This was billed as one of the closing highlights of Brass: Durham International Festival, the annual exploration of what’s possible under the banner of brass.
Plenty of traditional bandstand-style performances figured in the programme but this was one of those audacious offerings where the organisers pushed at the boundaries.
Lanterns on the Lake opened for Jo Hamilton who was to perform songs from her first album, Gown, and her forthcoming second, Fractal (a word meaning a repeating pattern in nature).
‘Lanterns’ are a Newcastle-based indie band fronted by vocalist Hazel Wilde. On this evidence they specialise in elaborate and rather wistful rock numbers with thoughtful lyrics and bursts of drumming.
Members of the Durham County Youth Band were lined up behind them. The young brass musicians contributed to some of the songs including a new one they had written with the rock band.
Barely visible archive footage flickered on a tall gauze screen behind them.
Jo Hamilton, who is based in Birmingham but has led a peripatetic life across various countries and continents, had the music press raving with debut album Gown a few years ago. “Singular and unforgettable,” wrote the critic in The Guardian.
People had come from far afield to get this dramatic taste of what the follow-up album has to offer.
More of the same, I’d suggest. Hamilton has a clear and ringing voice and, seemingly, an aversion to an up-tempo beat. Slow song followed slow song until I started to feel quite uncomfortable, although many around me were rapt.
The light projections – the ‘sparks’ part of the package – were spectacular with frost, at one point, creeping across the cathedral’s ornate features. It made up for the fact that Hamilton’s ‘airpiano’, a techno-instrument she has been mastering, didn’t work.
Half-seen behind the gauze, an ensemble from the Royal Corps of Signals justified the gig’s inclusion in a brass festival programme.