If you’ve ever watched the Mardi Gras marching bands in Tremé or Live And Let Die and idly wished something similar existed closer to home, then wish no more, because it was right here under your nose the whole time.
This summer Durham will bring a series of shows to venues across the historic city – Brass: Durham International Festival. Running between 12th and 20th July, Brass will play host to an unexpected mix of acts like British Sea Power performing with a brass band and Jo Hamilton performing with Lanterns on the Lake and a brass ensemble and notable brass bands such as the BBC Big Band.
It may never have been considered especially cool (indeed, the day it is will probably be its death-knell), but the brass band is a deeply-rooted and profoundly British tradition – specifically a Northern, English working class one – as typified in the popular imagination by colliery ensembles such as the famous Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, or fictional counterparts like the Grimley Colliery Band in the much-loved 1996 film Brassed Off. Brass: Durham International Festival, held in a city with a centuries-old history of mining and miners’ galas, is a joyous celebration of that culture. But it’s also much, much more.
Heading 2014’s eclectic lip-puckering, horn-polishing line-up are indie rock legends British Sea Power, who will be giving the world premiere of their Sea Of Brass show at Gala Theatre, a purpose-built venue on the banks of the Wear, on Thursday 17th July. With the NASUWT Riverside Band, and the help of arranger Peter Wraight (Matthew Herbert Big Band), BSP will perform favourite selections from their back catalogue reinvented for brass.
If you’ve ever gazed at the spectacular Norman architecture of Durham Cathedral from the window of the East Coast Mainline and wondered what it’s like inside, then Fractal Sparks is probably the most thrilling way you could possibly find out. The cathedral – part of a World Heritage Site (along with the nearby Castle) and a prime location in the 1998 filmElizabeth – will play host to an innovative new commission from Brass.
This stunning live music and multimedia event, on Friday 18th July, will showcase ground-breaking visual effects accompanied by specially-arranged songs from Jo Hamilton with musicians from the Corps of Army Music. Set to live performances of Jo’s forthcoming second album ‘Fractals’, the show will feature ‘force of nature’ full-height visual effects that explore the theme of perspective; that our lives continually repeat the same patterns in different contexts and on different scales.
Also performing at Fractal Sparks will be Lanterns On The Lake, the Newcastle-based, Bella Union-signed indie band whose most recent album Until The Colours Run was hailed as “one of the best records of the young decade” by Drowned In Sound, and who will be performing with the Durham County Youth Big Band.
The BBC Big Band have played with ’em all, from Van Morrison to Tony Bennett to Ray Charles, and are best known for appearances on BBC Radio’s Big Band Special and Jazz Line Up. At the Gala Theatre on Friday 18th July, the internationally-acclaimed band and conductor Barry Forgie will celebrate the music of the great swing bands including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.
The rest of the festival programme features some familiar names, such as reigning National Champions Of Great Britain, the legendary Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, known affectionately as ‘Briggus’, who made it onto Top Of The Pops in 1977 with their No.2 hit “The Floral Dance” (which was only held off the top by Wings’ “Mull Of Kintyre”), as well as The Stars From The Commitments, John Kefala-Kerr, John Faddis with The Andy Champion Quintet, two fascinating art/film installations Cycles Of Brass and Hjem (Hyem), and an interactive exhibit called Connections. There will also be a number of Streets Of Brass free events which will bring the atmospheric narrow terraces and alleys of this historic city bursting into jubilant life.
For further information, visit www.brassfestival.co.uk