Review Prime Brass Concert Friday 9th March 2012 in the Hayward Theatre Ely

Prime Brass is indeed a prime group of performers. This brass quintet gave a splendid performance at their concert last Friday providing a first class addition to the King’s School Ely Concert Series. Michel Sedgwick (trumpet), Paul Garner (trumpet), Guy Llewellyn (french horn), Sarah Minchin (trombone) and Alan Sugars (tuba) made a formidable ensemble – nothing was left to chance, they gelled superbly no matter how tricky or rapid the music. Maurice Hodges (piano) accompanied their solo performances with noticeable empathy, mastered the varied styles and demands superbly.

A wide selection of music was included in the programme with many popular works arranged suitably for these instruments. Nothing was lost in the transcriptions, these musicians knew how to bring out the best of these pieces.

From the first bars of the opening Domine Ad Adjuvandum by Monteverdi arranged by Ivo Preis, it was obvious that this was no ‘ordinary’ ensemble. The control, the precision and the subtlety of expression managed by this group brought the music alive.

Of the suite of pieces from the music of Purcell, the most appealing items for me were the Intrada containing that famous tune Britten chose for his work ‘A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ and Dido’s Lament- a seemingly simple piece that contains a repeated melody in the bass over which lie the haunting pleas of ‘Remember me’ by Dido. The flugelhorn proved a splendid representation of the voice on this occasion and brought considerable emotion to the line.  The Tuba Tune and Trumpet Tune followed the Lament and we were lulled into a comfortable sense of delight and security.

However, this sense of ease was short-lived. Suddenly we were encouraged to listen intently, to think and to marvel at the more challenging material in The Night Trumpeter by McDowall played by Michel. In the second movement of this piece, especially, Michel’s description of the programme of the music was particularly helpful. We could indeed hear the snatched pieces of conversation within the walls that the composer tried to emulate.

A change of colour followed with Guy playing Forêt by Bozza which again challenged the listeners with the open chords and effects in the piano and the hunting horn and echoes that were regularly featured.

The first half of the concert ended splendidly with The Adiemus Collection by Jenkins arranged by Tony Small. The familiar theme from the Benedictus of the Armed Man mesmerized the listeners. The following lively dance-like Cu’Chullain with its rapid notes and riotous rhythms was a very effective contrast.

After interval, the Hayward Theatre became a centre of fun. Performers and audience let their hair down and the instrumentalists’ sheer joy of performing and their phenomenal skill helped the listeners relax and enjoy the lively humour that pervaded a number of the pieces in this section.

Each piece was a delight: The operatic excesses of La Rose Nuptiale by Lavallé arranged by Howard Cable, the sliding gymnastics of The Acrobat by Greenwood played by Sara on trombone, Paul’s gorgeous flugelhorn in Send in the Clowns by Sondheim, the virtuosic tuba in Tuba Tiger Rag by De Costa arranged by Luther Hendersson and the three jolly pieces in the Music Hall Suite by Horovitz: Trick Cyclists, Soft Shoe Shuffle and Les Girls.  The rhythmical genius of this ensemble was made particularly apparent when the audience failed to keep to the performers’ precision when it was their turn.

It is no wonder that an encore was demanded from these amazing performers and that they are in demand – performing in King’s College Chapel the following evening.

The next King’s Ely Concert Society event will be on Friday 11th May in the Recital Hall featuring Nicky Spencer (tenor) and Andrew Matthews-Owen (piano).

Rosemary Westwell

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