Brass instruments are associated with the brass bands of heavy industries, many of which have now disappeared. In many particular instances only the bands remain. Originally the brass bands were set up in association with collieries, factories etc. in order to divorce music from drink. A sober workforce was a more productive workforce. This paternal attitude can be felt to grate somewhat. Given this sentiment, there was a happy revelation on Monday lunchtime. Dr. Lindley reflected dryly on Phillip McCann’s fortitude in performing at that time. The colliery brass band that he directs had got through to the national finals the previous night. However, his performance at the town hall bore no traces of the Bacchanalia at which Lindley hinted. Indeed, it was an uplifting and refreshing treat.
A Hunsberger arrangement of Levy’s Grand Russian Fantasia was the musical greeting. Grandiose, Romantic chords on the piano full of very Russian, mediant shifts introduced the cornet. The liquid chrystal tone of the instrument was charming. In between the occasional, agitated piano interlude what sounded like a Russian dance was heard. McCann showed his mettle with great talent as the melody became more virtuosic and triple tonguing (rapid passages of short notes) was applied. Dynamic contrasts were subtle and the piece was finely balanced rhythmically. It was in the next piece that the tone and timbre of the instrument shone. Unfamiliar as I was with the individual sound of the cornet, what impressed most was its humility and modesty compared with that of the trumpet. Both qualities were highly appropriate in Himes’s All that I am. We were moved to hear that the piece was composed by Himes on hearing that his wife had fallen ill. Profound sentiment was expressed, which taken with the context, spoke of duty. Following the depth of this piece came playful, light relief as Lindley performed solo Binge’s Miss Melanie on the organ. ‘Um-cha’ interplay underpinned a cheeky melody full of unexpected shifts.
A piece mimicking birdsong from the Thuringian forest came next by Hoch: Sing Vogelchen aus dem Thuringerwald. Pleasing for the harmonic simplicity, well-balanced cornet trills followed melodic call and response where the response was muted – the birds in the forest were communicating ata distance. The piano accompaniment was highly varied – at times grand chords rang out only to be followed in other interludes with arpeggiated chords. An organ solo followed the birdsong – Howells’ Rhapsody IV in C. This sounded very angular and square harmonically because it was polytonal and modal. There was much impressive thrashing about by Lindley in this piece as he altered the organ stops and depressed the pedals. This was a sight to behold! The power of the town hall organ was shown off in the extreme here because the loudest stop was used.
Then came a very familiar piece on the cornet with piano accompaniment: Aria con Variazioni. The well-known tune for this piece was that of the ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’. As the title suggests, the tune was repeated a number of times but varied each time. This allowed McCann to show off again as the variations became more involved and rapid. A soothing, much slower organ solo composed by Sowerby followed to calm us all down.
A piece by Rance and arranged by Bulla came next: The Reason. With some jazz harmonies and in triple time the piece was higly reminiscent of a music hall song. Graceful passages on the cornet were supported with rhythmic spruceness on the piano. The Last Rose of Summer was the next offering, arranged by Hunsberger. This is a traditional Irish folk-song – not the sort of thing I would usually associate with cornet and piano. However, here the modesty of the timbre was extremely effective in a very moving execution. Nevin’s Will O’ the Wisp was the organ solo that followed. A playful, light piece in which a rapid, running, continuous melody soothed and charmed in a flutey timbre. Typical of the programs at the town hall lunchtime concerts, this contrasted with the previous piece – you never get bored at these recitals. Lindley stayed put at the organ for the next cornet solo: The Old Rugged Cross by Bernard/Leidzen. This was a Salvation Army number. Funnily enough, again, it sounded a lot like a musical hall song as with The Reason, which was also a Salvation Army song. Could there be a connection here?
With piano accompaniment the concert closed on Koenig’s Post Horn Galop. Here the cornet was dispensed with and a Post Horn was produced – a long, thin, metal tube reminiscent of a ‘yard of ale’. An extremely rapid, triple tonguing virtuoso display ended the concert with audacity.