Spring Festival Preview- Triumphant Rhapsody
Updated: May 6, 2020
So, as we all know on the 18th May 2019, bands from up and down the country will be descending on the Blackpool Winter Gardens for the 99th(!) year of the British Open Spring Festival. Now this contest may have been going for ninety-nine years, which is astonishing, but this is the first year that I won’t be spending all day in the bar!
If that’s not an achievement, I don’t know what is!
I mean, I’ll still be spending most of the day in the bar (let’s be serious), but after I’ve made my Spring Festival debut in the Senior Trophy section with the Eccles Borough Band.
So, this year I have the added pressure of having to actually play one of the pieces I’m writing about and on that note, it makes sense to start off with the Senior Trophy piece- ‘‘Triumphant Rhapsody’ by Gilbert Vinter. I do prefer my Rhapsodies to be Bohemian but I’m willing to give Triumphant a chance.
Click below to listen to ‘Triumphant Rhapsody’- I know, I spoil you.
Disclaimer: (Just in case you’re new here and think this is going to be a serious musical analysis) As with every other article on this blog a sense of humour and an appreciation for sarcasm is required, you have been warned.
Overview- Puns and Personalities
1965 National Finals
The piece was written for the National Championships in 1965 and was originally going to be called ‘A Matter of Seconds’ due to the piece being an experimentation in major and minor second intervals- I see what you did there Bertie, I appreciate the pun. However he was requested to change it, so renamed it ‘Triumphant Rhapsody’ before it’s release. Maybe people thought the Nationals wasn’t a place for humour. After all this is British Banding, all bow-ties and stiff upper lips- there’s no place for your childish puns here (yawn!). Maybe they just didn’t get the pun and it’s always embarrassing to explain your jokes to people.
It stays true to the rhapsody structure of a one movement, episodic work and I emphasise the word episodic, as this piece feels like (for want of a better comparison) it’s been written by a person with a split personality. There’s so many different moods, styles and tones all linked together with little interludes that act like the glue in this colourful, multi-textured collage. (there you go, there’s your musical analysis-you’re welcome).
I’ll be honest, I was a uninspired with Symphony of Marches (sorry Bertie), but he definitely redeemed himself with ‘Triumphant Rhapsody’ and that isn’t just because this it features flugelhorn…ok that might be a slight factor.
The Piece- The Princess and The Train
The opening is a big, bold, majestic affair which introduces the main theme that’s based on those second intervals. Despite the title having positive connotations, the tone of this opening is quite dark, intimidating and a bit moody- basically a musical interpretation of me on a Monday morning before coffee.
Spanish Hall- Blackpool Winter Gardens
In the Spanish Hall (which I believe is still going to be the venue for the Senior Trophy) this opening has the potential to create a massive presence. It’s here that separation, articulation and dynamic contrast will need to be controlled so the acoustic doesn’t turn these big waves of sound into muddied, indiscernible puddles of noise.
The ‘Allegro’ continues the theme of seconds but presented in an entirely different way, with its short stabbings of clashing chords, pulsing along like a dissonant, little steam engine. I’m not sure if that’s exactly the image Vinter was trying to create with this section- Thomas the Triumphant Tank Engine- but let’s go with it. You weren’t expecting a professional review were you? If so turn back now, it doesn’t get any better…
Moving onto the Soave, which means both smooth and (according to google, if you don’t specify that you want the musical definition) a dry white wine, so in my mind it’s up to interpretation- either play smoothly or crack open a bottle of white. We have another little recapitulation of the opening theme, which sounds a little happier than when we first hear it- clearly the hero has had his coffee now and feeling slightly more optimistic about life.
Our little choo choo chugs back in again with another clashing rhythmic section before a lovely, little flowing interlude that leads us into an emotive and melodic flugel solo (thank you Vinter for giving us a chance at what we do best- showing off!). It sounds like the part of a Disney Princess film were woodland animals emerge and flock around her for no apparent reason (you don’t get such academic comparisons on 4barsrest do you?). This wistful little moment forms the foundations that builds into a full-bodied appassionata. Maybe the hero of the story found the princess and fell madly in love with her…before boarding Thomas the Triumphant Tank Engine once more, because here comes that chugging, clashing quaver section again.
An accented quaver passage leads us into the Poco sostenuto e comodo- which means sustained and comfortable…not to be confused with the word commode- which is a piece of furniture containing a concealed chamber pot, and would give an entirely new meaning to this section- sustained and sh-….let’s not go there.
The train makes a stop at an army barracks apparently as we’re thrust into a march section (because writing a Symphony of them just wasn’t enough was it, Vinter?) Little fanfare contributions from Solo Cornets, Repiano, Flugel and Horns build into a mass fortissimo fanfare.
We’re given a bridge section with a melancholy, descending theme which sounds like a sigh being passed around the band. The princess has probably eaten some kind of poisoned fruit and our hero is sighing, exasperated by the princess’ stupidity, I mean what idiot is stupid enough to eat fruit from a stranger?! I’m becoming a little too invested in this storyline.
This section leads into my favourite part of the entire piece- the affetuoso. If this melody doesn’t pull at your heartstrings, nothing will. I mean, my soul is as black as a miner’s lung, so if it can move me, that’s a sign of good emotive writing.
Our attention is then captured by a solo cornet arppegiated cadenza (our hero is deciding what to do: save the poisoned princess or leave the muppet to her own stupid demise? This is the musical soundtrack to his train of thought (I need to stop it with the trains).
And into the Con Brio we go. A jaunty little melody from the solo trombone accompanied by the horns starts us off, then it’s passed back and forth between trombone and baritone, before the euphonium steps in, with clashing accompaniment from the solo cornets that is reminiscent of the ‘train’ sections that have gone before, except this train sounds like it’s gone through a warzone and lost a couple of wheels due to the disjointed rhythms.
The main motif returns again, leading into a lively, quaver section that builds into a magnificent recapitulation of this main theme. It’s bold and…well, triumphant, with the entire band building a textured wall of sound, with counter melodies from different parts of the band and scales from the basses weaving in and out of the main chord progression. The hero stands triumphant.
Our hero has managed to survive whatever battle he’s had to endure and now rushes at break neck speed through the presto section (maybe with the antidote to revive his princess?). We ascend into the ending, rising in dynamic and pitch.
The clash in the penultimate chord is our final shot of drama. The slight discomfort of dissonance in this chord makes the resolve into the final chord very satisfying, especially when you come to the end of this chord and realise you can now spend what’s left of the day in the bar!
Tune In Next Week…
This has been your unprofessional preview of ‘Triumphant Rhapsody’, join us next week for more unintended storylines, terrible metaphors and a dash of musical analysis, when It’s Not a Trumpet takes on ‘Symphonic Music’– God only knows what alternative story line I’m going to end up coming up with for that one!
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