Concert Review Movies and Musicals Special

Posted: 16/05/22

Derwent Brass Movies and Musicals 1
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Concert Review: Movies and Musicals Special (Trilogy Concert 1 of 3)

Over their 30-year history, Derwent Brass have carved a place for themselves as one of the most entertaining brass bands in a concert setting. It was with this reputation in mind that I sat with excitement and anticipation in one of 500 seats in a sold-out Derby Theatre on May 13th, posh programme in hand, waiting for the house lights to dim, and the show of music from ‘Movies and Musicals’ to start. Seemingly this event is the first in a trilogy planned across Derby City, each to represent a decade of the band and also to play homage to their founding place.

 

Act 1

An excited murmur turned to silence as the lights dropped and from the behind the curtains emerged the distinctive sounds of the Silvestri theme from Marvel’s Avengers. A swell of bold brass sound was accompanied by the curtains rising perfectly on cue for the melody and Avenger's Endgame style credits across the backwall featuring video of the players on stage. Immediately you knew that this was going to be a whirlwind multi-media extravaganza of exactly the flavour and quality we have come to expect from Derwent Brass.

The music segued seamlessly into the title track from the Star Trek reboot, Enterprising Young Men - a clever motivic link that MD Jack Capstaff clearly has a keen ear for, allowing the performance to build with the driving motor rhythmic score by Michael Giacchino. Over the last punchy chord, the lights dim, the mood changes, and off we go this time taken down through the streets of Paris with the slowly building ‘Chevaliers de Sangreal’ from the Da Vinci Code by Hans Zimmer. Beautiful music that is so well-paced and controlled that a cinematic Pines of Rome comes to mind. What an opening!

Introduced then is the first featured artist of the evening, a founding member and Principal Cornet since inception, Dave Neville who played a touching tribute to the late great Stephen Sondheim with Send in the Clowns. A stunning show of simplicity and beauty from Dave and another classy performance to add to the history books.

Jack then welcomed to the stage special guest Music Director Emeritus Keith Leonard, the band’s previous conductor for 25 years, to lead Ralph Vaughan Williams’ evocative Prelude: 49th Parallel. The cold sparse landscapes painted were contrasted by the warm rich sounds of Derwent Brass and delicate nuances to deliver a gorgeous rendition.

A wartime double bill concluded the first of three sets with a Jonathan Bate’s arrangement of John Williams’ Cadillac of the Skies tastefully segued into Zimmer’s title score to Pearl Harbour, complete with footage and swelling lights to make for an impacting close. This was big music, but well controlled, leaving left the audience keen to return for what Jack Capstaff promised to be "something very special indeed!"

 

Act 2

The curtains lift and we are proverbially smacked in the face with the iconic opening to Big Spender in that true gritty Big Band style. The audible “oohs” from the capacity crowd anticipates what a show this will be.

To my knowledge at least, MD Jack Capstaff has produced a brass band first, with what he describes as ‘Bitesize Broadway’. A full thirty-minute set, non-stop adaptation of Cy Coleman's Sweet Charity, performed by the band and guest singers Helen Perry and James Barrington Stephens who doubles as cast member and narrator.

The band whiz through the overture featuring jazz and Latin styles which they instantly seem so at home with. Not a moment of dead air is heard as the band underscore dialogue and acting with incidental music and snippets of some scores not able to be featured fully in the half hour set.

Helen Perry, a local actress, singer, dancer and choreographer, sporting Charity’s iconic dress with accompanying heart tattoo, made big first impressions with her rendition of Big Spender, capturing the essence of the dance hall hostesses with James supporting so well in a cleverly adapted take on this chorus number.

I’m left whistling If My Friends Could See Me Now still, with its slapstick orchestration and standout performances by Helen and an excellent band soli sections to boot. More dialogue is accompanied by Rich Man’s Frug and we’re off into There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This - a witty, emotional, and aspirational song featuring fiery Latin rhythms and trumpet solos.

What would Sweet Charity (and several male voice choir programmes) be without The Rhythm of Life?! James channels his best Sammy Davis Junior as he takes us through the splendid Rhythm of Life Church and then into Baby, Dream Your Dream tastefully adapted for the two singers and allowing the full narrative to unveil.

Helen presents her finale of I’m a Brass Band, with fervour, panache, and a bold intensity - the band are so clearly enjoying this as they take the fore in a final brass band display before the finale and bows.

Jack wasn’t wrong - this was very special, indeed. Not just for all its ingredients in excellent playing, choreographed lighting, video, audio effects, scene changes, dress changes, brilliant vocalists and narration; but for its inception. This was a full and rounded product that the band could be proud to play in any event; something they had clearly all bought into and enjoyed performing so very much. It was a fascinating treat that I hope we may be able to savour again in the future.

 

Act 3

After the curtains have gone down, we are treated to a prelude and performance by James Barrington Stephens of his own song I Wanna Live, which true to his style is a blend of Bond meets Bublé. What an extraordinary young talent he is, not only to perform but write as well. James starts with a backing track of piano and strings before the rising tide hits a climax with another curtain rise revealing Derwent bolstering the song with trumpet hits and synchronising with the full track for a loud and dramatic close.

The unmistakable Imperial March from Star Wars transitioned neatly into Rey’s Theme (from Episode VII), before introducing their final featured artist of the evening, Matt Spriggs. Matt is said to have joined the band last year following the retirement during Covid of long-standing Solo Euphonium Adam Rutter. Matt plays Go The Distance from Disney’s Hercules, and it is immediately obvious from the quality and reception of this, just what a signing he is for the band.

James takes to centre stage once more for a resonating performance of Anthem from Chess, before the band bring the concert to a close with the iconic, You’ll Never Walk Alone. A well called for and appreciate encore of Clog Dance was a subtle nod back to the band’s debut performance in the acclaimed production of Brassed Off in Derby Theatre and concluded an excellent evening of multi-media music making.

 

Summary

Everything about the evening suggested preparation, detail, creativity and class.

A well-constructed and thoughtfully prepared programme, delivered by a band and guests on top of their game, made for a great concert, but when combined with all the extra-musical ingredients it was transformed into a show – a standard and medium that both the band and its dedicated conductor seemingly suit and relish in.

I, for one, will be securing my tickets to the band’s 2nd and 3rd trilogy instalments as if this is the bar Derwent Brass has set, I’m excited to see what they have in store for us all next.

 

11 out of 10

John Palmer

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