first movement of Derek Bourgeois' Symphony The Mountains of Mallorca . I am a Bourgeois fan, but I wonder whether it is a good idea to start a seventy minute symphony with a gentle movement based on a sentimental tune which might replace ;Sailing By ;to finish Radio Four transmissions. As a four minute ;bonne bouche ;in a light programme, the tune might work, but not for me as the start of a Symphony, and not stretched out to 12 minutes of so. There are some great movements in the symphony which are well worth playing.

Because of rehearsal commitments, I had to miss the rest of the programme; I would have loved to have heard another performance of Bitensky's Awake, You Sleepers , a rhapsody for trumpet on traditional shofar calls conducted by Laura Jellicoe, and also Pete Meechan's Euphonium Concerto . I gather that the young Chethams virtuosi, Huw Morgan on Trumpet and Emma Farrow on euphonium gave thoroughly convincing and expert performances.

I must quote here again the opinion of composer Adam Gorb on the latest consortium commission:

By the way, Andy Scott's new double Saxophone concerto is absolutely tremendous - a really 21st century mix of jazz, pop and streetwise funky rhythms: along with Zechariah Goh's piece the best new wind band work of the year; you must catch it

I have listened since to a recording and agree with Adam. Some idea might be gained from Andy Scott's programme note:
Dark Rain is a double saxophone concerto especially composed with both soloists, John Harle and Rob Buckland, in mind. The saxophone's versatility is fascinating and this concerto pays homage to the different styles of writing, and moves through contemporary classical, bebop, big band and swing before concluding with a release of tension in a final slower section.

This is clearly a major addition to the repertoire, and as far as I know the only double concerto. For more information on this work, write to the publisher at

info@astute-music.com ; and for the programme, contact David Chattertondavechatterton@chethams.com

Guildhall Revisiting

The last concert in the Festival was given by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Wind Orchestra, whose last visit to the RNCM was many years ago. They repeated their programme from a concert at the Barbican which celebrated 125th anniversary of the Guildhall

I obviously would like to recommend all of the works in the programme, the marvellous Tippett Mosaic from his Concerto for Orchestra , the powerful Gran Duo commissioned by Sir Simon Rattle which I think bids fair to be the Stravinsky Symphony of Wind Instruments of our time, David Kechley's traditional but very strong saxophone concerto Restless Birds against the Dark Moon , and finally the newest of my commissions, Michael Berkeley's moving and angrySlow Dawn .

However, I am going to highlight two other works from this programme. Adam Gorb's Elements is a percussion concerto on a huge scale, written for the RNCM and Evelyn Glennie, recorded by us with Simone Rebello. It was great to tackle it with Richard Benjafield. It is a tough undertaking, especially the sprawling slow movement, but it is theatrical, effective, and has pages of extreme excitement alternating with pools of quiet lyricism, well worth percussion virtuosi exploring and perhaps changing some of the solo orchestrations for less outré instruments.

Finally, Hilary and I commissioned a wonderful work from Kenneth Hesketh for the RCM last summer, The Cloud of Unknowing , an extraordinary orchestral score, which looking back reminds me in construction of Debussy's Jeux . Ken followed this with a school band work for this concert, Vranjanka , an extremely exciting Serbian dance, much of it in a swirling 7/8, raucously scored to remind us of those Balkan folk instruments. Again, this is not an easy score, but I think it will challenge good bands and delight any audience.

Post Mortem

With such a feast of concerts and classes, it is hard to understand quite why attendance was on the low side. Publicity was much later than usual, and the Conference was barely targeted at BASBWE members (only one schools band repertoire concert!) who might be expected to make up most of the audience. Perhaps in future, better contact might be made with the Association, and more school-based sessions factored in to encourage attendance alongside the gala programmes. However, congratulations to James Gourlay and his staff, particularly Ian Duckworth the Administrator.