THE first ever Great Big Fat Manx Trombone Festival took place in Peel’s Centenary Centre this month, led by special guests the Black Dyke Trombone Quartet and supported by the British Trombone Society and the Isle of Man Arts Council.
After registration on the Saturday, 25 Manx trombonists of all ages and abilities took their places on stage for a workshop which would culminate in a Cream Tea Concert the following day. Black Dyke’s principal trombone Brett Baker helped us warm up before leading us through a four-part arrangement of the hymn tune Crimond. After only a short rehearsal the newly-created festival choir was playing more uniformly and homogenously. Brett then handed over to co-principal trombone Paul Woodward who took us through Scarborough Fair with a focus on balanced dynamics and ensemble. They soon had us playing more expressively.
Then, as something of a challenge, Brett presented Rimsky Korsakov’s Procession of the Nobles, which was a testing piece but we were soon sounding respectable.
After a break, Brett practiced three extremely virtuoso pieces clearly demonstrating why he is so highly-regarded. They included Sonata Quinta by Dario Castello and the Seashell waltz by Frederick Innes. The quartet then launched into their programme with an arrangement of the rousing Salvation Army March the Red Shield, after which volunteers were invited to join them on stage - six trombonists took up the challenge.
They also played Gareth Wood’s Four Pieces for Four Trombones, the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind and the premiere of an arrangement for trombone quartet of Eric Cook’s Bolivar.
During the workshop there was plenty of opportunity for questions. Then, after a few words from festival organiser Jackie Morrey, the afternoon session drew to a close.
An informal open mic session took place in Ramsey later that evening.
Sunday got underway with some tips on practice routine and developing a high register.
Ramsey Town Band then rehearsed their items for the afternoon’s concert and briskly got to grips with the accompaniments for Brett’s solo pieces.
The concert began with the quartet playing Wilfred Heaton’s March Praise, followed by five pieces taken from the James Bond films and then Libertango by Astor Piazolla, Arthur Pryor’s Fantastic Polka and several items by Erik Leidzen, including their finale - an arrangement of On the King’s Highway, which was taken at breakneck speed and was certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Brett played his various solos, including the second movement of an early trombone concerto by Wagenseil originally for alto trombone, the fantastic Brasilia by Robin Dewhurst and Gardell Simons’ Atlantic Zephyrs. Up next was Ramsey Town Band and their conductor Robert Quane. They opened with their signature march Neptune Street by Alan Fernie which was followed by something of a treat - Bill Geldard’s arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust, featuring bass trombonist Adrian Hirst, Gary Reed, Paul Woodward and Brett.
The new festival choir then took to the stage with their rehearsed pieces and despite the challenges we gave a sterling performance.
A big thank you must go to Jackie and Peter who worked tirelessly to make this event a success. Fingers crossed it won’t be the last festival of its kind here.