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A Moorside Suite

by James - 22:15 on 04 March 2010

Although I consider Wilfred Heaton's Contest Music to be the most important and significant original work for brass band, the one that speaks to me most dearly is Holst's A Moorside Suite.

The opening bars of the Scherzo capture, for me, both the great tradition of the brass band and the pastoral beauty of the indigenous music of England.  I often find myself humming them when I'm feeling low.  They never fail to raise my spirits.

The Nocturne has a meditative, ethereal quality and is the emotional heart of the work.  It has a disarming simplicity but remains challenging to play with its moments of sparse delicacy followed by slow-moving tuttis that demand exquisite control of pace, tone and, perhaps the most difficult of all, volume.

The suite concludes with a March (although it also has sections with a very dance-like quality).  It develops the material heard in the earlier movements and, in the tradition of Elgar, has a broad and lyrical trio section which, after a recapitulation of the opening muisc, is heard again triumphantly at treble-forte across the full band with the direction Con largezza.

At this point there is just the danger that the closing bars (back to Allegro vivace after a rall.) can sound a bit "throw away".  For me, the quavers and triplets running up the band need to be quite deliberate with a clear feeling that they are the springboard to the final chord which, although marked staccato, should be sonorous enough to make the movement feel that it has arrived at the end of its journey.

On a desert island, a recording of A Moorside Suite (probably the performance by Grimethorpe and Elgar Howarth made in the 1970s) would be the one piece that epitomised for me all that is good and all that I love about brass bands.



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