City musicians land telling blows – ODT

Courtesy of ODT – 14 July, 2010.

Three Dunedin musicians are national champions after the New Zealand Brass Band Championships in Dunedin at the weekend.

The triumph was all the more remarkable for Rose Evans (16), of St Kilda Brass, who won the junior flugelhorn section at her first attempt.

“I was really pleased. It was my first national title and my first national competition,” she said yesterday.

At the other end of the scale, Fred Knopp (82), of St Kilda Brass, won the masters (75-84) cornet for the fourth time.

“I usually mainly get seconds and thirds, so it was nice to get a first,” he said.

John Lewis (36), representing Daelwool Auckland Brass, won his fourth open championship cornet title.

“It’s been a difficult couple of years. There’s been a lot of upheaval in my life, but things are settling down again and I’m really pleased with the way I’m playing at the moment,” he said yesterday.

“I’ve got a busy year ahead with CD recordings and concerts in Auckland and more contests in Australia later in the year.

Somewhere in between, I hope to fit in a few concerts here in Dunedin.”

Other successes for local musicians were. -Tim Walsh, of St Kilda Brass, was second in the open tenor trombone; Rene Spoors, of St Kilda Brass, was third in open Eb bass; and John McAdam, representing Pelorus Trust Wellington Brass, was third in the open baritone section.

The 130th New Zealand Brass Band Championships featured 27 bands and nearly 1000 musicians.
Nigel Benson – ODT

Review – Swing with the Rat Pack

Glenroy Auditorium
21 November 2009
Conductor: Steve Miles
Guests: Douglas Kamo, Rob Enari and Kris Bate

The Rat Pack reincarnated returned to Dunedin on Saturday night as slick, smooth and funny as the original Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra. A full house in the Glenroy auditorium loved every minute of the smooth crooning, irreverent humour and stylish moves of the local cool cats: Douglas Kamo, Rob Enari and Kris Bate.

This was an excellent concert put on by St Kilda Brass: all the great songs were there, delivered with the panache, if not quite the vocal qualities, of the original “rats”. Kamo, Enari and Bate were all over the auditorium working the audience with all the skills, humour and charm of the originals. No one was safe: audience member Avis (“Isn’t that a rental company?” quipped Kamo) found herself on stage lying across rat pack knees being serenaded in a love song. Audience participation was mandatory and great fun – a Mexican wave for That’s Amore, phonetic punctuation for Doe a Deer and finger clicking and clapping along all adding to the success of songs like My WayNew York, New York and Mack the Knife.

All credit to musical director Steve Miles whose roles included conductor, compere, singer and arranger. His idiomatic arrangements transformed St Kilda Brass into a swing big band: cornets discarded for Freddie Hubbard-style trumpets complete with screamers and fall-offs, and the middle of the band imitating saxophones. At the heart of the accompaniment was a strong rhythm section of Stuart Walker (keyboards), Ian McCabe (bass guitar) and Daniel Dance (drums) who kept up a high energy backing.

Opening each half alone, St Kilda Brass displayed quality soloists of its own with Ralph Miller giving a splendid account of the Harry James Trumpet Concerto, principal cornet John Lewis all style in Georgia on my Mindand Ted “foot-long” Pheloung delivering Just a Closer Walk with New Orleans-style jazz panache.

St Kilda Brass is to be congratulated on its innovative Southern Victorian Charitable Trust concert series. For the last couple of years they have shown that the modern brass band is a versatile and exciting ensemble that can put on imaginative programmes and professional, entertaining concerts.

Peter Adams

Review – 20th Century & Beyond

Mayfair Theatre
26 September 2009
Conductor: Steve Miles
Guest Soloist: Gladys Hope QSM

A particularly grotty weather weekend in Dunedin was enhanced greatly last week by a very well programmed concert given by St Kilda Brass. The third concert in this year’s Southern Victorian charitable Trust concert series, the 20th Century & Beyond took the large Dunedin audience on a journey through music of the 20th Century.

The programme started with the 20th Century Fox Fanfare before a rousing rendition of the Stars & Stripes Forever March by the March king John Phillip Sousa. Some very fine Soprano playing from Ralph Miller set the scene for the entire Cornet section to step up and be featured in Hora Staccato at break neck speed before a complete change of mood in the very cheeky theme tune to the film Those Magnificent Men in Those Flying Machines. Gladys Hope was the chosen guest artist for the evening’s concert, a singer and actress well known throughout New Zealand and a real favourite with the Dunedin public. Gladys gave her first contribution for the evening with a wonderfully spaced rendition of the traditional air Danny Boy. So lyrical and controlled, Gladys held the audience in the palm of her hand before air raid sirens, gun fire, bombs and search lights set the scene for a war bracket featuring Dam Bustersand the medley Keep Smiling Through.

