BASBWE 2007 International Wind Festival

Glasgow 28th June - 1st July 2007

Thirteen concerts, thirteen lectures, two conducting workshops, one repertoire session - this was a Festival covering a huge range of music and ensembles, from the refined Harmonie of Haydn and Beethoven to Big Band Jazz, the latest contemporary concertos from USA and the Czech Republic, world previews anticipating the following week's WASBE Conference, a fairy story with a twist, and a world premiere from one of England's leading composers, James MacMillan.

Our American colleagues tend to put catchy slogans to their conferences:

Inspire - Invigorate
Refresh - Revitalise - Rejuvenate
Conductors & Composers - Connect & Change

I have never attended any wind conference or Festival with such a wealth of professional virtuosity on display in the service of really great music. Whether it was for wind was irrelevant, but there were no strings attached, and my list below of new repertoire which I recommend exploring is limited and leaves out a great deal of super music which you might prefer. Anyway, this is my choice for my next dozen concerts, if I had them to conduct. I have omitted some remarkable chamber works, such as Cinderella or the Haydn, as well as all that jazz... and what a wealth we were offered in clinics and sessions.


An Elegy for Ur (solo oboe) Edwin Roxburgh Maecenas
Brooklyn Bridge (solo clarinet Michael Daugherty PeerMusic
Dead Elvis (solo bassoon) Michael Daugherty PeerMusic
Flute Concerto Marco Pütz Bronsheim
Image in Stone (mezzo) Stephen McNeff Maecenas
Trumpet Concerto Marco Pütz Bronsheim
Tuba Concerto Juraj Filas

Works For School Band

Aeolian Carillons Edwin Roxburgh Maecenas
Choralis Tonalis Marco Pütz Bronsheim
Dance Sequence Marco Pütz Maecenas
Deep Soul Diving Emily Howard Maecenas in December
Freya's Call Andrew Duncan Lewis Music Press
Hymn for Africa Peter Meechan
Passacaglia Timothy Jackson Maecenas
Sun Low Over water Bill Connor
Tales from Andersen Martin Ellerby Studio

The opening gala concert set the scene, given by the Wind Orchestra of our hosts, the RoyalScottish Academy of Music and Drama with four conductors and two amazing soloists.

Maximiliano Martin, principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Maximiliano Martin, principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and James Gourlay, Director of Music at the RSAMD. Martin was the soloists in the British premiere of Michael Daugherty's Brooklyn Bridge , an exciting extrovert score which was given full dramatic treatment by both soloist and orchestra.

James Gourlay

James Gourlay has been assiduously building a repertoire of original works for solo tuba, and the Concerto by the Juraj Filas is a terrific addition to the repertoire. There is no doubting Filas' heritage, snatches of Dvorak, Smetana, Martinu and Janacek might be discerned; the melodic invention is engaging and there is a refreshing energy and spontaneity about the piece which will bring it many admirers. Gourlay shared the conducting honours with three members of RSAMD staff. Bryan Allen, Head of Brass and co-artistic director, Brian Boddice who is Scotland's leading wind orchestra conductor, and the Principal of the RSAMD, John Wallace , so standards of performance were guaranteed.

The concert itself was a game of two halves, starting with Sowetan Spring by James MacMillan and Edwin Roxburgh's Time's Harvest, two uncompromising contemporary works, the Roxburgh aimed at a good High School or Honours Band, while the MacMillan demands professional players on top form, especially in the horn section. Both were given convincing performances. In the second half, the musical mood changed, the Filas Tuba Concerto was always interesting, often charming, Whitacre's Cloudburst seemed old fashioned and out of place as did the wind band arrangement of Malcolm Arnold's Peterloo.

Composers In Residence

One exciting factor in conferences or festivals is the chance to meet composers, hear them talk about their works either formally or informally. Philip Sparke, Guy Woolfenden , James MacMillan, Rory Boyle, Eddie McGuire, Raymond Head, Stephen McNeff, Martin Ellerby, Christopher Noble, Oliver Searle and Emily Howard were all present, and there were two composers featured "in residence", Marco Pütz and Edwin Roxburgh. The Friday morning concert by Our Lady's High School Wind Band provided two BASBWE premieres, a teasing exploration of a large number of keys in Marco's beautifully controlled Choralis Tonalis, and Andrew Duncan's Freya's Call.

