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Review of Cory Concert

 

Our expectations ran high on the evening of Saturday 20 June at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff, when the Cory Band was joined by its guests, Morriston Orpheus Choir, the virtuoso jazz trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon (who had flown over from New York specially for the event), and the Robin Dewhurst trio in a celebration of the band’s 125 years. We were not disappointed. After an introduction by the inimitable Roy Noble OBE, who engagingly compèred the entire evening and demonstrated why his afternoon programme on BBC Radio Wales is so popular, Cory Band President, Bernard Jones OBE, gave his own personal account of the ‘Cory story’ before Dr. Childs and the band launched into the opening item, Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Enter the Galaxies, a bright, three-minute concert overture which managed to feature all of the band’s soloists. Dr. Childs and the band then paid tribute to a past conductor of Cory with a whirlwind reading of Walter Hargreaves’ transcription of Mikhail Glinka’s overture, Ruslan and Ludmilla, before the white-jacketed gentlemen of Morriston Orpheus Choir sang Joseph Parry’s beautiful Myfanwy accompanied by the band in an arrangement by Dan Price - a moving interlude.
 
Then it was the turn of the evening’s special guest, American virtuoso jazz trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon, making his only visit tom the UK this year especially for this event. Ably accompanied by the Robin Dewhurst Trio (Robin Dewhurst, piano, Geth Griffiths, string bass and David Griffith, drums), he gave a jaw-dropping demonstration of his formidable technique in Robin Dewhurst’s arrangement of Sweet Georgia Brown, before being joined by Cory Band in his own tribute to Muhammed Ali, Me We. Morriston Orpheus Choir then joined the band in an arrangement of Danny Boy (Londonderry Air, the voices blending seamlessly with the band, before the first half was brought to a close with On the Shoulders of Giants by Peter Graham, specially written for Cory and which was part of the band’s successful contention at this year’s European Championships. A compilation of quotes and references from Bruckner, through Miles Davis and ending with Arthur Bliss, it provided a vehicle for the entire band to show off the qualities that has seen it become British Open champion, Brass in Concert champion, regional champion and champion band of Europe for two years running, placing it at the very top of the British Bandsman-World of Brass world rankings.
 
The second half of the programme began with the world première of Hail the Dragon, specially commissioned for this evening’s concert from Philip Sparke. It turned out to be a short, celebratory piece in which the composer made musical references to his own Year of the Dragon, also written for Cory. Choir and band then united again in a suite of pieces from Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus project, comprising Adiemus, Song of the Spirit, Vocalise, Song of the Plains and Cantilena. The popular composer was in the audience to acknowledge the warm applause for his attractive music.
 
The evening then took on an American flavour as Wycliffe Gordon then returned to sing the song Louis Armstrong made famous, Wonderful Word, in an arrangement by Robin Dewhurst before inviting the band to join him in a scat singing number, Hallelujah Shout. He followed this with an on-the-spot trombone improvisation, dedicated to the Cory Band and which involved glissandi, multiphonics, machine-gun tonguing and assorted swoops and grunts which ran the whole gamut of effects available to a trombonist possessing his extraordinary skill. He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the evening and afterwards, at a private celebration, revealed himself to be the most modest, gracious and friendly person one could ever wish to meet. 
 
Morriston Orpheus Choir and the Cory Band then reunited for an arrangement of the traditional Missouri river-workers’ song, Shenandoah, before the band let its hair down with Dan Price’s arrangement of Louis Prima’s Sing, Sing, Sing which featured kit drummer David Griffith, placed centre-stage, in a very respectable impersonation of Gene Krupa, and his three percussive colleagues, Alun Horgan, Gavin Pritchard and Simon Brittlebank, playing wooden stools. The final item, also by Dan Price (who was present in the audience), was An American Tale, a musical journey through the history of America, and which involved Wycliffe Gordon contributing trombone solos, Roy Noble as narrator and choir and band. The whole evening was enhanced by a screen presentation, devised by Gerard Klaucke of GK Design, and imaginative lighting and was a triumph for Wycliffe Gordon, Robin Dewhurst and his trio,Morriston Orpheus Choir and its conductor, Joy Amman Davies, Roy Noble and, of course, Dr. Robert Childs and Cory. Here’s to another 125 years of this fine band.
                                                                                                             Kenneth Crookston
Copyright © British Bandsman 2009

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