Posts Tagged ‘Prime Brass’

A review of ‘Prime Brass’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 11th November 2017

November 14, 2017

Prime Brass is renowned as an excellent group of brass players and tonight the standard of music was as high as expected. Conducted by Paul Trepte they gave magnificent performances opening proceedings with the majestic but sombre ‘Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoléon’ by Louis Vierne,

This was followed by an original composition commissioned for Paul Trepte: ‘Fanfares and Chorale’. Paul’s composition was one of the highlights. He explored the contrasts of the more precisely articulated and triumphant fanfare and the more sonorous chorales intriguingly well while creating a cohesive and interesting piece as a whole.

Other delightful pieces performed by this group were ‘Salvum fac populum tuum’ by Widor and ‘A night on a Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky arranged by K. Singleton.

Later in the programme, Guy Llewellyn’s arrangement of ‘Mars the Bringer of War’ by Holst was especially effective and the sense of foreboding and the impending horror of war were never lost.

The younger Prime Brass group excelled themselves. Under the baton of Christopher Lawrence they flourished and the pieces they played rang out beautifully and triumphantly through the magnificent vaults of Ely Cathedral. Their ‘Fanfare for a Royal Occasion’ by Ken Naylor, Rigaudon by Campra and ‘Remember’ by Jasper Eaglesfied were delightful. ‘Remember’ was especially interesting for it was commissioned from the young composer who could be found in the midst of Junior Prime Brass. He should go far.

When the groups came together at the end of the concert, the impact of such a powerful sound and the amazing precision of their playing, especially in ‘A Poetic March’ by Alford was particularly noticeable. With fireworks resounding in the park next door before the concert began, the final piece, Handel’s ‘Fireworks Suite’ culminated the concert perfectly.

This was a splendid memorable concert in keeping with this special day.



Review of Prime Brass in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 07th November 2015

November 12, 2015
Paul Trepte Geoffrey Alvarez Christopher Lawrence

Paul Trepte Geoffrey Alvarez Christopher Lawrence

Ely Cathedral is the ideal place if you want to make a big noise, so when I saw that ‘Prime Brass’ were performing, the group seemed just right for the concert on Saturday. However, there was much more that some fantastically powerful sounds that these brass players could muster, there were many moments of highly professional precision, expression and sensitivity.

This was no run-of-the-mill programme either. In between very pleasant and the well executed items that were expected there were recent compositions of the more expansive and complicated type.

The evening opened with ‘Spirit of the Age’ by Arthur Bliss conducted by Paul Trepte and immediately Prime Brass, demonstrated real craftsmanship. The precision, variation in the dynamics (louds and softs) and the way the instruments blended their sounds were most impressive.

This was followed by a real star of the evening:‘Symphony V1½’ written especially for tonight’s concert by Geoffrey Alvarez. Paul Trepte’s phenomenal conducting was evident when the composter told me that he was particularly impressed with the precision of the rhythm: – not an easy one to engage with, as it was based on a 6-beat pattern. I know Paul got it just right when I saw the composer so engrossed with the work that when the climax finally came he was nearly out of his seat. While I can’t pretend to have understood the significance of every note, I was fascinated by the sense of celestial grandeur, occasional spikiness and moments of abandonment especially when the mambo percussion came to the fore.  I was also amazed when the composer noted on Facebook that Edmund Aldhouse, our very own assistant organist (who played particularly well in this concert), pointed out that there was one bar discrepancy between Alvaraez’s symphony 6 for brass band and 6½ for brass and organ. Now that’s musical genius!

Other delightful compositions followed, including works by Morten Lauridsen, Eugène Bozza, Johann Sebastian Bach, Edvard Grieg, Benjamin Britten and Camille Saint-Saens.

Another contemporary composer who was at the concert was Peter Dickenson and his work ‘Fanfares and Elegies’ was another star of the night which contained great moments of contrast and extremes.

