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Essential Dyke Volume V - Celebrate Rotary

Celebrate Rotary


Ruslan and Ludmilla


Du bist die Ruh


Music from the Elizabethan Court


Auld Lang Syne

Michael BALL

…all the flowers of the mountain…


Finale – Violin Concerto


Romance – The Gadfly


Children of Sanchez


1812 Overture

Black Dyke Band/Dr. Nicholas J. Childs
rec. Morley Town Hall, 27 January 2005 DDD
DOYEN DOY CD193 [66:37]

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The Black Dyke Band has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings as a brass and reed band in Queensbury, Yorkshire in 1816. The establishment of the brass band that we know today dates back to 1855 when John Foster and Son took the band under its wing, hence "Dyke" this year celebrates its 150th anniversary.

It has already been a momentous start to the year on the contest stage as the band recently took the title European Champions for the first time in ten years. Later in the year they will defend their 2004 National title at the Royal Albert Hall.

This latest CD release is one of several that have appeared in recent months. Later in June 2005 the band will take centre-stage along with Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for the official anniversary concert.

This is the fifth volume of Doyen’s essential Dyke series. The band’s Music Director, Nicholas Childs was the founder of the label. The discs so far have taken a journey through the more popular and by and large traditional side of the their repertoire. The choice of music here is a little more wide-ranging than on some of the previous discs. It takes in the familiar alongside film music, Elgar Howarth’s transcriptions of Elizabethan court music by John Bull and William Byrd and the major work by Michael Ball ... all the flowers of the mountain ... that won the band its 2004 National title.

Peter Graham has built a reputation as one of the band movement’s most popular composers in recent years. His brief opener Celebrate Rotary demonstrates the lighter side of his personality. As the title suggests the work was commissioned by the Rotary Club as a celebration of its relationship with the Black Dyke Band. Graham has responded with a bright, up-beat modern march that gets the disc off to an enjoyably melodious and toe-tapping start.

Glinka’s overture to his opera Ruslan and Ludmilla has been around for many years in this arrangement by the late, great Walter Hargreaves; always one of the great characters on the band scene. It still remains a challenge to pull off well at tempo but here Dyke are in magnificent form. Nicholas Childs guides the band with admirable control and the dovetailing running semi-quavers flow seamlessly throughout.

Similarly Elgar Howarth’s arrangements of John Bull and William Byrd stem from his days working closely with the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. At one time these arrangements were heard regularly although perhaps less so in recent years. As is so often the case with early music Howarth’s choices work well in the context of the brass band, particularly when scored with the skill demonstrated here. The playing is magisterial and despite the pyrotechnics of the outer two pieces, Earl of Oxford’s March and King’s Hunting Jig, it is John Bull’s beautiful central Pavane that for me shines through.

In some ways Michael Ball’s ... all the flowers of the mountain ... is the odd piece out here in that it is the only truly major work on the disc. However, it is good to have it laid down on CD both as a stunning celebration of Dyke’s winning performance at the 2004 National finals and because it was not particularly well received by bands and audience alike at that contest. The reason I suspect is a grossly unjust one in that unusually for a test piece it ends in rapt quietude. No doubt those that were there to appreciate a piece of music purely for its quality will feel rather differently about it as do I. Inspired by Killiney Bay and Killiney Hill and taking its title from an anonymous poem the work is essentially a symphonic rhapsody. Despite the introspection of the opening and close it is a highly demanding test-piece on both technical and musical levels. The gentle unfolding of the opening material - there is something of a nod to the worlds of Bax and Moeran here - is some of the most affecting original music for band that I have heard for some time. Overall Ball creates a satisfyingly unified work that combines its essential lyricism with real technical and individual demands in the faster, often scherzo-like, central sections. In soloistic terms most of the band have an opportunity to shine, none more so than the bass trombone (listen to the cadenza at 2:14) so often neglected individually but here proving that it deserves its place in the limelight.

Goff Richards’ transcription of the famous and touchingly beautiful Romance from Shostakovich’s film score for The Gadfly draws some lovely sounds although I was not entirely taken with the licence that Richards has taken with the arrangement. Nicholas Childs’ new transcription of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture plays well to the strengths of a band that he knows so well, resulting in a gloriously sonorous opening and there’s playing of real fire in the ensuing music. The ending is captured quite magnificently and whilst I have to admit that I usually cringe when I see the "1812" on band programmes the playing here is so irresistible that it really has breathed new life into an old banding warhorse for me.

I have saved a final deserving mention for the four featured soloists: cornetist Roger Webster, David Thornton on euphonium, John Doyle on flügel horn and Lesley Howie on tenor horn. All four acquit themselves exceptionally well in their contrasting pieces but in particular Roger Webster proves himself to be an artist of the highest order. I guarantee that you will struggle to find a finer demonstration of legato cornet playing anywhere. Whilst I accept that purists may struggle with the finale of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto played on a tenor horn, Lesley Howie produces a remarkably warm and full-bodied tone. Allied with faultless articulation this really is a joy to hear. David Thornton gives a commanding performance of Simone Mantia’s variations on Auld Lang Syne and although Mantia’s name may not be well known all becomes clearer when one realises that he was the Italian-born euphonium soloist in Sousa’a band before switching to the equally famous band of Arthur Pryor. In complete contrast the film Children of Sanchez (released in 1978 and starring Anthony Quinn) gave Norwegian R Gilje the basis for his arrangement of Chuck Mangione’s strongly Mexican-flavoured score. The band captures the Latin rhythms well but it is John Doyle’s flügel playing that is truly outstanding as the music progresses from a lyrical opening to a blazing all-out close.

Although I often shy away from the lighter side of the brass band repertoire this disc has been a pleasure to review and is a fitting celebration of a truly great band celebrating a milestone in their history. Recorded in the often used but amply suitable venue of Morley Town Hall the Doyen 24-bit recording is both vivid and detailed.

Christopher Thomas

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