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Reviews & Articles
Saturday, 22 May 2004

Harrogate Band
St Wilfrid's Church
Conductor David Lancaster
Soloist David Childs

Invited for the first time to perform at the International Festival, our own Harrogate Band fitted very comfortably into the international star line-up appearing this year, giving us an excellent programme of Russian and British music in St Wilfred's Church last Wednesday.

The concert began with the rousing 'Ruslan and Ludmilla' overture by Glinka, a piece which displayed the band's virtuosity and dynamic attack to the full, but which also revealed that the venue was perhaps less than ideal. The long reverberation – echo – made for a somewhat muddy sound, hiding much of the detail and making it difficult to appreciate the artistry displayed by all sections of this great band. A local group this talented deserves a venue attuned to its own brilliant and full-blooded sound.

Gustav Holst once said: "The brass band movement has a great future. It also has a great present, if only people would realise it", and the band's fascinating and varied programme soon proved him right, the attack and verve of the performances soon diminishing the acoustic problems.
Musical Director David Lancaster sketched in the background to each piece before expertly guiding the band through a programme containing much home grown material. Wilfred Heaton, who contributed a moving meditation on a hymn tune melody lived near Valley Gardens; Gerald Finzi, who once lived in Duchy Road a few yards from St Wilfrid's was represented by a masterly arrangement of the Intrada from his Dies Natalis by the band's president Neil Richmond; and one of the evening's highlights, the Concerto for euphonium by Philip Wilby, was composed in Birstwith, Wilby's home in 1996.

The Concerto's soloist was the internationally acclaimed David Childs and in a review of this length it's impossible to do full justice to his mastery of the euphonium. Enough to say that his virtuosity was dazzling, his tone impeccable and his command of the most challenging music breathtaking. And anyone who heard his account of 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' will know what breathtaking means!

A fine band, a fine – and very full – programme and a worthy addition to the Festival all-star line-up. Let's invite them back.

Robin O'Connor

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