This concert also featured Junior Prime Brass conducted by Christpoher Lawrence and they were a fine testament to the future, performing will noticeable warmth and aplomb.

This was indeed a grand event.

review of ‘A Celebration of Male Voices’ in Ely Cathedral on October 20th 2012

October 21, 2012

 The ‘Celebration of Male Voices’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday was a wonderful way to mark the 50th anniversary of Huntingdon Male Voice Choir. This fine choir, directed by Peter Davies, was joined by a number of other choirs and their respective conductors and accompanists: St. Stythians (Ken Downing), Basingstoke (Peter Allen and Paul Wright), St. Edmundsbury (Mark Jefferson), Northampton (Stephen Bell and Andy Poole), Alcester (Judith land) and Brighton (Iris Warren and Liz Tunmer).The overall sound this mass of male voices produced was delightful.  Local highly regarded musicians, Prime Brass, Kate Woolf (soprano) accompanist Paul Bryan and Cathedral Assistant organist Jonathan Lilley also added style to this wonderful evening.  

Most noticeable was the spine-chilling beauty of these 290 singers when they held their musical line in one long sustained soft sound. This was particularly apparent in the wonderful arrangement of the ‘National Anthem’ by Edmund Walters, ‘Lily of the Valley’ arranged by E. Jones and ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’ by David J. Evans, arranged by Peter Davies.

Prime Brass is already established as one of the finest ensembles to play in Ely Cathedral. They presented some amazing items including Britten’s ‘Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury’, ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ by Handel arranged by P. Archibald and Chris Hazell’s ‘Three Brass Cats’. This superb group’s phenomenal technique and tonal quality brought to life these pieces, demonstrating amazing skill and alacrity while also expressing exquisitely the litheness and quirky characteristics of the three cats.

Kate Woolf sang delightfully, her lovely soprano voice giving colour, emotion and cohesion to her songs: Three Spirituals arranged and accompanied by Paul Bryan, ‘I feel so Pretty’ and ‘A Simple Song’ (from the Mass) by Bernstein.

One of the most impressive items was Jonathan Lilley’s grand performance of William Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’, a most appropriate contribution to the event.

The joint choirs culminated the concert with glorious sounds when giving full voice to ‘Old Hundredth’ (W.Kethe, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams) and ‘Festival piece on Sine Nomine’ by R. Vaughan Williams and W.M. Howe arranged by Dwight Elrich.

This was undoubtedly a highly successful celebratory event that also supported Help for Heroes.

Review of Prime Brass in Concert in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 9th September 2012

September 11, 2012

Prime Brass, conductor Paul Trepte and Johnathan Lilley on the organ have presented highly successful concerts in Ely Cathedral for a number of years. This year’s event was as successful as ever, however, this time there was a difference. A special, new work was included: – Paul Patterson’s The Royal Eurostar. Before it was performed, the composer described what we were to expect and the enthusiasm of his description was certainly warranted by the colour, excitement and variation it achieved. With trumpeters and timpani at different parts of the Cathedral, adding to and contrasting the sturdy band of brass and percussion players in the octagon ( supported by organist Jonathan Lilley) the resultant rolling fanfare of sound had us pinned to the seats, wondering what delights would come next. We could easily imagine the excitement of its first performance at Waterloo Station, the home of The Eurostar, in the presence of the Queen and the Prime Minister then, Lady Thatcher.

The rest of the concert contained some momentous compositions that demonstrated the tremendous power and skill of the performers. These included Hymne au Sacré-Coeur by Naji Hakim, Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoléon 1 by Louis Vierne, Spitfire Prelude and Fugue by William Walton, and Entrata Festiva Op. 93 by Flors Peeters. The programme was balanced with moments of beauty and pleasant sustained sounds provided by Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Timothy Jackson and Feierlicher Einzug der Ritter des Johanniter-Ordens by Richard Strauss.

Paul’s conducting was inspired throughout and it is no surprise to learn that he received Honorary Fellowships from both The Royal School or Church Music and the Guild of Church Musicians this year.

