Review of concert at Regent Hall

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 17 October 2008

You can’t beat having a bit of confidence can you?  Winning breeds it in abundance and the reigning British Open Champion came to London riding on a musical crest of a four-week wave following their Birmingham triumph.

Self belief

The programme for their appearance here was very much in the traditional mode and was a precursor to their performance on the contest stage at the Royal Albert Hall the following day - it was full of quality and self belief.


Here they set out to enjoy themselves before the rigours of the contest the next day. Fodens were relaxed, at ease, and having fun on stage with the MD grinning away at times like a Cheshire cat. The MD was happy, the band was happy, and the mantra was a simple one:  ‘Play like British Open champions should’. And they did.
With the famous old Gold Shield rightly in its place at the front of the stage, there was only one way to start the night (and most probably plenty of forthcoming concerts over the next 11 months), with the march, ‘The Champions’ was full of panache and musical swagger.

Robust and colourful

It’s almost 30 years since the ‘Wee Professor’ Walter Hargreaves conducted Fairey Engineering to the Open title on ‘Le Carnival Romain’, and it remains a favourite in concert programmes to this day. 
Here, Garry Cutt coerced a robust and colourful performance with Glyn Williams in fine form (as he was the following day) during the famous euphonium solo, whilst the ensemble detail was vivid even when the tempo's generated provided a real race to the finish.

Mellow sounds

In contrast the mellow sound of Helen Williams’ flugel filled the hall in ‘The Very thought of You’, before she was joined by Alan Wycherley in a delicate rendition of  ‘Pie Jesu’.  Next up, the cornets were at full throttle as they took centre stage in ‘Hora Staccato’ before Derek Bourgeois’s ‘Serenade’ brought a change in mood and John Barber delivered an authentically relaxed solo in ‘Blue John’.
Carl Davis’s descriptive trip to the stars with ‘Galaxies’ transported the audience into space with an enjoyable wiz through the outer reaches of the dynamic range, before the audience and band got a chance of a breather with the interval.

Back to business

Back to relaxed business and Gordon Langford’s ‘Famous British Marches’ was full of vibrancy whilst the ‘Elegy’ from ‘Entertainments’ by Gilbert Vinter featured the delicate sound of the band led by a classy Mark Wilkinson on solo cornet.
Dave Brubeck's ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ is a classic from its era and one of those pieces that it is instantly recognisable after the first couple of bars.  Here the jazzy blues feel really came across through some excellent playing.


The romp through ‘Lezghinka’ was interspersed between two soloists.  Glyn Williams delivered a delightful account of the one most delightful Welsh melody’s, ‘Myfwany’, whilst the band’s percussionist Mark Landon had real fun in the xylophone solo, ‘Flying Mallets’.
To close a thoroughly entertaining evening, music from Eric Ball with his engaging ‘Kingdom Triumphant’.  To listen to this is subtle and cleverly crafted music, and the band gave a performance full of the appropriate radiance.

Swagger close

The large cosmopolitan crowd weren’t prepared to disappear onto the streets of London just yet though, as they demanded more. Fodens didn’t want to disappoint and so the concert closed as it had started with a touch of swagger in Alford’s ‘The Thin Red Line’.
This concert brought to an end an enjoyable day for everyone present at Regent Hall, with Fodens in cracking form.  They should also be congratulated for providing a programme that had clearly been well rehearsed and delivered in a relaxed but high professional way, especially less than 24 hours away from such an important contest. Only real confidence can do that.
Malcolm Wood

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