Review – Moving, stirring music – marking on Armistice Day

Armistice Day Concert

Dunedin RSA Choir and St Kilda Brass

Knox Church

Wednesday, November 11

After such a difficult “Covid year” for all music and sporting groups, Dunedin’s RSA Choir and A Grade band St Kilda Brass gave their first proper concerts of the year in Knox Church on Wednesday evening, with focus on Armistice Day – such an important date in world history.

Directed by Karen Knudsen and Shane Foster, with organist David Burchell, Johnny Mottershead at the piano and excellently compered by Scott Bezett, the large audience enjoyed a well-chosen programme of music, which began Eric Coates’ spine-tingling Dambusters March. This dynamilcally punctuated, forward-moving brass favourite was a perfect opener, then the choir responded with Sound Ye Trumpets gilded with trumpet obligato.

There many highlights, mostly with impressive solo passages by guest soloist University of Otago first-year performance vocal student, Alexander McAdam – I Vow to Thee My Country, Cohen’s Hallelujah and Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.

Brass items included an innovative arrangement of The Girl I Left Behind Me, Evening Hymn and Sunset with stunning legato blends and outstanding trumpet passages (Ioan Fuller), warm mellow tones for the thematic lyricism of Benedictus by Karl Jenkins and Battle of Britain March. Five cornet players delivering Leroy Anderson’s Buglers’ Holiday at top speed was a crowd favourite.

The choir dedicated a moving performance of The Lord’s Prayer to Colin Challis – their last World War 2 veteran choir member, who died earlier this year. A very significant Ceremony of Remembrance included reciting the Ode, Charge (Jenkins) and Last Post sounded by Shane Foster on a bugle handed down from his grandfater, who had played this vintage instrument at Somme during World War 1 – so special.

Anthem from Chess with McAdam confident and secure in solo highlights ended a really enjoyable feast of music with voices, brass, organ and piano in perfect combinations of music-making.

Elizabeth Bouman

Review taken from Otago Daily Times (13 November 2020)

Review – Brass shines and voices sparkle in firmament

Knox Church
21 August 2016

St Kilda Brass Band under the direction of Peter Adams, performed an exciting array of brass arrangements and contemporary compositions before a medium capacity audience in Knox Church yesterday afternoon.

The band shared the stage with St Hilda’s Madrigal Choir and soprano Sophie Morris. Knox’s acoustics seem to mellow the sound of all performers except when Morris brought out the microphone.

In a programme titled “Among the Stars”, all groups are celebrated for the stars among them and best wishes for the competitions ahead. In an afternoon replete with highlights, sadly only the super novas get a mention here.

Arrangements of orchestral works for brass can present many extreme technical challenges.

But St Kilda Brass is admirably up to the challenge, if not equal to it.

The blurred moments in Roberts’ fiendishly difficult arrangements of Holst’s Mars and Jupiter are almost forgiven.

The band and its soloists fully redeemed themselves, however, with enchanting performances of Peter Graham’s swirling and sparkling Shine as the Light, and Cooper-Lovatt’s lilting Enter the Galaxies.

The items chosen by St Hilda’s Madrigal Choir, under the direction of Michael Grant, highlighted their soulful well-modulated sound for Anthony Ritchie’s He Moemoea, Britten’s Balulalow and Jenkins’ Adiemus.

They showed rhythmic energy in Banja’s Traditional Serbian Folk Song, though it could be improved with more slide than that encompassed by a Church of England sound.

Sophie Morris’ performances just keep on getting better.

She now has an impressive voice range and stylistic range, going effortlessly from the belle canto required in Dvorak’s Rusalka’s Song to the Moon and Puccini’s O mio babbino caro to Bernstein’s soaring Somewhere, Webber’s guttural Memory and Kander and Ebb’s raunchy All That Jazz.

Morris is definitely the ascendant star.

Final accolades go to the band’s performance of Barry Gott’s lightly exuberant and sweetly fluffy Lightwalk.

Marian Poole
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (August 22, 2016)

Review – Virtuoso in the school hall absolute treat

Kavanagh Auditorium
23 May 2015

There was prolonged applause and a standing ovation from the capacity audience in Kavanagh College Auditorium at Saturday evening’s concert by St Kilda Brass (conductor Peter Adams) and its magnificent guest, internation tenor Simon O’Neill.

Now considered by many to be the best Heldenenor of our time, O’Neill began studying voice at the University of Otago in 1990, when he also played in St Kilda Brass, so this was an occasion to return for a concert night out with his old band.

The band opened strongly with La Forza del Destino Overture, then O’Neill gave a taste of what was to come with Pucini’s aria Che Gelida Manina.

