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Stage and Screen 2019 Concert Review

The capacity audience of 540 fell into silence as the young man strode onto the stage, banjo in hand, took the spotlight, and began picking out the unmistakable opening bars of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Behind the curtain, the sound of Derwent Brass crept in and the curtains swung open to the full-blooded sound of “Journey of the Sorcerer” to give the music its correct title. From that moment, we knew that we were, in the words of Jack Capstaff, the talented, amiable and very amusing Music Director of the band, “in for something very special tonight”.

Derwent Brass Stage and Screen Audience 2019

The theme of the evening was ‘Stage and Screen’ and the band, Director and supporting musicians won my Oscar for an A-list performance. With lighting effects and a big screen overhead presentation throughout to evoke the drama and atmosphere of every piece, beautifully designed and realized by Charlotte Capstaff, the multitalented wife of the Musical Director, this truly was a multimedia musical tour de force.

The evening carried on at full throttle with a blistering performance of Philip Sparke’s arrangement of “Scherzo for X-Wings” (from Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens), headlong into “Hedwig’s Theme” (from Harry Potter) and Gershwin’s “Promenade – Walking The Dog” (from Shall we Dance), featuring some beautifully delicate playing from Cat Johnston on Flugel and Graham Johnson on Solo Horn. In my head, I was sauntering along through Central Park in the cool of the evening, pet mutt in tow.

The first of the evening’s soloists was Adam Rutter on Euphonium who gave a sensitive and controlled premiere to a new arrangement of “Pure Imagination” leaving me feeling that I really had won Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket tonight.

Charlotte Capstaff Derwent Brass

The next section of the evening was a great surprise for me. As a brass band purist, I have never really been convinced by the use of string instruments in brass bands, but the closing set of the first half blew me away and left me with a sense of the pointlessness and tragedy of war. Charlotte Capstaff with her violin took the stage and led the band through a gorgeous and atmospheric rendition of “The Ashokan Farewell” that led straight into “Reunion and Finale from Gettysburg”. Overhead on the video screen, the soldiers of the War of Independence marched into battle, cannon roared and destruction ensued. The elements brought the whole performance to life and left the audience with a sense of involvement rarely experienced at a band concert.

Derwent Brass Big Band Set

The second half opened with a brass band transformed into a big band. Stan Kenton, eat your heart out! The band were augmented by keyboard and a trio of saxophones, with Associate Composer Matthew Eden on Keyboard, Simon Cowton on Alto Sax, Aimée Calderbank on Tenor Sax and Tom Miller-Swain on Baritone Sax. We were treated to a stunning set featuring classics from the genre; “12th Street Rag”, “Hey Pachuco” featuring James Barrington Stephens on vocals, and the Stan Kenton version of “Fascinating Rhythm” that just made you want to dance - not a pretty sight, so I restrained myself. Then the big band launched into the thunderous and ominous opening bars of Michael Bublé’s “Cry Me a River” as James Barrington Stephens took back to the stage and delivered a powerful and haunting vocal performance. This young man is an emerging talent to be watched. His delivery and ability to `inhabit` a song is amazing and alongside Charlotte, lifted the evening way above the usual brass band fare. The big band took their leave with arrangements of “Monsters Inc.” with segue into “The Incredibles”, showcasing their hip and jazzy capability.

Derwent Brass James Barrington Stephens

Once more, the Brass Band took to the stage and the final set opened with the classic “Batman: The Movie” complete with the Batmobile tearing down the city streets on the overhead screen and floodlights searching around the packed auditorium. The tempo then slowed and guest violinist Charlotte Capstaff provided us with a moment of introspection as the band accompanied her in a moving reading of the theme from “Schindler’s List”. Our next item was to be the band’s principal cornet, Dave Neville in a performance of “Stars” from Les Miserables, but Dave heroically gave his solo to James Barrington Stephens after audience appeals for an encore; “I don’t think I’ve ever been heckled before! We’ll see what we can do, but I’ll have to have a word with the treasurer because he charges by the note.”, in the words of Jack Capstaff, lending more of his dry Yorkshire wit to a very eager audience. And then the finale, one of the greatest film scores of all time “West Side Story” was given a warm welcome by the audience, who were still baying for more.

Having played a very successful part in the 28-show run of the highly acclaimed and award-winning stage version of “Brassed Off” at Derby Theatre, there was only one grand finale the band could play. William Tell, of course, and the fingers of the principal cornet Dave Neville flew faster than the legend marksman’s arrows!

Derwent Brass Stage and Screen Applause Standing Ovation

As the Lone Ranger and Silver rode off into the sunset, the audience were left with a great sense of fulfilment and memories of an experience never to be forgotten. An all singing, all dancing funny, poignant, jazzy, talented and exhilarating multimedia tour de force, and one that they will be eager to repeat next year.


Ian Davies

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