It’s so nice to have some fresh recordings to enjoy after the enforced break for performers and artists the world over caused by the global Coronavirus Pandemic.
This particular live concert recording was made as Cory came out of their musical lockdown for their first public performance since the start of the pandemic – a break of a year and a half, in the beautiful St David’s Hall, Cardiff.
There are only eight tracks – but what variety and quality. Cory have come out of lockdown as strong as ever, although the personnel list on the sleeve notes shows a few changes or dep players, a fact of life across the banding world just now with player unavailability through illness, isolation or other covid-related obstacles.
‘Brass Machine’ by Mark Taylor arranged by Phillip Sparke opens our ‘concert’. Apparently, this was called ‘scream machine’ and featured Maynard Ferguson back in 1985 when first performed. There are echoes of his lofty register from the Cory cornet section. A proper fizzer of an opener.
‘Capriccio Espagnol’ is our first major work on the programme with Glyn Williams on his usual virtuosic form in the introductory section. This a well-known piece and you can almost feel the band thinking ‘we are back’ as they let rip with some fine dynamics.
‘Glory to his Name’ by who else but Eric Ball, has principal cornetist Tom Hutchinson on his feet – and I imagine the audience too after hearing this perfect rendition, full of style and technical aplomb. Only (in my opinion) Eric Ball can make music so beautiful sounding yet be an absolute technical work out! Tom has been with the band for nearly twelve years now (according to the excellent sleeve notes by Phil Harper) here’s hoping he stays there for another twelve. This is by far my favourite track on the recording.
‘Sanctuary’ by Phillip Sparke features Repiano Cornet player Hannah Plumridge in a beautiful lyrical solo that is a delight for the ear, what a sound?
A bit of ‘yellow music’ up next – or at least a movement from a larger work, The Minuet from John Ireland’s ‘A Downland Suite’. This seemed just right to sit in this programme, crisp, neat playing throughout. Cory is world-renowned for their innovative programmes of new compositions and arrangements but this inclusion nods back to its long history.
A Cory programme without Helen Williams being featured is rare, thank goodness, so here we can enjoy the (insert superlative here) musicality and tone of this Lancashire Lass as she completely captures the beauty of ‘Song for Rhiannon’ by Phillip Harper.
‘La Suerte de Los Tontos’ – which of course you know means ‘The fortune of fools!’ (thanks programme notes!) which featured in Cory’s emphatic win at the last Brass in Concert Contest held before Covid in 2019. Some sky-high cornet/trumpet work for principal Tom and soprano Ian Roberts in this Stan Kenton Big Band Special. In earlier times I would imagine the super-slick stage choreography that Cory is famed for would have added to this piece, but as one of the sleeve note photographs reminds us of 2 metre-distancing and no movement, this was not to be.
The finale of this concert is a new arrangement by Phillip Harper of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake.’ In the notes, Phillip explains that he created this ‘Fantasy Overture’ from the myriad of beautiful melodies and dances from the original. It is a great work, played with the style and skill we know Cory always present.
So good to hear Cory back on stage, so good to hear they haven’t let slip any of their quality, great to hear the Maestro Phillip Harper has been using his ‘lockdown time’ producing new music for us and I swear you can almost hear the band cheer themselves as they re-take the stage again.
1. Brass Machine - Mark Taylor arr. Philip Sparke [2.31]
2. Capriccio Espagnol - Rimsky Korsakov arr. Keith Wilkinson [6.21]
3. Glory to His Name - Eric Ball - Cornet Soloist Tom Hutchinson [6.19]
4. Sanctuary - Philkip Sparke [4.24]
5. A Downland Suite iii Minuet - John Ireland [4.57]
6. Song for Rhiannon - Philip Harper - Flugel Soloist Helen Williams [4.16]
7. Le Suerte de Los Tontos - Johnny Richards arr. Philip Harper [3.27]
8. Fantasy Overture: Swan Lake - Tchaikovsky arr. Philip Harper [9.35]