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)

Review – Aotearoa – an industrial journey

Kings and Queens Performing Arts Centre
1 September 2012
Conductor: Errol Moore
Guests: Deborah Wai Kapohe (soprano) and RASA School of Dance

Visual interest enhances fine show

St Kilda Brass, conducted by Errol Moore, presented another concert in their 2012 series on Saturday night in the King’s and Queen’s Performing Arts Centre.

A reasonable-sized audience enjoyed the programme, titled “Aotearoa – an industrial journey”, which was an eclectic mix of band music and arrangements within the overall theme.

“Overall” actually described the band uniform for the second half, when the musicians endorsed the programme title by dressing in work-men’s attire.

One of the best items of the evening was the opening number, Dam Busters, performed against a projected backdrop of Spitfires, a “busted dam” and historical archive news clips of Winston Churchill.

Another highlight was Pie Jesu (Webber) with soloists soprano Debbie Wai Kapohe and Rosie Evans (flugel horn).

Wai Kapohe also performed with other band items – A te Tarahiki, Hine e Hine and a spicy delivery of a Miles arrangement of All That Jazz, which showcased the versatility of this New Zealand singer.

Another quest was a large group of energetic dancers from Rasa School of Dance (Lisa Wilkinson), which visually enhanced several band numbers. The Enchanted Dance Hall (Ken Young) was particularly suited to their interpretive dance movement.

It was good to look back over historic footage of TSS Earnslaw and Lake Wakatipu, accompanied by the familiar strains of Ron Goodwin’s Earnslaw Theme (1983).

Haast Highway included poetry (narrated by Gladys Hope) and was performed against a backdrop of Haast archive footage.

The recital was presented in an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere, with good musicianship, and appropriate visual additions and props.

Elizabeth Bouman

Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (September 03, 2012)

Review – Simply the Best

Kings and Queens Performing Arts Centre
12 May 2012
Conductor: Howard Taylor
Guests: John Lewis (cornet) and Riki McDonnell (euphonium)

A disappointingly small, but very appreciative, audience enjoyed some top brass on Saturday evening in the Kings and Queens Performing Arts Centre.

Brisbane-based conductor Howard Taylor conducted an excellent programme by St Kilda Brass and compered the evening like a seasoned TV show host (I won’t mention the corny jokes).

The programme was titled “Simply the Best” and Taylor was quick to point out that the two guest soloists were indeed simply the best

And John Lewis (on cornet) and Riki McDonnell (on euphonium) certainly were, both performing solo work in the style that has won them a great many international titles and championships.

The band was in top form too, opening with a rousing Fanfare and Flourishes and working through 20 numbers of classical, rock, jazz and traditional to end with an absolutely sublime rendition of Pokarekare.

There were many highlights. The passionate tight blend and balance of The Irish Blessing, the speed and clarity of Lewis’ Napoli variations, the incredible virtuosity of McDonnell’s Carnival Cocktail (Sykes) and the beautiful duo arrangement of Hallelujah (Cohen) played by Lewis with Nathan Tane on electric guitar held the audience spellbound. Big numbers such as Swing When You’re Winning, Disney Fantasy, Georgia on My Mind and Innuendo were full of energy and character, and Bach’s Toccata in D Minor featuring Robert Craigie on xylophone, brought this well-known work out of the Baroque age.

A programme such as this makes one realise just how far brass bands, with their sophisticated repertoire, have evolved from the limitations of common-time street-march repertoire.

Elizabeth Bouman

Review taken from the Otago Daily Times (May 14, 2012)