Cathedral Brass - Volume II
Charles -Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata from Organ Symphony No. 5 (arr. Wright) [4:04]
John HUGHES (1873-1932)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer (arr. Wilby)* [4:26]
Karl JENKINS (b. 1944)
Benedictus fromThe Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (arr. Small) [4:36]
Maurice BEVAN (1921-2006)
There's a Wideness in God's Mercy (arr. Wilby)* [3.02]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Crown Imperial (arr. Wright) [4:33]
Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941)
God be in my Head* [1:35]
Albert W KETÈLBEY (1875-1959)
In a Monastery Garden (arr. Wilby)* [4:53]
Léon BOËLLMANN (1862-1897)
Prière à Notre-Dame and Toccata from Suite Gothique (arr. Ball) [8:04]
William Henry MONK (1823-1889)
Abide with Me (arr. Jenkins and Graham) [2:32]
Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941)
Psalm 121* [2:35]
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
I Was Glad (arr. Wilby)* [4:32]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
O for the Wings of a Dove (arr. Wilby) [6:06]
As the Deer Pants for the Water (arr. Wilby)* [3:04]
John GOSS (1800-1880)
Praise My Soul (arr. Childs) [3:30]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
All My Hope (arr. Wilby)* [3:38]
Martin SHAW (1875-1958)
Hills of the North, Rejoice (arr. Wilby)* [3:36]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Nimrod and Finale from Enigma Variations (arr. Ball) [9:15]
*Bristol Cathedral Choir/Mark Lee
Mark Lee, Philip Wilby (organists)
Black Dyke Band/Dr Nicholas J. Childs
rec. 2010, Morley Town Hall; St Teilo Church, Cardiff, 24 January 2011.
Sung texts not included
DOYEN DOY CD244 [75:27]  
My first experience of the Black Dyke Band was via a cover-mount CD on a hi-fi magazine about twenty years ago. It made an indelible impression and helped fire my interest in brass music. The band has a beautifully blended, virtuoso sound that never fails to impress, whether the music is frankly populist or something a little more serious. This second volume of Cathedral Brass is a bit of both, combining arrangements of well-known hymns/songs of faith and orchestral/organ pieces. The players are joined by Bristol Cathedral Choir, directed by their organist and Master of Choristers Mark Lee; the other organist is composer-arranger Philip Wilby. The band is led by its music director, Nicholas Childs.
Where better to start than with a pot-boiler; Widor’s Toccata is played with astonishing agility - and underpinned by a discreet organ part - setting the pace and standard for this most entertaining collection. Of the many hymn tunes, John Hughes’ Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer blends the splendid, sonorous brass sound with a warmly lyrical choir. As for Philip Wilby’s arrangement of Maurice Bevan’s There's a Wideness in God's Mercy its simplicity and breadth is most engaging. Balances are fine, although tuttis are on the bright side.
One-time Master of the King’s Musick Henry Walford Davies’ God be in my Head has a limpid purity that is well caught by the recording team. His equally affecting setting of Psalm 121 is slightly marred by a noticeably high level of ambient noise, although I doubt most listeners would quibble when the choral and solo singing is as good as this. What a contrast with Parry’s robust anthem I was Glad, band and singers joined by a thrilling organ accompaniment. The sweep and surge of this piece is impressive, and the recording does full justice to Wilby’s fine arrangement.
Nicholas Childs’ brother Robert penned this lovely, singing arrangement of John Goss’s Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven. How wonderfully refined this band is in quiet passages, and how impassioned in the more expansive episodes; the recording is full and weighty, with no hint of stress in the climaxes, both here and in the contemporary Martin Nystrom setting of As the Deer Pants for the Water. It’s not a particularly inventive piece but it has its moments, notably those gentle timp strokes. Howells, who also wrote a setting of Psalm 42 - more poetically rendered as ‘Like as the Hart Desireth Waterbrooks’ - is represented in Wilby’s arrangement of All My Hope on God is Founded. Again there’s plenty of heft, the organ adding welcome ballast. It is surely one of the most satisfying items here, those cymbal-capped climaxes especially well caught.
But the best is yet to come. First is the arrangement of the Benedictus from Karl Jenkins’ Mass for Peace, with haunting solos from Zoe Hancock on flügelhorn and Gary Curtin on euphonium. There’s a heart-stopping purity to their playing, gently accompanied as they are by the band; but there’s muscle and sinew too, those sudden drum thuds both powerful and startling. The other work that stands out because of its fine solo - Richard Marshall on cornet - is Wilby’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s O for the Wings of a Dove from Hear My Prayer. It’s a sweet tune that can so easily succumb to cloying piety, but it’s played here with the utmost sensitivity and good taste. Yet another gem in a disc liberally studded with sparklers.
And there’s more. My favourite track has to be William Henry Monk’s Eventide (Abide with Me) in a gorgeous arrangement - for band alone - by Karl Jenkins and Peter Graham. It’s one of those unforgettable pieces that never ceases to work its magic. What a spell it casts here, the music as serenely autumnal as I’ve ever heard it. Discretion and good judgment triumph once more, a familiar tune made all the more affecting by its simplicity of utterance. All very different from the virtuosic, large-scale arrangements, the Boëllmann Prayer certainly has its inward moments, the band discreet and finely calibrated, the Toccata gruff and grand. What a thrilling noise the band makes in those pounding tuttis and blazing finale.
There’s no shortage of spectacle in Walton’s royal crowd-pleaser, Crown Imperial, written for the coronation of King George VI in 1937. There’s no lack of weight either thanks to the terrific organ part. The band plays with its usual fluency and flair. It’s a flamboyant work that can be overbearing, yet director Childs holds it all together remarkably well; ditto Wilby’s tub-thumping arrangements of Elgar’s Nimrod and Finale from Enigma. As ever, articulation is impressive and detail well preserved, the disc concluding with a thrilling flourish.
I have yet to hear the first volume in this series, but if it’s half as good as this one it will be worth acquiring. This is a well-chosen programme, with plenty of variety in terms of weight, style and forces deployed. Indeed, it’s surprisingly easy to listen to this anthology in one sitting, even allowing for repeats of some tracks along the way. And despite the different acoustics - and having to splice in the Bristol organ - the recording team has done an excellent job. The liner-notes are basic but well laid out. Sung texts are not provided.
Another disc with broad appeal, from one of the best bands in the business.
Dan Morgan
Another disc with broad appeal, from one of the best bands in the business.