Welcome to the Prince Bishops Brass website, here you can read, listen and contact us
Welcome to the Prince Bishops Brass website, here you can read, listen and contact us
ROCHDALE MUSIC SOCIETY CONCERT 11.06.2016 in Heywood Civic Centre
A Review by Graham Marshall
‘Brassy and classy’ - the sound of Prince Bishops Brass, a group of five musicians who share a talent
for presenting a delightful evening’s music-making with something to suit people of every taste.
Trumpeters Mike Walton and Derek Ruffel, Chris Senior on the horn and Trombonist Stuart Gray
came together, underpinned by Stephen Boyd’s tuba, to produce a rich variety of timbre and tone that
fully matched up to the demands of music such as the Fanfare “La Peri” by Paul Dukas which got
the Rochdale Music Society’s concert in Heywood Civic Centre on June 11th off to an appetising start.
Music composed for a particular instrument or group of instruments does not always show up at its
best when translated for others. The PBB’s wide-ranging programme demonstrated that, when
processed by sensitive and imaginative musicians like them, all kinds of music can indeed be
convincingly performed, sometimes even enhanced, when played on instruments quite different from
those originally envisaged. Much depends on the arranger, of course, and that is why those
responsible for the arrangements performed on this occasion are mentioned by name.
The Dukas Fanfare was followed by Paul Archibald’s arrangement of the Suite in D by Jeremiah
Clarke, with it’s concluding fanciful March (often played as a Bridal Procession). An arrangement
of J.S.Bach’s Fugue in G minor was confidently presented, as was Elgar Howarth’s arrangement of
Fancies, Toyes and Dreames by the lesser known English Elisabethan composer, Giles Farnaby. A
work much-loved by Classic fm listeners when played in its string orchestra arrangement, Reff’s
arrangement of the Adagio by the 20th century American composer Samuel Barber, gave the players
the opportunity to show their technical skill in more nuanced and lyrical ways. This they did before
bringing the first half of the concert to an end with a flourish as the music of a song often attributed to
King Henry VIII, Pastime with Good Company, rang out in hearty fashion in Stephen Roberts’
The second half of the concert featured music of a somewhat different kind all of which made quite
considerable interpretative and technical demands on the players, who rose to the occasion with
aplomb. Bram Tovey’s Santa Barbara Sonata, Michael Kamen’s Quintet and three of George
Gershwin’s songs injected a dose of jazz into the proceedings and left the audience happily reeling
after being caught up in a cakewalk, a tango, a stomp and the rhythm anything more than which who
can ask for? Ray Chester’s Northumbrian Songs provided a suitably sobering moment of pause
before Four Episodes from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein rounded the evening’s music-
making off in style.
This was the last in the Rochdale Music Society’s present Concert Series. Details of the concerts
planned for Season 2016-17 will be available online at www.rochdalemusicsociety.org in the near
future. Among the artistes to be featured will be Clare Hammond, who held the audience enthralled
by her pianism and artistry when she played for us a couple of seasons ago.
Gabrieli to Gershwin
This was a delightful concert – brass playing of high quality that embraced styles to meet many
tastes. From Gabrieli to Gershwin, polyphony to rhythmic harmony, Bach to Count Basie, romantic
to raucous, the audience was wooed by perceptive playing from the opening Fanfare to the final jazz
The players of the Prince Bishop Brass Ensemble, based in County Durham, have vast
experience in both classical and modern idiom and they have the knack of engaging with the
audience. Players took turns to introduce works with witty but instructive comment: a good ploy.
The first half devoted to early repertoire allowed the players to demonstrate their mastery
of their instruments. In the Suite in D by Jeremiah Clarke (organist at the Chapel Royal in the 16 th
century) there was lovely pianissimo playing from the piccolo trumpets in the Minuet and subtle
dynamics throughout the dance movements with percussion provided by each player in turn as
tambourine and tambour were passed around. The Suite finished with a polished rendering of the
well known Trumpet Voluntary which was well received.
The Queens Hall has a dry acoustic – unlike that of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice where
Gabrieli’s chuch music would have resonated from every balcony into the dome. The players
overcame this handicap admirably with some precise dovetailing of line and the complex polyphonic
texture was performed with disciplined ensemble despite the occasional shaky high note. This was
followed by a much more lyrical work. Development of valves for brass instruments in the late 19 th
century allowed Victor Ewald to indulge in rich chromatic writing and the Ensemble responded with
sustained playing of high quality.
Change of mood (and dress) greeted the second half (though surely the tricky Bach fugue
would have sat more readily in the first half). Some busy flugelhorn antics in the Santa Barbara Sonata and a magical horn
display moved on to an earthy stomp in which all parts shone. Throughout the evening the tonality
of the Ensemble was anchored by admirable playing from horn, trombone and tuba, the rock from
which the flights of fancy of the trumpets were able to soar.
