Concert Review Foden's in Armagh

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 10 February 2020

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On the 1st February Foden's returned to Armagh for the 20th consecutive year where they performed to a large and appreciative audience at the First Presbyterian Church. Prior to this concert the Foden's members had worked with twenty five youngsters over a five hour period providing constructive and encouraging feedback to help their musical development.

The band, under the baton of Michael Fowles, was in very fine form all evening in a programme which catered for virtually everyone’s taste. Traditional fare, such as the classic opening Alford March ‘The Standard of St. George’ and Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’ overture were performed with the style, ensemble sound and virtuosity that you’d expect from a band of Foden’s calibre.

What a treat for the Armagh audience to hear Foden’s reprise it’s thrilling RNCM Festival of Brass interpretation of Philip Wilby’s ‘Paganini Variations’. Nearly 30 years since it was composed, here is a piece that has survived the ’test of time’ both technically and musically for players and audience alike.

If the audience were searching for something new they were certainly not disappointed as the band and Michael Fowles introduced them to a whole host of new repertoire, the highlights of which included Jonny Bates flamboyantly breathless ‘War Dance of the Red Cossacks’ and Colin Skinner’s beautiful setting of the ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ classic song ‘Pure Imagination’.

The band’s fine stable of soloists was in most impressive form: Richard Poole (soprano) delivered a spine tingling performance of ‘Live and Let Die’, Mark Wilkinson (cornet) was at his faultless and technical best in Rimmer’s ‘Hailstorm’, whilst Gary Curtin (euphonium) brought the house down with his incredibly virtuosic performance of Vizzuti’s ‘Carnival of Venus’. John Barber (trombone) gave a most persuasively suave performance of Bill Geldard’s setting of ‘Autumn Leaves’ and Melanie Whyle’s understated lyricism was perfectly suited to James Last’s plaintive ‘The Lonely Shepherd’.

The finale of Matthew Hall’s wonderfully inventive and colourful ‘Nightingale Dances’ brought a standing ovation before the bands encore ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’

Foden's are to be congratulated for their high performance standard and tireless work helping encourage the next generation of young musicians in Ireland through the annual workshop and Summer School (which this year also celebrates its 20th consecutive anniversary).

We all look forward to the next 20 years!!

Jonny McCabe

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