This is a group of extremely talented, fun-loving, and passionate musicians that form the Royal Conservatoire Brass of Scotland, under the dynamic and wonderful direction of John Logan.
Victoria International Arts Festival tries to engage this unique ensemble every year to give a concert that has become traditional in that it is held al fresco on the Roof-Top of Il-Ħaġar – Heart of Gozo Museum, with the glorious backdrop of St George’s Basilica and panoramic vistas of half of Gozo around it. Performing to a packed roof, with the glorious sound of the brass floating down on the unique St George’s Square below to the delight of happy drinkers there, the recital started with William Byrd’s Earl of Oxford March, a well-known piece that set the mood for wonderful music to come! The noble tones of the brass, together with the coordination amongst the 10 musicians, was a delight to hear. Next on the programme was an arrangement of Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, of which the ensemble played the Allegro. It never fails to surprise audiences, and performers alike, how absolutely great Bach is – an absolute genius but with that unique quality about him that enables his works to be performed on any instrument and in any formation imaginable. This was one clever arrangement, that also allowed different soloists to emerge: trumpet instead of a violin, tuba instead of a continuo. When one considers that these brass instruments substituted the more naturally agile string ones is only one measure of the excellent technique these worthy players are possessed with!
Bizet’s Carmen is a perennially fresh work that never fails to excite whenever it is performed. Three movements from the memorable Suite were performed and this was a very exciting rendering indeed. Particularly astonishing was the agility displayed on the French horn by Hayley Tonner, who rippled through the cascading semiquavers with disarming ease. Next came the soundtrack from The Incredibles, and this was an apt labelling for the entire ensemble!! Again a piece that exacted both technical precision and dynamic intensity. The same could be said for the traditional piece The Battle of Jericho, which saw some astounding playing from the cohort of trombones. Penny Lane is a Beatles favourite, and here the Royal Conservatoire Brass exuded mellowness and tender playing, again with strong contributions from trumpet solos. Last on the programme was the lengthy excerpt from Gershwin’s wonderful Porgy and Bess, starting with the haunting and evocative Summertime aria.
Superb contributions came from soloists Mark James, Jacob Rosenberg, and Kate Cooper, and trombone Ismael Sanchez, apart from horn Hayley Tonner.
A couple of encores ensued – the audience could not be satiated and no one wondered why! Throughout the recital, the very charming director, John Logan, peppered the programme with witty anecdotes and comments, having the audience in stitches. This was one great and unique performance, and VIAF organisers look forward to many more!!