MASTERCLASS INSPIRATION FOR MEMBERS OF THE SHEPHERD GROUP YOUTH BAND

Two talented youngsters from the Shepherd Group Youth Band recently topped up their skills when they attended a virtual brass day run by the Cory Band from South Wales, the world’s best brass band.
The expert coaching was delivered by the principal players from Cory and the day was delivered by Maestro Philip Harper, Cory band’s enigmatic musical director. Here’s what our young stars thought of the experience.

Adam Peters (Eb bass)

‘It was a really long day on Zoom with some interesting backgrounds on display. Philip Harper recognised that mine was of Birmingham Symphony Hall from when the Youth Band played there a couple of years ago. This was a great chance to see and hear how some of the best band in the world get to that level. They were all very friendly and helpful, sharing their experience with anyone who wanted to know. The only downside was that we couldn’t be in the same place and play all together. Maybe next time.’

Imogen Fewster (Solo Baritone)

On Saturday 16th January, I attended the Cory Band Virtual Brass & Percussion Day. The day began with a warmup led by principal cornetist Tom Hutchinson, who took us through the exercises he uses to start his practices – an essential part of any brass player’s life. Philip Harper then took the first of three full band rehearsals, which were focused on the two pieces of the course: Sousa’s march Washington Post and Philip Sparke’s A Malvern Suite. In these sessions, he guided us not only through the physical techniques of the pieces, but also how to play them in a way which would set you apart from any other band. The interpretation skills we learnt will be invaluable when we all return to band in person.

As well as the full band rehearsals, there also two virtual sectionals, led by principal players from Cory. In mine, led by 1st Baritone Steve Kane, we went through the details of the baritone and euphonium parts, with a focus on how our individual parts fitted into the rest of the band. We also learnt the best way to play a march. For all participants, it was an inspiration to be tutored by some of the best players in the world, and we learnt so much to then apply to the full band rehearsals. Throughout the day, several Cory principals also gave us mini concerts, with beautiful and breath-taking solos they’d recorded beforehand. Simply listening to these world-class players was a once in a lifetime opportunity which I am so glad to have been offered.

Overall, this was a truly incredible day. We were given tips from the best band in the world, learned skills which will be invaluable for the future, and played some beautiful music. It was an extremely welcome reminder in our strange new normal of what banding is about, and how much the Cory Band does for the banding world. In the breaks, we had the chance to meet players from all over the world, and who could forget the fantastic finishing quiz (in which, unfortunately, the bari/euph team came an ignominious last)? This day was a fantastic opportunity, and one I’m very glad to have taken. Would I go again? Absolutely.