More of Gladys Hope’s beautiful singing followed with Summertimefrom Gershwin’s Opera Porgy & Bess before the bands major contribution of the evening, Dean Goffin’s Rhapsody in Brass. Dating back to the 1940’s Goffin’s work is a very audience friendly work full of lyrical melody and catchy phrases. St Kilda Brass really excelled in this performance which was very well prepared. Very careful balance and exquisitely precise ensemble were topped off by soloists on top form, in particular newly appointed Solo Horn player Erynne Scherf who’s rendition of the second movement was both beautiful and haunting.

Another Opening Another Show got the second half underway before the very complex music from West Side Story arranged by Eric Crees. This was another big work on the programme which was delivered with panache and excitement. A very unusual start to the next item came from Gladys Hope and St Kilda Brass’s Bonar Robertson acting out the opening conversation of With One Look from Sunset Boulevard which was specially arranged for this concert by MD Steve Miles. Complete with American accents the actors set the scene perfectly before Gladys Hopedelivered a show stopping performance. Holding the character throughout, Gladys showed the enthusiastic and appreciative audience just why she is held in such high regard as a character actress and musical theatre start. This was a real highlight of the evening and was fully deserved of the extended ovation.

MacArthur Park and What a Wonderful World brought a very 60’s flavour to the concert before an upbeat and vocal rendition of Hello Dolly. The pulse wobbled a little in this number but the bands singing was as usual a highlight! Gladys Hope finished her evening with another of Steve Miles arrangements, this time reliving the role of Mrs Potts that she played in both Wellington and Dunedin productions of Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. Greeted with an overwhelming ah from the audience after its introduction, Gladys performed the show’s title track flawlessly and was real pleasure to listen to.

The finale of the concert taking us into the beyond was Ray Farr’sGalaxies. Full of dynamic contrasts and dramatic effect, the finale was handled with aplomb bringing the evening’s music making to a very exciting close (Before of course the obligatory rendition of the bands signature tune When the Saints).

The bands concert series now has a very strong following due to some innovative thinking and consistent quality. It’s great to hear such positive comments from the Dunedin public that really are getting value for money from this series. I look forward with anticipation to the bands next event on 21st November, Swing with the Rat Pack which will relive the fun and frivolous entertainment of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior with special guests Doug Kamo, Kris Bate & Rob Enari.

Sean McDonald

Review – Dad & Dave

Glenroy Auditorium
31 July 2009
Conductor: Steve Miles

A near capacity crowd filled the Glenroy Auditorium at Dunedin Town Hall last Friday night for the second in the 2009 Southern Victorian Charitable Trust Concert Series presented by St Kilda Brass, Dad & Dave with the Saints.

The concert got underway with Philip Harper’s Lionheart, originally written for the Gala Concert of the European Championships held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in 2007, this piece was full of youthful exuberance and dynamic contrast though did not always dispaly exact rhythmic control. Next on the programme came 2 movements from Phillip Sparke’s Hymn of the Highlands; Ardross Castle and Dundonnell, this was a real highlight of the programme with the band sounding on absolute top form. Great balance was heard between the melodic and accompaniment lines, exciting dynamic effects and all topped off with some very fine Percussion work.

David Bremner has become a favourite with the Dunedin public and the Trombone superstar showed once again why he is without doubt the finest Trombone player on this side of the world. Clouds, originally written by Dunedin based composer and Otago University lecturer Anthony Ritchie for the New Zealand National Band tour of 2005, had been performed many times before but never to a New Zealand audience. This New Zealand Premiere of the highly descriptive work held together very well and the band gave a very solid framework for the soloist to work within. Some very impressive, controlled high register playing from Solo Cornet and Soprano dominated the opening statement before the technical wizardry and panache of David Bremner was displayed in all its glory. David’s evenness of tone throughout the range of the instrument was a real highlight and a shining example to the many young brass players scattered throughout the Glenroy audience that had come to hear him play. An extended ovation for soloist, band and composer was thoroughly deserved.

Some light relief was on offer next with a very comedic rendition of Mr. Sandman arranged by Leigh Baker featuring 4 of the band playing different pitched bottles and Tubular Bells. A very amusing number which even had vocals and dancing!!! More Phillip Sparke followed with Mountain Song which had some moments of unease and a number of intonation issues which did detract somewhat from the music, not the bands best offering of the evening but this was soon forgotten within the excitement of Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture which was full of atmosphere and some wonderful Timpani playing form Julia Horsnell.

The second half got underway with another Leigh Baker arrangement; this time of Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long which featured 4 Trumpets led by Ralph Miller screaming out the lead line. A much calmer mood followed with the introduction of Cornet Soloist Trevor Bremner playing Shepherd’s Song whilst wandering through the auditorium. Trevor’s glorious tone and exceptional control was a joy to listen to and the band seemed to relish the opportunity to provide accompaniment to his playing.Danse Napolitaine showed more of Trevor’s musicality and technical competence before the band launched into a Freddie Mercury tribute with Fat Bottomed Girls and Bohemian Rhapsody. These were real audience pleasers and almost brought the house down. Once more a beautiful rendition from Trevor Bremner this time of Rusalka’s Song to the Moonfollowed before father and son joined forces for Softly As I Leave.

