RNCM Brass Band Festival, 2022


I am delighted to announce the full programme for the 2022 RNCM Brass Band Festival, which will be taking place over the weekend of Friday 28 to Sunday 30 January. This unique festival returns featuring six of the country’s leading brass bands, all of whom are guaranteed to be on razor sharp form the week after a re-scheduled British Open Brass Band Championships. The RNCM also welcomes top international soloists, Peter Moore (trombone), who revives the concerto Simon Dobson composed for him a decade ago, and Rex Richardson (trumpet), who brings with him a new concerto he commissioned from Peter Graham. There is also a major contribution showcasing the skills and talents of the RNCM brass students.

The concerts mark the contribution to the brass band medium by some of Britain’s finest 20th composers as part of wider national celebrations. Some months ago the centenary of the birth of Malcolm Arnold (1921 – 2006) was marked with concerts, workshops and documentaries, revealing a wealth of creativity born out of sometimes extremely turbulent personal circumstances. Sir Malcolm loved the bracing sound of the brass band, as did Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), one of the great figures of English music of the 20th century. Celebrating Sir Malcolm at 100 and being part of the nationwide RVW150 celebration has provided with a rich seam of invention to bind together the various strands of the weekend’s music making. We include the first performances of new performing editions by Phillip Littlemore. He has drawn on a life-long enthusiasm for Vaughan Williams and his experience as brass band arranger to fashion a performing edition of English Folk Suite in the composer’s original key and has also prepared a new edition of Variations for Brass Band, correcting a vast number of errors and, having consulted the composer’s full score, which is substantially different than Frank Wright’s contest edition published for the 1957 National Brass Band Championships, restoring as appropriate some of the composer’s original intentions. This receives its first concert performance, with permission of the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust and publishers Boosey & Hawkes.

A contemporary of Arnold, the brass specialist composer Ray Steadman-Allen (1922 – 2014) is best known for his major contribution to the repertoire of The Salvation Army. Within SA circles RSA was regarded as a musical adventurer, pushing the boundaries of hymn tune based music to the limits of contemporary tonal style. Following his retirement from full-time service in that organisation, RSA turned to the wider brass band world. Both aspects of his prolific output feature in a centenary tribute, including one of his finest works, Hymn at Sunrise and his RVW tribute piece, the rarely heard Meditation on Randolph.

No RNCM Brass Band Festival would be complete without a substantial offering of new or recent work. Back in the early 2000s there was significant and at times vociferous resistance to the brass band music of one of the major contemporary composers in British music, Judith Bingham, largely as a result of my decision to select her 1995 BBC commission Prague as a regional test piece. I regard this work as a masterpiece of the band medium and in the year of Judith’s 70th birthday, I thought it was time that her work was heard again. I’m also thrilled that Tredegar Town band agreed to revive the equally impressive These are our Footsteps.

In musical terms, the programmes as a whole highlight the importance of the variation form in the evolution of the brass band repertoire, from Wilfred Heaton’s Variations on an old gospel song, Celestial Prospect, composer in around 1947, via the distinctive contributions of Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra, Eric Ball and Robert Farnon to Edward Gregson’s latest major opus, The World Rejoicing. The festival also continues to provide a platform for new writing, through the 6th John Golland Award. Recent works by Philip Wilby, Bruce Broughton and Edward Gregson will be heard for the first time in concert settings. World or national premieres from the pens of Peter Graham, Simon Dobson and Liz Lane will also feature. With a number of revivals of forgotten treasures, workshops discussions and a presentation by festival partners, Brass Bands England, I hope that the 2022 RNCM Brass Band Festival will give you as much listening pleasure as I had planning it.


