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Newbury welcomes the Pride of Tredegar

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Newbury Spring Festival: Tredegar Town Band at the Corn Exchange on Sunday, May 15. Review by JOHN HERITAGE

The next time I meet director Mark Eynon, I’d like to buy him a pint to say a very big ‘thank you’ for inviting one of the world’s finest brass bands to this year’s Newbury Spring Festival.

As part of the festival’s outreach project, Tredegar Town Band played on our very own Victoria Park bandstand at midday today, entertaining the rather soggy crowd with a programme of accessible, light music, but their 3 o’clock performance at the Corn Exchange was a very different kettle of fish.

Tredegar Town Band, picture Fiona Bennet
Tredegar Town Band, picture Fiona Bennet

The 25 brass instrumentalists and four percussionists took to the stage, under the baton of their musical director Ian Porthouse, and by the time the last note had faded away we’d run the gamut of every emotion under the sun. We smiled, we marvelled at the incredible technical wizardry of each and every section of the band and many of us even shed the odd tear, so powerful and moving was the band’s performance.

It was wonderful to hear music by Berlioz, Richard Strauss and Vaughan Williams, but the highlights were Philip Wilby’s Concerto for Euphonium played by the astonishingly gifted Taiwanese Yu-Han Yang and this year’s European Championship test piece So Spoke Albion. It’s not often the composer is present so we were thrilled when Gavin Higgins, who composed this terribly exciting and almost impossible-for-mere-mortals-to-play piece took a bow at the end of the final movement. Those of us who play brass instruments couldn’t quite believe the demands made on the players; from the loudest of fortissimos to the quietest pianissimo imaginable and all delivered with immense musicality, showmanship, innovation and brilliance. No wonder the band was chosen to record the soundtrack for the iconic film Pride in 2014.

Special mention must go to principal cornet Dewi Griffiths, soprano cornet Rob Westacott, flugel horn Will Norman and principal percussionist Steve Barnett, but quite honestly each and every member of this world-class band deserves a whole review of their own. It was an absolute privilege to be there.

Diolch o galon i bob un ohonoch chi!

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