Celebrating 100 Years of the Royal British Legion

Posted: 15/11/21

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Concert Review: A Night To Remember

The 13th of November boasted a night which had much to remember, provided by the people of Derwent Brass - a band returning in fine form, with their 18 month covid-hiatus seemingly a distant memory.

Playing to a hall filled with over 200 of their home crowd in St. Peter’s Church, Belper - just a stone’s throw from their rehearsal venue - the band struck up, cornets stood antiphonally, projecting the grand sounds of Tom Davoren’s Phoenix Rising, to the very back of the room and beyond. This was a performance filled with excitement and metaphorical overtones of the ensemble returning from lockdown and the audience captivated, so receptive, clearly eager to hear their local band once again.

Derwent went on to then perform a themed programme - Musica De Los Muertos - fresh from attending two contest festivals this year, becoming Entertainment Champions at both, featuring this very set. The suite featured tunes we all know - Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Dvorak’s Song to the Moon, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I Put a Spell on You, and Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre - but all cleverly reworked by Music Director Jack Capstaff into big band charts that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dave Brubeck or Gordon Goodwin set. A very innovative and engaging set of music which was well presented by a band who clearly enjoy this genre, including soloists Cat Johnston, Graham Johnson, and Dave Neville.

In an about turn, the band led the audience to the interval with a performance of George Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad. In a delicate orchestral rhapsody which has been well translated for Brass band by Duncan Wilson, Derwent displayed their sonorous brass band sounds and more delicate melodic capabilities in a dramatic, yet thought provoking account of this perhaps underperformed work.

In this new age of concerts, it must be noted that the evening was also well managed from a covid perspective, with the support of the local Derbyshire Army Cadet Force detatchment ensuring sensibility and safety in the large numbers attending the event.

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In the second set titled 'Heroes', Derwent Brass paid tribute not only to the Royal British Legion’s 100 year anniversary, and to all those who have lost their lives in conflict, but also to those heroes who have helped us throughout the past 2 years, and continue to do so. Opening with John Williams' Summon the Heroes before a poignant and emotional performance of Tom Davoren’s Legacy, written in 2018, celebrating 60 years of Aneurin Bevan establishing the NHS.

Evocative audio visual, with veteran accounts and poems, intersected a rendition of Nimrod which guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings, followed by Karl Jenkins’ For the Fallen which accompanied the standards of the Royal British Legion Belper Club progressing through the aisles in a musical climax, before lowering to the closing notes of the last post.

After a silence which filled the room, principal cornet David Neville sounds the reveille, which lead into Sunset Serenade by Thomas Doss accompanied by those famous words of Binyon: "At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them”. This relatively recent work was a personal highlight of the evening, beautifully written and research since has proven it to be quite apt for the occasion being: "...a tribute by the composer to a music colleague, whose life was unexpectedly cut short. In spite of the sad circumstances of its creation, the music reflects overwhelmingly happy memories and thoughts of gratitude for timespent together and shared experiences. The overall peaceful nature of this composition symbolises a reconciliation with, and acceptance of, the transient nature of man."

The finale from Mahler’s Second Symphony The Resurrection, filled with metaphor and musical content, allowed the band to open the ballasts one last time for a climax to an evening of contemplation. Music Director Jack Capstaff worked every ounce from his players to deliver a grand sound which filled the room with so much pathos yet hope, in an edition expertly arranged for brass band by Philip Harper.

A communal hymn, with Philip Wilby’s powerful setting of Abide with Me was followed by the The British Legion March which was well-received in the proceedings providing a true sense of community and comradery on this, the 100th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.

Derwent Brass displayed fine form with a programme of so varied style and genre, performed with class and sensitivity that took the audience on both a musical and emotional journey. It truly lived up to the event’s title, and proved an evening that will not soon be forgotten.


(Review submitted by John Palmer)


A Review of Night To Remember

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