Richard Blackford

75th Birthday Tribute

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British Bandsman 125th Anniversary Concert
Crown Imperial (Walton arr Wright)
A Bandsman’s Overture (Sparke)
Caravan (Ellington)
When the Saints (Trad arr Duffy)
Things ain’t what they used to be (M Ellington arr Morrison)
Brass (Wilby)
When Thunder Calls (Lovatt-Cooper)
Canite Tuba (MacMillan)
Zog’s Jog (Morrison)
Basin Street Blues (Trad arr Morrision)
The Old Rugged Cross (Trad arr Morrision)
Journey into Freedom (Ball)
The BB and CF (Ord Hume)
Bonus features; Frank Renton in conversation with James MacMillan: Brass; Illustrations by Tony Husband, live raw footage from the concert
Black Dyke Band/Nicholas J Childs
Guest soloist; James Morrison. With Ian McMillan (reciter) and Tony Husband (illustrator)
rec. live in concert 1 July 2012, Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround; Colour; English (no subtitles)
16:9; All region; PAL DVD-9
WOB 168 [106:00 plus 22:00 bonus features]

This gala celebratory concert, marking the 125th anniversary of British Bandsman, took place at Symphony Hall, Birmingham in July 2012 and fortunately it was recorded for video. The Black Dyke Band was the chosen one, and the genial but ever-alert director was Nicholas J. Childs. The sparkling guest soloist was multi-instrumentalist James Morrison, Australian virtuoso extraordinaire.
To help the audience see better there was a screen on-stage. We have the advantage of good crisp camera work. The band has a number of very young players in its ranks, eager and expert. Together they make a fine corporate sound, not least in the opener, Walton’s Crown Imperial - a rousing start, though there’s a bit of a fade to the next track, A Bandsman’s Overture, a fine six-minute piece by Philip Sparke, here earning world premiere status. I assume the fade was because Frank Renton introduced either the concert, or Sparke’s piece, to the audience. Morrison appears next to take on a trio of Jazz pieces; he’s cheeky and droll in Ellington’s Caravan - the band looks on approvingly - whilst, armed with a plunger mute, he goes to town on cornet player Paul Duffy’s arrangement of When the Saints. There are few finer at introducing numbers and his intro to Thing’s Ain’t What They Used To Be is one of his best. He then does one of his long-established party tricks by turning into a two-instrument, one-man brass section as he plays both trumpet and trombone, the former in his right hand, the latter in his left. One defiant passage has a repeated series of multiphonics on the trombone. It’s quite a sight and indeed quite a sound. Brass is a recitation by the ‘Bard of Barnsley’, Ian McMillan whilst to the side of the stage illustrator Tony Husband sketches away - his drawing being shown on the big screen.
Part Two witnesses the band musicians coming on stage singly, or in twos, or more, and they start When Thunder Calls. There is another world premiere in this half, namely James MacMillan’s Canite Tuba. The composer was present at the concert and his typically wide-ranging, colourful and exciting piece gets a virtuosic performance from the band. Morrison is back for another trio of pieces. This time he plays the euphonium and the piano as well, so can’t be accused of hiding his light under a bushel. At least he has the modesty not to play them simultaneously, though doubtless he could if he wanted to. Oh, wait. He does accompany himself on Basin Street Blues, where he plays the piano and trumpet simultaneously. Outrageous! Appropriately this son of a Preacher man also essays The Old Rugged Cross.
There are brief bonus features. MacMillan is heard in conversation with Frank Renton, talking about his piece and brass band music in particular - he hopes more British composers will write for bands. Then we see ‘live raw footage’ of Husband’s illustrations from the concert.
Band aficionados will enjoy the concert. Sterner and more conservative adherents may perhaps feel that Morrison, brilliant though he is, overshadows too much the evening and represents, in any case, something of a divergent tradition. Fortunately the audience loved it all.
Jonathan Woolf 


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