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Brass Band and MUSO

Dexter Drown
Feb 6, 2021

Manchester University String Orchestra:

Felix Mendelssohn – String Symphony No.2

Conductor: Dexter Drown

1. Allegro

2. Andante

3. Allegro Vivace

George Butterworth – Love Blows as the Wind Blows

Conductor: Florence Price

1. In the Year That's Come and Gone

2. Life in Her Creaking Shoes

3. Filla Glass with Golden Wine

4. On the Way to Kew

Gustav Holst – Greene Brooke Suite

Conductor: Florence Price

1. Prelude

2. Air

3. Dance

University of Manchester Brass Band

Conductor: Dexter Drown

John Ireland – Comedy Overture

Andrea Crossley – Highland Fling

Peter Graham – Windows of the World


2. Rainforest

3. The Rising Sun

4. Drums of Thunder

5. Celtic Dream


Read our review:

The concert this evening was split into two halves. Before the interval the Manchester University String Orchestra took the spotlight, and when we reuturned after the interval, the strings had gone and were replaced with big shiny brass instruments and a LOT of percusion!

This evening's string orchestra was notably without any double bass - the first time I think I have seen a string orchestra without the largest bowed instrument among its ranks. The sound created was very light and airy without it, and for the first piece, a delightful little string symphony in the classical style written by a precocious 12 year old Felix Mendelsshon, it didn't sound in any way lacking.

The following two pieces though, for my own ear, I would have liked to have heard some more bass sounds in the mix. George Butterworth's short song cycle 'Love Blows As The Wind Blows'  is a series of 4 short songs for solo tenor and, originally string quartet or piano, but played this evening in a later orchestration for a fuller string sound. Third year student at Manchester University, Jonathan Reynolds, sang the solo with immaculate technique and lovely articulation. The English songs of this late Victorian early 20th century period all seem to have a certain style to them; I am thinking of Vaughan Williams, Holst, Roger Quilter, Frank Bridge et al, as well of course as Butterworth, all seem to require a certain sound quality and style of delivery which differs greatly from French Chanson or German Lieder, and Reynolds absolutely understood this and sounded perfect.

The last piece before the interval was - not as the programme incorrectly calls it the Greene Brook Suite - but The Brook Green Suite by Gustav Holst. This was to be Holst's final compostion, and was written for the school's string orchestra where he taught. Writing it from his hospital bed, the suite is in three short movements based on English folk songs.

Dexter Drown (a name that keeps cropping up with amazing regularity on many a programme - and a  name that one certainly needs to keep an eye out for, for here is a very talented and professional individual!) conducted the first piece, including giving the audience a nice welcome and short introduction to the piece; whilst the other two were conducted by fellow student Florence Price.

And now for something completely different...

Three pieces in true brass band style took us through the second half. All conducted this time by the aforementioned Drown. Passionate, animate, controlling and masterful and adjectives which spring to mind when watching him on the podium.

First was a rather long and, for me at least, somewhat uninspiring, Comedy Overture by John Ireland. I know the work better as the orchestral 'London Overture', and tend to think it does actually work better with a fuller orchestral sound. Following this was a curiosity piece called 'Highland Fling' by Andrea Crossley, and although the music does have a very Scottish jig rhythm to it, the melody used is as American as apple pie ['When Johnny Comes Marching Home']. The piece requires a xylophone solo which this evening was played by orchestra member Emily Robertson. The final piece though was by far the most entertaining of the evening and ensured the audience leaving in high spirits and stomping to the beat as they went to their cars. This was Peter Graham's 'Windows Of The World'. A suite of 6 short pieces evoking different areas of our planet through the stereotypical rhythms or sounds one associates with those areas. Starting (and ending) with the Amazonian rainforest it seems to travel to China, Scotland and various places in between too. Percussion heavy, with jazz-infused and catchy rhythms, it was a clever and superb choice on which to end the evening. A real show-piece!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 7/12/19

Dexter Drown
Dexter Drown is a student conductor, Musical Director of Brass Band, and Treasurer for the society.

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