Review: Waratah Brass Presents ‘In the Groove’

November 6, 2011 Off By R B

In the Groove:  Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay
Waratah Brass (Steven English)
Guest Performer: Ms Carol Irving, B. Mus. Ed, Clarinetist/ Saxophonist

Brass bands are generally far removed from reed instruments and the likes of saxophones but for this occasion Waratah invited Carol Irving, a musician skilled on such instruments to be guest soloist for the afternoon. Looking through the programme it was an interesting mix of works and one waited just to see how this combination would pan out.

Waratah BrassAs the band entered the concert hall they certainly looked like one group that are out to give a notable performance right from the beginning with their impressive concert attire of black dinner suites for males and formal evening dress for female members. Conductor Steven English looking equally splendid entered to the applause of an almost full auditorium walked to his stand and without delay commenced the concert with the band playing Sir William Walton’s Coronation March “Crown Imperial” arranged for brass band by Frank Wright.

This work has graced the heights of the Monarchy from 1937 when it was first composed for the Coronation of King George VI, to this modern day of April 2011 when it was performed at the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Waratah gave a stately forthright rendition that was well performed, certainly making an interesting start to a concert titled “In the Groove”.

Carol IrvingThen a complete change of tempo mood and atmosphere came with the jazz work “Sing, Sing, Sing” (Louis Prima/ R. Woodfield) with its heavy bass end work and much percussion. This was a good item setting the pace for what was to come throughout this afternoon. The guest soloist Carol Irving then gave her first performance with the big band sound of “Body and Soul” (J. Green/ Joe Cook) on soprano saxophone. This was excellent with the audience showing they truly enjoyed the work very much.

Written back in 1986 for The Salvation Army Star Lake Music Camp band in New Jersey USA “Light-Walk” (Barrie Gott) has more or less become a standard jazz work. This has been recorded on CD by just about every top level band in the UK. Waratah are no exception having also recorded this as well. For this occasion the usual flugel horn jazz portion was rendered by Carol Irving on clarinet who faultlessly played such with ease. 

This concert was full of jazz classics which the band played well, sounding right at home with this genre. Many bands stifle this style of music trying to adapt such to suite the brass band mode rather then let the ensemble play as the item was intended. Waratah with excellent performances in numerous works such as “Birdland” (J. Zawinul/ Philip Sparke), “Blue Rondo a la Turk” (D. Brubeck/ Kevin Edwards), Henry Mancini’s 1963 work “Charade” (Graham Lloyd) and the ever popular “Sir Duke” (S. Wonder/ Goff Richards) proved they can play and play they did.

Hailing from the Mid North Coast area of Port Macquarie Carol teaches music both privately and in the Public School system, performs with jazz ensembles throughout the region and is Concert Master and lead clarinetist for the Port Macquarie Hastings Municipal Concert Band.

Bringing a background such as the like to this afternoon stood her in fine form for a splendid display of real musicianship. Carol was a delight to both watch and listen to as she performed with the band. The audience gave extended applause to several works especially when on clarinet with Acker Bilk’s famous “Stranger on the Shore” (Calvin Custer) and tenor saxophone featuring “Take Five” (P. Desmond/ Cliff Davis) played with sheer ease.      

David WilksWaratah concerts always contain features from soloists within the band and this concert “In the Groove” was no exception. For this occasion we had not only displays of musical ability but acting also with both coming off very well. Soprano Cornet soloist David Wilks proved he is one ‘cool cat’ with his “Sugar Blues” (C. Williams/ Alan Morrison) solo that was a purrrrfect rendition.

Clarence LeungOne unknown player who may have been Mexican and maybe sponsored by Taco Bills arrived to perform a solo. Wearing his sombrero and sarape poncho from under which he produced a Flugel Horn he joined the band to play the taxing “The Children of Sanchez” (C. Mangione/ Reid Gilje) which was simply excellent. Following the solo he tossed his sombrero into the audience revealing that it was indeed Clarence Leung featured in the solo. The audience loved the way this item was presented and showed their appreciation for the effort.

This solo was quickly followed by a piece to remember the movie ‘Brassed Off’ with a stately paced rendition of “Florentine March” (J. Fucik/ R. Barsotti), a nice variation of item contained in this concert. This movie was produced in 1996 and bought brass music and bands onto the screen and into living rooms of many that maybe had never heard or seen such before. Now some 16 years since the movie first appeared it was still very popular with this audience. 

The last listed item on the programme for this concert with a difference was Karl King’s snappy circus march “The Melody Shop” (Peter Smalley) which was performed with ease like ability from the band. This included some brilliant euphonium work amongst a terrific rendition.

After prolonged applause Band President Grahame Scott who had done an excellent job as compere throughout this concert announced guest soloist Carol Irving would join the band with her clarinet to perform as an encore the classic solo “Golden Wedding” (Woody Herman). This was as good a performance as any on this concert with a wonderful rendition by the band and Carol.

Waratah Brass is becoming known for innovative concerts that go beyond the realms of just presenting straight brass music in their concerts. ‘In the Groove’, a concert by a brass band featuring a saxophonist/ clarinetist. Thank you for a different but very interesting and entertaining afternoon. This was thoroughly enjoyable and well worth attending.

Thank you
Review: ‘In the Groove’  6 November 2011