National Finals 2023
Of Men & Mountains (Edward Gregson)
Of Men and Mountains was commissioned by the Netherlands Brass Band Championships for their 10th Anniversary Contest, held in Drachten in December 1990.The title of the work and its genesis came about as a result of a train journey the composer took in July 1989 across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver. The awe-inspiring journey through the Rocky Mountains, with its high peaks and shafts of sunlight breaking through the clouds, with its canyons and ferocious rapids, made the composer understand a little more about the majesty of nature and the fragility of humanity. The eternal struggle between man and nature was personified in the building of this incredible railway, hence the title (after Blake).The work is dedicated to the memory of Eric Ball, who died shortly before the writing of the work commenced.Of Men and Mountains is in one continuous movement and lasts about 17 mins. Its form is difficult to describe because of its motivic and accumulative nature, but it is essentially a symphonic tone poem in search of a theme, which eventually comes in its final and complete state in the majestic ending after an ever-increasing paced scherzo.
St James - A New Beginning (Philip Harper)
St Jamesís - A New Beginning commemorates 300 years since the death of English architect Sir Christopher Wren who redesigned and rebuilt London after the Great Fire in 1666. It was used as the test-piece for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain (1st Section) in 2023. The piece is in four parts: I. THE GREAT FIRE II. AFTERMATH III. VISION IV. RENAISSANCE The bells ring the alarm and, as the capital city is engulfed by flames, panic and desperation spread. As the fire burns out, we are left to contemplate the aftermath of the inferno. Enter Sir Christopher Wren. His vision and courage were some of the most influential forces in the rebuilding of London which rose to reclaim its place as one of the great cities of the world.
Lakeland Variations (Philip Sparke)
Composer Philip Sparke used the region of Seeland, located in the north-west part of Switzerland, with its three lakes (Morat, Neuch‚tel and Bienne) as the starting point for his Lakeland Variations. The work comprises an introduction and five variations based on motifs contained in the opening bars. The three lakes are represented by the three notes of the opening timpani solo, the intervals of which, a quarter and a second (together with a cornet figure), form the basis of all the following variations.
Lost Village of Imber (Christopher Bond)
The village of Imber on Salisbury Plain had been inhabited for over one thousand years when it was evacuated in 1943 to make way for military training in the Second World War. At the time, with preparations for the Allied invasion of Europe underway, most villagers put up no resistance, despite being upset, with the belief that they'd return once the war had concluded. To this day, Imber and its surrounding land remain a military training ground. The villagers never returned, and just the shell of what was once a community remains. Structured in three movements, it is on this very real story that the work is based, setting out the series of events of 1943 in chronological order. The first movement, On Imber Downe, portrays a sense of jollity and cohesiveness - a community of individuals living and working together before news of the evacuation had broken. Sounds of the village are heard throughout, not least in a series of percussive effects - the anvil of the blacksmith; the cowbell of the cattle and the bells of the church. The second movement, The Church of St. Giles, begins mysteriously and this sonorous, atmospheric opening depicts Imber in its desolate state and the apprehension of residents as they learn they have to leave their homes. Amidst this is the Church, a symbol of hope for villagers who one day wish to return, portrayed with a sweeping melodic passage before the music returns to the apprehension of villagers facing eviction around their sadness at losing their rural way of life. In complete contrast, the third movement, Imemerie Aeternum, portrays the arrival of the military, complete with the sounds of the ammunition, firing and tanks - sounds which were all too familiar to those living in the surround areas. To close, the Church of St. Giles theme returns in a triumphant style, representing the idea that the church has always been, even to this day, a beacon of hope for the villagers and local community - both the centrepiece and pinnacle of a very real story. The work was commissioned by Bratton Silver Band in celebration of the band's 160th Anniversary, with funding from the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants Fund and the Brass Bands England Norman Jones Trust Fund.
Saddleworth Festival Overture (Goff Richards)
Commissioned by the Saddleworth Arts Festival and specially published for the Fourth Section Finals of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 1985