An intensive Big Brass weekend

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Last weekend around forty brass students from three international schools in the capital attended a Big Brass weekend at The American School to develop their instrumental skills. The budding wind players were taught by twelve of Muscat’s best brass players and teachers in a series of intensive workshops over two days. The weekend involved teenagers from ABA, The British School, Muscat and TAISM itself, and through this collaboration with other schools, the young people could enjoy the social side of music-making between sessions. The culmination of so many hours’ tuition and rehearsal was a final concert performance of the seven pieces studied, given in the excellent acoustics of the Bosch Center for Performing Arts in Ghala on Saturday evening.

Director of Band at TAISM and host of the weekend, Ms Kristina LaMarca welcomed the proud parents and friends in the audience, introduced the three participating secondary schools and thanked the twelve professional Brass musicians and teachers of Muscat Brass who helped make the weekend such a success, musically and socially. The fifty-odd strong ensemble was directed by guest Conductor, Leif Sundstrup, who worked with the whole group for an hour’s masterclass at the end of both days. The first piece performed under Maestro Sundstrup’s baton featured some impressive playing from the whole trumpet section in, “Cossack Fire Dance” by Muscat’s own Darrol Barry who conducted the student ensemble for many years. Originally this Big Band special was conceived by the late maestro, Mr. Darrol Barry, who wanted to share his knowledge and reach out to the potential in local international schools, so this was a fitting programme opener and tribute. It featured some bracing trombone themes with tubas later. It should be mentioned that a fine percussion section, including drum kit, provided the rhythmic accompaniment throughout the show. The famous “Karelia Suite” by Sibelius, arranged for brass band by Darrol Barry included lots of percussive effects over the trombone and tuba march-like themes. “Sloop John B” might be more familiar as, “I wanna go home” but is actually a traditional Bahamian Folk Song, arranged by the prolific Matt Kingston who arranged many of the well-known pieces in this concert. It was almost Calypso in style and was introduced by the trombone choir which later provided a lovely countermelody to the strong main theme from the trumpets.

The next Russian composition by Mikhail Ippolitav-Ivanov, “Procession of the Sardar” was a great rhythmic affair with triangles and bells backing the modal trumpet melody, delightfully coloured with tambourine rhythms. Trombones and horns began the crescendo build-up to the huge tutti section which swelled into a crashing climax. What a brilliant end, with power and strength from every member of the brass orchestra!

The following “Ukulele Lady” was a return to a jazzy, bluesy mood opening with horns and tubas. Its easy listening syncopated rhythm gave a classic, well-blended Big Band sound. Credit goes to Mr. Sundstrup for drawing out the best from these young musicians of the future. “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” is a well known and much loved traditional song, and here in the arrangement by Matt Kingston, the earthy sound from trombone and tuba sections was answered by heady trumpets with the rhythms precisely articulated, aided by a driving drum kit accompaniment.

Before the final number, Dan Anthony, camp coordinator and Director of Music from BSM, addressed the assembled to thank the twelve professional musicians from Muscat Brass for making this fourth amalgamated Big Brass Weekend such a rousing success for all involved. He explained that their Finale was based on a Welsh Folksong and expressed gratitude to their visiting Australian conductor, Leif Sundstrup, for giving his time and expertise so generously to encourage the students on their musical journey. “Migildi Magildi” was a bright Fanfare arrangement for brass band with clashing cymbals, and a fitting conclusion to another year’s Windy Weekend.

By Georgina Benison, Oman Observer