A daring performance at the Northern Counties

Granite City Brass presented a daring and innovative performance to take a very creditable second place overall at the Northern Counties Open Entertainment Contest on Saturday 23rd May. The theme of ‘death’ is not one which has likely ever been selected for an entertainment contest before and certainly not with the full band in funeral attire. However, this was not as dark as it might seem. In the absence of any discernable ‘acoustic’ in the contest auditorium, the band opened its’ 20 minute programme with the narrator (Clark Wallace in full undertakers garb) announcing that … “the acoustic in the auditorium was dead.” With only an ensemble on stage at that point, a mournful rendition of ‘Just a closer walk with thee’ (Bill Geldard) was the opportunity for assistant principal cornet Alan Wilson to lead out the rest of the band with a truly soulful melody line. As the full band found their positions, the music opened up to a ‘big band’ conclusion of the theme. This was immediately followed by the soprano cornet solo ‘Live and let die’ (Ray Farr) played by Alan Haggart. His brilliant performance was to prompt the adjudicator Nigel Boddice to note … “superb soloist … stylish and confident.” It was little surprise that Alan was to earn the ‘Best Soprano Cornet’ award.

A likely other ‘first’ was the next item … ‘Dem Bones’ (Gordon Langford) featuring the trombone section (Kenny Hamilton, Pauline Carroll and Martin Neale). Not that the piece was in any way new, but the addition of two dancing skeletons to the performance probably was! Mr Boddice noted that the trombone section played … ‘’with aplomb.” He also noted … “throughout the programme so far I hear quality sound.”

For those who are familiar with the high action Quentin Tarantino film ‘Kill Bill’, the image of Uma Thurman as the not unattractive leading lady in neat fitting yellow jump suit will surely come to mind! Now replace that image with principal cornet Callum Booth in golden blond wig and an even neater fitting yellow jump suit!! Laying down his sword and taking up his trumpet, Callum literally wowed the audience with a spectacular performance of the very difficult ‘The Green Hornet’ (Alan Morrison).

To close, the band’s Musical Director, Bruce Wallace had arranged John Paulson’s unique and idiosyncratic ‘Epinicion’ (originally written for concert band) for the band. This was a brass band premier as far as we are aware … a piece full of creative and dramatic sounds. Mr Boddice noted … “playing with commitment and invention … performing attitude make all figures highly personal and delivered with poise. Brave music-making … it makes us all think.”

As the cornets and trombones faced the audience to play the final crushing chord, it was clear that this had been a unique experience for all. Nigel Boddice summed up his remarks as follows … “The programming was unique, thoughtful and appreciated … the fine quality in this band is impressive indeed.”

Granite City Brass has surely come a long way, when a 2nd placing is something of a disappointment! However, we as a band recognise that what we do is not principally about earning silverware. It is about friendship, fellowship and enjoyment in music-making. May that long continue!