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CD: 4 Bars Rest


Enter the Galaxies
Paul LOVATT-COOPER
Enter the Galaxies [3:09]
Karl JENKINS (arr. Graham)
Aspects of Adiemus [13:12]
Dan PRICE
Sunrise over Blue Ridge [4:03]
Traditional (arr. Webster)
Mexican Hat Dance [5:01]
Peter GRAHAM
Sirocco [6:56]
Andrew BAKER
Kopanitsa [4:24]
Steven PONSFORD
Turris Fortissima [9:21]
Charles DIBDIN (arr. Downie)
Tom Bowling [3:58]
Traditional (arr. Wood)
Men of Harlech [3:19]
Philip SPARKE
Capricorno [6:47]
Rodney NEWTON 
King Solomon’s Mines [4:55]
Paul NERO (arr. Wood)
The Hot Canary [2:46]
Dan PRICE 
An American Tale [5:57]
Frank Renton (narration)
Soloists: Ian Williams (cornet: Mexican dance) Joanne Childs (flugelhorn: Sirocco) Gavin Pritchard (percussion: Kopanitsa) Christopher Thomas (trombone: Tom Bowling) Owen Farr (tenor horn: Capricorno) David Childs (euphonium: Hot Canary)
Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs
rec. February 2009, Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun, Aberdare.
DOYEN DOYCD264 [75:02]
Experience Classicsonline


2009 has been quite a year for the Cory Band and its Musical Director Robert Childs. The band from the Welsh Valleys has celebrated its 125th anniversary in style with a series of high profile concerts crowned by an appearance at St David’s Hall Cardiff in June when the band were joined by the Morriston Orpheus choir and legendary trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.

Yet despite the celebrations, it has also been a phenomenally successful year for the band on the contest stage.

Retaining its status as the Champion Band of Wales at the beginning of the year, Cory has gone on to retain its European Champions title for a second year, whilst adding the Wold Championship crown and the British Open trophy to its cabinet. Victory in the National Championships of Great Britain might have just eluded the band as this review was written but with the Brass in Concert title still to defend in November, the impact of Cory on the band scene in 2009 has been little short of immense.

It was the band’s 2008 programme for Brass in Concert, the leading entertainment contest fixture on the banding calendar, that has largely provided the inspiration and material for the band’s latest CD release Enter the Galaxies.

The repertoire is a typical cornucopia of original pieces from leading brass band composers, thoughtfully interspersed with arrangements of material familiar and not so familiar, all captured with the brilliance of a brass band at the very peak of its considerable powers.

One of Cory’s claims to fame in recent years has been the close relationship the band has developed with fellow Welshman Karl Jenkins and one of the more familiar pieces on the disc is a selection from his commercially blockbusting score Adiemus, arranged by Peter Graham under the collective banner Aspects of Adiemus. It is not the most musically satisfying fare on the disc but does provide a useful and accessible way into brass band music for anyone that is not fully familiar with what the modern brass band is capable of.

Of the well known music on offer, Mexican Hat Dance features a stylish and virtuosic performance from the band’s principal cornet player Ian Williams whilst Gareth Wood provides an up beat and somewhat different arrangement of Men of Harlech, originally written as an encore item and showing the talents of the various sections around the band off to fine effect.

Chris Thomas - no relation - is a warmly lyrical trombone soloist in Kenneth Downie’s arrangement of Tom Bowling whilst Owen Farr puts the tenor horn into the spotlight in some style with Philip Sparke’s Capricorno. Stealing the show amongst the soloists though is David Childs on euphonium, playing the piece that won him the soloist prize at Brass in Concert 2008, The Hot Canary. A one time hit for Maynard Ferguson with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, it’s a witty yet remarkable display of what the euphonium is (or perhaps shouldn’t be!) capable of, in the hands of a young man who is undoubtedly the leading player of his generation.

The original pieces on the disc also carry the greatest musical weight with Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Enter the Galaxies, a high octane three minute micro-journey through distant universes, being an exhilarating opening number. Steven Ponsford’s Turris Fortissima (Strongest Tower) is an approachable yet technically taxing and musically dynamic tribute to the city of Plymouth, thematically based around the hymns A Safe Stronghold is our God, Blessed be the Name of the Lord and My Jesus, My Saviour, and reflecting the composer’s Salvationist faith. The composer’s name is still little known in secular brass band circles but Turris Fortissima is a piece that should win him a good number of fans. Rodney Newton’s King Solomon’s Mines is an obvious homage to John Williams but no less effective for it and bristling with plenty of gung-ho Indiana Jones spirit. Dan Price, a young composer who has developed close links to the Cory Band, provides two highly effective pieces in Sunrise over Blue Ridge, a meltingly beautiful evocation of the dawn landscape surrounding the Blue Ridge Mountains and An American Tale. The latter brings the disc to a rousing conclusion, being an effective drawing together of well known melodies associated with the American Civil War, culminating in a moving and strikingly original version of Amazing Grace in a hymn of tribute to the many lives lost in the conflict.

Doyen have captured the stunning sound of the Cory Band with vivid and natural clarity in what is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable brass band CDs released during 2009.

Christopher Thomas 

 


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