19 January 2016

Having all the fun

We tend to think of the big bertha orchestral concerts as the peak and they are the best attended and best timed and the ones that get broadcast from AYO to ABCFM, but the Brass/Percussion concert was a thing of great joy and great beauty in its own right (and rite). The first notes were from the large brass ensemble and they glowed with bell-like clarity and corporeal rotundity. This band was trumpets, trombones, horns with a few drums in support. They were playing Strauss Vienna Philharmonic fanfare. What's not to like about a fanfare? Dignified, projected, joyous, warm, full. We were told it was written following his divorce from his second wife. Amusing, too, if true. And so it continued. The percussionists got up for a traditional African drum chant from Burundi. This reminded me of jazz drum solos and not the only time in the night. Then a smaller mix of brass for Rimsky-Korsakov Mlada Procession of the nobles and a string of horns for a Wagner prelude (Act 3) from the Mastersingers of Nuremberg. I felt this last one could be maudlin at times and the tone of the horns lends itself to this. The horns then snuck in an off-program rendition Bernstein Magnificent seven theme. Great. As the compere reminded those old enough to remember, "As a matter of fact, I've got it now". A smaller group of brass with harp and two percussion played the three movements of Shostakovich Jazz suite. That felt at home, especially with the jazz waltz first movement. Then a drum nonet playing Michael Colgrass Three brothers. Nice; reminders of jazz drum solos, again, and some lovely sharp and even sticked bongos that stood out a mile. A trombone ensemble came next. Trombone must be the most luscious and pure of the brass instruments. They played three renaissance dances from Holborne, then a lovely harmony-rich rendition of Gershwin Someone to watch over me. Such melodic sentimentality can never be out of place. Then the larger brass ensemble with the delicate to insanely heavy Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet suite and a cute Love of three oranges march, again Prokofiev. And to finish? I didn't quite catch the intro, but this turned out to be a huge medley of classical and pop themes collected by the percussion ensemble itself. This was truly fabulous and entertaining and worthy of the standing ovation. Sandwiched by intro and finis of 2001 (=Also sprach Zarathustra) with everything from Mozart and Bach and Ravel and Beethoven and Katchaturian to tango and La Marseillaise and West Side Story and Sinatra. All held together with cool jazz feels, some great kit drumming, plenty of marimbas and vibes and glocks and a cavorting conductor and even a ballroom dance accompaniment from two performers to [I did it] My way. This concert was joyous and beauteous but not just that. If I get the chance, I think I'd like to come back as percussion or brass. As long as they count right, their jobs are not too busy and very prominent. They have all the fun (tongue clearly in cheek).

Various AYO Brass and Percussion ensembles played a range of musics with and without various conductors at Llewellyn Hall.

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