Updated: Jan 6
On 3rd and 4th January 2020, the Gloucestershire Youth Brass Band (GYBB) met at Sir Thomas Rich's School in Gloucester for a two-day music course. Directed by renowned composer and youth conductor Alan Fernie, the course brought together youth brass players from all over Gloucestershire. With expert guidance from Alan and tutors, GYBB members prepared and performed an eclectic programme of music, including two world premieres, to parents and peers in a concert on Saturday evening. The concert was recorded as a submission to the Music For Youth Festival, which the band hope to be selected to perform at in March later this year.
The band began rehearsing their programme on the Friday, followed by sectionals on Saturday morning led by tutors Emily Wilson (front row cornets), Phil Storer (back row cornets), Emily Evans (horns), Alan Fernie (trombones), Andy McDade (basses), and Max Ireland (percussion). After some refreshment, the band returned to make final preparations for the concert!
In the concert, GYBB performed a variety of works encompassing an array of musical styles, featuring multiple players within the band. Starting off with One Small Step written by Alan Fernie for the National Children's Band of Scotland, the piece depicts Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." Next, the band played Edward Gregson's Music for Greenwich, an engaging test for the band that they performed with poise.
The programme was made up entirely of original compositions for brass band. In addition, the audience were treated to not one, but two world premieres at the evening concert; the first of which was Fernie's Snow, composed in the new year of 2020. Fernie's handwritten score and parts added a personal touch to the music. After some marvelling at this pen-to-paper composition in rehearsal, GYBB performed this new piece with feeling and reflection, reminding us of the winter just gone (without a hint of snow in Gloucestershire!). The piece was followed by another original composition and world premiere of Eridu by Morris Harper. The march thoroughly impressed the band, Alan, and the audience alike, receiving cheers and much applause.
GYBB completed their performance with The Journal of Phileas Fogg, originally composed for the National Children's Band of Great Britain and used as the Section Four Regionals test in 2016. It depicts parts of Phileas Fogg's famous journey around the world in 80 days. This time, it was the band who took the audience on a journey around Europe through London, Paris, Russia, Vienna, Spain, before returning to London. This piece in particular featured many key players in the band, who received a enthused round of applause after their final note!
The audience were so impressed by the band's performance that the encore The Storyteller was brought out as GYBB's last hurrah of the day! The piece was another by Alan Fernie, written for Brass For Africa, an organisation Alan works with very closely. Last summer, GYBB met and performed alongside 12 young people from Uganda as part of Brass For Africa's contribution to the Cheltenham Music Festival, that also featured top-class soloist Wynton Marsalis (read more here). This finale brought GYBB and Alan Fernie together in a catchy, semi-swung riff that sent the audience home humming away.
Alan Fernie remarked that the course was a "marvellous experience", also commenting on how hard the band had worked during the two days, and how he was "delighted to receive the invitation to conduct GYBB this year."
Paul McLaughlin from Gloucestershire Music told the audience, "These kids are amazing. They perform music in two days that some bands would take weeks to prepare. We thank everyone who has taken part in the course this year and the GBBA for their support in making this happen!"