Ten Years on Top – REVIEW by Dr. Bob Childs

Ten Years on Top – Brisbane Excelsior Band

The last ten years has seen unprecedented success from Howard Taylor and the Brisbane Excelsior Band. The Band is 100 years old, but the last decade has certainly been the halcyon period in their history winning eight Australian Championships and two New Zealand Championships as well as great performances in the UK. The Band is recognised as the finest Band in the Southern Hemisphere, and I would suggest, “one of the finest bands in the world.”

To mark this unrivalled period of dominance in the contest field they have released a CD recording “Ten Years on Top” and it’s a real trailblazer, featuring some historic performances from the past (From Ancient Times – Jan Van Der Roost, live from 2013 Nationals) and several looking towards the future.

Ten Years on Top begins with Stephen Roberts’ Another Opening Another Show and sets the scene for a ‘high -octane’ precise and musical performance that permeates the whole recording!

There are wonderful solo contributions from Paula Russell (Cornet) Jamie Brown (Soprano) Amanda Casagrande (Flugel Horn) Nigel John (Euphonium) and Chrislyn Hamilton (Voice) the latter proving to be a real contrast and a master stroke of programming by Howard Taylor! Special mention must be given to the Nigel John whose silk-like golden tone is only matched by his effortless technique in Phillip Sparke’s Pantomime (a piece I know quite well!).

Other works that are featured include: two marches, The Jaguar – Goff Richards and Melody Shop – KL King, both played with pizzazz and fizz. There are a handful of beautiful lyrical pieces, Candle of the Lord – Joy Webb, Abide with Me – WH Monk, and The Pilgrim’s Prayer – Eric Ball that pull on the heart strings and ably demonstrate the delicacy and finesse which Howard Taylor extrapolates from this fine musical unit. Abide with Me gave me goose-bumps all over whilst absorbing the pure tone quality and perfect balance which Karl Jenkins demands from this super arrangement. Other notable performances featured within include: Phoenix from War of the Worlds by Peter Graham, The Catskills from East Coast Pictures by Nigel Hess and the gigantic most technically demanding piece ever written for brass band, From Ancient Times by Belgian composer Jan Van Der Roost. If anyone is looking for proof that Brisbane Excelsior has out-grown the Southern Hemisphere this performance is it!! Technically perfect and musically sublime, the solo playing is outstanding and the interpretation by Howard Taylor is spot-on.

I unreservedly recommend this CD to the brass band community and ask the question why we don’t see Howard Taylor and Brisbane Excelsior Band as guests at the British Open and European Championships. Their standard of performance would enhance both events and push other ensembles to an even higher standard.

Dr Robert Childs
ARCM (hons) FLCM (dist) FRWCM M.Mus (dist) PGCE (dist) DMA

Brisbane XLCR Plays to over 2000 school children!

In an almost annual tradition, the Brisbane Excelsior Band recently performed at Runcorn State High School at the Karawatha District Music Camp. Music teacher and backrow cornet Craig Millar helped organize the event and excitedly invited the band to play a segment to inspire the students.

Deputy Conductor Jared Proellocks took the band through their paces with ‘Toccata in D Minor’, ‘Abide with Me’, ‘Bugler’s Holiday’ before joining with a student led ensemble for the finishing number of ‘This is Me’ from ‘The Greatest Showman’.

We were so thankful to be able to perform at this amazing event and hope to continue the tradition into the future.

Images courtesy of Amy Pannell

 

Brisbane XLCR become Queensland State Champions!

Brisbane Excelsior Band reinforced its domestic dominance at the recent Queensland State Band Championships sponsored by Yamaha Musical Instruments, held at the Redcliffe Cultural Centre.

Their victory in the A Grade event was described as coming from ‘a world class band’ according to adjudicator Maureen Cameron — an opinion rather reinforced by the margin of victory — a whopping 17 points over rivals South Brisbane Federal, with Brisbane Brass a further three points behind in third.

Brisbane combined a quartet of superbly crafted performances under MD Howard Taylor of the set-work, ‘The Raid’ by Oliver Waespi and their own-choice work, ‘Partita’ by Philip Sparke, alongside their march and sacred item pieces to add the Baxter Shield honours to go with the New Zealand National title they won earlier in the year. It was the first time the band had won the event since 2011.

