I along with Les Neish, Kristy Rowe and German euphonium player Markus Mikusch were recently in Eichstätt, Germany, giving a weekend brass workshop and taking part in a concert with the top German brass band, BB 3BA, sponsored and organised by Besson.
The brass band culture in Germany is growing with a total of around 27 brass bands in existence, compared to just about 5 or 6 just ten years ago.
The 3BA band is a fine band, under the leadership of Franz Matysiak. The band is blessed with fine players around the stands, and all share the brass band bug, without a doubt.
So the whole weekend began on the Friday evening where I worked with the low brass of the band, working on several technical areas, as well as breathing , tone production, increasing the control of the air. The bass end of the band also played as an ensemble including works by Bruckner, Mozart and modern day classics too.
On the Saturday, the workshop ran from 10am till 6pm, well attended by fifty musicians encompassing a full range all instruments, including 9 cornets, a flugel and full horn section, 3 trombones , around 18 euphoniums, a German tenor horn (just 1!!), 7 tubas and a bass trumpet and percussion.The first session began with breathing and stretching a host of daily routines, explained and demonstrated by Les, Kristy and myself. Then before lunch there was time for the first sectional rehearsals. After lunch, which the whole workshop group enjoyed together in a local restaurant, it was time to form a very large brass band, rehearsing film music scores and the well known Malcolm Arnold ‘Little Suite for Brass' No.1.
Progress was rapid and following the second division into groups, the final ‘play-throughs' were really impressive.
Time was also given for a masterclass element where five of the delegates volunteered to play solos in front of everyone, withthe Besson guests adding their expert words of wisdom. All day there was a great atmosphere and very positive reaction. During the day the Besson artists played solos and duets for the appreciative audience.
The rehearsal of solos for the concert, took place on Sunday morning, with the beautiful autumn weather adding to the occasion. Markus Mikusch joined us on the Sunday morning and all four soloists were performing with the band. Not only was it Kristy Rowe's birthday on the Sunday, it also marked her final concert appearance in Europe before she returned to Australia, after 2.5 years in the UK, playing with the Leyland Band and studying for a Masters at the RNCM. The band surprised her with a rendition of Happy Birthday as she began to rehearse her first solo !
It was clear the concert was going to be outstanding with the band and all soloists in outstanding form. And so to the concert, which began at 4pm. Kristy's two solos were Peace and Pequena Czardas , both extremely well received by the audience. Markus was in top form with his rendition of Philip Sparke's Harlequin. Les Neish surprised and delighted the audience with his lyricism and virtuosity, especially with his unique version of Monti's Czardas and subsequent unaccompanied encore. I was the final soloist, and in introducing my first solo , Pilatus, paid tribute to the recently departed Goff Richards. The performance was one of great tenderness and emotion and the audience were clearly touched by this musical tribute. Napoli, complete with the Winton Marsalis cadenzas and real bravura style rounded off the official part of the afternoon, before I invited Les back to the stage to play an improvised Carnival of Venice together. Then the final tribute to Kristy consisted of a beautiful quartet version by all the Besson artists of The Londonderry Air, with Kristy taking the solo line.
The audience rewarded the performances with a prolonged ovation and it's hoped the impetus given to the brass band movement in this part of Germany will have lasting benefit.
Some photos of the concert: