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Durham BRASS Festival:

Brass Bonanza Up North BY DAVID THORNBER (CO-NORTH EAST REPRESENTATIVE OF THE BTS)

Founded in 2007, the ten day long Durham BRASS Festival takes place each July in Durham City and surrounding towns. Drawing on the region’s rich heritage of brass playing blended with an international twist, bands from around the World come to perform and delight audiences. Musicians this year came from the Balkans, Cuba, Germany, India, and Spain. The Festival not only entertains, but also educates and supports. Community Outreach programmes are an important aspect. There were visits to 75 schools enabling over 13,000 children to experience brass music. A main theme for 2019 was Brass and Health, involving taking music into care homes and hosting a ‘Healthy Brass’ day featuring talks and workshops on how players can maintain good mental and physical health. Incorporating technology and innovation are an important part of the Festival. In a concert titled ‘Global Brass’ two bands 560 miles apart, one in Durham (NASUWT Riverside Band) and the other in Copenhagen (Concord Brass Band) joined forces to play a new world première work titled Brave New World, composed by Danish musician Jacob Vilhelm Larsen. The live performance used LoLa (Low Latency minimal time Lapse) audio-visual technology, ensuring that audiences in each venue heard music played simultaneously by the band in front of them and the band 560 miles away via a multi-media screen. Although not strictly part of the BRASS Festival, the Durham Miners’ Gala provided a traditional overture to proceedings. Now in its 135th year, the Gala is possibly the largest celebration of community and working-class culture in the World. Brass bands, and the occasional 12

pipe band, from around the UK supported the mining communities and unions who march on the day. The rich and diverse Festival programme featured events including; a 90’s rave (in a secret location, revealed at the last moment), a street ceilidh, a Brass Oktoberfest – where Durham Town Hall was transformed into a lively Bierhalle, a performance of jazzy versions of musical theatre hits by the Scottish Swing Orchestra and the Festival Broadway Chorus from America, and a thrilling new transcription of Verdi’s choral masterpiece, the Requiem, for brass band and choir. My personal highlights were: A stunning performance by Mnozil Brass, whose circus-themed programme astounded and entertained a capacity audience at Durham’s Gala Theatre. Mnozil’s blend of technical fireworks, sense of humour, mischief, magic, and, at times, pathos provided an unforgettable evening of entertainment. If you haven’t yet seen them watch out for their future schedule. You won’t be disappointed. The ‘Healthy Brass Day’ provided workshops and discussions around brass and health with leading musicians, researchers and medical professionals offering advice and information to players and anyone with an interest in music and health. Outstanding practical sessions on the Alexander Technique were delivered by sousaphone and piano player Peter Robinson, of ThinkingUp.com. Peter teaches at many of the country’s leading conservatoires. As one of his ‘guinea pigs’, I can’t speak highly enough of his intuition and skills. With his gentle guidance, you

Profile for British Trombone Society

The Trombonist - Summer 2019