Prime Brass will return to Ely Cathedral on the 20th of October 2012 to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Huntingdonshire Male Voice Choir.

The next concert at Ely Cathedral will feature the City Of Ely Military Band on 23rd September 2012.

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

March 13, 2012

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

Review: The King’s School Ely’s concert: ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011

November 28, 2011

The King’s School Ely’s concert, ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011, certainly came up to expectations. It was the epitome of distinction and ‘class’. The King’s School Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir and Barbers, Prime Brass and Jonathan Lilley (organ) under the directorship of Ian Sutcliffe presented an event that was of the highest quality and most fitting for the Cathedral and the time of year.

Positioned in the presbytery towards the east end of the building, the voices filled the vaults robustly and the brass and percussion rallied magnificently while Jonathan Lilley played the organ with his usual panache. …

The programme of mostly sacred pieces heralded the Christian religious Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year – the one before the beginning of Advent. Composers included Finzi, Bullock, Mathias, Howells, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Ireland, Bliss, Walker, Rose and Rutter – an array of some of the greatest.

The opening ‘God is gone up’ by Finzi brought matters to attention with vibrant fanfares from the brass and potent singing from the choir. It was interesting to note that the work had been arranged by the Director of Music at the Cathedral, Paul Trepte, who was in the audience at this concert.

The Bullock, ‘Give us the wings of faith’, brought out the most reflective quality of the choir, while ‘Lift up you heads’ by Mathias was punctuated with quirky attention-grabbing rhythms that never missed a beat. The mystery in the line ‘Who is this King of glory?’ was mesmerizing.

Jonathan gave ‘Rhapsody no. 3 in C sharp minor’ by Howells good measure, revelling in its moments of bombastic declaration that reflected the environment in which the composition was written – during Zeppelin raids which made it impossible for the composer to sleep. What better way to cope than to pen a composition of this magnitude! Jonathan’s skill brought out the cohesive quality of the work, enhancing the powerful effect of the regular poignant falling chromatic lines.

Then, suddenly, trumpets sounded from afar performing ‘Fanfare for St Edmundsbury ‘by Britten. The distant call of the trumpets reflected the environment for which the piece had been written originally. It had been written for the ‘Pageant of Magna Carta’ to be performed in the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds. The three contrasting trumpet solos gelled perfectly in their final combined effort.

The men’s voices added warmth to Vaughan William’s ‘The Call’, while King’s Chapel Choir oozed luxurious harmonies in Tippett’s arrangement of the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. Ireland’s attractive writing was enhanced with the sheer beauty of the soprano and alto voices in ‘Ex ore innocentium’ and Prime Brass treated us to a vibrant snippet of theme music for a BBC series on British Architecture – ‘The Spirit of the Age’.

One notable factor of this event was the slick movements of various members of this large mass of performers. The opening strands of ‘I will lift up mine eyes’ by Walker came from beside us to the right and the effect of King’s Barbers’ expressive qualities made the piece very moving. Peter North’s expertise as their director was in no doubt.

With antiphonal effect, Barry Rose’s unaccompanied ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’ was sung by King’s Camber Choir to the left of us and the singers certainly brought out the charm and delicacy of the work.

The concert culminated with Rutter’s ‘Gloria’, a work of depth based on Gregorian chants. Choir, Prime Brass and organ performed magnificently, heightening the excitement and vitality of the first and third movements while pausing thoughtfully to reflect the prayerful central movement.

This was a magnificent concert and a testament of Ian Sutcliffe’s inspirational directorship and conducting. With music of this quality to aspire to, there will no doubt be a clamouring for The King’s School’s recently announced of scholarships for budding male singers in the sixth form.

The King’s School’s next major event will by the Charity Concert on Friday 2nd December 730 in the Hayward Theatre. Contact:  The Gibson Music School (01353 653931) email:

Rosemary Westwell

(note: the entire review may be found in due course on