On Sunday 2nd June 2019 the 2018 National Champions, the Foden’s Band, made a return visit to St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich to perform the East Anglian Brass Band Association’s 81st Annual Gala Concert.
The Association launched its ‘Brass For Youth Project 2019’ to give young people who are learning to play a brass instrument the opportunity to be able to listen to a live performance by one of the world’s best brass bands. With support from the Norwich Freemen’s Charity and the Geoffrey Whatling Charity together with donations in memory of Dianne Hastings the Association was able to offer free tickets to young brass musicians in Norfolk and Suffolk. Young brass people from approximately twenty schools, bands and music centres attended the concert. For many this was the first time they had attended such a concert and what a fantastic concert it was.
Under the band’s Musical Director, Michael Fowles, the band commenced their programme with the march ‘The President’ by German. This was followed by the Finale of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto played (and arranged) by the band’s principal tenor horn player, Jonathan Bates. Two cornet solos came next, the first by the band’s principal cornet, Mark Wilkinson who played ‘Song for Eilir’ by Robin Dewhurst and then in complete contrast Soprano Cornet, Richard Poole, played the music from the James Bond Film ‘Live and Let Die’ composed by Paul and Linda McCartney and arranged by Ray Farr. Jonathan Bates provided another arrangement for the band’s next piece, a lively rendition of the ‘War Dance of the Red Cossacks’.
At this point in the concert the previous Chairman of the Association, Ian Clarke, went on stage to pay tribute to the former Secretary of the Association, Dianne Hastings, who had sadly passed away in November 2018. Dianne had been the Secretary of the Association for over 40 years and in that time had worked tirelessly for the Association. Unfortunately in 2015 Dianne had suffered a severe stroke and had to retire from her role as Secretary. The Association had presented her with a certificate of distinction and appointed her a Life Vice President. As their tribute to Dianne the Foden’s Band played an arrangement by William Himes of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’.
The final item in the first half of the concert was a colourful arrangement by Derek Bourgeois of Paul Dukas symphonic poem ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. The piece was famously used in Disney’s 1940 film ‘Fantasia’ where Mickey Mouse plays the part of the apprentice.
The band started the second half of their concert with a piece of music composed by Ernesto Lecuona, ‘Malaguena’ arranged by Sandy Smith. It was originally the sixth movement of Lecuona’s Suite, Andalucia. Michael Fowles then introduced a solo by the band’s flugel horn player Melanie Whyle who played ‘The Lonely Shepherd’ music composed by James Last and used in the film ‘Kill Bill’.
John Barber, the solo trombone of the band, had composed the next piece ‘The King of Swing’ for the band as his tribute to Benny Goodman, the American jazz clarinettist and band leader. He then performed a solo of his arrangement of ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ by Bart Howard.
The recent release and success of the film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has brought the sounds of Queen to a new generation. Composed by Freddie Mercury, Foden’s played ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ with its echoes of music hall, vaudeville and no small amount of postcard humour.
A song from the film ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ ‘Pure Imagination’ composed by Anthony Newley and arranged for band by Colin Skinner was followed by the final soloist of the evening. Mark Landon, the principal percussionist of the band, choose to play ‘Highland Fling’. Without exception, all the soloists had given superb performances which the young people attending could do nothing more than admire and aspire to in equal measure.
For their finale the band played music composed by Ilan Eshkeri from the film ‘Stardust‘. Michael Fowles pointed out that some of the film had been recorded in Norwich so it was particularly relevant to the concert at St Andrew’s Hall.
This bought the concert to its conclusion but the audience were not prepared to let Foden’s go without an encore. The band did not disappoint, playing J.S Bach’s Toccata in D minor arranged for brass band by Ray Farr.
Many thanks to Michael Fowles and the Foden’s Band for a brilliant concert.