Brisbane Lower Brass Weekend 2013 In Review

By Brendan Collins (Composer-In-Residence at Barker College, Sydney and former Associate Principal Trombonist of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra) 

Brendan CollinsOne of my musical highlights of 2013 would have to be the Brisbane Lower Brass Weekend (6-8th September). This well-organised event was entertaining, informative, motivational and thought-provoking. For enthusiasts of the trombone, euphonium and tuba this event was a smorgasbord of inspiring performances, lectures, masterclasses and (I dare say for the students involved) nerve-wracking mock orchestral auditions.

The first performance I attended was the Queensland Conservatorium Lower Brass Faculty Recital. Brisbane is certainly blessed with a number of outstanding lower brass players and many were on display in this recital. The performers included Jason Redman, Dale Truscott, Tom Coyle, Greg Aitken, Thomas Allely, Ben Marks and Jamie Kennedy.

I was honoured that the trombone quartet of Dale, Jamie, Jason and Tom chose to open the program with my recently composed Two Motets for Four Trombones. For obvious reasons I will leave the review of this piece for others to write, however the performers played with excellent technical control and their musicality and ensemble skills were highly developed. It was a most impressive start to what turned out to be an excellent recital.

Thomas Allely then performed Ballade by Szentpali with the Anima String Quartet. This is a virtuosic work that demands much of all players. Thomas met these demands with ease and produced a clear and focused sound at all times.

The next item was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I remember a time when it seemed impossible to go to a brass performance without hearing at least one work by Frigyes Hidas. Jason Redman and Tom Coyle were joined on stage by pianist Mitchell Leigh and performed Movements 1 and 3 of Hidas’ Florida Concerto. Having performed together in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years, it is clear that Jason and Tom have developed a great musical awareness and understanding. Both players produced sounds that complemented each other beautifully and throughout their performance they regularly displayed finely-tuned balance and ensemble skills.  In addition to their fine ensemble playing, Jason and Tom produced frequent moments of individual brilliance.

The Co-Chair of Brass at the Queensland Conservatorium, Greg Aitken, was the next to perform. Greg gave a lively performance of a solo work for euphonium by Al Vizzutti titled Funk. As the title suggests, this piece was both energetic and, yes, funky.  The piece comes from a collection of 20 Dances for Solo Euphonium put together by Steven Mead.  I personally hope that a Volume 2 will soon be released, as 20 dances for solo euphonium are simply not enough.

For the final work of the first half, Greg’s student Emi Miyoshi joined him and together they performed Boismortier’s Sonata No.19, Op. 40, No.3.

The second half included impressive performances of the Sulek Sonata by Dale Truscott, Kraft’s Encounters II by Thomas Allely and David Stanhope’s Four Concert Studies for trombone quartet.  All were performed with great technical control and high levels of musicianship. Perhaps the highlight of the second half was Ben Mark’s presentation of Three Pieces by the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi. Ben has a comprehensive knowledge of the contemporary trombone repertoire and he began his performance by giving a detailed account of Scelsi and his music. This was both informative and entertaining.

Ben’s performance of the piece was impressive on many levels. It was a commanding display of trombone technique and his knowledge and research into the contemporary solo trombone repertoire led to a thoughtful interpretation of the work.

I loved this recital. It gave me a chance to hear some new brass works as well as the chance to revisit pieces I had not heard for some time. It was also a great pleasure to hear many of Australia’s finest brass players perform with enthusiasm and musical sensitivity. All this for a simple gold coin donation – unbelievable value.

Warm up class with Ben Marks

Saturday morning began with some warm-up classes directed by Thomas Allely and Ben Marks, followed by a session presented by Dale Truscott entitled ‘Preparing to Play Your Best’.  Dale presented his workshop to a room bursting with enthusiastic young brass players.  His talk included in-depth discussions on basic concepts such as air, breath support, embouchure and relaxation. He put forward many positive ideas about practice routines, audition preparation and goal setting. Dale illustrated his comments and suggestions with some interesting accounts into his own experiences as a student and professional musician in Australia and Europe.

This presentation was an inspiring experience for all enthusiastic young students fortunate enough to attend.  For anyone that wishes to read more about Dale’s comprehensive insights into brass performance and preparation, I suggest reading the detailed article that accompanied his presentation. (It can be found here in the resources section – Ed.)

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