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World of Brass

 

Paul LOVATT-COOPER
Walking with Heroes [3:37]
The Dark Side of the Moon [12:37]
An Untold Story [3:54]
Dream Catchers [12:58]
The Big Top [1:54]
The Haunted Halls [9:08]
Where Eagles Sing [4:03]
Donegal Bay [4:06]
Vitae Aeternum [9:18]
Black Dyke Band/Nicholas J. Childs
rec. Morley Town Hall, February 2008. DDD
DOYEN DOYCD245 [63:22]

 

Experience Classicsonline


The brass band world has had the uncanny knack of producing a veritable host of talented composers and arrangers from within its ranks. Some, such as Philip Sparke, have emerged from secular banding. Others, in a lineage stretching back to the great Eric Ball, have been a product of the Salvation Army’s impressively productive brass banding tradition.

Paul Lovatt-Cooper could be said to have a foot in both camps. Although having grown up with the Salvation Army around him he now occupies a position in the percussion section of the Black Dyke Band. Her is also the band’s current composer-in-residence. For him, secular banding was an inevitable progression from percussion lessons at school although for players directly involved with SA bands “crossing over” is something that until comparatively recently would not have been deemed possible. For many years, Salvation Army rules were such that players from within the Army were not able to engage in playing activity with bands on the outside.

The “coming together” of these two strands of brass band tradition over the course of the last fifteen years or so has opened many new doors to the movement as a whole. Largely this has been the result of both a relaxation of the rules for Salvation Army musicians as well as the increasing financial involvement the Salvation Army has developed in the competitive band scene through its commercial musical arm, Salvationist Publishing and Supplies. SP&S is now heavily involved in publishing, recording and financially underpinning numerous events on the banding calendar, as well as being the force behind Doyen recordings, a label originally founded by Nick Childs, now Black Dyke’s long standing Musical Director.

As demonstrated by one of the more substantial works on this new disc, Vitae Aeternum, Paul Lovatt-Cooper has never forgotten his Salvationist roots. That said, it only takes a few minutes spent with this CD to realise that the greatest influence on his work is the cinema. Figures such as John Williams, James Horner and Danny Elfman are ever-present. Even so, the music is scored with such skill and played with such supreme musicianship and vigour that one is inclined to gloss over any derivative element in favour of the thematic inspiration.

Lovatt-Cooper’s concert works have taken the band world by storm and it is easy to hear why. Walking with Heroes and Where Eagles Sing are the most overtly John Williams-influenced pieces on the disc. They are packed with great American-tinged melodies at their respective hearts and flanked by rapid, fanfare figurations in accompaniment. At times these really take some playing - listen to the flying finger work from euphonium star David Thornton in Where Eagles Sing. In contrast there is a more reflective element in Lovatt-Cooper’s nature demonstrated in An Untold Story and Donegal Bay. Both deploy delightful and easy-going melodies featuring the tenor horn and baritone respectively. Donegal Bay is particularly affecting and here is played with ravishing tone and style by Gareth Brindle on baritone. It represents an all too rare opportunity to hear what until recently has been a neglected solo instrument within the banding world.

Of the more substantial offerings, The Dark Side of the Moon has become the best known through its use as the test-piece for the Third Section round of regional qualifying contests for the 2008 National Brass Band Championships. It is a piece that the competing bands enjoyed getting their teeth into. It is again scored with the knowledge of a man who knows bands from the inside. It presents some real challenges for the players whilst once again being packed with rhythmically dynamic and exciting, if not strikingly original, melodic ideas. Dream Catchers was written with youth bands in mind, something close to Lovatt-Cooper’s heart given that his day job is head of music at Wardle High in Rochdale, a school with a legendary reputation for brass music. It’s sure to be a hit with younger players. Its “jazz and funk influences” include a bass line in the opening movement that sounds as if it has been lifted from a Jackson 5 song. There’s plenty for the rhythm section to contribute too. The Haunted Halls also has its fair share of effects as well as some self-confessed quotes from a range of horror films. It’s Elfman’s score to Batman that most readily comes to mind, however.

The most personal of the works is Vitae Aeternum, Lovatt-Cooper’s tribute to his composition teacher Peter Graham - also from a Salvationist background. It acknowledges directly his Salvation Army upbringing in its use of three devotional songs, albeit very much transformed into Lovatt-Cooper’s own style to form a three movement concert closer.

Pictured walking with his own heroes Peter Graham, Nicholas Childs, Philip Sparke and Philip Wilby on the CD cover, Paul Lovatt-Cooper is a new voice for a new age of brass band entertainment. On a purely artistic level he might be a composer that does not speak with an entirely individual voice, but to dismiss his work on that alone is to miss the point. This is music to be enjoyed by both players and audience in equal measure. It makes few demands on the listener other than to sit back and enjoy. For that, he is a composer likely to remain in high demand.

One final word has to be reserved for the performers. Lovatt-Cooper’s own band, Black Dyke, are in splendid form. In the ample acoustic of Morley Town Hall they wring every last ounce of excitement out of the composer’s dynamic scoring.

Christopher Thomas

 





 


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