Notes on the performances by Bespoke Brass at the Headgate Theatre on Saturday 13th July 2013

Alan Parsons, August 2013

This was billed as ‘Cutting Edge Brass’. Unfortunately many of the pieces included in the programme were anything but ‘cutting edge’ being rather on the conventional side of brass writing. However, the programme did contain a number of original and imaginative pieces for the medium, mostly from existing CNM members. The members of Bespoke Brass played excellently throughout.

Tim Torry’s Salutation from his Brass Suite made a suitable opening to the programme. Tim describes it as ‘exuberant and sometimes jazzy’, and it had a well handled cumulative effect.

Jenni Pinnock’s Brass and Bronze began with some delicate and imaginative sounds. It made use of rhythmic and melodic patterns derived from both bugle calls and bell ringing. Samples of bell sounds were effectively integrated with the brass instruments.

Wes Stephens’ Tango from his Dance Suite was nicely written for the medium, but routine in its expression.

Bernard Hughes’ Noble Music for a Ceremonial Occasion made a traditional use of the medium, introducing some interesting harmonic twists.

Alan Bullard’s Archbishop Harsnett meets Doctor Gilberd was perhaps the most original and imaginative piece in the programme. It was an eloquently dramatic musical representation of an imaginary conversation between two Colchester worthies from the sixteenth century. Scored for trumpet and horn it was beautifully played by Steve Drury and Eddie Morgan.

Stuart Russell’s From Brass and Bells was based on sampled brass and bell sounds. It was a purposeful, imaginative and very effective use of the electronic medium. This piece really goes somewhere and has a real sense of drama, avoiding the tendency of much electronic music to remain static and simply indulge in beautiful sounds. It contained some delicate as well as expressive sounds.

Greg Bartholomew’s Quand j’étais Chez mon Père was a simple melodic and harmonic setting of traditional Canadian songs.

Tim Cook’s Entrade was very much in the tradition of English music of the interwar years, both in its melodic and harmonic aspects. Within this tradition it was competently written.

Gordon Saville’s Jigsaw was likewise well written and was evidently by someone who was very familiar with the medium, containing certain virtuoso elements, but again it was very conventional in both content and expression.

Julia Usher’s Rumours of Cuts was concerned with trees and their preservation, and by extension with the present economic plight. Her approach was primarily dramatic, giving rise to sounds that were fascinating and imaginative and increasingly disturbing, even threatening. The sounds of the brass instruments were effectively enhanced by electronic diffusion.

Laurence Glazier’s A Colchester Rag was an amusing parody, reminiscent of the work of Eric Satie.

Jean-Pierre Vial’s Vingt Deux Septiemes ou Presque was a study in nostalgia, being an arrangement of a piano composition written when the composer was seventeen. The expression was very traditional with cloying harmonies.

Andrea Montalbano’s Regal Minimalism attempted to be up to date by using minimalist techniques and the whole-tone scale, but the result was rather static and seemed to get nowhere.

My own Friday Woods is part of a Colchester Suite originating as an improvisation for the Colchester based group Firewire. It was meant to evoke the feeling of calmness and quiet one gets on entering woodland.

Elspeth Manders’ Siamese Cats was written when she was only seventeen. It shows a mature, if somewhat cautious, use of the medium, and is full of promise.

Robin Benton’s Rhythmic Rondo was a lively, if conventional and rather repetitive piece which made a pleasant ending to the programme.

Alan Parsons  August 2013

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