Informal chat and introductions to items endeared him to his audience, and no doubt also helped relax John McAdam (baritone horn), who stepped out front to provide solo companion passages for another popular Italian aria, Una Furtiva Lagrima.

Four great Wagner arias followed. Winterstrume, from Die Walkure, and Brunhilde! Helige Braut! were accompanied with brass band arrangements by Adams, generally matching the intensely powerful drama of the texts.

Big brass fanfares and speeding scalic cornets launched the second half of the concert in a thrilling arrangement of Festive Overture, by Shostakovich.

The remainder of the programme featured O’Neill with popular songs such as Panis Angelicus, Maria from West Side Story, and Danny Boy.

O’Neill in his original red jacket and cap, delighted with a solo baritone horn spot as the band rocked out I Got Rhythm. But the surpreme highlight came with Puccini’s Nessum dorma – not once, but twice for the enthralled audience.

What an unbelievable and absolute treat to hear O’Neill singing in a local school auditorium with the same drama and passion he would accord performances in the world’s greatest opera venues.

Elizabeth Bouman
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (May 25, 2015)

Review – New Zealand International Early Music Festival

Knox Church
27 February 2015

St Kilda Brass and Da Capo Vocal Consort collaboration set the tone for the second New Zealand International Early Music Festival.

The concert, performed to an audience of modest size, opened with David Burchell’s crisp and articulate rendering of Gabrieli’s Intonazione on the church organ. Thereafter, Cantate Domino for voices and brass conveyed the jubilant Psalm 96 with control and poise. The accompanying brass quartet backed the singers sensitively.

Gabrieli’s two ensuing canzoni for brass showed keen understanding of the Venetian style, punctuated by moments of insecurity peppering the otherwise crisp texture.

Morenzio’s Caro dolce showed fine expertise from the voices; Chiaro segno amor displayed the skilled singers growing in conviction, delivering a thoroughly captivating “morte” cadence towards the close of this poignant madrigal. Susato’s three ensuing Renaissance Dances for brass were preceded by splendid, jocular anecdotes regarding the Renaissance delivered by conductor Errol Moore.

Gesualdo’s exquisitely preformed madrigal Baci soave e cari displayed the hallmarks characterising the anguished harmonies of Gesualdo’s vocal writing, conveying the sadness which surrounded his curious personal life.

The subsequent brass works by Gabrieli and Palestrina displayed real grandeur; through their seamless composure, they became quite transporting, achieving halcyon visions of distant Venice. The introduction of the organ, in combination with the brass, made for a refreshing blend of timbres. Moving to Monteverdi, Da Capo’s singing of Anima mia was spendid, its composition startling with its tonal shift; the performance was delivered with sublime proficiency.

The concert concluded in a similar vein to its opening, with great embellishment on the organ. Thereafter, Gabrieli’s Hodie complete sunt, in celebration of Pentecost, experimented admirably with antiphonal placement of musicians and concluded a largely captivating performance

George Chittenden
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (March 2, 2015)

Review – Concert testament to band’s success

Mayfair Theatre
23 August 2014
Conductor: Steve Miles
Guests: Kelly Hocking (vocalist) and Barry Kloogh

St Kilda Brass was in good form on Saturday evening, under guidance from conductor Steve Miles, who is about to tour overseas in the New Zealand Brass Band. There are some very talented musicians in St Kilda Brass, as their recent success as Band of the Year at the national brass band champs confirms.

A rousing Summon the Heroes, written for the Atlanta Olympics and Glinka’s overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla opened, setting the standard in a venue with great line of vision for the audience. It was fascinating to follow sectional passages, as instrumental textures were layered and melded to produce varieties in timbre. Particularly busy were the four ladies of the percussion section, where even a couple of “ting-tings” proved vital punctuation.

Alloway Tales, a varied arrangement (Graham) of three of Robbie Burns’ songs, was accompanied by a strong, sometimes rap-like Scottish narrative from Barry Kloogh and fine pastoral soundscape for Flow Gently Sweet Afton was particularly effective.

The programme’s theme of “Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales” gave the opportunity to present popular music from theatre and movie soundtracks, such as Hedwig’s Theme and a fun medley with at least 10 Disney tunes. Singer Kelly Hocking (with well-balanced amplification) was a perfect vocal addition to numbers such as In My Own Little CornerLet it Go from Frozen and, after an exhilarating instrumental arrangement of Lord of the Rings themes, her passionate delivery of Into the West.

Prayerful dedication with specific remembrance to past bandsmen came with emotional mellow-toned Deep Harmony, then three breath-taking solos in Cossack Fire Dance, before the programme ended with a powerful rendition of Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev.

