• Liv Appleton

Spring Festival Preview- The Triumph of Time

So, here we are, the last piece to be featured at this year’s Spring Festival, ‘The Triumph of Time’ by Peter Graham which will be exhibited in the Grand Shield Section on Saturday.


That said, ‘The Triumph of Time’ is certainly a test for all players sat around the stand, including back row cornets and percussion- no one is safe!

Background


Enjoy a performance of ‘The Triumph of Time’ played by the Cory Band at the 2016 British Open Contest.


The Piece

In my opinion, Peter Graham achieved his goal, as ‘The Triumph of Time’ ,  I feel is a spin off to ‘The Essence of Time’ rather than a sequel. The listener can clearly see the inspiration from the structure of the piece, how the solos are constructed and the intricate ensemble work, yet Peter has created a piece in its own right, that in my opinion holds different values to ‘The Essence of Time’ . ‘Essence’ has beautiful melodic lines which very much personify the ‘essence’ in the title, giving the listener little gobbets of loveliness and I would describe the ending as stunning rather than triumphant. ‘Triumph’ is far more virtuosic in style than it’s predecessor with big chordal moments, rock hard solo lines and busy ensemble work- it aims to be impressive.

Haunting tubular bells begin this piece, before becoming a supporting role to the rhythmic, overlapping melodies of marimba and vibraphone. The complex texture and hurrying feel, in my view, is like an auditory representation of the minutes of life passing by.  Cornets are tested with fast, intricate running demi-semi quavers. A breath in the wrong place, incorrect placing of beats can cause this motif to become messy and scruffy. Finding the underlying beat amongst the chaos is important in order to keep the section moving rhythmically rather than a rushed panic.

This rhythmic chaos builds until it explodes into a huge chordal theme; formidable and impressive; yet in an attempt to achieve this, it can be so easily overblown with tuning and harsh sound potentially detracting from the majestic intention of this section- control is EVERYTHING. This is a full fat, full throttle, no calorie-counting beast of a piece.


Following this busy section, trombones, together with tubular bells. begin a section of bursts of syncopated beats. The cornets and trombones alternately carry on these bursts of notes, bouncing off each other. This is an exercise in sub-division, one person out of sync completely ruins the effect. I know this, because I was the most likely person to end up out of sync in this section…

The next main section is mysterious and lyrical, with a stunning solo from the baritone which gives the player freedom of musical movement that they should really take advantage of. The Eb bass then gets a chance to shine, with a variation on the baritone melody. An unusual duo of Repiano Cornet and Solo Baritone create a beautiful, moody duet ending with an entry from the flugel. This whole section is full of suspense. Dynamic contrast is key to the whole piece, but more so in this section, to create this moody atmosphere.


One of the standout moments for me is the flugel solo. It’s so full of warmth and emotion, it’s beautiful and it really demonstrates Peter Graham’s brilliant lyrical solo writing. The relationship that Peter creates between soloist and accompaniment is incredible. The soloist obviously takes the lead. but the subtle chord changes in the accompaniment can really evoke the feeling of the piece and emphasise the emotion in the solo line. This solo, followed by the piano Adagio section,  is a welcome change to the musical chaos that came before. The real challenge here is playing quietly, keeping in tune whilst maintaining a balance between parts and really capturing the mood of the section.

The ending is my favourite part of the whole piece to play. Not because it’s the end and it means I can go to the bar (ok maybe that was a small factor) but the emotion in the big chordal melody is so emotionally charged and really personifies the word ‘triumph’. The driving force towards the end is exhilarating and brilliantly concludes what is a whirlwind (see what I did there?… Peter Graham, Whirlwind? ) of a piece.

Final Thoughts

This section is just my opinion, feel free to disagree. Believe me I am a massive fan of Peter Graham’s music and it’s not just this piece that I’m criticising, it’s this general movement in test piece writing at the moment.

Although I do enjoy ‘The Triumph of Time’  and all the challenges it presents, I would have preferred to have more solos in this piece in a melodic style rather than two lots of technical, quite harsh solo sections. Peter Graham’s writing in the slower sections, in my opinion, pose a harder challenge as many bands could gloss over the finer details of these sections in order to truly get to grips with the (much less interesting) technical passages.

I think one technical section is enough to make an audience sit up and listen. For me, two quite long technical sections which are sandwiched into an already very technical piece, can run the risk of becoming the type of piece I’ve been comparing to the older pieces chosen this year for the Senior Cup and Senior Trophy. As a player, I soon get bored of rehearsing a piece that is basically an exercise of sub-division and semi-quavers- I have an Arban for that. It becomes repetitive, with often the same technical passage being copied and pasted again and again throughout the piece. By all means have a technical section- I think a test piece does need one- BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY TO TEST A BAND!

Similarly, as an audience member, listening to passage after passage of technical writing doesn’t make me feel anything other than looking forward to the part of the piece where I can hear the band play some actual music, rather than clumps of semi-quavers.

Hear endeth the rant.

Good luck!


Remember whatever happens, this is not life or death. There is always a next performance, there’s always something good in every performance and there is always beer at the end of it. Enjoy the experience!

Good Luck!

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