Right now, the North American Brass Band Association Championships are on the minds of youth brass players and band directors across the nation. Every year, brass bands from all over America and Canada travel to compete in the NABBA Championships. Bands choose to register for a certain section of the competition based on skill level. They are then assigned a test piece, a piece that they are required to perform for the judges and are allowed a certain amount of time to fill with pieces of the band’s choice. The Triangle Youth Brass Bands have earned First Place Honors in the Youth Division several years in the past and are certainly hoping for another victory at the championships this year. In preparation for the competition, the three Triangle Youth Brass Bands performed a joint concert in Meymandi Concert Hall three weeks before the championships are to take place in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The bands have been working hard to prepare for the competition and their hard work made for an excellent concert.

The Triangle Brass Bands organization consists of three different levels of youth bands: the Triangle Youth Academy Brass Band, the Triangle Youth Brass Band, and the Triangle Youth “J. Perry Watson” Brass Band. In total, approximately 100 students, grades 9-12, participate in the program. All bands in the organization are made up of British brass band instrumentation (Eb and Bb cornets, flugel horn, Eb tenor horns, Bb baritones, euphoniums, trombones, bass trombone, Eb and BBb tubas, and percussion). What characterizes a British brass band is that the band has a darker and mellower tone quality. The unique sound of British brass bands are a result of all instruments in the band, aside from the trombone, having a conical design. Meymandi Concert Hall’s warm acoustics provided a perfect venue for these three British brass bands to showcase the lovely repertoire they have been working on for the past two months.

The Triangle Youth Academy Brass Band, the least advanced of the three bands, opened the concert program. This band will be participating in the youth open division of NABBA and is not assigned a test piece; conductor Robin Gorham had the freedom to choose whichever pieces from which she thought the band would best learn and excel. Indeed, the three pieces she selected made for quite a pleasant performance. The band opened with the third movement of Philip Wilby‘s The Seasons. The third movement has Sousa-like sound, featuring alternations between bold brassy marches and gentler, lyrical passages, meant to invoke images of high summer. The band played the piece accurately, becoming more confident as the music progressed. William Himes‘ arrangement of “Amazing Grace” was an especially lovely choice for the band. Its gentle melody showcased the musician’s warm blend of sounds.

The Triangle Youth Brass Band, conducted by Matt Edwards, performed next. Their performance of “Lucid Perspectives,” a collaborative composition by Lucy Pankhurst, Andrew Baker, and Paul McGhee, was thoroughly engaging. The piece is creative in and of itself with a wide range of dynamics, instrumentation, techniques, and moods. Mutes are frequently used giving the piece a magical, faraway sound. One truly feels as though he or she is taking a trip through someone else’s mind as the piece meanders its way around a variety of creative melodies. The Triangle Youth Brass Band’s musical interpretation was marvelous; they played with an excellent range of dynamics and accurately captured the flavor of each passage. Every section of the orchestra and many individual musicians had a chance to shine, and shine they did. The band also performed two Celtic pieces — fitting repertoire seeing that the concert took place on St. Patrick’s Day. The first was Bert Appermont‘s “The Green Hill,” featuring Carter Lowe as the euphonium soloist. The gentle warmth of the euphonium’s sound and the quality of Lowe’s tone highlighted the beauty in the simple, Celtic melody that opens the piece. Lowe’s tone and his excellent articulation remained as the piece picked up in pace, developing into lively dance. Carl Wittrock‘s “Lord Tullamore” was an energetic and fun conclusion to the Triangle Youth Brass Band’s portion of the program.

Following a brief intermission, the Triangle Youth “J. Perry Watson” Brass Band took the stage, wowing the audience from the start with their professional quality. The first piece the group performed was “Renaissance,” by Peter Graham. The band approached this complex piece with remarkable confidence. Not an entrance was missed and not a timid solo was to be heard. In fact, each and every soloist should be commended for their performance of this piece. On the topic of soloists, bravo to Liam Hanson for a wonderful performance of the first movement of Joseph Horovitz‘s Concerto for Euphonium. This piece, widely known as the first concerto written for euphonium, was composed for a British brass band championship. Horovitz knew nothing about euphonium prior to being commissioned to compose the piece, but quickly recognized the versatility of the instrument as he worked on the composition. Thus, each movement of the concerto features a different quality of euphonium and presents its own challenges. Articulation is cited as the major challenge of the first movement, but one would not have guessed that from listening to Hanson. He sang his part out, filling the hall with his clear, rich sound and wonderful vibrato. The concluding piece on the program was Oliver Waespi‘s “The Raid.” It is a dramatic piece and perfect for competitions, granted the band is able to master the extravagant effects and theatrical rhythms found throughout the composition. The :J. Perry Watson Brass Band” did exactly that, portraying for the audience a thrilling tale of two feuding communities. The piece concludes with an extremely dramatic fortissimo section, which may be interpreted as a victory celebration for one of the feuding communities. For the musicians in the band, this triumphant conclusion to piece could also be interpreted as a celebration of musical accomplishment.

The three Triangle Youth Brass Bands put on a performance of which they should be proud. The NABBA Championships still await, but the musicians certainly deserved to take a moment and enjoy the enthusiastic applause that followed the concluding note of the concert. Best of luck to the musicians in the bands as they finish preparing for the NABBA Championships and for their upcoming performances. Not all states and cities in this country have three quality youth brass bands to boast of the way that North Carolina does, and we should be proud. