MCCS: Black Dyke Band

Friday 21st January 2022

There are many ways in which Brass Bands attempt to create a sense of credibility and value in what they do. It might be that, over time, members from their ranks have gone on to grace the concert halls of the nation by being members of some of our great symphony orchestras. It may be that they provide, at all levels of experience, access to valuable performances and opportunity – I could go on, but the bottom line is that they just sound great and The Black Dyke Mills Band of Queensbury, West Yorkshire is one of the finest examples.

Readers may not be aware that ensembles of this kind are ranked in different sections (divisions) based on points accrued via competition. Black Dyke are ranked fourth in the World and so the visit they made to the Marlborough College Concert Series gave the music lovers of the area the chance to see something genuinely World Class. It’s quite a unique blended sound with a particular kind of vibrato giving it an individual quality quite different to the style of orchestral or jazz brass playing and the blend and balance of this group was superb.

The diet on offer was as eclectic as it was virtuosic, but almost without exception the group was flying higher when playing original music for the genre. The highlight for the author was Howard Snell’s ground-breaking arrangement of ‘I pini della Via Appia’ from Respighi’s tone poem ‘The Pines of Rome’ originally composed in 1924. The colours Snell draws from the players amply does justice to the original orchestral sound – a real skill, and executed with aplomb by this most distinguished group of musicians – a treat indeed.

Alex Arkwright
Head of Instrumental Studies

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