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Brass bands descend on Durham for annual celebration

Plenty of surprises are in store at Brass: Durham International Festival which hits Durham today

The Nasuwt Brass Band
The Nasuwt Brass Band

Bands from around the world are descending on Durham for the annual festival of brass.

Brass: Durham International Festival is living up to its name, with bands flying in from India, Turkey, Germany, France and the United States.

“We’ve got over 100 events in nearly as many venues over the next 11 days because there are so many schools involved and so many community events,” said Kate James, Durham’s festivals and events manager.

The festival, one of a highly-regarded Durham portfolio recently awarded Arts Council funding for the next three years, is estimated to have attracted a total audience of 85,000 people in 2013.

But the overall effect of the festival is difficult to gauge because so many events are unticketed.

On Sunday, Streets of Brass will see bands representing different styles of brass music performing on the streets of Durham city.

New this year are Les Bomb’Zatomik, a six-piece female ensemble from France. Turn a corner and you might bump into Oompah Brass or Jaipur Kawa, fresh from Glastonbury.

British Sea Power
British Sea Power

Care has been taken to ensure they don’t clash. As Kate explained: “As you leave Millennium Place, the music will fade out and then fade in again as you enter the Market Place. You should just come out of earshot of one before you pick up the next.”

Streets of Brass will return at the end of the festival, on July 19 and 20.

Traditional brass bands will be heard on Saturday at the Durham Miners’ Gala where the annual Big Meeting parade will liven up the city centre en route to the Old Racecourse.

In the evening, Onyx Brass, described as “the classiest brass ensemble in Britain” by BBC Music Magazine, will entertain at Auckland Castle, demonstrating that the festival is county-wide.

“We’re really pleased with the way the festival is shaping up this year,” said Kate. “Some of the collaborations are really pretty special.”

The first of these, this weekend, is Steamsong – John Kefala Kerr’s “multimedia opera” commemorating the record-breaking run of steam locomotive Mallard in 1938. Audiences at the Gala Theatre on Saturday and Sunday will hear a blend of choral, digital and live instrumental music.

Lanterns on the Lake
Lanterns on the Lake

Coming up at the same venue on July 17 is Sea of Brass, the show resulting from British Sea Power’s collaboration with the NASUWT Riverside Band. British Sea Power have released seven albums in the past 11 years but a brass band collaboration represents an intriguing departure.

Lanterns on the Lake have collaborated with Jo Hamilton and the Durham County Youth Big Band on Fractal Sparks, an audio-visual performance taking place in Durham Cathedral on July 18.

The beauty of this annual celebration of brass is that it offers surprises.

Brass: Pitch is the festival strand dedicated to specially commissioned artworks like Hjem (Hyem), a film installaion in The Music School, Palace Green, by Edwin Mingard and Isaac Sakima.

See www.brassfestival.co.uk


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