Black Dyke Band with Manchester Chorale CD available on Amazon

13/11/2012 15:02

Track Listing

1. Four Minute Mile (Judith Bingham)

2. Pure Gold - A 4 x 4 Relay (Luke Carver Goss) with the Chorale

3. The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Derek Bourgeois)

4. Pictures at an Exhibition (Modest Mussorgsky arr. Elgar Howarth)

Review

On your marks... get set... go! The first of Black Dyke's musical pictures takes us onto the athletics track for Judith Bingham's Four Minute Mile. Subtitled A short sprint for brass band, it was a BBC Commission for the 1992 Festival of Brass and is full of momentum and muscular rhythmic bite. The players are instructed to 'sprint away with great vigour' from the starting gun. As the pulse relaxes a little, somewhere around the end of the second lap perhaps, a melodic passage emerges in the lead, but as one commentator has described it, 'a packed field of percussion maintains the pressure on these leaders'. The sprint really heats up in a mad dash for the finishing line in this sparkling performance lasting under three and-a-half minutes. 

There is an Olympic flavour to the second track, in which Black Dyke and Nicholas Childs are joined by the clear toned voices of the Manchester Chorale and the poet, performer and professional Yorkshireman, Ian McMillan. Pure Gold - A 4x4 Relay was commissioned by Black Dyke Band as part of the New Music 20x12 scheme administered by the PRS for Music Foundation for the Cultural Olympiad. The music was composed by Luke Carver Goss, who has collaborated closely with Ian McMillan in the invention and realisation of the whole piece. McMillan's text, part narrated and part sung, takes us back to personal recollections of a junior school sports day and the ubiquitous sack and egg and spoon races. Ian didn't win. He even found it difficult to get into the sack, but in a series of witty, nostalgic reminiscences, with commentary from the choir and much discreet (beautifully played) colour from the band, the 'pure gold' of simply taking part is celebrated. This is an engaging work, whose chief attribute is clarity and intimacy. It is an ideal piece for recording, where any imperfections of balance between band and choir can be adjusted. 

The rich vein of musical form that Black Dyke is demonstrating just now was struck in no uncertain terms at this year's Yorkshire Regional Championships with an emphatic winning performance of Derek Bourgeois' The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The technical assurance and clarity that the band demonstrated in St. George's Hall, Bradford, is recaptured in this commanding performance. The 'devilish' first half is a dazzling virtuoso display, electrifying in its impact. The second half - very different, and for me of less musical and compositional quality - displays a tenderness at times that almost wins me over. The brass band version of Elgar Howarth's brass transcription of Pictures at an Exhibition has never enjoyed the popularity of the brass ensemble treatment. This has much to do with the sheer difficulty of the parts, none more challenging than the soprano cornet, well done Paul Duffy in this recording. There is also the question of playing style. Howarth's symphonic approach, with the brilliance and colour of trumpets and French horns in his mind, is hard to replicate on the softer grained brass band instruments. Nicholas Childs and the band are terrifically committed here, but some movements are more successful than others in overall effect. There are some notable contributions from flugel horn and tuba, although a faster, more lilting tempo in The Old Castle and Bydlo would have maintained the momentum of the work and consolidated the overall structure more powerfully. The Chicks in their Shells chatter most convincingly, the eerie atmosphere in The Catacombs is palpable and there is an appropriate threat in Baba Yaga. This is an intriguingly planned and well-produced release well worth exploring.

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Paul Hindmarsh - British Bandsman, Saturday 14th July 2012

   Here's the link to Amazon