The organization’s sibling band Windsor Brass also competed with huge gusto. Despite not achieving the win they were hoping for, their performances of Labour & Love, Shine as the Light and their hymn & march, they still put up quite the fight.

Results:

A Grade:

Adjudicator: Maureen Cameron
Test Piece/Own Choice/Sacred Item/Stage March = Total

1. Brisbane Excelsior (Howard Taylor): 196/195/95/92 = 578
2. South Brisbane Federal (Owen Clarke): 189/193/89/90 = 561
3. Brisbane Brass (Joshua McKechie): 190/190/90/88 = 558

B Grade:

Adjudicator: Maureen Cameron
Test Piece/Own Choice/Sacred Item/Stage March = Total

1. Brisbane Brass No 2 (Greg Aitken): 541
2. Surfers Paradise Brass (Scott King): 536
3. Windsor Brass (Stuart Lang): 527

C Grade:

Adjudicator: Maureen Cameron
Test Piece/Own Choice/Sacred Item/Stage March = Total

1. Sunshine Brass (Nelson Oakley): 534
2. Capricornia Silver Band (Rod Haynes): 530
3. Yellow Cabs Bayside Brass (Jennifer Owens): 522

D Grade:

Adjudicator: Maureen Cameron
Test Piece/Own Choice/Sacred Item/Stage March = Total

1. Sunnybank Brass No 2 (Matthew White): 539

Courtesy of 4BarsRest.com

What a Night – “An Evening with Sheona White”!

The dust has well and truly settled on what could only be described as an impeccable night of music-making with world-class tenor horn Virtuoso and all-round-lovely-lady Sheona White.

The band prepared diligently for this concert – the 2nd in our concert series for the year – with the intention of showing Sheona that we were truly worthy of our recent New Zealand victory. It was the Thursday night rehearsal that dumb-founded us all, as we got through all of Sheona’s 8 solos or duets in record time and with relative ease – so much so that Howard had time to fill in between just to give her a little bit of a rest!

Our first performance at the Queensland Multicultural Centre went particularly smoothly, even though the auditorium had an extremely dry acoustic, where it felt like you were playing on your own! The band opened with the Australian premiere of Solo Horn player Benjamin Tubb-Hearne’s ‘Launch’ before steam rolling into ‘Where Eagles Sing‘ by Paul Lovatt-Cooper.

It was at this point that we first introduced Sheona White, who performed Kenneth Downie’s ‘The Piper of Dundee‘, with much aplomb, before giving a heart-wrenching performance of Hugh Nash’s ‘Demelza‘ – a melody that is close to the heart of our conductor, Howard Taylor.

The band came back to the forefront with an energetic performance of ‘Comedy Tonight‘, where we’re pretty sure that the percussion section used everything they could get their hands on.
Dale Hosking, the current Queensland Champion of Champions led us on with a beautiful reading of Goff Richard’s ‘Pastorale‘, before Sheona returned to cement her place as one of the best tenor horn players in the world with every horn player’s go-to solo: ‘Capriccio Brillante‘.

Closing the first half saw two performances that featured tenor horn and baritone horn, the first being a performance of a highly underrated piece of music from the pen of John Golland: ‘Meiso‘, which was originally written for the Black Dyke tour of Japan in the early 1990s. This concert saw our baritone superstar Ross Moloney join Sheona to perform this hauntingly beautiful duet that truly tests both the soloists (not that you’d ever tell!). The half ended with Philip Sparke’s suite from Hymn of the Highlands, ended in darkness for special effect.

Ross Moloney & Sheona White performing John Golland's 'Meiso'.

Ross Moloney & Sheona White performing John Golland’s ‘Meiso’.

The 2nd half opened at lightning speed with Mark Freeh’s whirlwind arrangement of ‘Malaguena’, before leading to a performance of a piece that nearly every bandsman has played in their life – ‘A Disney Fantasy’. The band’s set finished with a gorgeous Tongan hymn – one that the band had performed recently in collaboration with the Park Tonga Brass Band at Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens. 

