The Harrogate Band, Harrogate Theatre, 21st July 2006
The Harrogate Band are now in their thirty-sixth year of music making and have become one of Yorkshire's finest and most versatile brass bands. This concert in the Harrogate Theatre was a spectacular display of tradition, energy, performance standards of the highest calibre and a commitment to providing plenty of entertainment to a warm and supportive audience. Having billed the performance as 'one like no other', the Harrogate Band took 'Stage Centre' as the title of their concert, selecting a special programme that really was a rollercoaster of dynamics, genres and styles.
The concert opened with Frode Alnes' Vitae Lux, and gave the band's Musical Director David Lancaster the chance to welcome the audience to a very warm Harrogate Theatre. If the band wasn't hot enough already, Shostakovich's sparkling Festive Overture certainly did the trick! This piece was well controlled, powerful and dramatic, giving the band chance to settle any early nerves that they may have had. Mozart composed his short motet Ave Verum Corpus over 200 years ago but the piece is still as beautiful and reflective as when it was written. The quartet of Lynne Stockdale, Liz Rochester, Keith Graham and Adrian Lowes delivered this piece superbly in a simple yet moving transcription by the band's conductor. Alan Morrison, principal cornet of the famous Brighouse and Rastrick Band had been invited as guest soloist for the evening, performing two solos in the first half of the concert. The slow melody and triple tonguing polka combination entitled Katherine Louise was followed by the tribute to Louis Armstrong, Satchmo! Alan really is a fine player and suitably deserved the large round of applause he received after both of these pieces. Peter Graham's substantial work Shine as the Light ended the first half of the concert and featured some fine solo playing as always from the band's own principal cornet, Robert Illsley.
Emerging from darkness, the band kicked off the second half of the concert with And all that Jazz from the musical Chicago. This half of the concert contained music from the stage and saw the band suitably cooler (in style and temperature) dressed all in black. Enter the conductor's own spangled contribution and 42nd Street really did get our feet tapping. Mention must be made of the band's soprano cornet player, Kevin Donaldson whose solo contributions in this piece and throughout the concert were superb. Keith Graham and Catherine Morland took to the stage to perform Me and my Shadow as a Baritone duet. With a little inspiration from Robbie Williams' Swing when you're Winning album they brought the house down after some ad lib that was well at home on the theatre stage.
One of the highlights of the concert was hearing Laura Jackson, trombonist and guest vocalist for the evening, sing two classic stage songs. Can't help Lovin' dat Man and Somewhere from West Side Story complimented Laura's beautiful voice perfectly, with some fine accompanying from the band. Mark Freeh's jazz arrangement of Old Man River was as slick and precise as the programming and staging of this concert - with Steve Morland on drums leading with style and finesse. Alan Morrison returned to play Eva Cassidy's hit version of Over the Rainbow, Hello Dolly and Memory from Cats. These were contrasting pieces, but Alan was perfectly at home in all of these styles and proved exactly why he is principal cornet for one of the country's top brass bands. The band concluded the concert with Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, which suitably summed up the evening's entertainment. This concert really did have everything. From costume changes to light dramatic acting, guest soloists a plenty and jazz breaks that would be at home in a big band concert, this was a top class performance. This concert was creatively designed and musically secure from start to finish, just proving how much the Harrogate Band has grown and developed over the past few years. It was a pleasure to see the band performing in one of Harrogate's top venues and they certainly did rise to the occasion.
Craig L. Ratcliffe