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My Experience at The Brass in Concert Championships, 2023 - With The Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

Updated: Nov 22, 2023


Mark Glover Grimethorpe

Brass in Concert is a huge brass band competition held in Gateshead, UK. It is an entertainment style contest, meaning bands can play a concert programme of their choice rather than a set test piece. The event organisers also do a lot of work with youth music, which is fantastic and there was an impressive youth concert during the afternoon of the day before. Bands from abroad get invited and it features some of the best brass soloists you can hear today.


First band on stage at Brass in Concert - Grimethorpe Colliery.


This year was the first time I have ever performed at Brass in Concert. The draw for order of play was made in advance of the day to help bands with travel logistics and Grimethorpe were to play first. This isn't usually in favour with bands at contests but on this occasion and with only 11 bands involved it probably made little difference to the end result.


What it did provide however, was the opportunity to have a rehearsal on the day, in the main hall before the start of the event. It is a magnificent building and concert hall and it was a privilege to be able to perform there.


Grimethorpe has a good track record at the contest with many wins over the years so it was exciting to prepare for the contest, especially as the band were giving world premiers of quite contemporary pieces, written especially for the band. We featured brand new music by some leading and award winning female composers. Showing Grimethorpe Colliery to be at the forefront of innovation and equality.


Female composers

The full programme that Grimethorpe Colliery played was as follows:


Outcry (Lucy Pankhurst)


Vyshyvanka (Halyna Ovcharenko)

Soloists: Rhiannon Harding, vibraphone and Mark Walters, flugel


Warp and Weft (Dani Howard)


The Comfort Knitters (Nadje Noordhuis)

Soloist: Jamie Smith, cornet


Pay it Forward (Liz Lane)

Featuring Jovan Singh, dohl drummer


Having brand new music written presents it's challenges. I think, if a member of a band writes for their own band, if a band is lucky enough to have such a talented member, then they know the band and can write to the strengths of the current players. When a new piece is being written for an event like this, it can be a long process, and this was certainly the case for Grimethorpe.


When we started work on the pieces for Brass in Concert, in some cases it was a chance to test them out and feedback to the composers. This meant doing recordings and having a lot of dialogue with the composers. It was also very interesting hearing the pieces for the first time because you straight away have thoughts about whether you like the music or not and it was clear that these pieces, undeniably brilliant, were probably going to divide the opinion of anyone who heard them.


A safer bet at the contest is probably to create a Disney or movie based theme which is what some other bands did, but I feel proud that Grimethorpe tried something a lot different. The first piece, 'Outcry', left the audience in silence as it came to a close. It was an atmospheric moment but maybe, not unlike the 1913 first performance of 'The Rite of Spring', left audience members not knowing what they were experiencing.


Some of the pieces were incredibly challenging, both technically, musically and from a range point of view. Here is an example of one moment from my euphonium part in 'Warp and Weft' that I was sent in advance to check if it was playable. Like a fool, I said it was playable, something I was slightly regretting at the moment of walking on the stage!


Warp and Weft euphonium
How many super F's!

Jamie Smith

The piece in the set which seemed to divide the audience the most was 'The Comfort Knitters'. A curious and quirky cornet solo that was very different to anything heard before.


Jamie Smith performed the solo with absolute class.


For me, it was a long and tiring week in lead up to the contest. A lot of time driving to and from band rehearsals and especially the drive from Gateshead back home (over 3 hours), gave me a lot of time for self reflection. I felt I could have played better, as I usually do, but just felt maybe there were moments where I wasn't completely focussed, not sure why, but as with everything, we learn and move on. It was my first ever Brass in Concert, I was just proud to have done it and still have slight disbelief that I am playing with Grimethorpe Colliery!


Very proud of my section mates. Andy Kennedy, Sarah Lenton and Nick Young, whose experience and support I very much rely on! Especially Sarah who can be seen here in this photo, belting out super E's, what a star!


Grimethorpe euphs


What Was the Highlight of My Brass in Concert Day?


Strangely, for a contest day, the performance was not the highlight of my day. I enjoyed it 100% but I am a man and one of the secrets to happiness for me, is FOOD!


A euphonium student of mine, who I teach online had come to watch the contest with his wife and generously offered to treat me to a posh Thai lunch. An offer I could not refuse! Great company and great food!

Thai in Gateshead

What Was The Result of Brass in Concert 2023?


Not the best result for us but great experience nonetheless. Huge congratulations to Foden's!


1. Foden's (Michael Fowles)

2. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag (Reid Gilje)

3. Flowers (Paul Holland)

4. Brighouse & Rastrick (Garry Cutt)

5. Fountain City (Joe Parisi)

6. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

7. Grimethorpe Colliery (Steve Phillips)

8. Aldbourne (Glyn Williams)

9. Carlton Main Frickley (Allan Withington)

10. Friary Brass (Nigel Taken)

11. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths)



For me, it is now time to prepare for Christmas concerts and events. Thanks for reading my blog. As always, if you like it, please share and consider signing up to be able to read new content as soon as it appears.


Mark Glover

20/11/23

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1 Comment


robin
Nov 21, 2023

We always think alike. The highlight of our trip to Gateshead was having lunch with you! The music was wonderful. I thought Grimethorpe's program was interesting and innovative. I really liked the first segment of the Tapestry with the bird calls from around the auditorium. Well done. Here are my photos and stories about our trip. https://clanmills.com/2023/Trips/BiC/

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