Overall, an excellent concert, not too loud in the venue, and which deserved far greater public support.

Elizabeth Bouman
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (August 25, 2014)

Review – Band restores faith after shaky start

King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Centre
11 May 2014
Conductor: Errol Moore
Guests: Steve Miles (Euphonium), Georgia Gray and Matthew Wilson

SUMMON the Dragon and Land of the Mountain and the Flood opened this first concert in a comparatively unpolished manner after seven months of silence from St Kilda Brass under the leadership of Errol Moore.

However, having got the technical difficulties posed by these first two items out of the way, the band returned to the strengths for which is is known and revered.

Believe Me if all those Endearing Young Charms, Skye Boat Song and David of the White Rock did retore faith in the band’s technical accomplishment and its charms. Guest performers also lifted the event. Accomplished euphonium soloist and former leader for the band, Steve Miles, explored his instrument’s wide range of high and low notes, its sonorous excellence and an exhilarating array of fast trills and runs.

Brillante: Fantasy on Rule Britannia is a particularly good vehicle for a performer of Miles’ truly virtuosic ability.

Guest singers Georgia Gray and Matthew Wilson both have excellent voices and strong control throughout their ranges. Their choices of costumes were nicely in keeping with the wartime era.

However, Gray did not need to use a microphone and her otherwise finely managed performance suffered as a result of being painfully loud.

Band soloists Jessica Schweizer on flugel and Rowena Howard on cornet are to be commended. Special note goes to Ella Cox, whose stories of wartime events were tellingly simple.

The second half of the programme commemorated World War 1 with well-known tunes Colonel Bogey March, Nightfall in Camp and Medley: Oh What a Lovely War, Daddy, Soldier Daddy and Pack up Your Troubles. The band chose the brilliant red and gold braided military uniform of the time.

An encore item of the sweetly romantic Myfanwy rewarded the grateful audience.

Marian Poole
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (May 12, 2014)

Review – Conviviality of evening with band and company

King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Centre
12 October 2013
Conductor: Nigel Weeks
Guests: Jane Craigie-Read, Darrel Read

A disappointingly small audience heard the well-rounded and well-reputed St Kilda Brass band perform on Saturday at the King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Centre.

Their sound is tight and bright, rich and mellow; their repertoire includes a variety of classic popular work interspersed with familial banter and jokes from guest conductor Nigel Weeks. The audience joined in the repartee and a spirited sing-along of Jerusalem.

Highlights of the evening include the Slavische Fantasy with solo cornet played by Megan Gooding with great fluidity and control; the medley An American Tale and And the Band Played On, which both highlighted a capricious sense of fun; extra special mention must go to the full-bodied section of Amazing Grace, which went straight to the heart, and to the concluding item for the evening Dundonnell from Hymn of the Highlands, with soloists Erynne and Georgia Scherf and John McAdam on horn, flugel and baritone respectively, which brought a tear to my Irish eyes.

The charm and presentation achieved by solo singers Jane Craigie-Read and Darrel Read won audience approval. Their duet Something Stupid was presented with naïve honesty. Craigie-Read has a sweet, strong voice and Read’s solos, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh national anthem, and Anthem from Chess showed off his strong voice and pitch control. Both singers will gain from further stage experience. Matthew Toomata’s direction of their pieces shows promise and likewise will improve with experience.

Less convincing was the arrangement of Sibelius’ Finlandia and Edward German’s March Paraphrase: Men of Harlech performed by the band under Weeks. Both started exceptionally well but seemed to get lost along the way.

All in all this was an enjoyable evening, its conviviality due equally to Weeks as compere and conductor and to the music.

Marian Poole
Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (October 14, 2013)

Review – Brassed Off – Brassed Onwards

King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Centre
24 August 2013
Conductor: Karen Knudson
Guests: Calla Knudson-Hollebon (soprano), Joel Amosa (bass-baritone) and Justin Muschamp (soprano cornet)

St Kilda Brass has presented themed concerts in King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Auditorium over recent years.

Its latest attracted a good-sized audience on Saturday evening for a programme entitled “Brassed Off – Brassed Onwards”. The 1996 film Brassed Off featured a colliery brass band and a national band competition, and a number of Saturday’s items featured in that movie.

Local musician and choral conductor Karen Knudson made her debut as conductor of a brass band, and her daughter, Calla Knudson-Hollebon, was guest soprano soloist, along with bass-baritone Joel Amosa.

Compere for the evening was Peter Stockwell, who introduced each item with historical trivia.

Some brass band test pieces from last century provided a challenge, and seated to one side of Row B, I was more aware of rough edges and blend not always heard with the best of balance, but there were some impressive passages along the way in numbers such as Flowerdale (Sparke), and The Three Musketeers (Hespe).

