Review – Brass & Voices

Mayfair Theatre 17th May
St Kilda Brass Steve Miles
Southern Youth Choir Ruth Kirkwood

A near capacity crowd packed into the Mayfair Theatre in Dunedin on Saturday night to hear the second in St Kilda Brass’s subscription series of concerts Brass & Voices.

The programme got under way with Paul Lovatt-Coopers popular Where Eagles Sing which set the exciting tine for the evening. St Kilda’s substantial offering of the evening was Herbert Howell’s masterful score Pageantry which was full of appropriate style and character. The beautiful second movement was a real feature with soloists displaying real sensitivity and poise, particularly Soprano Cornet Ralph Miller in the closing sections. John Lewis (Cornet) set the style and tempo to the last movement with a real sense of class before an incredibly tight ensemble thrilled the audience through the extended climactic finish.

John Lewis featured next as a soloist in Phillip Sparke’s Song and Dance and once again showed all in attendance why he is regarded as one of the finest Cornet players in the Southern Hemisphere. The Accompaniment to John’s wonderful playing was a little heavy at times, particularly in the awkward sections of the Dance but nevertheless this was well received.

Music from the Swing Era and Harry Jame’s Trumpet Blues and Cantabile featured the remaining Solo Cornet players and Soprano in an arrangement that was a particular favourite with the audience on the night.

The band reformed whilst conductor and compere Steve Miles gave an extended and informative introduction to Howard Snell’s wonderfully atmospheric The Old Chalet. This was an intriguing arrangement that feature 3 separate groups of Cornets spread around the hall creating echo effects, a Euphonium at the back of the hall providing Alphorn sounds and a meandering Cow Bell in the distance.

Next, Peter Graham’s Call of the Cossacks was full of excitement with the tight ensemble, huge dynamic contrasts, breathtaking speeds, top class soloists and sharp Percussion section which really was deserved of the extended ovation given by the audience. As an encore to the first half the band performed an arrangement by Leigh Baker of the Angus Dei from Faure’s Requiem which could have done some serious damage to the fragile old theatre building in the huge climatic ending! More Peter Graham music got the second half under way with Shine As the Light before the evenings guests, the Southern Youth Choir and their Musical Director Ruth Kirkwood took to the stage. This is a young and vibrant ensemble that displayed some very beautiful sounds and well controlled harmonies through a programme of music that ranged from African and Serbian folk song to the more traditional sounds of Thomas Tallis, Johannes Brahms and William Byrd.

The combined forces of the Choir and Band came together and were very finely balanced in excerpts from David Hamilton’s The Dragons are Singing Tonight and the traditional Welsh Folk Song Sosban Fach, arranged by Goff Richards and adapted for the concert by Steve Miles.

The programme for this concert was incredibly varied; the execution of performance was top notch, the guest artists impressive and topped off with some very appropriate and atmospheric lighting effects. What more could one ask for – Bravo!!!

Sean McDonald

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