I was very much looking forward to hearing this concert. Lambeth Wind Orchestra hail from my ‘neck of the woods’ where I lived until I was 25, and through the extensive use of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I was very aware of what the band were up to, but had never actually heard them.
They opened their programme with a new arrangement of Edward White’s Puffin’ Billy, from the great British tradition of light classical music. It epitomises a sense of 1950s Middle England and this performance did not disappoint. From the opening bars the sense of style and character was utterly convincing. Helped by the light touch of John Holland’s orchestration, the band’s playing was light and airy and I think it succeeded in transporting the audience back to a bygone era. This is a really good arrangement which deserves many more airings in the future.
Peter Meechan’s Fenix Blue was commissioned by and written for British Saxophonist, Tim Watson. The piece opens with an extended (two minute) cadenza for the soloist and immediately grabs your attention. In fact it grabs you by the throat and screams “listen to me”!
Having established the soloist’s credentials as a technically-gifted player, the band came in with what Peter Meechan describes as a slow, dirty blues. It is certainly very evocative and serves as a great backdrop to Tim Watson’s solo playing. Although the piece is blues inspired, it manages to avoid feeling like a pastiche work. The band is very clearly cast as the accompaniment to Tim’s virtuosic playing, and this is a job they did well, offering a secure foundation for his interpretation. The scoring is generally very effective, with the band being largely scored so as to allow room for the soloist. This is a work you could comfortably perform without the need to employ a PA system for the soloist!
The piece built gradually to a loud conclusion which rounded off an effective première of this stylish piece. The combination of Tim Watson’s solo playing with Lambeth Wind Orchestra’s sensitive accompaniment under the direction of John Holland was very enjoyable to listen to. For directors of bands, if you have a really good alto sax player, this is well worth looking at.
Philip Sparke’s A Malvern Suite concluded the programme. Originally written in 1984, this is a new arrangement for wind band by John Holland. Without getting too technical, there are a number of problems when transcribing from brass band to wind band, the two main ones probably being the sheer ‘oomph’ that a brass band can deliver and the lack of bottom end in a wind band (compared to a brass band). John’s arrangement dealt with these very effectively. He makes good use of the wider range of colours available in the wind band, particularly with his redistribution of the solo lines, and this is a very nice arrangement for this ensemble.
The performance itself was very enjoyable. Yes, there were some minor problems with tuning in places and some technical issues with solo lines, but overall it was a real performance. The band was subtle and sensitive where required and the general level of exuberance in some of the more expansive sections was great to hear.
This was a good choice of programme for this type of event. Three pieces new to the repertoire, showing a wide range of styles, all of which the band pulled off admirably. I don’t live close enough to this band’s ‘patch’ to get to their concerts, but they are well worth a listen if you get the chance.