Foden’s Band – Musical Director: Michael Fowles – Aalborg Musikkonkurrence – 21/5/17

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 7 June 2017

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The musicians of Foden’s Band played a significant part at this year’s Aalborg Musikkonkurrence, Denmark’s leading entertainment competition: on the Saturday, John Barber, Mark Bousie, Michael Fowles and Mark Wilkinson all served as adjudicators for the event’s four sections and, on the same evening, the band played a very well received pre-results ‘mini concert’ to an extremely enthusiastic capacity audience. The following day Foden’s returned to perform a full concert at the auditorium of the Norresundby Gymnasium and the audience was again treated to some world class brass playing of a most varied and contrasting programme.

Foden’s opened their performance with the ‘Grand Fanfare’ by Venezuelan composer, Giancarlo Castro D’Addona. Bristling with infectious rhythms and sweeping melodic lines, the Fanfare made a wonderful celebratory start to the concert and showed Foden’s to be in excellent form.

In stark contrast, the band and Michael Fowles then gave a most moving interpretation of one of Wilfred Heaton’s miniature masterpieces, his hymn tune setting, ‘Just as I Am’.

Again, the band shifted easily into a different stylistic world, featuring their recently appointed Principal Euphonium, Gary Curtin in Stan Niewenhuis’s exhilarating work ‘Move Their Mind’. The piece contrasts extended lyrical episodes with virtuosic sections in a funk style, including clever use of multiphonics and showed why Gary has become one of the world’s leading performers on his instrument.

To finish the first half of the concert Foden’s gave an eagerly awaited performance of a work that has very quickly become a modern masterpiece of the brass band repertoire, Thierry Deleruyelle’s ‘Fraternity’. The band’s soloists were all on top form, in particular Principal Cornet, Mark Wilkinson in his delivery of the challenging cornet cadenza and the whole ensemble tackled the work’s technical challenges in thrilling fashion. However, it was the climax of the work, the ‘Fraternity Hymn’, which provided the highlight of the whole concert. Great credit must be given to Michael Fowles for his reading and pacing of this piece, which will make a wonderful test piece for the British Open in September. On this kind of form, Foden’s will be a band to listen out for.

If the nature of the first half of the concert was quite serious, then the second half featured the lighter side of Foden’s repertoire, opening with a slick performance of Leigh Baker’s popular arrangement of the Lionel Ritchie classic ‘All Night Long’.

This was the prelude to a thrillingly stylish performance by the band’s soprano cornet soloist, Richard Poole, of ‘Blue’ by Mnozil Brass’s Thomas Gansch which brought the house down.

Foden’s new Principal Horn, Jonathan Bates, then demonstrated why his playing is held in such high esteem with an extremely fluent and sonorous performance of Mangione’s ‘Children of Sanchez’.

The band’s Flugel Horn soloist, Melanie Whyle followed the flamboyance of the previous two numbers with a beautifully understated interpretation of Eric Whitacre’s ‘The Seal Lullaby’.

Foden’s and Michael Fowles then took the audience to the world of rock with an arrangement of ‘Supremacy’ by the English band Muse. With its dramatic ‘James Bond’ undertones, the song suits the sonorities of the brass band well.
John Barber, Foden’s Principal Trombone, was the last soloist of the concert. He gave a most stylish and lyrical performance of his own arrangement of the ballad ‘Someone Like You’ from the musical ‘Jekyll and Hyde’.

Foden’s concluded the official part of the second half with an exciting performance of a new version of ‘A Farewell to Arms’, a work originally written for the European ‘Fanfare’ ensemble by the Dutch composer Harrie Janssen.
The audience, who were thrilled to have heard one of the world’s top brass bands, were never going to allow Foden’s to leave the stage without an encore and the band obliged with two: Prima’s swing classic ‘Sing Sing Sing’ and Ray Farr’s upbeat version of Bach’s ‘Toccata in D Minor’. The band finally left the stage with the cheers of the audience ringing in their ears. It’s to be hoped that it’s not too long before Foden’s visit Denmark and, in particular, Aalborg again.

Andreas Thomsen

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