Amosa’s I Got Plenty of Nuttin’ (Gershwin) and a Toomata arrangement of The Trumpet Shall Sound (Handel) with Invercargill guest, New Zealand soprano cornet champion Justin Muschamp, were highlights.

Knudson-Hollebon (17) gave a credible and professional performance of numbers such as Londonderry and O For the Wings of a Dove, although at times despite subtle amplification, the 26-piece brass band overshadowed some of the beautiful lyrical quality of this emerging soprano.

An arrangement for brass of Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountainended with one long bar of the most beautiful sound of the entire evening – three muted cornets in harmony, and William Tell Overture at a fast tempo literally became a breathtaking finish to an enjoyable recital.

Elizabeth Bouman

Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (August 27, 2013)

Review – Venice to Vaughan Williams

St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin
11 May 2013
Conductor: Robert Craigie and George Chittenden
Guests: St Paul’s Cathedral Choir

Traditionally, brass bands are expected to march along playing in street parades, or performing in a rotunda in the park, but times have changed and on Saturday evening, Dunedin’s St Kilda Brass explored new territory by playing in a cathedral, when it joined with St Paul’s Cathedral Choir.

St Paul’s proved an excellent venue, and the judicious choice of repertoire resulted in no unwanted reverb or mixed harmonics, and along with a reasonable sized audience I really enjoyed the combined recital.

The choir, conducted by George Chittenden, opened with a strong performance of Jubilate Deo, by Gabrielli, an organist in Venice in Baroque times, demonstrating contrapuntal choral at its very best, with good balance and true tonality.

A drummer and brass quartet accorded Funeral Music for Queen Mary(Purcell) a processional entrance with appropriate formality, and Vivaldi’s Winter achieved a sustained and suitably chilly mood, with fine solo work by Erynne Scherf (Tenor Horn).

Beautiful tone from the 28-piece band interpreted a brass arrangement of Elgar’s famous Nimrod with passion, and impressive crescendos soaring magnificently, with no blurring or loss of purity in the vastness of the cathedral acoustics.

Other repertoire was Light of the World (Elgar), O Clap Your Hands(Vaughan Williams), the popular royal wedding march Crown Imperial(Walton) and Parry’s I Was Glad which generated a big sound from the combined groups, with a joyous air of pomp and circumstance under the direction of young conductor Robert Craigie.

The concert ended with All people that on earth do dwell with audience participation and two band and choir-only verses of creative harmony and cornet obligato.

Bruce Aitken introduced items with interesting historical tidbits such as royal performances, and Alan Edwards added organ accompaniment to several items.

Elizabeth Bouman

Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (May 13, 2013)

Review – Saints and the Diva

Kings and Queens Performing Arts Centre
27 October 2012
Conductor: Peter Adams
Guests: Anna Leese(soprano)

World-class acts merited ovation

Two world-class acts presenting a variety of world-class popular items were given a standing ovation by an enraptured full house at the King’s and Queen’s Performance Centre on Saturday night.

Admittedly, the night belonged to Leese’s magnificent voice showcased through such popular opera arias as Dvorak’s Rusalka’s Song to the Moon, Puccini’s Mio babbino caro and Gerswhin’s Summertime, Jenkins’ Benedictus from Armed Man Mass and other folk music from the perennial Londonderry Air and Whelan’s Riverdance.

Sadly, Leese’s performance of Benedictus seemed unrehearsed and her delivery of the lower notes in Londonderry Air lacked the power to reach over the St Kilda Brass Band. Otherwise her stage presentation couples a natural friendliness with her professional prowess.

The St Kilda Brass Band is equally A grade and seemed no to put a foot wrong throughout the evening. Their leader, Peter Adams, was resplendent in his Chinese jacket recently acquired as a result of their success at the Chinese competitions.

Their sound is professional, precise and warm and successfully achieved over a wide range of music. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture opened an evening of highly enjoyable music, immediately supported by Henry VIII’s Pastime in Good Company. Gershwin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz and I Got Rhythm lifted the tempo and had the audience rocking. The band’s presentation of Richard Phillips’ Joy, Peace and Happiness engaged the audience.

Errol Moore’s solo on euphonium of Bernstein’s Somewhere was underwhelming while Megan Gooding’s solo in Shine as the Lightendorsed the evening’s highlight. More soulful numbers included Oh Shenandoah and the Beatles’ Here, There and Everywhere.

The final number, Whelan’s Riverdance, had the audience stamping and cheering for more while the Irish Blessing sung by Leese sent the audience away happy. Nice!

Marian Poole

Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (October 29, 2012)