We were extremely happy to welcome Sheona White back to the stage to perform a relatively new work for the tenor horn written by Christopher Bond entitled ‘A New Dawn’. This was a piece that despite how ‘easy’ it may sound, it extremely demanding in terms of technique, dexterity and range, and it was quite the treat for the audience and bandsmen alike.

At this point of the evening Brisbane XLCR’s solo horn player, Benjamin Tubb-Hearne, joined Sheona on stage to play Bizet’s ‘Deep Inside the Sacred Temple from the Pearl Fishers’, something that you don’t hear very often, especially played on tenor horns! The sound was sweet and it was a lovely rendition from both of the players!

Benjamin Tubb-Hearne & Sheona White get ready to perform 'Deep Inside the Sacred Temple'

Benjamin Tubb-Hearne & Sheona White get ready to perform ‘Deep Inside the Sacred Temple’

The band followed with Alan Catherall’s arrangement of ‘Batman: The Movie’, before a moving tribute to the victims of the recent Manchester Bombing with Andi Cook’s arrangement of ‘Manchester’, where all the profits from the sheet music go towards helping the victims recover their lives.

Our last treat from Sheona was from the pen of Philip Sparke, who wrote ‘Aria’ for her after listening to her perform during one of his record producing sessions. It was clear that Sheona loved performing this piece and you could hear a pin-drop after her final note – the audience not knowing whether or not they should clap yet! The band finished with a classic: ‘Treasure of Tchaikovsky’, before thanking Sheona for what could only be described as a monumental evening of masterful music making.

Thank you to everyone who came along and supported the band, the volunteers from both within the organization and outside and of course Sheona, for just exuding class – it will be hard to forget this concert!

2017 New Zealand Champions!

A compelling battle between the two finest bands in the southern hemisphere ended in victory at the New Zealand National Championship for Brisbane Excelsior, as they won the 2017 title under the direction of MD Howard Taylor.

In a contest featuring a number of high class performances at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre, Brisbane Excelsior’s sacred item, ‘Swedish Folk Song’, the set-work, ‘Journey of the Lone Wolf’ and own-choice of ‘From Ancient Times’, saw them repel the challenge of defending champion Wellington Brass to the claim the Champion Band Gold Cup for a third time by the narrowest of half point margins.

Iain Culross and Tamaryn Heck share the soloist’s trophy after a small mix up at the contest venue.

An outstanding interpretation of Simon Dobson’s evocative portrait of composer Bela Bartok, aided by the superb contributions of the ‘Best Section’ percussion team, guest principal cornet Iain Culross from the UK and flugel horn Tamaryn Heck who won the ‘Best Soloist’ award, had earlier given them a two and half point buffer over their main rivals.

That was to prove crucial come the own-choice element on Saturday evening, as they secured their first New Zealand title since 2008 with a resounding rendition Jan van der Roost’s epic work to finish in second place — just two points behind Wellington.

Before the announcement of the results, adjudicator Nigel Seaman gave a perceptive analysis of the A Grade competition — stating that the best had ‘made light work’ of the Dobson composition, whilst he felt the ‘best in the frame’ on the own-choice had provided him with what he called, ‘a very musical experience’.

Jared, Rowan, Matt, and Tamaryn hold all of our new silverware as we board the plane home!

 

The victory however belonged to Brisbane Excelsior and MD Howard Taylor, who before praising the efforts of his own band and celebrating winning the world’s oldest National Championship title, gave a gracious speech acknowledging the outstanding contribution of David Bremner to Wellington Brass and to New Zealand banding in general.

The standing ovation that resulted was heartfelt and prolonged, and was a wonderful show of communal support to the young MD who now takes his leave from conducting the home town band after a decade of unprecedented success.

Howard also acknowledged what he called, ‘the unbelievable standard in New Zealand with the top bands’ that meant his own band had to ‘pull out all the stops’ .

Howard Taylor, MD and the fine bunch of ladies of Excelsior.

That was certainly backed up by the adjudicator’s written remarks which saw Nigel Seaman write about their rendition of the set-work; ‘A powerhouse performance’, whilst also singling out the ‘exceptionally controlled’ flugel and percussion.

He was also full of praise for their sacred item which he called, ‘rich and balanced’, whilst he thought their own-choice was ‘ a performance of not only exceptional virtuosity but one of immense musical stature as well’.

