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BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Musician of 2010 joins MSB in Romsey Abbey

(June 05, 2010)

‘Classic Brass’ Concert

Romsey Abbey – Sat 5th June 2010

On what was a beautifully warm early summer’s evening, some 200 people decided to forego the lure of barbecues and al fresco eating to make their way to Romsey Abbey on Saturday evening to listen to Michelmersh Silver Band in concert. The carefully chosen title of ‘Classic Brass’ gave the band the opportunity to play an eclectic mix of music from the brass band repertoire, from Gershwin to Shostakovitch via Philip Sparke and Peter Graham.

With players in a concert formation featuring different sections of the band, Richard Strauss’s Festmusik der Stadt Wein heralded the start of the concert before the mood was changed with Fernie’s arrangement of It Ain’t Necessarily So /I’m on My Way from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess . Principal cornet player Jan Boler then played a haunting rendition of Peter Graham’s A Time For Peace, provoking one of those magic concert moments when a few seconds of spellbound silence elapse as the dying notes fade away, before the audience burst into cheers and applause. After a full band piece – The Second Waltz (Jazz Suite No.2) by Shostakovitch it was time to introduce the Guest Soloist for the evening, the BBC Young Brass Soloist of the Year, 2010, Matthew White.

Matthew White

Nineteen year old Matthew lists Michelmersh Silver Band as his first contesting band and reminisced with the audience about his memories of playing the trio feature ‘Mexican Hat Dance’ perched on high stool to make up the height difference and to enable him to hold the euphonium that was nearly as big as he was at 9 years of age! Matthew introduced his first piece, Philip Sparke’s Harlequin as a piece he wanted to play as soon as he heard it – mainly because it was so fast! And fast it certainly was in places – much to the delight and admiration of the audience!

Surrendering any attempt to follow the sheer excitement of their guest’s performance, the band, conducted by Roland Wright, opted for a gentler arrangement of another Gershwin classic – Every Time We Say Goodbye, before ending the first half with an exciting new piece by Dan Price. Featuring a narration on the devastating loss of life in the American Civil War, An American Tale features many iconic American melodies including Battle Hymn of the Republic and Amazing Grace with a guest appearance by Pennsylvania-born Annie Reilly providing an authentic American accent for the poignant narration.

The box of brass delights continued for concert-goers as the trombone quartet, Bone-Fide Brass entertained them throughout the interval.

Opening the second half with the march Emblem of Unity, the band then played two movements of the Philip Sparke test-piece The Saga of Haakon the Good, the piece with which they won the Wessex First Section Champions title in 2009. Retaining the baton, Melvin White then conducted the guest soloist Matthew White (no relation) in a beautiful, melodic performance of Michaelangelo - a Norwegion pop song written and made famous by Sigvart Dagsland and a complete contrast to the earlier piece performed by Matthew. Changing the mood once again, the band turned on the style with the festival arrangement of Barrie Gott’s Lightwalk featuring a flawless swing-style solo by flugel horn player Dan Pierce, before Matthew White stepped up again to perform Peter Graham’s composition Bravura. With band members and audience alike applauding and cheering a truly amazing virtuoso performance, Matthew returned to the stage to perform, as an encore, a self-penned piece of free expression during which he produced a range of sounds from his instrument seldom, if ever, heard before by the audience. Alternating between laughter as Matthew himself acknowledged the strangeness of the sounds he was producing, to cheers and gasps of amazement at his range and digital dexterity, audience and band loved every second and obviously felt very privileged to witness such immense talent.

Faced again with ‘following that’, the band opted to settle things down a little with Goff Richards’ arrangement of Brodszky’s I’ll Walk With God before being joined by Matthew White and launching in to their finale piece, Glorifico Aeturnum by Dean Jones. With echoes of the loud and enthusiastic applause and cheers still ringing around the Abbey, the encore piece chosen to close the concert was Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima. Overheard comments from a departing audience left this writer at least in no doubt that there were no regrets for passing up that barbecue supper in favour of a unique opportunity to hear a world-class young talent in the form of Matthew White performing with Romsey’s very own Michelmersh Silver Band. For the White family, band members and supporters it was straight from one Abbey to another – the Abbey Hotel that is – for a few celebratory drinks, old photos and plenty of stories to embarrass the current BBC Young Brass Soloist of the Year with!

Claire Topp - June 2010

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