Friday 28 January
6.15pm – 7 pm     Carole Nash Recital Room
RNCM student ensembles perform a selection of original compositions and arrangements

7.30pm – 9.30 pm    RNCM Concert Hall
Michael Fowles, conductor

James Cook, Circumnavigator                     Gilbert Vinter (1909-1969)
The Shining River                                          Edmund Rubbra (1901-1985)
Prague                                                           Judith Bingham (b. 1952)
Sinfonietta (1981)                                         Howard Blake (b. 1938)
        first performance of new performing edition by Paul Hindmarsh
Little Suite No. 1                                           Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)
Hymn at Sunrise                                            Ray Steadman-Allen (1922-2014)

Saturday 29 January
11.00am – 12.15pm       RNCM Concert Hall
Justine Gormley, piano
David Thornton, conductor

Four Minute Mile (1991)                             Judith Bingham
Piano Concerto (1990)                                 Bill Connor (b. 1949)
Chrome (1997)                                             Errollyn Wallen (b. 1958)
Scottish Dances                                            Malcolm Arnold (arr. Farr)

1.30pm – 2.30pm       RNCM Theatre
RNCM Engage workshop led by Philip Goodwin, trombone tutor RNCM, with student ensembles and local youth brass bands.

3.00pm – 4.15pm       RNCM Concert Hall
Peter Moore, trombone
Ian Porthouse, conductor

Flourish for Brass                                        Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
English Folk Song Suite                              Vaughan Williams
        first performances of new performing editions by Phillip Littlemore
Shift (Trombone Concerto No. 1)               Simon Dobson (1981)
Rhosymedre (from Three Preludes founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes)  
                                                                     Vaughan Williams (arr. Hindmarsh)
These are our Footsteps                               Judith Bingham
Variations for Brass Band                           Vaughan Williams
      first performance of new performing edition by Phillip Littlemore
Supported by The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust and Yamaha

4.45pm – 5.30pm        RNCM Theatre
Leslie Neish and Jon Malaxetxebarria, conductors
Programme to include:
Rebellion                                                      Simon Dobson
Tree Song                                                     Gavin Higgins

6.15pm – 7pm        Carole Nash Recital Room
Paul Hindmarsh leads a pre-concert discussion with festival composers and guests

7.30 pm – 9.30 pm        RNCM Concert Hall
Rex Richardson, trumpet
Brett Baker, trombone
Nicholas Childs, conductor

A Fantasy of Joy                                         Fredrick Schjelderup (b. 1990)
Four Cornish Dances                                  Malcolm Arnold (arr. Farr)
Master of Suspense                                     Peter Graham (b. 1958)
          commissioned by Rex Richardson, first performance
Beethoven                                                    Philip Wilby (b. 1949)
The Royal Border Bridge                            Arthur Butterworth (1923-2014)
The Light Fantastic                                     Philip Wilby
         commissioned for Brett Baker by Janine Harrison
Heroes                                                         Bruce Broughton (b. 1945)
         Rex Richardson’s appearance is supported by Yamaha

Sunday 30 January
11.00am – 12.15pm          RNCM Concert Hall
David Thornton, conductor

Overture Henry the Fifth                           Vaughan Williams
Innovation 216                                           Liz Lane
          first performance of standalone brass band version
Sinfonietta At the Edge of Time                Ray Steadman-Allen
Elegy (In Memoriam Gerard Schurmann) Jack Stamp (b. 1954)
Caledonian Suite                                        Buxton Orr (1924-1997)

1.30 pm – 2.30pm        RNCM Theatre
Students from the RNCM perform works for brass ensemble by the finalists in the 6th John Golland Award for young composers. The recital also includes a performance of Phantasy for brass quartet by John Golland (1942 – 1993) and Music for Brass Sextet, the original version of Toccata, O the Blessed Lord by Wilfred Heaton (1918 – 2000)
         Supported by The John Golland Trust

3.00pm – 4.15pm       RNCM Concert Hall
Philip Harper, conductor

Celestial Prospect                                      Wilfred Heaton
Un Vie de Matelot                                      Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Main Street                                                 Eric Ball (1903 – 1989)
The World Rejoicing                                  Edward Gregson (b. 1945)

4.45pm – 5.45pm          Carole Nash Recital Room

6.30pm – 8.00pm       RNCM Concert Hall
David King, conductor

March Pelorus Jack                                 Alexander Owen (1851 – 1920)
Suite The Unfortunate Traveller              Imogen Holst(1907 – 1984)
Prelude on Randolph                                Ray Steadman-Allen
Meditation on Aberystwyth                    Wilfred Heaton
Paganini Variations                                 Philip Wilby

Ticket sales are now live. Covid protocols will also be listed on the web pages at www.rncm.ac.uk.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *