Norwich 125th Features Black Dyke Band

A highlight of the year-long 125th anniversary celebrations for the Norwich Citadel Band (Bandmaster Doug Beattie) was the visit of the renowned Black Dyke Band to the Citadel for a gala concert on 29 September 2007. Contributing to the spirit of the evening was a collection for the Mombasa Children’s Home taken up as the audience left the building, raising a total of £344.

A capacity crowd of 700 packed the St. Andrews Hall as the Black Dyke Band, after a welcome from Bandmaster Beattie, introduced itself with its signature march, Queensbury (the title being taken from the band’s hometown of Queensbury, Yorkshire). Unfortunately, Black Dyke’s principal conductor, Dr. Nicholas Childs, was not present for the evening. Conducting duties were ably performed by the assistant conductor, Philip Goodwin, an intrinsic part of the band for the last 22 years, usually found playing Eb tuba.

Next on the program was Verdi’s exciting overture La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny. Black Dyke’s principal cornet, Richard Marshall, was the first soloist of the evening, playing a flügelhorn and trumpet solo arranged by Stephen Bulla, Blessed Assurance. This item has also been featured in Norwich Citadel Band programs by NCB principal cornet Richard Woodrow. Following Marshall’s presentation, the rest of the Black Dyke cornet section joined him, playing (from memory) the well-known Harry James number Trumpet Blues and Cantabile. This was followed by two Elgar Howarth arrangements of early music, Pavanne and Kings Hunting Jig.

Next up was the youngest soloist of the Black Dyke Band, a recently qualified student from the Royal Northern College of Music, Arfon Owen, who played the finale from Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto with beautiful and seemingly effortless style. The first half of the concert concluded with Peter Graham’s Renaissance, written as a sequel to Shine As the Light and featuring the Joy Webb melody, “Come Into Our World”. This piece was used by the Norwich Citadel Band on its tour of Sweden in 2004.

To commence the second half, the Black Dyke Band played the signature march of the host band, Norwich Citadel. Philip Goodwin told the audience the story associated with the first four notes of the march, demonstrated by Richard Marshall, which are known as the Norwich Citadel Band “whistle”. Former bandsman and baritone virtuoso Herbert Aldred was present in the auditorium to hear his name mentioned as the World War II soldier who gave that whistle to military Captain Harold Coleman – who heard it and met up with his Norwich bandsmen colleagues even though officers and ordinary soldiers would not normally be allowed to be on such friendly terms.

Capriccio Espagnol (Rimsky-Korsakov) was the band’s next choice. This music really suits a brass band, and Black Dyke’s performance demonstrated just why they are considered one of the best brass bands in the world. Their fortissimo was full and broad and their pianissimo was quiet and atmospheric. This was followed by a cavalcade of four soloists, beginning with world-famous trombonist Brett Baker, who performed the fiercely difficult White Knuckle Ride (Philip Wilby), somewhat of a tour de force for trombone players. Fantasie Originale (Mantia) demonstrated the fabulous sound and technique of David Thornton, arguably one of the very best euphonium players of today’s generation of talented musicians. Another great soloist is flügelhorn player John Doyle, who treated the audience to a thoughtful rendition of Peter Gabriel’s That’ll Do. Doyle possesses a true sweet and melodic flügelhorn sound ably shown in this solo. The last of the four soloists was Joe Cook, playing Rossini’s Largo al Factotum on tuba. Cook took over the principal tuba chair from Philip Goodwin some time ago and has since demonstrated his obvious flair and talent, not to mention his considerable skill and big sound.

The finale of the evening was Vita Aeturnum, by Black Dyke’s young Composer-in-Residence, Paul Lovett-Cooper. This wonderful piece was a highlight despite it being only its second performance, with the premiere having been only two weeks earlier. It is exciting and challenging music which skillfully displays four Salvation Army melodies. The cup-muted and inwardly-facing cornets playing “Holy Spirit, bring Thy power” was a particularly moving spiritual moment.

Enthusiastic applause and genuine appreciation of the incredible talent on display was shown as the concert ended. The Black Dyke Band ended their performance with an encore consisting of Rossini’s famous William Tell Overture.

Norwich Citadel Band web site, original report by Band Secretary Michael Whybrow