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The full BRASS 2015 festival line-up announced

Durham sounds its annual fanfare for Brass with a wide-ranging programme of July concerts and commissions

Hannabiel Sanders who will be performing with her Midnight Blue
Hannabiel Sanders who will be performing with her Midnight Blue

A big blast of brass will animate Durham as the county’s annual festival is condensed into four days of music and related activities.

This year’s festival, BRASS 2015, studded as usual with special commissions, will take place over the long weekend of July 16-19 with the popular Streets of Brass filling Durham’s streets with music on the Saturday and Sunday.

Headliners Fun Lovin’ Criminals have already been announced and if you’re thinking that’s not brass... well, that has been the traditional selling point of a festival which puts this musical genre into the broadest spectrum.

The New York band are touring to mark their 20th anniversary but at Durham’s Gala Theatre on July 17 they will be joined by a British brass section, giving added oompah to hits including Scooby Snacks and Love Unlimited.

Along with celebrated incomers, North East talent gets a showcase platform. Hannabiel and Midnight Blue will be out to raise the roof of Durham Town Hall on July 19.

This year the festival also embraces poetry, photography, mobile apps and cartoons. A festival fringe has been put together by Empty Shop, the Durham-based arts collective.

A Big BRASS Bash Tour will see Hope and Social and the New York Brass Band – both from Yorkshire – carrying the festival fun around the county, to Consett, Shildon, Trimdon Village, Seaham and Spennymoor.

Shot By Sodium Ltd Hope and Social with the New York Brass Band
Hope and Social with the New York Brass Band

Classical music is included for the first time, with concerts by the Dunedin Consort, Red Note Ensemble, His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts and the National Youth Chamber Choir.

The widely-travelled Dunedin Consort, based in Edinburgh, will perform Monteverdi’s Vespers in Durham Cathedral on July 16. This beautiful and complex work dates from 1610 and is celebrated as the most ambitious religious composition before Bach came along a century later.

The following night the cathedral will play host to His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, a renowned group of virtuoso wind players who specialise in baroque and Renaissance music.

Red Note Ensemble, one of Scotland’s leading contemporary music groups, will perform music spanning five centuries – from Gabrielli to Birtwistle – at Durham Town Hall on the same evening. “An ingenious programme of brass, percussion and electronics,” suggested one reviewer.

The Durham County Youth Choir and Big Band will join the National Youth Chamber Choir for a concert of jazz, big band and choral music at the Gala Theatre on July 16.

The same night at the Gala Theatre you can catch Pete Long’s orchestra as they recreate the famous Carnegie Hall showdown of 1939 between the bands of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. Numbers including In The Mood and Little Brown Jug promise a nostalgia rush.

The festival’s madly eclectic nature is exemplified by Last Train to Elvet, a fantastic circus tale set in Durham in 1953 and pooling the talents of a poet (‘Bard of Barnsley’ Ian McMillan), a composer (Luke Carver Goss), a cartoonist (Tony Husband) and the Tredegar Town Band.

There will be two performances at Elvet Methodist Church on July 18.

Alternative BRASS, at the Gala on July 18, will feature nine bands over 10 hours – 12.30pm to 10.30pm – hosted by 6Music DJ Steve Lamacq. It’s the ultimate mixed bag with Hackney Colliery Band vying for attention with Trans-Siberian March Band and others.

BRASS: Pitch has become a popular feature, enabling artists to get in on the brass bonanza.

Artist Haroon Mirza has created a smartphone app called Dérive (free and available throughout July from Apple App and Google Play Stores) which features specially recorded marching music designed to connect the listener to the heritage and sounds of the Durham Miners’ Gala.

Then there’s Things That Aren’t There by sculptor Rob Olins, composer and sound artist Ryan Cockerham and the Ferryhill Town Band.

Listeners will have to find the ‘sweet spot’ between four convex sound mirrors at Durham Cathedral to enjoy a four channel recording of the component parts of a brass band – soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

A festival of highlights will also see a blend of Indian classical music and brass as Shri Sriram, the composer and musician who worked on the soundtrack for Life of Pi, joins forces with the Hammonds Saltaire Band, sitar player Jasdeep Degun and bass clarinettist Ben Castle for Just A Vibration, scheduled for July 19 at the Gala.

All this and a new commission from Rob Bowman who has photographed the county’s surviving bandstands. His photos, inviting discussion about our cultural traditions, will be displayed at places including Durham Cathedral, the railway station, DLI Museum & Durham Art Gallery and Clayport Library.

Coun Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, says this year’s festival has “raised the bar”.

“Innovative and bold, BRASS 2015 will show off the stunning city of Durham by presenting performances in many varied spaces from Gala Theatre to the cathedral and in the streets,” he says.

“I hope people will come from near and far to join together in enjoying the buzz, the energy and a lot of fun.”

The full programme is at www.brassfestival.co.uk where you can also buy tickets. Or phone the box office on 03000 266600.


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