Saturday 4th April saw a packed hall at Gillingham School in Dorset for a concert by Gillingham Imperial Silver Band, conducted by Alan MacRae and the world renowned Trombone Soloist Brett Baker.
The concert opened in fine style with a bright rendition of Philip Sparke's popular Concert Prelude. Alan MacRae then informed the audience that the band had recently lost three of its long serving members in long time President Herbert Green, President of the Supporters club Jean Male and Keith Rowe, for many years the band's deputy conductor and former player. The concert was being dedicated to them and in memory of Keith the band then played an emotional version of Ennio Morricone's theme from the film “The Mission”, Gabriel's Oboe.
The Band then welcomed Brett Baker to the stage and Brett's first piece was a world premiere of a new Concerto for Trombone composed for him by prolific composer Darrol Barry. As ever, Darrol has managed to compose a piece that tests both the virtuosity of the soloist and the band, without compromising the ability of the audience to appreciate the music and the performance with received enthusiastically by the audience. The concerto itself starts with a slow melody accompanied by “shimmering” muted cornets underneath before the tempo increases. The second movement is a slow 6/4 melody with crossing rhythms whilst the accompaniments settle on crotchet quaver firstly on Trombones before moving to the Baritones, Euphonium and Basses. The final movement is almost a rondo where the same figure keeps returning, and with a metronome marking of crotchet = 168 the soloist will need to be quick on the slide! Overall only the very best of soloists will do this work justice and the band parts, whilst tricky, will be achievable by bands 2nd section and above. The piece is scored for Soloist and three trombones making it ideal for this type of concert. Changing the mood Brett then played a new arrangement by Paul Sharman of the well known traditional tune, Londonderry Air. With its lush harmonies and a soft tone from the soloist this piece sounded fresh and could become a popular choice for Trombone Soloists of all abilities.
Before leaving the stage, Brett then joined the Band's Principal Cornet player, Liam Carey for a humorous rendition of Howard Snell's arrangement of Rossini's Duet for Two Cats, that had the audience chuckling as the two sallied back and forth with Harmon Mutes drawn.
It was then left to the band to finish the first half with a strong performance of Borodin's Dances Polovtsiennes that I'm sure had many of the audience singing the words to Stranger in Paradise in their minds.
Two works from Goff Richards opened the second half, firstly his lively concert march The Jaguar which was then followed by the slightly lesser known of Goff's two Disney selections, A Disney Spectacular.
Brett Baker then returned to the stage and his first piece was a sublimely gorgeous reading of John Golland's arrangement, originally for JSVB, of Glen Campbell's By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Brett's tone quality in the upper register adds a different dimension to slow pieces and this piece was no exception. With sympathetic support from the band this was a masterclass in how to perform a slow melody.
Brett's final offering was an arrangement, by the band's MD Alan MacRae, of the Nina Simone classic Feeling Good, which was originally arranged as a Flugel Horn solo but Brett had “hi-jacked” for the night. The soloist's ability to switch from a rich mellow tone to the slight edgy sound to emulate Miss Simone's vocal style at the drop of a hat is what makes Brett Baker one of the finest exponents of the instrument.
Leaving the stage to enthusiastic applause it was left to the band to perform the final three pieces of the concert. Continuing with the Jazz theme the band performed Steve Sykes' arrangement of Dave Brubeck's seminal Take Five coping well with the rhythmic demands that this piece requires. Then another offering from the pen of Philip Sparke in the haunting Serenade for Toni.
You would think that the band, having given a sterling performance all evening would have opted for an easier blow for its finale but putting tired lips aside it launched into an enthusiastic romp through Ray Woodfield's Kalinka.
With the audience calling for more, Alan then called Brett Baker back to the stage and finished with Brett once again wowing the crowd with a virtuosi performance of Arthur Pryor's Fantastic Polka, so many styles of playing in one short piece.
The audience left the hall praising the skills of not only the Soloist but of the band which accompanied him so well throughout the evening.