The sun was shining as we arrived for the Oxted Spring Concert in the lovely setting of St John’s Church, Hurst Green. This year the concert had a twist to the normal guest soloist with a complete guest band being invited - the Tertnes Amatørkorps from Norway. More about them later
For those that know brass bands you can imagine the planning of this concert would have been a nightmare, made even more difficult by the decision to make a massed band. Yes a massed band in St John’s Church! Extra stage extensions at the front and rear of the choir had been made in the lead up and installed on Friday night in readiness for the practice and concert.
As the MD explained to us all at the beginning of the concert, it was to be in 2 halves - but with 3 sections! I’m still working on that!
First on to the stage was Oxted Band who after playing the Norwegian National anthem followed by the English national anthem the band was straight into their first item on the programme - Prelude for an Occasion by Edward Gregson. This was well handled and as MD Martin Beaumont told us all was made even more difficult having the full Tertnes members listening!
This was followed by an unusual arrangement of Gordon Langford’s Bobby Shaftoe, one of those arrangements where you hear the well known sections then they disappear only to come back later, again well played.
I was looking forward to listening to the next chosen piece; Rusalka’s Song to the Moon; again arranged by Gordon Langford and played by David Relf. This baritone horn solo held the audience spell bound. The only word to describe this was uttered by the lady sitting next to me as David finished - ‘beautiful’.
Let’s face the Music and Dance, words which again need no introduction, Martin managing to find all the true stories about the item. Again played with quality - special mention to the percussion team!
With massive apologies from Martin, next on the programme was a ‘Swedish Folk Song’. How could he possibly play this with a band from Norway sitting in the audience? He advised us all he had not been aware of the ‘official’ title for the hymn How Great Thou Art. He was correct to leave this item in the programme with the band playing Peter Grahams beautiful arrangement.
Finishing the first third of the programme Oxted band played a collection of James Bond tunes arranged by Goff Richards. This received warm well deserved applause from the audience.
Before the band left the stage Martin introduced Sally Coleman who is an executive committee member of scaba, the local brass band association. Sally said she had been invited to make a special presentation to a young man who had shown dedication to the brass band movement.
Judging by the face of bass player Rob Morris when his name was mentioned it had been a very well kept secret that he was to be honoured for his 72 years of loyal service to the brass band movement. His mouth dropped open wider and wider as Sally told the audience the complete This is Your Life of Rob’s banding career starting back in 1939 in Porthywaen when he was 10 years old. Sally said that she was very honoured and humbled to make such a prestigious presentation.
The stage was then reset for the second third, featuring Tertnes Amatørkorps Brass Band led by their musical director Magnus Brandseth. From the Tertnes area of Bergen, Norway the bands main focus is to play music, have fun and meet good friends.
The smiles throughout this bands performance really showed that they had achieved this.
First I must make mention of Magnus’s conducting with robotic motions but with light dance steps added. Always in full control and with the band eating out of his hand.
They started with a March, Bergenhus and this immediately told us we were in for some very fine playing.
They followed the march with the hymn I Know Thou art Mine by Leonard Ballantine - again well played throughout.
A Ted Heath Big Band style piece followed called Elks’ Parade featured some unbelievable playing on Eb Bass by Jorn Styve. The audience rewarded him with well deserved applause.
Magnus introduced us to their final piece, setting the scene for us of a moving story in music. Their last piece we were treated to was Toccata “Oh, The Blessed Lord” by Wilfred Heaton.
The interval followed allowing us to break for some refreshments and the church was full of animated chatter and laughter and warmth as the audience mulled over what we had been presented with.
The logistic challenge of fitting 2 full bands into the church choir had been mastered and the massed bands of Oxted and Tertnes started the third, third of two halves!! The first piece Valero arranged by Sandy Smith made two bands playing as one appear easy, balance perfect, volume perfect, intonation perfect well done and well played.
They followed with Serenade Op22b a piece written to trip up any bride with a mass of time changes all handled faultlessly under the masterful direction of Marcus.
Trombones to the fore – those of us fortunate enough to be in the front row had to breath in to make way for the eight trombonists to take over with Yngve Nicolaysen’s arrangement of Bunch O’ Bones.
All too soon it was finale time and the massed bands gave us The Call of the Righteous from the pen of Leslie Condon.
..... but what have we here? There is a man coming from the centre of the band with a wicker shopping basket, it seems to have books, booze and what’s that in plastic? Next came a wonderful amusing presentation from Tertnes to Oxted, a book on the area that the Tertnes comes from, another book on Bergen and the plastic is a locally prepared leg of lamb with the necessary knife to cut it up and share after the concert and of course you need something to wash it all down, a bottle of booze! Oxted then presented a signed band photo to Tertnes.
What a concert, what an evening. Brass banding at its very best and a final finale the apt and fitting Vitae Lux.