Foden’s announce the passing of Bramwell Tovey

Posted by John Barber on 14 July 2022

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bramtovey president2It is with deep sadness we have learned that Bramwell Tovey, Foden's Band Honorary Artistic Director and President has died.

As a lifelong fan of Foden's, the news that Bram was to conduct the band at the British Open in 2000 was more exciting to his mother Joan than that of his exploits with the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony or Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The performance at Birmingham's Symphony Hall was to be the start of a relationship that would last over 20 years with Foden's, a relationship rich in musical endeavour, artistic integrity and perhaps above all, fun.

Throughout the relationship, the partnership enjoyed a wonderful range of contest and concert performances as well as recordings and trips, all experiences the band looked forward to and revelled in.

In 2009, Bram and Foden's recorded 'Maestro' where through Bram's vision, Foden's collaborated with New York Phil trombonist Joe Alessi and Violinist Mark Fewer (who recited famous lines of Shakespeare whilst re-enacting the publicity stunt of comic actor Will Kemp in 1600) in Bram's own composition 'Nine Daies Wonder' to produce a recording described by 4Barsrest as 'world class excellence'. Bram's willingness and desire to associate and integrate some of the world's finest musicians with the band was a gift that he both had and used willingly for the benefit and furtherment of Foden's, something for which we will all be eternally grateful.

On the contest stage, a number of performances left an indelible mark on the banding world, with test pieces 'Ceremony' (British Open 2000), 'Les Preludes' (British Open 2001) and 'Albion' (National Finals 2001) all receiving critical acclaim. Despite the rehearsals, the process of getting everyone to a place where they were comfortable with Bram's contest vision, on the day of the contest, without fail Bram would always say 'watch me and be prepared to turn on a dime. I might find something new or take it in a new direction depending on the moment'. As a brass band used to preparing a well understood and 'fixed' performance, this was both alien and frightening and yet in Bram's hands, you trusted. You watched, totally glued as to what might happen next and without fail, it was an ultimately wonderful, liberating and exhilarating experience.

It was on the concert platform though that possibly the most significant musical events took place, with the 22-year musical relationship affording a whole spectrum of musical experiences. One notable occasion was the performance of Bram's very own 'Requiem for a Charred Skull' at the RNCM Festival of Brass. The music, showcased with the benefit of the RNCM Chorus, highlighting the experiences of war in the former Yugoslavia was something that has stayed in the collective memories of band members involved ever since. Deeply moving, passionate and musically profound, his ability to not only score the horrors of war but bring them to life so vividly through the performance was breathtaking.

As someone so readily welcomed to lead the finest orchestras of the world, a visit from Bram was always something the band cherished. A man with a wonderful sense of humour and scorchingly dry wit, time in his company was something that everyone enjoyed whilst not always believing how fortunate we all were to have in Bram such a supporter, leader and friend.

There will rightly be lots written about Bram in the coming days and weeks, however one line that will stay with all of us at Foden’s was something he once said as a player arrived a few minutes late for a rehearsal.

‘I’m so sorry I’m late Bram, I had a problem with my car’

‘Don’t worry’ he said. ‘This isn’t life and death, it’s band. It’s far more important’.

Bram will be profoundly missed by all at Foden’s and all of our thoughts are with his family at this time.

John Barber

Chairman Foden’s Band

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