Review | Reflection by Lions Youth brass
I was very excited to have a listen to Lions Youth Brass' new recording 'Reflection'. The talent and dedication of these youngsters and their musical directors is something to behold. I know this as I had the privilege of tutoring at one of their workshops a few years ago and was amazed (and slightly jealous) at the level of talent displayed by these young musicians. 30 years is an incredible achievement and I marvel at the amount of young brass players that have progressed through this fantastic organisation - it's definitely something to be celebrated. I love the fact that they have chosen to include all three youth bands that make up Lions Youth Brass, as well as the Reunion Band of past players, as it is a true exhibition of talent that this fantastic organisation has helped to nurture. As you can tell I'm excited to share this review, so I will stop waffling and get on with it!
Exhibition of Talent
The album starts with a bang with the energetic opening track 'Starburst' by Dan Price. This is a piece that I would have loved when I was playing in youth bands. It's a bit funky with a head-bopping groove. This is one of the first live tracks featured on this album. The standard of playing is so high that you do forget that it was recorded live.
We're then onto a solo, 'Dark Eyes' by Bill Geldard, superbly performed by Oliver Webb. As well as having a beautifully smooth sound, the musicality shown in this performance is incredibly mature, with well-crafted phrasing and impressive lyricism.
After we've chilled out listening to Oliver, we're up and dancing to a real crowd-pleaser, New York, New York. This track is full of fun and I'll admit I was having a bit of a bop to this track whilst I was listening to it at work.
We are then treated to another solo - 'Closest Thing to Crazy' , made famous by Katie Melua, which is performed beautifully by tenor horn player, Amy Hext. In the same way Katie's mellow, soft voice made this song the sweet ballad that it is, I think Amy's stunning tone and emotive presences, really captures the feeling of this song. It's a joy to listen to.
Next up is a big band classic with a twist. I love the bossa nova vibe in this version of 'Fly me to the Moon'. I've never heard this version before and I would really love to play it. It's a bit more chilled out than the original, which I really like. Again, this was performed live and the standard is very impressive.
As a massive Queen fanatic, I was thrilled with this choice from the Lions Junior Band. Their performance of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is enthusiastic and there is quite a lot of style incorporated, which shows fantastic potential for when they progress to the higher tier of this organisation.
Lions Youth then return with another Bill Geldard arrangement, 'Trumpet Blues and Cantabile'. This isn't an easy piece, but Lions Youth seem to tackle it with a confident swagger. This is followed by a piece that reminded me of countless primary school assemblies, 'One More Step'. It's a simple piece, but it is well played and was a lovely little throwback for me! This is followed by the rousing 'Valiants Arise' by Paul Lovatt Cooper. This has similar vibes to 'Prismatic Light' by Alan Fernie and could have fallen victim to dragging and losing the pace, but it is rhythmically tight and played with brilliant energy, with some excellent moments from the euphonium section.
Lions Beginner Band (the youngest band) conducted by Jamie Sharp now take to the stage with their performance of 'Guava Guy' . This is a lovely little tune that shows off the progress and ability of this young group.
If you're a regular reader, you will know that the flugelhorn is an instrument that is close to my heart, so I was really happy to see a flugel feature on the track list. 'Under the Boardwalk' is one of those solos that sometimes is misjudged. It's quite a simple piece, that can sometimes be performed without a lot of musicality, which can leave it sounding quite bland. Enter Leanne Smith who shows just how lyrical and musically interesting you can make this solo. A lot of thought has clearly been put into this performance and I was really impressed to say the least.
We're now treated to two more live performances, this time from the European Championships. Daniel Hall's 'Sanctuary' may just be my favourite piece on this album. I've added it to my work playlist, that's how much I am obsessed with it!. There is some super playing in this, especially in the opening which isn't easy and I think some adult bands would have struggled with. The melodical playing in this is simply stunning as well. 'Blue Moon' is wonderfully laid back and allows the trombone section to take the spotlight. I'm wondering if Lions Youth would be up for making a chill out CD. Some of these tracks are wonderfully relaxing!
