Brass Alive

Brass Alive was an apt title for the concert featuring Hawthorn Band under the direction of Peter Sykes, Kew Band Melbourne under the direction of Mark Ford and The Salvation Army Melbourne Staff Band under the direction of Bandmaster Ken Waterworth. The event was held on 2 April 2011 at the Waverly Temple Corps.

Hawthorn Band and Kew Band Melbourne were only weeks away from competing in the Open A Grade section of the National Band Championships scheduled for the Easter weekend in Adelaide, South Australia. The Melbourne Staff Band was also preparing for their United Kingdom tour in May. The Brass Alive concert was a very timely opportunity for all bands to showcase some of their best work.

First on stage was Hawthorn Band. Familiar classical themes were morphed and adapted into brass band scores with the opening two numbers, Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” (Mozart) and Mutations from Bach (Samuel Barber, arr. Gunning). The audience was delighted with Grand Tour (Mulligan) featuring soloists Paul Gunning (tuba) and Giselle Stanfield (flügelhorn). The march The President (German) was next on the program followed by Kingsfold from the English Hymnal (Williams, arr. McVeity). The concluding number from Hawthorn was Prelude de la Suite Bergamasque (Debussy, arr. Robinson). The orchestral influences of Peter Sykes were evident in the selection of music and sympathetic playing of the Hawthorn Band. The appreciation by the audience told the story.

With a change of staging the Kew Band Melbourne took their seats. Playing the renowned Salvation Army festival march Celebration (Leslie Condon), KBM kicked off the next segment of the concert. The musical performance of KBM demonstrated their prowess and versatility. True to form, contesting pieces require all sections of the band to play sometimes very high and very fast, with light and shade and at other times with tonal qualities of a choir or the elegance of a chamber orchestra, all the while engaging the audience. This was achieved with distinction with performances of On the Shoulders of Giants (Peter Graham), Veni Immanuel – Medieval French Antiphon (arr. Philip Sparke) and Vienna Nights – Finale (Philip Wilby). An “A” grade performance on the night was welcomed by the attentive audience.

The march The Victor (Kenneth Downie) was the first number performed by the Melbourne Staff Band. Vocal Soloist Rebecca Raymond was featured in the inspirational song arrangement with band accompaniment In the Name of the Lord (arr. Bowen). Raymond thrilled and at the same time blessed the audience with her outstanding vocal performance. Ellacombe Chronicles (James Curnow) is based on the well-known hymn of the Christian church, “Ellacombe”. This is an exciting number with a compelling message that the Staff Band enjoys playing which is evident in the way the band communicates it. The opening fanfare sets the scene and as the music develops the audience is taken on a musical and spiritual journey.

Commissioned for the Staff Band’s upcoming United Kingdom tour, Atonement (Roger Trigg) is new to the band and listeners alike. With a distinctive Australian flavor, strains of “Waltzing Matilda” and “Botany Bay” can be heard at times. The locally-dubbed “sacrifice section” has as its theme “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. This was a timely reminder of God’s promise of eternal life through the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus, a poignant moment in this work by Roger Trigg. The music transitions with the beautiful song “The Wonderful Cross” and the piece concludes as it starts with some Australiana and a triumphant finish.

To conclude the program all bands combined with performances of the horn feature Thine Alone (James Curnow) and To Win the World (Stephen Bulla), a double trio for cornets and trombones. The massed bands playing God Be with You (arr. Gordon) was a fitting benediction for the evening.

Melbourne Staff Band web site, original report by Stephen Webb