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New Year New Work - Concert Review

The versatility of modern brass bands was highlighted fully by Derwent Brass in their concert, premiering the work ofPaul McGhee Derwent Brass Paul McGhee on Saturday 25th Feb, at the Landau Forte Theatre, Derby.

For those stuck with the stereotypical image of brass bands, think again, and go listen to a Derwent concert… With over 20 confirmed public events already in 2012 – the 20th year of Derwent Brass, a strong year of quality music and concerts is anticipated.

 The audience greatly appreciated the huge variety of music on offer kicked off in fine style with the up tempo march ‘Jubilee’, followed by the exciting ‘Dance of the Comedians’. The soft and sensitive ‘One Hand One Heart’ from Westside Story slowed things down a little together with some sympathetic lighting; the first ‘session’ then concluded with the Derek Bourgeois test piece ‘The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea’ showing off the bands technical abilities to the full.

(Pictured here; percussionists setting up for the nights show, in traditional format.)

A mini ‘interval’ then saw a change in formation to ‘big band’ style for a treat in swing music, a genre that the band very much enjoys playing. Kicking off with a bespoke big band arrangement of the Beatles classic “She Loves You”, a varied set brought a smile to the faces of the audience, especially in the cool and relaxed rendition of ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ played superbly by Bass Trombonist Andy Devereux. This section ended with another change in mood in the form of the fantastic drum feature “Ol’ Man River” with noting shy of stunning solo work from percussionist Lee Gilbert.

Following the interval and it was time for the world premiere of the specially commissioned new work from the pen of Paul McGhee, ‘Episodes, Occurrences and Interludes’. With funding from the PRS for Music Foundation, this piece was specially commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Derwent Brass.

The six movements, all written to be performed either individually or as tonight in the entire work, depict the journey of Derwent over the twenty years drawing on stories from band members, both past and present. This was artfully explained by Paul in his composer’s forum at the start of the evening and through an overhead projection displaying images of the band both old and new. The audience were also given a booklet on the piece containing all the composers thoughts and extracts of the score to add an extra dimension and reference to the work.

Paul McGhee Derwent Brass Composers Forum New Year New Work

Anticipation over, the band began…

The opening fanfares of ‘Bringing Down Etwall Plaster First’ set the tone with a bold & rhythmical opening, flowing into the second movement ‘A Kerb Side Drop Off’ - a funky Ebb Bass line with pulsing drum kit. ‘Abraham’s Silent White Knuckle Cable Ride’ a rhythmical movement with much of the band muted to give an eerie effect.
‘New Doors, Broken Drawers; Sleep tight Myfanwy’ was a chance for the brilliant euphonium soloist Adam Rutter to shine.
‘Torquay at Midnight.......The Horror!!’ explored the textural possibilities of the band with a melancholic motif.
Finally ‘Dionysus throws a Bacchanalia, B.Y.O.B!!!!’ a modern take on the bacchanal, creating a party atmosphere driving towards its climactic conclusion.

 A few traditionalists may have raised eyebrows after hearing this modern work for brass band, together with its choreography and stage set, but it was extremely well received by a very appreciative audience. “Awesome” was the composers response when taking the prolonged applause upon completion.

The band had a short respite for another quick change in formation for the final section of film music and drew the concert to an end with the lively and crowd pleasing Paul Lovatt-Cooper piece, ‘Vitae Aeternum’. As many regular Derwent concert-goers know an encore is often on the cards and the band wrapped up proceedings with their signature march ‘Montreal Citadel’.

This concluded a most memorable Derwent Brass concert; a fantastic way to start this anniversary celebration in honour of those members both past and present. The event was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and judging by the comments in the bar and online afterwards, a great night out enjoyed by listeners and players alike.

Derwent Brass would like to take this opportunity to once again formally thank not only Paul McGhee for his tremendous efforts in writing this magnificent work, but also to the PRS for Music Foundation for their support in funding the project.

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