St Oswald’s Church proved to be a fantastic venue on Tuesday night for Durham University Brass Band. The group played a largely varied program of pieces, ranging from film music, arrangements of choral works and, of course, various traditional brass band classics. It was also a wonderful addition to the evening to see the first half conducted by outgoing Conductor, Sean Moran, and the second half conducted by incoming Conductor, Isaac Conroy. This was a lovely way to (quite literally) hand over the baton.
Kicking the concert off to an exciting start was a Christopher Wormald arrangement of ‘Great Escape’ by Elmer Bernstein. Impressively, the ensemble began without the presence of their conductor, keeping very well in time regardless, with the help of a very capable percussion section. In this piece, the band displayed their strength through the production of an incredibly warm and balanced sound. The soaring high notes of the higher register instruments shone nicely through the texture, being further carried by the acoustics of the church. This was followed by an arrangement of John Barry’s ‘Born Free’. The ensemble did not fail to capture an atmosphere from the outset, featuring well executed solo moments at the beginning, and again towards the end of the piece. The change to a quicker tempo towards the middle of the piece was achieved seamlessly, showing good direction from Moran.
The third piece of the evening was an arrangement of the song ‘One Voice’ by Barry Manilow. The beginning of this piece featured a wonderful euphonium solo, which displayed excellent breath control and a beautifully warm sound which was matched by that of the rest of the ensemble upon their entry. The band gave a lyrical performance of this song arrangement, giving particularly effective use of dynamics throughout. The next piece to be performed by the ensemble was the familiar ‘Fairytale’ Theme from Shrek, taking me instantly back to childhood. Despite some small intonation issues at the beginning, this was a truly lovely performance of the movie classic, featuring dynamic swells creating both emotion and atmosphere. Following on almost immediately from this emotional, lyrical piece, was a lively, energetic performance of ‘Birdie Song’. This provided a great contrast to the previous piece, and the band were able to capture the humorous, light-hearted nature of the music, ending the performance with a solo on the bird-whistle.
Concluding the first half of the concert was a dazzling performance of ‘Breezing down Broadway’, arranged by Goff Richards. During this piece the ensemble moved seamlessely between well-known Broadway tunes, and managed to stay well together despite the very fast tempo.
well executed solo moments at the beginning, and again towards the end of the piece
Opening the second half of the concert, this time under the direction of the new conductor, Isaac Conroy, was the classic ‘Summertime’, by George Gershwin. This piece featured well executed solo moments from two soloists, but also demonstrated the capability of the ensemble as a whole to stay together despite the heavy use of syncopated rhythms throughout the music. Following this was another arrangement of a choral piece, ‘Irish Blessing’. This was opened with a quartet from within the ensemble, who played and breathed well together, with good intonation and a warm tone. The entry of the rest of the ensemble proved equally tender and flowing, remaining this way throughout the performance of the piece.
a lively and striking way to end the concert, as well as providing a nice contrast to the previous piece
The next piece to be performed, ‘March from Suite for Brass Band’, a composition by one of the band members themselves, Jodie Bland, was a great addition to the programme. The band certainly did this piece justice with their lively, energetic performance, truly capturing the intended march style. Following this was ‘Gota’, another arrangement of a choral piece. The piece began with cymbal and solo horn, both of which were successful in creating an atmosphere, which was continued through the staggered entries of the rest of the instruments.
An arrangement of the Jim Webb song, ‘MacMarthur Park’ was next performed by the band, who effectively captured the sentimental nature of this song. The final piece on the programme for the evening was called ‘Malaguena’, by Ernesto Lecuona. This was a lively and striking way to end the concert, as well as providing a nice contrast to the previous piece. The percussion section were heavily featured throughout this piece, holding the Latin-sounding rhythms together very impressively.
At the very end of the concert, the ensemble gave an encore of the traditional ‘Floral Dance’, conducted by Sean Moran, this seeming a very fitting swan song for the conductor. This performance was full of life and energy and was a very strong way to end the concert, despite the performers being undoubtably tired from such a demanding programme. This concert was a fantastic way to kick-start summer.