Programme 'Pre-Christmas Brassaganza Concert V', Forest Arts Centre, Friday 23rd November 2018
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all were asleep, except for the Audience, Band and, of course, the Writer....................'
Once again, Winter had begun to arise from its slumber and engaged gravity on the thermometer, annoyed the storms and created more of a chill than a James Herbert novel................. The End of November was starting............
So it was ideal time for The Staffordshire Band's Annual Christmas Bash, or better known as the
'Pre-Christmas Exbrassaganza - the fifth in the series, hence the 'V'.
The sell-out audience were expectant (and rightly so), as the Band awaited the start of their next Forest Exbrassaganza - many in the Band for the first time............ as it was for the newly-crowned Musical Director, Craig Williams.
Bang on 7.30pm, the Band entered the now packed Arena and launched into an enthusiastic version of 'Christmas Festival', arranged by Leroy Anderson - a must for any brass band christmas concert - and didn't it go down a storm! Classic playing of a favourite and the audience took their temperature to nudge 'Hot!'. A poignant poem to set the scene by Conductor Williams, led into a very spirited performance of the ‘Nutcracker Overture’ by Tchaikovsky arr. Denis Wright - short, but sweet and very, very hard! All good stuff! Next was an arrangement by one of the Band's new players - Chris Wood, who plays Repiano Cornet (don't ask where 'Repiano' comes from by the way!) of ‘Where Are You this Christmas? by Maria Carey, James Horner and Will Jennings, from the film, 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas', and what a delightful piece it is - and well arranged too - well done Chris! An ‘English Carol Fantasy’ by James Curnow came next, which is a majestic arrangement of 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' followed, which is a great piece, but hightened by the clever audio-visuals crafted by Henry Summer and Shaun Elliott, which add so much extra to the Band's Concerts at Forest (even at the expense of so much time, effort and talent taken to craft them!). The audience were then asked to 'don' their singing hats as they provided the entertainment in singing, 'O Come all Ye Fathful'. By this time, the audience were completely 'in the groove' of the concert and loving every minute as always, especially with the next piece, ‘The Christmas Song’ very cleverly arranged by Philip Sparke and the everwhite, ‘Sleigh Ride’ by Leroy Anderson - loced as always, despite an errant Horse at the end who had clearly suffered from an excess of 'Christmas Punch'! The first half ended with an unusual piece - much removed (about 4500 miles!) from Walsall - ‘Caribbean Christmas’ arranged by Sandy Smith. And that was that - the Bar opened, the audience disappeared and the Band were left to enjoy the feeling of a job really well done.
The 20 minute Interval appeared to last about 10, although a goodly number of Raffle Tickets were sold once again (Thank You All!), before the Band entered the stage, sat down and waited.................. until Drummer Ian Richards approached the front of the Band and started the incessant rhythm of 'Ravel's Bolero, but in a Christmas guise to the tune of 'The Holly and the Ivy' - Maestro Williams was nowhere to be seen............ until halfway through the piece avec a colourful kilt! This made no difference to the Band as it ended a powerful of ‘A Christmas Bolero’ by Darrol Barry. There are some pieces which although relatively new, have come to be a Christmas Standard - none more so than ‘The Snowman’ arranged by Philip Sparke and performed with real Christmas aplomb by the Band. The audience seemed to be having all their Christmas's rolled into one! A bit of side to side movement followed with a really 'boozy' version of ‘Schneewaltzer’ a traditional piece arranged by Philip Sparke, although not a drop had passed the lips! 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' had the vocal chords warming up again. The famous Raffle was led once again by Shaun Elliott (with Maestro Williams drawing the winning tickets) with a plethora of amazing prizes on offer once again - this year mainly won by the Ladies! ‘Kingdom Triumphant’ by Eric Ball followed - and what a piece this is (for many in the audience, this was the show-stopper!) - composer Eric Ball creates the scenes designed to remind listeners of the Christian Doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ and the end of this age - magnificent music and performed by a Band on top form - the audience loved it! The final piece of the Concert was ‘Santa Claustrophobia’ arranged by Sandy Smith - a laid-back cacophony of Santa's Desert Island Discs!
And that was that - the audience were on their feet. The players were trying to feel their lips but the start of Christmas had begun!
Thanks to Craig and the rest of this fine Band, to all at Forest (expecially Henry Summer - the encyclopedia of film music and a wizz at audio-visuals) and of course, our terrific supporters, without whom these Concerts would be about as exciting as Christmas Dinner without the turkey!
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