Brass championships

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SUNDAY marks two important milestones in the history of the island’s longest established brass band.

At the end of this week Douglas Town Band will perform for the first time in the second section of the National Brass Band Championships Regional Contest in Blackpool and for the last time under the baton of its current musical advisor Gordon Higginbottom.

Gordon has been working with the band since 1996 and has continued to visit the band annually from his home in Spain following his official retirement some years ago.

A spokesman said: ‘His inspirational teaching and guidance have seen the band rise from the fourth section in 1997 to its promotion to second section last year with two appearances at the National Finals on the way – gaining fourth prize at the most recent.’

Mr Higginbottom is well known in brass band circles, having played with most of the top British brass bands and been principal horn with the James Shepherd Versatile Brass for 17 years. Internationally he has toured as a player, soloist, tutor, adjudicator and lecturer in many countries around the world.

‘It has always been an immense privilege and pleasure for the band to work with Gordon as he has polished its performance for the contest each year following detailed preparation by the bands musical director Ken Mitchell,’ the spokesman said. ‘This year promises to be no exception as the band faces its toughest challenge to date.’

At the championships, the band will play Eric Ball’s Resurgam.

‘It is revered as one of the finest pieces in the brass band repertoire and with its deeply spiritual message, is written in the hearts and minds of brass band musicians the world over,’ explained the spokesman.

It was first used as the set work for the British Open Contest in 1950, when the composer’s band was beaten into fourth place by the famous Fairey Band under Harry Mortimer.

‘The Latin title of the piece is translated to I Shall Rise Again and to its opening motif can be set words from the Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God”.’ the spokesman added. ‘Later sections of the piece explore the themes of death, judgement and resurrection, including quotes from the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) of the mediaeval requiem mass, cascading chromatics evoking turmoil and bitter conflict interspersed with a mysterious incessant knocking until all is finally resolved in a return to the original theme of hope and a finale of quiet amens.’

It will particularly be a poignant piece for Mr Higginbottom who played it at the memorial service following the Munich air disaster in 1958 when eight Manchester United footballers were killed.

‘This week promises then to be a rewarding and emotional experience for Douglas Town Band,’ the band’s spokesman said.

The National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain are divided into sections with the championship section at the top and fourth section at the bottom.

Bands start their contesting careers in the fourth section. Each year only two bands are promoted, while two are demoted, in each section according to their performance over the previous three years.

The North West Regional contests of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain will be held in the Wintergardens in Blackpool.

For more information contact Carol Devereau on 492701 or email secretary@douglastownband.org.im

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