Andy Duncan

Duncan is better known for his brass band repertoire, but this work would be well worth school bands looking at. His publishing house is Lewis Music, 124 Newmarket, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, HS2 0ED, Tel +44 (0) 1851 706549:

No time for lunch at this conference; from 1pm there was a concert again full of virtuosity, given by the RSAMD Faculty Wind Ensemble. Two world premieres here, the biggest for wind ensemble was Rory Boyle's angry Behemoths, a vicious attack on the proliferation of wind farms in some of Scotland 's most beautiful; and hitherto unspoilt countryside. I am not a great devotee of wind quintets, but James MacMillan's early Two Movements, recently discovered, is a major find, though it will need a conductor of the caliber of MacMillan unless it attracts a lot of rehearsal time. Back to Daugherty for Dead Elvis, a wonderful spoof for solo bassoon on the music of the great man.

Rehearsals meant that I had to miss what looked to be another excellent programme by Brian Boddice and the West of Scotland Schools Concert Band, with Eddie McGuire's Sirocco, Marco Pütz' Dance Sequence and the world premiere of Edwin Roxburgh's glittering Aeolian Carillons.

John Wallace, Principal, Soloist And Second Trumpet

Andy Duncan

So to Thursday evening and a pre-WASBE concert by the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble; I have always loved Finnegan's Wake by Archie Potter, one of the few really funny pieces in our repertoire, and our programme continued with another work by Pütz, the British Premiere of hisTrumpet Concerto. This is a fine work in three movements, cast in a traditional language but as with all of his music, characterised by unexpected turns of phrase, and unusual harmonic twists. The slow movement is built on the Bach Chorale and we are left wanting more, The first and last movements are classical in structure, in regular sonata form.

It was a rare privilege to hear one of the world's greatest trumpet soloists working with a Youth Wind Ensemble, and despite the pressures of being Principal of the RSAMD, there he was on the same day at lunchtime, playing second trumpet to a student in the Stravinsky Octet. John always plays with fire, energy and humour, I remember a really funny performance of the Hummel many years ago, when he reduced audience and orchestra to waves of mirth. The concerto was played with panache, alone well worth the delegates fee as an object lesson in performance. I cannot wait to get the recording made by Phillipe Schartz and the Luxembourg Military Band, to be released at the official world premiere in October.

Marco Pütz has, I think, a knack of writing extremely well for solo instruments, and this concerto, like the Flute Concerto which we heard on Saturday, is a major addition to the repertoire. It was a joint commission between Schartz of the Royal National Orchestra of Wales and my wife and myself in memory of our third son, and the IYWE concert had two more commissions, the world premiere of Stephen McNeff's moving song cycle, Image in Stone, and Kenneth Hesketh's uproariously passionate Serbian lovesong with variations, Vranjanka. I am of course biased, but I think that all three works will prove to be very popular, and would recommend anyone looking for new repertoire to explore these works, whether traditional by Pütz, ethnic by Hesketh, or for voice and smaller ensemble, by McNeff.

Cinderella On Saturday

Saturday at 9.30 found us again marvelling at the RSAMD student wind ensemble, giving a superb performance of Rory Boyle's tour de force, Cinderella for narrator, wind quintet and piano. It is hard to bring off and sustain a joke in music, but this version of Roald Dahl is quite brilliant. It was followed by the Poulenc Sextet, full or wit, charm and pathos, great programming.

Two Slow Premieres

We keep commenting on the problems of writing easy music for schools, and amusing music for all of us. Equally hard is writing slow music which does not become sentimental, and the lunchtime concert had premieres of two slow pieces. Tim Jackson's fine Passacaglia was originally written as the last movement of a work for thirty-two horns, and on hearing this I immediately commissioned the transcription for wind. It is a wonderful work of seven minutes continuous development, half the length of S.L.O.W. by Bill Connor, or to give it the full title Sun Low Over Water, another extraordinary bit of sustained writing with a filmic quality which never becomes Hollywoody. The Glasgow Wind Band gave assured performances of both, together with the Pütz Flute Concerto and a Shostakovich Scherzo arranged by Andrew Duncan.

A rehearsal sadly meant another missed concert, the joint Sheffield and Manchester Universities Band, playing Adam Swayne's Goe Down, Hoe Down, Holst's Hammersmith, two Grainger marches, a 70th birthday present to David Bedford of his Ronde for Isolde, and the latest commission by Charles Camilleri, Il Nostro Tempo.