Valero arranged by Sandy Smith gave Daniel Dance a real chance to shine on the Drum Kit before the big finale, Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Vitae Aeternum. The finale again showed the band on real form though there did seem to be a few very tired players onstage by the end of the piece. Nevertheless, some fine solo work from John Lewis and Marty Kibble together with great back row and Trombone lines in the climax of the central theme. The programming of this concert was a real highlight with something for everyone and once again a very slick and professional lighting design enhanced the whole performance.

I look forward to the bands next concert on the 26th September, 20th Century and Beyond which will welcome back another Dunedin favourite, Gladys Hope.

Sean McDonald

Band place chance to make mark in music – ODT

Courtesy of ODT – 29 July, 2009,

Three Dunedin secondary school pupils may need more than a couple of band-aids when they head to Burnham Military Camp later this year for the New Zealand Secondary Schools Brass Band.

Gregory Thomson (John McGlashan College), Kalie Eathorne-Gould (Kavanagh College) and Rose Evans (Bayfield High School) are among the 47-strong band which will meet in September.

The course is available to the best secondary school players available for each instrument. Gregory (15) was selected to play Repiano Cornet, Kalie (16) was selected to play 2nd Cornet and Rose (15) will play 1st Flugel.

Not only will they receive musical training from leading members of the New Zealand Army Band, they will also be put through their paces in the field and train on the same concourse as New Zealand’s military personnel at Burnham during the week-long course.

The band’s members will also be given master-classes on conducting and arranging music for brass bands, but the main goal for the ensemble will be to prepare for a concert with the New Zealand Army Band at the Christchurch Town Hall for the city’s primary school pupils.

The trio join a long line of prominent brass musicians who made their humble beginnings in the NZSSBB and went on to play in some of the world’s top musical ensembles.
John Lewis – ODT

Review – Beyond the Tamar

Mayfair Theatre, Dunedin
16 June 2009
Conductor: Steve Miles

A good sized audience turned out for the first in St Kilda Brass’s 2009 concert series on a bitterly cold Dunedin Saturday night.

The late start to the concert series this year is due to the change of date for the New Zealand National Championships which was held over the Easter period, a change that seems to have caused a number of event programming issues in the Dunedin community but nonetheless the series was finally underway and it was Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Walking with Heroes which got the nights entertainment started with Cornets and Trombones in traditional concert opening fanfare formation.

Subtitled a “journey through musical genres and styles,” the concert continued with music from Franz Liszt in the form of the Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 which was delivered with fine ensemble, balance of lines and a certain “musical cheekiness” in the interpretation.

A complete change of mood (and lighting effect) brought the beautiful melody Amazing Grace before the major contribution of the first half Philip Harper’s Beyond the Tamar. Written originally for the Anniversary celebrations of the Cornwall Youth Brass Band, Harper’s work takes the audience on a journey from Cornwall around the world and back again visiting and touching upon musical styles of various countries and offering both audience and band a thoroughly entertaining time.

Beyond the Tamar was a real treat from the beautiful serenity of the Alps to the clearly visible flashes of Lighting through the Storm in Leningrad, the Improvisational techniques and tone colours of India, the vocal talents of the entire band in the traditional melody from Zimbabwe led by Rene Spoors to the wonderfully choreographed and all out fun in the Latin American Salsa.

I have never heard a brass concert quite like this and I applaud the MD’s attempt at delivering something unique to the Dunedin audience. Many audience members that I spoke to during the interval and after the show regarded this work as a highlight not only of the concert but of the entire last 3 concert series!

First off in the second half came James Curnow’s Psalm of Praise which was not always executed with the precision that one expects from this fine band but nonetheless there was certainly some excitement generated from the crisp ensemble and control of tempi.

A soloist showcase followed featuring the talents of Ralph Miller in Live and Let Die on soprano cornet, John Lewis in Napoli on cornet, Marty Kibble in Children of Sanchez on flugel horn and Errol Moore in Hamabe No Uta on euphonium. What a joy it is having such fine soloists in Dunedin and how lucky this band is to have leaders of such quality. All soloists really showed there class despite the occasional unsteadiness of the accompanying ensemble. Bravo!

Breathtaking speed through the Armenian Fire Dance which saw technical wizardry from both a young cornet team and a talented tuned percussion section led to a final set of music from the Big Band era with cornets exchanging their instruments for trumpets.

I must say this set of music was particularly enjoyable and the band seemed to be completely at ease with this genre of music delivering a very tight and dynamically controlled performance topped off with some nifty jazz solo work from Ralph Miller and John Lewis.

Contrast, variety and innovation were the ingredients to this concert which saw the band take their choreography to a new level…thoroughly enjoyable!

The bands next concert once again features the astonishing talent of David Bremner as guest soloist appearing this time with his father Trevor also. Not that I should be wishing away time at my age but roll on 31st July!

Sean McDonald