Review of Regionals 2020 CD - Brass Band World Magazine

Championship Section: A Tale as Yet Untold by Philip Sparke – Cory (Dr. Robert Childs)
Section 1: Legacy for Brass Band by Tom Davoren – Brighouse and Rastrick (Dr. David Thornton)
Section 2: The Golden Sabre by Kit Turnbull – GUS (Chris Jeans)
Section 3: Endurance by Andrew Baker – Foden’s (Michael Fowles)
Section 4: Neverland by Christopher Bond – Cory (Philip Harper)
World of Brass: DOY CD396

With the exception of Philip Sparke’s evocative, yet immensely tricky A Tale As Yet Untold, there is one immediately striking feature about the ‘Regional’ test-pieces that will challenge bands up and down the country early next year.

All are new, unfamiliar works written by composers with either already established, or still growing reputations in the sphere of brass band composition. There will undoubtedly be those that lament what might be said to be the eschewing of tradition amongst the choices, but make no mistake, this is a bold statement of intent and positivity from a selection panel that will have thought long and hard about its choices.

Played with both verve and warmth by Brighouse, Tom Davoren’s Legacy for Brass Band will test bands in Section 1. Inspired by the indomitable spirit of Aneurin Bevan and his creation of the NHS, it is a work that, although not without its challenges on a technical level, will test MDs, as much as the players themselves, in bringing to life a score that seeks to create an emotional journey of hope in the face of adversity.

Kit Turnbull’s The Golden Sabre gives Section 2 bands a ‘golden’ opportunity to get to grips with music that features a strong programmatic narrative, courtesy of its hero – Denis Davydov, a hussar and poet, and a hugely important figure in Russian military history during the nation’s Napoleonic wars with France. In one movement, but falling into a number of clearly signposted sections, the music is painted in boldly melodic and, at times, cinematically-accented colour, and is bound to be a popular choice amongst the competing bands.

Andrew Baker’s music last featured at the ‘Regionals’ in 2009, when his The Once and Future King tested Section 3 bands, and it is the same section of this competition series that will see his music featured again in 2020 with Endurance. Featuring a programmatic theme inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-15 Trans-Antarctic expedition, Endurance is another work that will engage bands in its spirit and story, whilst giving ample opportunity to display core elements of sound, technique and individual flair, as encapsulated by Foden’s.

From the Antarctic, we journey to J. M. Barrie’s Neverland in Section 4, as Christopher Bond’s music is featured at the ‘Regionals’ for the first time. Appropriately and engagingly played here by Cory, with which the composer enjoys a close association, it is another piece rich in melodic colour and programme, which gives Section 4 not just a test-piece, but also music of telling emotional substance.

That just leaves the Championship Section. Written for Cory as the own-choice work that proved instrumental in the band winning the 2010 European Championship under Robert Childs in Linz – indeed the breathtaking live, winning contest performance is featured here. The semi-autobiographical undercurrents of the music are realised by the composer in music of radiant expression and brilliance of scoring, allied with immensely taxing solo passages, and a level of technical complexity and intricacy that will strike fear into the hearts of many an experienced campaigner on the contest platform.

Collectively, the 2020 ‘Regional’ challenges should all make for a fascinating start to the 2020 contesting season.


Performance: 5
Recording: 5
Programme: 5
Presentation: 4