“Rehearsals went so well — and they had to,” Howard went on to say in his victory address.

“We came to do the business and we did,” although at that point his victory speech was cut short by his mobile phone going off in his jacket pocket. Much to the delight of the audience, he revealed it was from his mother!

The Whole Team Celebrating On Stage

Picture 1 of 10

Article taken and abridged from 4Barsrest.com

Major Works Concert 2017

Brisbane XLCR band are working diligently towards our second outing of the year after our very successful CD launch in February.

Performing one of our New Zealand nationals testpieces, the band will be joining Feds, Brisbane Brass and the Brisbane City Temple Brass Band for an afternoon of music in the centre of Brisbane.

It is free entry and begins at 2pm. It is the perfect opportunity to hear all of the bands in the height of their performance modes if you’re unable to go to Tasmania or Wellington.

An Australian welcome for a talented Scot

Unfortunately, due to an on-going injury, the band’s principal cornet Paula Russell will be unable to join the band on their championship quest. However, Brisbane XLCR is extremely excited to welcome the talented cornet soloist and current Leyland Principal Cornet Iain Culross to the hot seat. Iain will be playing alongside the band as well as leading workshops and teaching private lessons on his little antipodean excursion.

Australian Champions to tackle NZ’s elite

Australian Champions, Brisbane Excelsior Band are pleased confirm that they will travel to Wellington to compete in the 2017 New Zealand National Championships in April.

 

As a direct result of the decision to go to New Zealand, XLCR will not be travelling to Launceston to defend the 2016 National Australian Championship title they won in Gawler, South Australia.

XLCR has won the Australian Championship title eight times in the last twelve years but were pipped in Sydney back in 2015 by Wellington Brass. The opportunity for the band to compete against its NZ foe once again, especially in the current NZ Champions’ home city of Wellington, is just too great an opportunity to pass up.

As an organisation, XLCR look at a multitude of aspects when choosing where to travel with the band. Along with cost and logistics, XLCR’s friendly rivalries with New Zealand’s Elite Bands and the opportunity to perform in one of Australasia’s top concert venues in the Michael Fowler Centre have proved massive drawcards. Further to this, the band has history in New Zealand having won two New Zealand titles in the last decade.

Band president Gareth Lawless said:

“Whilst I accept it is unfortunate to not be going to defend our Australian title, it is the right decision for our Band. Both the MD and the committee feel that this years’ New Zealand Contest has the potential to be one of the most memorable in recent times for Australasian Banding. The world class concert hall and exemplary organisation of NZ contests make it such an attractive option for the band. When you add the rivalry with a number of the top NZ bands into the mix, the trip truly becomes a mouth-watering prospect for the playing members”.

GARETH LAWLESS, PRESIDENT

Brisbane XLCR have been in fine form in the recent months, recording 2 CDs, performing with award winning local choirs and taking stride in their own concert series. However, it is on the contest stage where the band really finds its footing. The band’s Musical Director, Howard Taylor cannot wait to conduct the band in NZ:

“I’ve been looking forward to returning to NZ with XLCR for many years now. I hope we can re-create that special magic from 10 years ago after a double win at the NZ contest in 2007/08.”

HOWARD TAYLOR, MUSICAL DIRECTOR

New Year / New Website!

We’ve had a bit of a facelift and we’re super excited to finally launch our new website that has been in the works for several months now.

We’ve decided to include player profiles, an online ticketing system that allows our concert goers to purchase their tickets using their debit/credit cards, we’ve got a brand new shop and are planning on bringing in merchandise very soon. We’ve also included ways to share our pages through social media using the buttons below each of the articles.

Currently, we’re working towards integrating the Windsor side of the players profiles and the Windsor events – so watch this space!

If you have any questions please feel free to shoot us a message through our contact page.

Happy browsing!

Merry Christmas!

As we hurtle towards the end of the year we would like to wish all of our friends, families, supporters and fellow musicians an extremely Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for all of your support throughout the previous year and we know that you will continue to do the same into 2017.

We at XLCR resume in Mid-January, and cannot wait to start rehearsing for the New Zealand Championships in Wellington!