Review/ 'A joy to see such musicianship from The Cory Band take place on Bristol University’s stage'

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By Lauren Paddison, Firt Year Music

'The band brought an exciting repertoire with some extravagant musical moments', Lauren Paddison reviews Cory Band at Bristol's Victoria Rooms.

Cory Band, whose home is in Treorchy in the Welsh Valleys, were today in Bristol for their performance in the Victoria Rooms. The famous band comprises both male and female performers of mixed ages and backgrounds, hailing from near and far, but with one thing in common – the drive to do whatever it takes to keep Cory at the top of its game. Lead by conductor Philip Harper, the band brought an exciting repertoire with some extravagant musical moments, just like they had done in these rooms a year before.

The first half of the concert featured an impressive trombone concerto ‘Immortal Theme’ by Ray Steadman Allen, elegantly played by principle trombone player Chris Thomas. The demand and skill needed to play these pieces was evident to all, regardless of their musical background, and the room was silent as Chris dutifully played every note with clarity and expression. Each piece was accompanied by an engaging narrative from conductor Philip Harper, who was appointed musical director of the band in 2012 and continues to lead the band to every success.

In the second half the band really came alive. Not everybody had yet taken their seats before the band burst into the famous ‘The Thunderer’ which truly was a thunderous march from start to finish. Harper’s relentless energy is very much a part of the performance, and it was a joy to see such musicianship take place on the very stage that Bristol University’s very own brass band conduct their rehearsals.

Playing on the fact that Valentine’s Day was less than a week ago, the band had prepared an appropriate narrative to govern the music to the end of the concert. The story began with an arrangement of the love theme from Romeo and Juliet, with a big screen behind the band detailing this tragic but so well-known story, at times with audible narration. On stage there was a elevated section on which Juliet (Helen Williams on Flugal Horn) stood to represent the famous balcony scene, with Romeo (Glyn Williams on Euphonium) serenading here from the bottom. The story was made particularly special from the announcement that the two players were married to each other.

The second part of the story was told by Harper himself, as his piece ‘Clans Collide’ was a visual representation of the altercation between Tybalt and Mercutio, in which half of the band was cast against the other, to depict the battle between the two characters. This was just as exciting to watch as it was to listen to, the two tribes coming in to close quarters with each other at the musical climax.

The piece ends boldly with a dramatic blood splat on the screen behind. The penultimate piece, ‘Lament and Liebestod’ by famous German composer Richard Wagner concentrated solely on mourning for the deaths of so many in this tragic love story. The second half had an interesting end with ‘Somewhere’ from Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ again arranged by Philip Harper. The soaring melody fell beautifully in different parts of the band as it was passed around before finally concluding a justifiable venture into the realms of musical theatre.

The applause was immense, and truly deserved. After taking their bows, they took the stage a final time to leave us with a famous Welsh hymn, making a Welsh girl like me feel at home once more.

Featured Image: The Cory Band/ The Cory Band


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