The Horowitz Folk Song (based on the Lass of Richmond Hill) is a nicely rounded composition
and allowed all players moments of brilliance. The pace accelerated for polished playing of
Gershwin, a romp through some Northumbrian folk songs arranged by NE jazz player Ray Chester
and a masterful display of syncopation for the Fats Waller finale. Hexham Music Society once again
gave members new boundaries to discover.
(Hexham Courante, January 2010)
A review of the Concert by Prince Bishops Brass
You have to be fairly determined to get to SASRA concerts at the Academy, round the back way,
through three formidable steel security fences, but it’s worth it. The Prince Bishops Brass, trumpets,
horn, trombone and tuba, took us on a wide ranging tour, from Victor Ewald, a major figure in music
of the valve trumpet, through jazz, to Bramwell Tovey’s 2007 Santa Barbara Suite. A fanfare is always
a good start; this one by Paul Dukas was unusual in using some minor key phrases. On then, by way
of the familiar Jeremiah Clark’s suite including the trumpet voluntary (or more properly the Prince of
Denmark’s March) that we used to think was by Henry Purcell; a mathematical Bach Fugue; to the
meat course of the evening, Victor Ewald’s Quintet number 1.
After the interval it was ties off and jackets off with Starters (strangely coming after the meat
course). As a jazz lover, this got my pulse racing. Bramwell Tovey’s Suite, with it’s cakewalk, Preacher
on the Pier (on Trumpet with dog collar), Tango and State Street Stomp, including an arrangement of
the familiar tune “Nun Danket” played on the trombone, but with the Thelonius Monk twist of, at
the end, leaving us waiting for the final resolving note that never came.
How did Polly Perkins get from Paddington Green to Northumberland? Well it’s the same tune as
Cushy Butterfield which was one of many tunes featured in Ray Chester’s Songs of Northumbria. On
then to Gershwin, the breaker of musical demarcations, a jazz man whose work has become
accepted even by opera buffs. His summertime from Porgy and Bess, was cited by a recent radio
programme as the most frequently recorded piece of music, over 2000 versions available by artists
ranging from jazz to classical, and still rising. Just to reinforce my view that there are no boundaries
that matter in music.
And on finally to the Roaring Twenties. By now Prince Bishops Brass had thoroughly warmed up and
looked as if, given a pint or two, they would happily jam it up all night. Perhaps they did across the
road in the Central or the Wheatsheaf; I should have gone to check! Don’t miss the next SASRA
concert, Sam Heywood on Piano, Arisa Fujita, Violin and Richard Bayliss, Horn on Friday 7 th of January
at 8pm. It’s not really that hard to find your way through the security fences.
(Whitehaven News and SASRA Newsletter, Nov 2010)
Bishopwearmouth Choral Society is to be congratulated on the imaginative and innovative
programme which was performed at the Minster on Saturday night. The combination of Choir and
Brass always promises much and this was to be a thrilling evening enjoyed by all.
A Fanfare for Brass Quintet from the Ballet “La Peri “(Dukas) and “Die Bankelsangerlieder” (anon.)
gave the programme an exhilarating start. Anton Bruckner, the Austrian composer best known for
his symphonies did nevertheless compose some of the most beautiful choral works for his beloved
Church. The choir performed four of his ten motets. They present many challenges, not least that of
singing “a capella” and high passages for the sopranos, challenges which were successfully realised.
Two of the motets were accompanied by three trombones that being the only support throughout
the works. The Minster resonated to some glorious and thrilling choral sounds. The full brass
section of 9 players and two percussionists ended the first half with sparkling and tasteful
performances of “The Prince of Denmark’s March” and the equally well known Suite of Six Dances by
The second half could not have begun with a more original and delightful opening. Two
percussionists, Andy Booth and Mark Bolderson performed “Marche de Timbales” by Philidor.
Pleasure was written over the faces of audience and choir alike as they experienced the aural and
visual delights of Baroque military drumming. Equally pleasurable was Andy’s performance of his
own arrangement of “Little Polly’s Polka” by Keith Bartlett for Timpani to which Andy brought in the
Brass to contribute a delicious “oom pah pah accompaniment at the end.
It was fitting that all forces came together for the final piece, “Te Deum” one of John Rutter’s most
popular works. In three movements the two outer sections fully exploit the technical virtuosity of
players and singers alike and it was a credit to all that the balance was so well judged and that every
syllable was clearly audible above the rich textures of the accompaniment. The more contemplative
and reflective central movement featured five soloists drawn from the choir and a highly decorative
organ part performed with sensitivity by Eileen Bown. The Minster was filled with glorious sounds
and final tribute must go to the inspiring leadership and conducting of the Music Director, David
Murray. A receptive audience left the performers in no doubt that it had been an evening to
(Sunderland Echo, June 2010)