...the more we encourage composers to use the wind ensemble, the better it's going to be, particularly with the generation of wind players that's out there now Sir Simon Rattle

Quarter of a century ago when BASBWE was formed, we looked forward to the day when there would be a proliferation of wind orchestras to match the fine amateur symphony orchestras throughout the country. A lasting legacy of this Conference must be the newly formed Scottish National Wind Orchestras, conductor Russell Cowieson, who gave the Gala Concert on Saturday evening in another well planned programme, plenty of contrast:

  • Secret RitesAkira Miyoshi
  • Old Home DaysCharles Ives arr Elkus
  • An American SongAmerican
  • Song AlanAlan Fletcher
  • ResonanceChristopher Marshall
  • AdagioJoaquin Rodrigo
  • An Elegy for UrEdwin Roxburgh
  • SpielErnst Toch

Two witty pieces, the Ives and the Toch, an extraordinary Japanese piece by a pupil of Dutilleux which in some five minutes encompasses a huge variety of styles and textures, and a new piece from Alan Fletcher which was for me the only disappointing performance, not quite capturing the mazy dreamlike quality of some performances I have heard. The end of Resonance was beautifully managed under the eloquent baton of Mark Heron , as the birds of the New Zealandrain-forest gradually swamped the calls of the wind and the horn chords.

Ur Of The Chaldees

The Roxburgh is another William Reynish commission, a deeply felt work, at times elegiac, at times virtuosic, played wonderfully by the principal oboe of the Hallé Orchestra, and given strong support by the orchestra. This is essentially a cri de coeur about the despoliation of one of the oldest cities of the world, Ur of the Chaldees. Over 6,000 years old, it is now a military base, with a huge Burger King and Pizza Hut built on the incredible archaeology of the past.

Apart from the virtuosity of Staphane Rancourt, the outstanding performance was perhaps the Rodrigo Adagio, difficult to manage and catch the changes of mood, hard to balance, but this is a very good community ensemble of enormous potential, under a conductor who is developing all of the time. What a great project this is, and let us hope for some recordings, some broadcasts, some commissions and regular concert series.

Second Manchester School

Manchester and Sheffield Universities Joint Honours Band

It was sometimes difficult to get a real glimpse of the works in the repertoire session on Sunday morning. Rehearsals went on during the session, discussions with the audience and orchestra resulted in textures emerging which did not add much to our perception of the pieces. Jim Pywell's Yellow Stripe I would like to visit again, subjecting as it does Western compositional techniques to African musical influences, a kind of latterday Sowetan Spring. I could not make much of Chris Noble's Furore on a first hearing, and it was a relief to settle into the cosy world of Hans Christian Andersen and the Suite written by Martin Ellerby.

I already knew Daniel Basford's Selections from Variations on a National Theme though you don't hear much of the original. He is a bright young composer as are two other Manchester trained composers, Peter Meechan whose Hymn for Africa is another ingenious set of variations, aimed very successfully at less experienced bands, and Emily Howard whose Deep Soul Diving I commissioned. It came over strongly here, with an elegance lacking in a great deal of our wind music. Three composers to watch out; is there a Second Manchester School on the cards? Conductors were Chairman-Elect, Philip Robinson, Treasurer-Elect, Tony Houghton and Mark Heron whose input into our website, Winds and the Conference is enormous. BASBWE is in safe hands with the younger generation taking over.

I was unable to get to many of the lectures and discussions, but one I was delighted not to miss was on the Wind Band Movement in Democratic Portugal given by the very engaging and eloquent Andre Granjo.A passionate expert on the past of the Portuguese band movement, he is working hard on bringing the bands up-to-date with contemporary ideas and getting the best Portuguese composers to write. This was followed by West Lothian Schools Jazz Ensemble in a programme covering a wide range of styles. Jim Pywell asked me why wind orchestras cannot play as rhythmically as jazz bands, I always wonder why we don't have the same passion for our repertoire and performance as they do.

Guy Woolfenden OBE, At Seventy

To the final concert in the deadly position of Sunday afternoon. Guy as former Chairman knows well the dangers, and it seemed disaster would be compounded when NOW, the Northampton Orchestral Winds, were unable to get the money together for the trip to Glasgow. An inspired suggestion by the Artistic organisers resulted in a wind Dectet, and a delightful programme of Haydn and Beethoven, framing three chamber works by Guy. Wit, charm, elegance, sometimes passion, all of the emotional elements which we look for in music were there, without the noise and tub-thumping that so much of our repertoire calls for. This was urbane music-making at its best, and the soloists of NOW were given their head and allowed to shine.

Guy wrote our first BASBWE commission back in 1983, Gallimaufry. Since then, he and Jane his wife and publisher, have contributed enormously to the wealth of music which has built up in the last quarter of a century, both through his own compositions and their publications. They have both been on the BASBWE Executive and have worked tirelessly for conductors, composers and players.

This Conference caught a lot of the excitement of the 80's and 90's, when we were hearing new works by Guy and others, hearing great bands emerging, getting involved in education and recording projects and developing links with WASBE, CBDNA and other associations. The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama has superb facilities second to none, with a wealth of studio and concert hall space and a great exhibition space for the Trade. Musically this was one of the strongest I can remember, with virtuosity fused with great composition and the strongest support from the bands and ensembles.