Fodens Armagh Review

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 16 February 2012

At the beginning of February, Foden’s band made its now annual pilgrimage to Northern Ireland as guests of the Armagh Old Boy’s Brass Band. Now in its 12thconsecutive year, this trip is one of the undoubted highlights of Foden’s hectic concert schedule.

As has always been the case with this trip, Ivor Stephenson and his dedicated team of helpers must be thanked for their hospitality, communications and organisation. Without them, the trip would not have been possible.
The band arrived in good spirits in the early evening of the Friday where they were treated to a delicious Irish stew and dessert. Once the band was fed, they set off to the modern surroundings of the intimate wood clad Market place theatre for the first of 4 performances which were spread over the weekend.
The Friday night concert was a combined effort. The first half belonged to the Armagh Old Boy’s band that performed with stylish swagger under the baton of Ivor before the stage was set for Foden’s to perform under the baton of Michael Fowles. During the interval the audience were treated to the delightful children’s choir of a local school. The finale culminated with the combined forces of both bands and the choir in a terrific performance of the “Rhythm of life”. Once the concert was over, the band were taken back to the Old Boy’s band hall were their hospitality shone through yet again.
Saturday morning / afternoon and the band were back on stage as they were to perform as the backing for 16 highly talented youngsters who’s ages ranged from 10 to 19. The soloists were of mixed ability from those who were just starting out in their banding careers and had chosen their respective solos wisely to show off their undoubted talent, whilst others showed great maturity and understanding of the music they chose. When a 13 year old plays the cornet solo “Zelda” note perfect you know you have heard something special. With a lot of gusto and a total lack of fear, each and every single one of these soloists shone whilst the band provided sympathetic backing and encouragement to a very appreciative audience. These youngsters must be commended for their approach and sheer enthusiasm. It was quite contagious! The bravery shown in standing up and performing a solo with a band such as Foden’s was outstanding. The future of banding across the Irish Sea is blossoming and is in good hands it seems! Once again, in-between the morning’s rehearsal and the afternoon concert, the band and the young soloists were shown the kind of hospitality that has become synonymous with this trip. 
The evening concert belonged to Foden’s who put on a concert of current repertoire which was unashamedly easy listening including items from the new “Patrons choice 5” CD and highlighted yet again the fabulous array of soloists that the band currently has including Richard Poole, Glyn Williams, Helen williams, Lesley Howie and Mark Landon. One piece that had the audience talking was the second ever public performance of Andy Scott’s “Spirit of Mingus’” which included a saxophone jazz rift by the composer himself. It went down an absolute storm with the full house. It was a performance that one suspects, will have people talking about for months to come. 
As the final notes finished ringing around the fantastic hall and the audience poured out in to the brisk Irish air with smiles on their faces, it dawned on the band that yet another fantastic weekend of music making was over far too soon. Plans are now well underway for the ever popular and well attended Armagh summer school in August and it is an event that can’t come soon enough!
 
For any conductor and every audience, Foden’s Band is a musical Magic Carpet. It continually takes the listener to places that few other ensembles rarely even approach Howard Snell