Then we are on to one of my favourite tracks of all time to both play and listen to, Toccatta in D Minor' . It's packed with energy with some fiery technical playing and I would like to congratulate the percussion soloists, Jakob HIll and Emily Savage on what is an incredible performance. I could hear pretty much every individual note in this fast-paced feature - there must have been smoke coming off the marimba! Bravo!
I'll be honest, my eyes were a little bit sweaty when I listened to 'A Little Prayer'. This shows off some really emotive and tender playing, with impressive phrasing and real care taken with the dynamics. It's calm, reflective and just simply beautiful.
The last three pieces are performed by the Reunion Band and what a sound they make! I was disappointed when Whit Friday was cancelled this year, but I'm so glad that Lions gave me my fix of 'Slaidburn'. Once again I was transported back to my youth with ' African Funk' when I played this with my youth band. It's not the most difficult piece on the track list but these young players are not complacent and it is alive with rhythm and energy. The last track is 'Jubilation' by James Curnow and what a way to wrap up what has been a fantastic celebration of young brass talent. There are some lovely moving moments in this piece and the ending is triumphant - a fantastic metaphor of the hard work, dedication and care displayed by all the bands in the Lions organisation and their respective MDs.
The Future is Bright
I could have cut this review down to a few hundred words, but I was so amazed by the talent and ability shown that I had to give each track the attention it deserved. I would like to congratulate all the members of Lions Youth Brass, their tutors and their MDs, Jamie Sharp, Tom Hancock and especially Nigel Birch, without whom this fantastic organisation wouldn't have been around for 30 years. Special shout outs go to the soloists and principal players - you are simply incredible and the banding community is lucky to have you. Well done to the Lions Junior and Beginner bands. If this is what you sound like now, I can't wait to hear you as you progress on your banding journey.
If anyone is worried about the future of our movement, listen to this album and fear not. The banding future will be bright if these young stars have anything to do with it.
You can listen to Reflection on the following platforms (click the link):
or visit the Lions Youth website (click here) to find out how to purchase a physical copy.
1. Starburst (Dan Price) (Live at Youth Brass in Concert) - Lions Youth Band
2. Dark Eyes (Bill Geldard) - Lions Youth Band
Soloist: Oliver Webb
3. New York, New York (John Kander arr. Wyss) - Lions Youth Band
4. The Closest Thing to Crazy (Mike Batt arr. Barry) -Lions Youth Band
Soloist: Amy Hext
5. Fly Me to the Moon (Bart Howard arr. Barry) (Live at Youth Brass in Concert) - Lions Youth Band
6. Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury arr. Fernie) - Lions Junior Band
7. Trumpet Blues and Cantabile (James & Mathias arr. Geldard) - Lions Youth Band
8. One More Step (Sydney Carter arr. Jennings) - Lions Youth Band
9. Valiants Arise (Paul Lovatt-Cooper) - Lions Youth Band
10. Guava Guy (Andy Norman) - Lions Beginner Band
11. Under the Boardwalk (Resnick & Young arr. Harper) - Lions Youth Band
Soloist: Leanne Smith
12. Sanctuary (Daniel Hall) (Live at European Championship) - Lions Youth Band
13. Blue Moon (Live at European Championship) - Lions Youth Band
Soloists: Oliver Webb, Katy Stone, Leon Gill
14. Toccata in D Minor (J.S Bach arr. Van Kraeydonck) - Lions Youth Band
Soloists: Jakob Hill and Emily Savage
15. A Little Prayer (Evelyn Glennie arr. Childs) - Lions Youth Band
16. Slaidburn (William Rimmer) - Lions Reunion Band
17. African Funk (Alan Fernie) - Lions Reunion Band
18. Jubilation (James Curnow) - Lions Reunion Band
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