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Re: National Finals test - piece

On Thu, 4 Jun 1998, Kevin Williams wrote:

> How refreshing to read that Philip Sparke has written this years
> National Finals test piece entitled "Between the Moon and Mexico".

I wonder if I'll ever get to play it :)

> Philip is without doubt, in my view, the greatest composer for brass

Now that's an interesting one!  I expect a lot of people will have things
to say there.  Lots of respect for Philip's compositions (and
contributions to banding in other spheres) but what about Wilby? Gregson?
McCabe?  Lloyd?  Heaton??  And all the new composers on the continent who
are now discovering banding?

Personally, I think we're going to find more and more interesting stuff
coming out from the continent.  The British commisioning scene seems to be
fairly erratic at the moment, it'd be a shame if the Open was diversions
on a bass theme instead of something new.

> band since Eric Ball. The time gap between Harmony Music and this new
> work has been far too long, and in between times National Finals players

Philip has other _jobs_ too!  He does write for money you know.

> and audiences have been fed all kinds of grot. As a former member of the
> Hendon band, I was fortunate to have played in three succesive Finals,
> of which only "Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" warranted any kind of

A fun piece, though not in my opinion a great piece of music at all.  Lots
of random wibble and silly things just for the sake of it.  Also amusing
to do without double tonguing!

> commendation. Following that, Theme and Co-operation, and Songs for B.L.
> will probably never be played again, although putting on a recording of
> Songs for B.L. is guaranteed to remove any unwanted guests or upset your
> neighbours.

I've only heard a bit of this, though I've heard opinions that Songs
doesn't get enough consideration by many with traditional brass band

> The last 3 Finals pieces have been too "hymn-tuney" and sloppy, with the
> influence of the SA too evident. SA music is fine, we played a lot of it
> at Hendon and thoroughly enjoyed most of it, but I don't think the
> inclusion of it into the Finals has proved appropriate.

Trying to remember...... Isaiah 40 (took me ages to spell that right) is
obviously SA!  Yes, it has good tunes, but I don't find it too hymn-tuney
myself.  It's a very good piece, spoilt a little by a lack of continuity.

On Alderly Edge was very nice (lots of tunes) but doesn't come alive on
frequent listening.  From the score it looks fairly easy (now I'm for it!)
with most of the work in the cornets, though I'm told there are quite a
few ensemble pitfalls.  [ Montage remains Peter Graham's best by far,
marvelous piece!]

And the other piece in the last 3 years, if memory serves, is Revelation.
Wow!  I love the piece, even if it is a little long.  The last 4 minutes
alone - put the stereo on distort-1 and lie back and wow!  Anyway, it's
not based on a hymn tune, but a Purcell trio fantasia, and is in
variation form.  This shows off Wilby's takes on different styles of
writing for the band, with the old (tonal Purcell) juxtaposed with
the new (quartal Wilby) just after the aleatoric section.  I have Dyke's
recording on Sacred Symphonies and also a tape of their winning
performance.  The tape wins by miles!  Even though there are a few spluffs
and even ommisions, the style is superb, and the cheer that starts during 
the last chord is awesome. On the CD, the soprano player is too quiet.
<pause for thought>  Not the Crockford we all know and love surely? :)

> I am sure that Philip's new work will gain immediate universal appeal,
> and will return the movement to traditional brass band values. The music
Yet another subject to open up.  Run for the hills!

> will no doubt be incredibly hard to play, but great to rehearse and
> listen to. It will surely not be confined to the furthest envelope in
> the library in the years to come, as has been the case with most of the
> Finals pieces since 1988.

Isaiah 40 was the testpiece at Reading last year, and we performed it (as
did Wooley Pritchard) as an own choice at Leamington Spa.

> Kevin Williams

  Alastair Wheeler	 
  Euphonium & Trombone				   Fundamental Brass
  Bass Trombone				  City of Oxford Brass Band
  "I am following my fish"

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