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Banding Bucket List- 5 Concert Pieces

I do often find myself making a mental list of pieces I want to play. Whether I’m sat in the audience at a concert or falling down the Youtube rabbit hole and watching more brass band videos than I’d like to admit (I’m sad, I know) musical inspiration is everywhere.

So I’ve managed to narrow this list of pieces down to my top 5 concert pieces to add to my Banding Bucket List.

When I was seventeen/eighteen, I had to catch the school bus to college. During the journey, whilst everybody else was probably listening to Ariana Grande or Little Mix, I listened to Immortal by Paul Lovatt- Cooper, pretty much every morning for the entirety of my second A-Level year. I was a little bit obsessed, I’ll admit. I loved all the little solo and mini-ensemble writing, with players stepping away from the band to stand in the spotlight before merging seamlessly back into the full-band sound. There are a lot of beautiful moments in this piece, but the stand-out for me is the main cornet solo. It’s simply breathtaking with a beautiful tenderness and room to create emotion- I would love to have the chance to play it one day, if I’m lucky. Immortal is a tribute to the distinguished history of the Black Dyke Band and with intricate technicalities, emotional melodies and soaring virtuosity, I think I’m right in saying that the piece does capture the character of one of the most famous bands in the world.

Immortal performed by Black Dyke Band

As you can guess from the title, this is a well known Scottish tune that was written by two wee lads from…Germany!? Despite it’s composers not being native to the Highlands, ‘Highland Cathedral‘ has been suggested a few times to become Scotland’s National Anthem. In fact, in June 2006, the Royal Scottish Orchestra opened a poll on their website asking visitors to suggest which song would be best suited to become the official National anthem of Scotland. ‘Highland Cathedral‘ came in at third place, and it’s easy to see why it was a worthy contender. It’s rousing patriotic energy would have you believe that it was written by two Scots, with Highland blood coursing through their veins, rather than two German fellas, which is clearly a testament to their brilliant writing if it can capture the essence of a nation so well despite the composers not being Scottish natives. Howard Lorriman’s arrangement for brass band is a great translation of this awesome piece, with an atmospheric opening that builds into a big, triumphant sound. I particularly like the way Black Dyke have performed this piece in the past (this piece was not sponsored by Black Dyke by the way) with a drummer taking centre stage, it gives it a military edge that just adds to the victorious and patriotic ethos of this piece.

Highland Cathedral performed by Black Dyke Band

As a die-hard Queen Fan, there had to be an arrangement of a Queen song included in my bucket list. I chose Innuendo, as it just offers more than the likes of Don’t Stop Me Now or Fat Bottom Girls, which have also been arranged for band. With heavy rock features and a stunning Spanish Section, the original song is one of my favourites and really proves just how musically versatile and genius the band were. This genius has been expertly captured by Peter Meechan, who took the Cyril Beere Memorial Trophy for ‘Best New Composition or Arrangement’ at Brass in Concert in 2008 for this arrangement of Innuendo. It includes all the drama of the original with the power of that brass band sound. The real highlight of this piece for me is the Spanish trumpet section, which is just simply boss (technical term for really good) and I seriously want to play it.

Innuendo performed by Fodens Band

As I said in last week’s post (click here to read) I loved Leyland’s ‘blue’ themed Brass In Concert Programme and this is another piece from that programme and no this post has not been sponsored by either John Doyle or the Leyland Band. ‘Blue’ is a jazz show piece that was originally written by Thomas Gansch for the awesome Mnozil Brass. It’s a brilliant concert opener, which starts with a septet made up of three trumpet players,(I seem to be featuring quiet a bit of trumpet playing this week, I may have to change the blog to It Might be a Trumpet…) a horn, two trombones and a bass, with the band following on behind during the course of the piece. It’s just one of those pieces that is effortlessly cool. I did joke that if I ever got married, as I will probably be the furthest away from a traditional bride, I’d walk down the aisle to this song, as it would be something a bit different and it could be my ‘something blue’ ha. ha. ha…

Blue performed by Leyland Band

I’m a big fan of Karl Jenkins’ music. From the rhythmic and anthemic ‘Adiemus’ to the poignant ‘For the Fallen’, I could have easily made this list from his music alone. However one piece (or rather one movement from a suite of pieces) that I simply had to include, was the one that introduced me to Karl Jenkins’ music in the first place. Stabat Mater is a work consisting of twelve movements that are based on the Latin prayer of the same name. Some movements contain lyrics from the original prayer that have been set to different musical styles. Other movements are based on poems and religious texts in various languages including English, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew. As with many of his works, Jenkins combines western styles through the use of choirs and orchestra with ethnic percussion, eastern instruments, and the use of languages. I really do recommend you listen to the full work when you get the chance, it’s extraordinary.

The brass band arrangement, by Robert Childs and Andrew Wainwright, includes three of the twelve movements:

1: Sancta Mater

2: Cantus Lacrimosus

3: Paradisi Gloria

I first heard this suite when I watched Grimethorpe play it at Southport Little Theatre a few years ago and I was enthralled. Being the geek that I am, I went home and listened through all of Karl Jenkins back catalogue, and thus an obsession for this particular work and Jenkins’ music in general was born. Anyway, back to the point. Although all three are brilliant in their own right, the one I want to specifically include in my bucket list is Sancta Mater, which is the first of the three pieces in this suite. It is a fiery, dramatic piece based on verses eleven to fourteen of the prayer, which talks about sharing the pain that Jesus felt as he died and the grief of the virgin mother. I’m glad to say the music itself isn’t as doom and gloom as the subject matter, in fact when I listen to it I imagine it as a soundtrack to some kind of conflict scene in a fantasy drama such as Game of Thrones.

It’s visually interesting to watch too, with the cornet section split into two sides on either side of the stage (surround sound cornets, what more do you want?) providing an antiphonal effect (which basically means a section that’s played alternately by two groups) with the main theme that is heard at the beginning of the piece and repeated throughout (see, I didn’t waste that term I spent at the RNCM). It’s a piece filled with so much colour, emotion and energy and definitely one I must play before I put my instrument into retirement.

Original version of Sancta Mater from Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater

UNT Brass Band perform Stabat Mater Suite

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