Banding Bucket List- 5 Solos
When I was in my teens and I really caught the banding bug, there were quite a few aspirations I had for my future in banding. From pieces I wanted to play, to venues I dreamed of performing in, there was a lot I wanted to do. During my sixteen years in banding, I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve some of those aspirations and maybe I’ll talk about those in another post, but there are still quite a few I haven’t achieved yet or only recently aspired to do. So, this is the first part of a mini series I’m going to call my ‘Banding Bucket List’, starting with solos I’d love to perform one day.
Obviously there are loads of solos I’d like to perform, but not had the chance yet, however I’ve managed to whittle it down to my top five. Some of these are attainable (it’s just a case of being lucky enough to have the opportunity to perform them at some point) some of them are…let’s call them long-term ambitions (for when I’m able to play higher than a ledger line C without sounding like a dog’s squeaky toy…).
This is a stunning flugel solo from the pen of Philip Harper, which was premiered by Helen Williams with the Cory Band in their Roald Dahl themed performance at Brass in Concert and their album of the same theme. Its inspiration is a little girl called Olivia (so seems rather fitting that I should learn it) who happened to be the daughter of famous children’s author Roald Dahl. Sadly, the piece is a tribute to little Olivia who tragically died from measles at the age of seven. Despite the sadness of the subject matter, this is an absolute beauty of a piece that really tugs on the heartstrings and one I would really love to perform in honour of another Olivia.
Helen Williams playing ‘A Little Star Went Out’ with Uppermill Brass Band
This is one of those pieces that you start listening to and think to yourself- ‘oooo I’d love to learn that’… until you listen to the rest of the piece and realise you seriously have to up your playing game in order to master a piece such as this. It was written for my former teacher, Iain Culross, for his solo album with Leyland Band. Vanguard is definitely a ‘long-term aspiration’ to be able to play, with many a virtuosic element and catchy melody, but this is an absolute stunner of a piece.
Vanguard by James McFadyen
Leyland band’s ‘Blue’ themed Brass In Concert programme is one of my favourite performances ever played at the contest. After signing, I did get the opportunity to play some of the pieces featured in the programme, which (for this little band geek) was awesome. However, after hearing John Doyle play his composition The Beauty of Blue, I knew this was a piece I needed to play at some point in my banding life. The piece is atmospheric, with a truly beautiful melody that really give a chance for the flugel to soar above the sound of the band. Whether I’d be able to play whilst artistically meandering around the stage like John can, is another matter, but I have been looking at the piece again recently and fallen in love with it all over again.
I have literally been obsessed with this cornet solo since I heard Kathleen Gaspoz perform it with the RNCM Brass Band during my time at the college. This is another ‘long-term aspiration’ piece as it’s flooded with lots of different types of technique including lip slurs, flutter tongue (which I don’t seem physically able to do, so will have to work round that somehow), fiendish runs and a good sprinkling of ledger line Ds for good measure. I think it’s a piece that, if I master it (and that’s a big if) I’ll have added so many more skills to my playing ability, so not only will I have ticked it off the bucket list, it’s definitely a good one for personal progression.
It was written for cornet virtuoso Harmen Vanhoorne and is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, specifically Romeo and his famous line ‘O I am Fortune’s Fool’ (flashbacks of GCSE English Literature). It represents Romeo’s sadness with the dangerous relationship with Juliet at the beginning of the piece with a morose and emotional section. Followed by what can only be described as musical chaos,with the aforementioned virtuosic technical writing, which is used to convey Romeo’s tumultuous thoughts. With a catchy riff and an edgy drum beat, this is an amazing piece to play with a band and something which is just a little bit different- which I love!
Fortune’s Fool- Full Performance by Vincent Bearpark
Harmen Vanhoorne Playing Fortune’s Fool (Cut performance)
The Torchbearer is a piece that, despite never having the chance to play it, has an incredibly emotional effect on me every time I hear it- I must be getting soppy in my old age! I first heard it at the 2015 Yorkshire Area (the setting of my incredibly embarrassing first encounter with Richard Marshall, which you can read about here). It was a brilliant experience for a young band geek- the contest, I mean, not me making a fool of myself in front of one of the best cornet players in the business.
When I first heard that opening, I can quite honestly say, those first twenty bars or so alone, developed an even greater love for banding than I already possessed at that point (which was a lot anyway). When executed well, it’s just sublime and something I always use to substantiate my point that brass bands are capable of producing so much more than our stereotypical realms of hymns and marches that the non-banding world expects from us. Classic FM, I’m looking at you, you snobbish, orchestra-favouring muggles.
Follow The Flame is a flugel solo that has been created from one of the main themes in The Torchbearer. It’s a gorgeous melody, with plenty of room for a soloist to add their own personal touches and flair, which I quite like in a piece. Apart from the actual solo itself being something I’d love to play, another reason I’d love to perform this piece is that it has the same glorious opening that I just adore from the main test piece. The feeling of standing in front of a band with that opening building behind me before playing the solo, is something I would love to experience- though there may be a risk of me being too busy snivelling into my instrument to actually play!
Click here to hear an excerpt of Follow the Flame
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