Selling out the historic Castle Great Hall, an eager audience packed out the venue for an evening ‘On Broadway’. Exploring a range of well-known yet ambitious show tunes including medleys from the Sound of Music, West Side Story and Guys and Dolls, it was sure to be a crowd-pleaser for the young and old alike. The eighty strong non-auditioned Concert Band have been growing from strength to strength since their 40th anniversary last year and tonight was no exception.
Oozing poise, grace and confidence, Associate Conductor Chloe Langham opened the concert with New York from ‘East Coast Pictures’. A perfect introduction to the bustling metropolis of Manhattan, the impactful opening unison immediately set the scene before the rapid intertwining melodic lines were stretched across all sections. Supported by the lively syncopated rhythms of the brass section, the balance across the group should be highly commended as they responded well to Langham’s sensitive direction. As the piece progressed, the percussion section brought out the finer details and credit should be given to Oliver Newton for his amusing performance on the whistle.
Guys and Dolls: Overture and Fugue for Tinhorns followed, with Principal conductor Hugo Jennings taking to the stage. Despite recovering from illness, Jenning’s debut with the band displayed fantastic showmanship and his engaging style really drew out the best in the musicians. With the superb trumpet melodies soaring across the hall, tempo changes between songs were well coordinated. Although lacking confidence in some of the more exposed entries, the duet sections between the flute and saxophones were especially characterful.
Next, was a selection of numbers from Fiddler on the Roof including ‘Tradition’ and ‘Sunrise, Sunset’. Although less well known by the audience, the solo trumpet line succeeded in expressing the raucous nature of ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ even if it was occasionally lost in the dense texture.
Langham took the stage once more to perform a stirring arrangement of Sondheim’s ‘Send in the Clowns’. The sounds of the full band filled the acoustics of the venue well, and when combined with the dramatic cymbal and snare parts proved to be particularly emotive. Although the piece could have taken more time in rubato sections, it provided a great contrast to what was to follow. To finish the first half a vibrant rendition of some of the dances from West Side Story was heard. From the menacing opening to the joyous bongo solo, it certainly lifted the audience’s spirit leading into the interval. Demanding a great deal of technical control and concentration, the piece is a challenge for any ensemble and in this case some rhythmic drive was slightly lost throughout. However, the versatility displayed across the whole band was excellent as they explored a range of moods and styles.
After the interval, the band presented the most well-known medley of the evening, the Sound of Music. Proving to be a hit with both the audience and performers alike, it was clear from the start this was a band favourite! A special mention should go Katie Vega on drum kit who not only provided strong rhythmic support in this medley in particular, but throughout the entire performance was the backbone of the whole group. Her attentive playing not only supported every single section but also added a new lease of life that really captured the spirit of Broadway!
Other highlights included an upbeat version of Gershwin’s Summertime and selected songs from My Fair Lady with the wonderfully expressive oboe solo perfectly capturing Eliza’s transformation into a cultured member of high society. Despite some confusion regarding entries in the clarinet section, the offbeat accompaniment in the flutes and clarinets was in perfect synchronicity.
Overall, the evening was a tremendous success which attracted a refreshingly varied audience who clearly enjoyed the programme immensely. Both conductors, band and executive committee should be congratulated for a fantastic evening! Looking forward, the band will be joining forces with the University Brass Band for a festive collaboration in Durham Town Hall on 13th December.