Following on from their hugely successful Broadway and Christmas concerts, Durham University Concert Band’s European extravangza performed music from across the continent in an evening of a variety of moods in Elvet Methodist Church, taking the audience on an exciting journey without having to leave their seats!
For this concert, each piece was introduced by different players which was a pleasant, unique touch. The concert began with the English Folk Song Suite by Vaughan Williams, conducted by associate conductor Chloe Langham, which set a warm tone. For the characteristically lyrical Vaughan Williams, there cannot be too much legato and phrase direction. Occasionally, scalic runs could be a little untidy, which I think could have been improved with slightly more detached articulation, but the work set an excellent mood for the evening.
Padstow Lifeboat conveyed the style of a military band well, and the forte ‘D’ in the brass representing the fog horn from the lighthouse was clear, although perhaps there have been even more purposefully jarring and comparatively more softness and sensitivity in the dynamic where appropriate. However, Langham controlled the band effortlessly, even when a vase elsewhere in the room fell down and smashed.
Indeed a special mention must be given to Chloe Langham in how much she has developed and grown in control and confidence as a conductor, and to the percussion section for their impressive precision, accuracy, and drive throughout the concert.
In Brahms’ infamous Hungarian Dance No. 5, the syncopated rhythms were delivered convincingly, although the attack could have been more poignant. The popular hymn Lord of the Dance was a great finish to the first half, with an unusual yet very effective arrangement (including a drum kit) which had many members of the audience tapping their feet in time.
The second half was conducted enthusiastically by the principle conductor, Hugo Jennings. I did feel that an acknowledgement of the audience’s applause upon entry was missing from both conductors. The intonation in the band was generally good, although timing was off on occasion. Esther Havell gave a praiseworthy solo on the piccolo. The multiple-movement Suite Francais by Milhaud was full of character which was great, but I would have perhaps liked more of a pause between the movements to savour the moment. Despite that the brass didn’t always produce a chord immediately together, the horns produced some lovely legato here.
Borodin’s famous Polovtsian Dances, arranged for DUCB by Andrew Middleton, is well-known for its catchy rhythms, pace and beautifully lyrical melodies. Unfortunately, the latter sometimes tended to disappear in the texture. A wonderful effect was created by the triangle, playing with shimmering accuracy. The well-chosen programme concluded with the classic Radetsky March by J. Strauss Snr., whose character was conveyed well by the band and conductor, involving the customary audience participation in clapping along.
Overall, an excellent evening was had by all. I look forward to hearing more of Concert Band next term, namely the Music Durham Cathedral Concert on 1st June, Arts on the Green on 9th June, and their own concert shared with Whitworth Park School Wind Band on 12th June.