Review – Champions of Brass!

Brass band kicked off the year with a joint concert alongside the Reg Vardy brass band, accompanied by guest conductor David Hirst. As the reigning Champions of the UniBrass Shield, DUBB held their own up against the internationally renowned local band with a varied and exciting programme. The two bands culminated in one ‘Massed Band’ for a thrilling finale. Set in Elvet Methodist Church, the venue allowed the space for the two bands to combine. The audience was reasonably sized and suitably enthusiastic, but looked sparse purely due to the large hall. The concert began with the university brass band being conducted by David Hirst, who also worked with the band on their repertoire. Kicking off the concert with ‘Punchinello’, the march set the tone for the evening. Following this was ‘Manchester’, a hymn dedicated to the recent events in that city. The low brass excelled at capturing the emotional nuances of the piece, however there were slight intonation pit falls in the middle of the band. Brendon Wheeler’s arrangement of ‘Alone With My Thoughts’ followed, with the baritone solo played masterfully by Sean Moran. At times, he was battling against the band for prominence but eventually came out on top. ‘Birdland’, arranged by Philip Sparke, changed the atmosphere, with dramatic crecendos. The trombones played together like clockwork, but sometimes the upper parts were lost in the texture. Regardless,...

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Review – Durham Contemporary Opera

Saturday 11th November held a very special evening in Elvet Methodist Church. Not only the first ever concert for the new group, but a premiere of a new piece The Glass Box, by Durham student, Tristan Latchford. The evening began with Porpora’s Alto Giove from Polifemo, the 34th opera of Porpora, a composing rival of Handel. This opening gave a serene start to the concert with Alex Pullinger, countertenor soloist (New College, Oxford), bringing beautiful soaring tones which perfectly matched the orchestral ensemble. His impressive high range and well controlled ornamentation raised the standard of what was going to be a very exciting concert. Following the Porpora, the ensemble consisting of 12 strong played Holst’s Brook Green Suite, Elgar’s Elegy, Op. 58, and Walton’s Two Pieces from Henry V. The Holst brought the concert to life with an energetic start. Particular recognition goes to violist Laura Cooper for the possible unintentional solo throughout the concert but her consistently confident tone fit perfectly within the ensemble. The Elgar could have benefited with stronger bass support but the ensemble nonetheless beautifully captured the full sense of the title of this movement. Jennings’ passion and motivation invited more from the orchestra which proved successful. The Walton began with convincing entries from all sections with powerful and effective moments from the lead cellist Emma Farmer, well supported and balanced by the rest of the ensemble. The Glass Box began with Latchford...

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Review – DUOS Cathedral Concert

The Nave of the Cathedral was packed for this, the final performance of this incarnation of DUOS. The audience was treated to two shorter pieces (Finzi’s Romance in E flat major, Op. 11, and Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 2) from the Chamber Orchestra, followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, performed by the full Symphony Orchestra. Finzi’s piece, written for just strings, began with an ethereal opening chordal texture which, despite the small forces, didn’t seem at all lost in the large acoustic. After the texture built up, some pizzicato double bass material was used sensitively to reveal the massive reverb available in the space under the lantern tower. There were some wonderful ‘crunchy’ passages of contrary motion and suspensions within the texture, and it was from this dense (but not muggy) texture that violin leader Hayley Lam emerged with a wonderful solo line that stated one of the first melodic motifs. The piece builded to reach a peak, before dissipating with many passing modulations, in typical fashion for Finzi’s orchestral pieces. Even in this section of rubato and gradual decrescendo, there was no sense of the strings ‘drowning’ in the large space, and a sense of intensity remained even until the delicate ending. Next, the rest of the Chamber Orchestra joined their colleagues on stage to perform Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony. The opening movement began with a...

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Review – Classical Ensemble

Classical Ensemble’s final concert of the year took place in St Oswald’s church and offered a delightful programme of Mozart and Couperin, conducted by Ryan Bunce and featuring soloist Misuzu Oda. Ryan introduced their opening piece, Mozart’s 31st Symphony, by reading a few lines from letters written by the composer himself.  Nicknamed the ‘Paris Symphony’ this work was written to please his audience (which was, unsurprisingly, Parisians).  Whether intentional or not, it is a shame he left out the more scathing remarks Mozart had made of his audience.  Comments such as ‘I hope that even these idiots will find something in it to like’ could have created further dimension to the background of the work, as Mozart introduces idiomatically French features such as the premier coup d’archet almost caricatured in the opening of the Symphony. Indeed, the ensemble’s opening was clear and stately, and there was a good use of dynamic contrast, particularly in the sforzandi moments, although the strings could have been even more flamboyant at the start. The timpani, played by Kweku Bimpong, provided a drive and punch much needed in the first movement. The ensemble played the better-known version of the second movement and although the horns had a bit of a wobbly start, the flute, played by David Sheard , shone through the texture. The restatement of the theme was much more assured and lyrical...

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Review – Brass Band Easter Term Concert

St Oswald’s Church was the perfect venue for this short and informal concert, which showcased the Durham University Brass Band’s work over the past two terms. This concert was also an opportunity for the ensemble to say thank you to their 2016-17 outgoing executive committee, and their outgoing conductor, Abigail Groocock. The concert began with Matthew Ruddock’s arrangement of ‘Pack up your troubles’ and ‘Deep Harmony’, a chorale prelude by Dennis Wright. These very different pieces demonstrated the ensemble’s strengths as they have adapted to their incoming conductor, Jonathan Fenwick, and also showed off the very pleasing acoustic of St Oswald’s. Particularly in the Chorale piece, the main theme was well phrased, and the swelling, changing harmony in the lower brass was kept just under the tranquil surface. Ending this section was a piece called ‘Breezing down Broadway’ arranged by Goff Richards, featuring a lot of well-known and entertaining show tunes. The main point of interest in this piece, however, was the way it showed off some extended techniques in the various instrumental sections, which created character in each of the varying themes, making them distinct from one another. The changes in metre were very smooth and Mr Fenwick guided the ensemble through the transitions into various dance styles very ably. The final staccato ‘stab’ chords at the end of the piece were accurate across the ensemble, and produced...

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Upcoming Events

Wed 22

Lunchtime Concert: College Music Mini Series

22 November 1:15 pm - 1:45 pm
Fri 24

Divinity Quintet

24 November 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Sat 25

DUOS Symphony Concert

25 November 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Mon 27

Dunelm Consort: Divine Profanity

27 November 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Tue 28

MUSICON 3 – Goldberg Variations

28 November 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm