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World of Brass

A History of Brass Bands – The Golden Period - Inaugural Lecture by Professor Nicholas Childs and Interviews with Dr Robert Childs, Professor Trevor Herbert, Professor Philip Wilby and Dr Roy Newsome [c100:00]
Black Dyke Band/Professor Nicholas Childs (lecturer and conductor)
rec. Gandhi Hall, Leeds Metropolitan University and Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil, 2009
16:9 colour
All regions
English language with no subtitles
WORLD OF BRASS WOB129 [c.100:00]

Experience Classicsonline

It is good to come across a disc that aims simply to inform and enthuse the listener, whilst assuming an intelligent interest in the subject and an adult attention span. Just under the first half of the disc is a public lecture by Professor Childs in the course of which he conducts the Black Dyke Band in four musical examples. Other than a few not too clear illustrations the emphasis is entirely on the content of the lecture. This may not be sufficient to attract anyone with absolutely no interest in the subject of brass bands, but to someone like myself, with an interest in the subject but little knowledge of it, this is just what is needed.
Dr Childs was at one time a euphonium player, half of “The Childs Brothers” with his brother Robert who also features as a speaker on the disc. Dr Nicholas Childs is Principal Conductor of Black Dyke Band and his long experience in this field is obvious, as is his knowledge of its history. He traces its origins from the nineteenth century brass and reed bands, performing the Yorkshire Waltzes by Enderby Jackson as an example of the music they played, through the beginning of competitive playing in the last part of that century to the so-called Golden Period, which he defines as running roughly for about twenty years from 1913, the year of publication of Percy Fletcher’s Labour and Love, the first major original work commissioned for brass bands. This forms another of the musical illustrations for the lecture, along with part of Elgar’s Severn Suite and John Ireland’s Comedy Overture, which was later revised for orchestra as A London Overture.
As well as the lecture there are four discussions or interviews, all recorded at Cyfarthfa Castle in South Wales which has a fascinating collection relating to the Castle’s own nineteenth century band. This is discussed and parts of it are seen – they can be heard on a Nimbus disc played by The Wallace Collection (NI5470) which has long had a treasured place in my collection. The various comments by the speakers and the illustrations are all well worth hearing or seeing respectively but it is annoying to have music played only just audibly during the various interviews, for the most part not loud enough to listen to but loud enough to distract. It is also surely contrary to one of the aim’s of the disc to encourage listeners to take band music seriously rather than to regard it as a mere background. An annoyance, but not sufficient to reduce its overall interest and value.
Unusually the booklet with the DVD is very much worth having in itself. There are historical photographs, biographies of the main figures in band music during the Golden Period, and more general information about the brass band movement. It avoids the need for the listener to take notes during the lecture! The disc has not succeeded in removing my prejudice against the competitive aspects of the movement, but it has greatly reduced my ignorance as to its history and made me want to hear more of the works discussed here – including those played tantalizingly in the background of the interviews. Fortunately the numbers of the CDs from which they originate are given in the booklet. This may not be the most glamorous of music videos, and at times the camera-work does verge on the home-made, but when the content is of such interest and put across with such obvious authority and enthusiasm this is of little importance.
John Sheppard






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