We’ve just had our first rehearsal for this year’s Christmas concerts, and things are shaping up nicely for the first concert in Scotland in a few weeks’ time.
Christmas has been the inspiration for so many great musical masterpieces, and brass instruments are a vital part of this festive musical fabric. In these concerts we’ll focus on some of the highlights of the rich Christmas canon, but where the years of repetition may have dulled their impact, we hope to illuminate them afresh, casting them in a brand new light through the unique sound of the brass septet.
This year our big new piece is Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker — a sizeable chunk of the ballet makes up the second half of the concert. Growing up listening to the symphonies, I was never very keen on Tchaikovsky’s music, which seemed to veer between schmaltzy sentimentality and overindulgent bombast. It was only when I heard the ballet scores, and The Nutcracker in particular, that I began to realise his true genius. This is a score so rich in wit and elegance, and so full of life and colour, that its enduring popularity is no surprise. It’s simply a joy to revisit each year, and many happy hours were spent arranging it from Tchaikovsky’s piano score this summer.
Some of what we play will be familiar from the orchestral suite — the Miniature Overture, March, and the dances from Act II. Less well-known perhaps are the scenes from Act I, but these contain some of the best music in the ballet. They’re also crucial to the plot, and this will be important because the whole performance will be tied together with a narration — performed by Clemency Burton-Hill in Kings Place, and Brian Kay in Burford. The narration is based on the beautifully-written original Dumas story, and will hopefully make the musical performance even more vivid.
The Nutcracker is one of the most significant secular pieces of Christmas music, but of course there is a rich sacred repertoire. In the first half of the concert we’ll play excerpts from two of the most important pieces: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah. These are now well established in our repertoire — we recorded them last year — but we never tire of playing them. They give us an opportunity to feature soloists from within the group: piccolo trumpet in the final chorus from the Christmas Oratorio, and bass trombone in The Trumpet Shall Sound from the Messiah.
This is where we’ll be and when, so get your tickets now, and we’ll see you there!