On 27th March 2011 Harmonie Concert Band crossed the River Thames heading for Bromley and the first London Festival hosted by BASBWE (the British Association of Symphonic and Wind Ensembles) in nearly two decades. We were honoured to be invited by BASBWE to play at such a prestigious event.
The day began with a massed band event, with 150+ players from all the bands represented on the day rehearsing two pieces: ‘Towards the Western Horizon’ conducted by its composer, Philip Sparke, ‘Sentinel’ composed by Peter Meechan conducted on this occasion by Guy Woolfenden. This was followed by a full performance of these two works (which were their UK and World Premieres, respectively) marking the formal opening of the Festival. Harmonie have in the past had the privilege of spending a day with both Philip and Guy (see here).
The opening massed bands performance was followed by concert presentations by each of the bands who had been invited to the Festival. Harmonie was first on stage presenting three pieces.
‘Tatarian Dances’ by the Russian pianist-composer Elena Roussanova Lucas, was a four-movement suite incorporating music from Tatar culture. With a slightly unfamiliar musical language and the unusual sound of solo recorder in the slow movement, this accessible work offers a good alternative to the well-worn dance suites bands know so well.
‘Tango’ by Aaron Parker, a student at the Royal Northern College of Music who was working with the band as part of the Making Music’s ‘Adopt a Composer’ scheme, is a short and highly character piece specially composed for Harmonie.
Finally, Harmonie presented another world premiere, ‘Heroes and Villains’, which was specially commissioned for the Festival from composer Rob Davies. The composer describes this as ‘a story of a superhero and his nemesis’, and the piece certainly seems cram a full film score into 10 minutes, eliciting a dynamic performance from the band.
The day continued with performances from the other invited bands, and each benefited from critique and feedback from one of the professional composers and conductors attending the event.
As the band packed up and headed home back across the River Thames we all agreed that it was a wonderful experience and were looking forward to returning in the future.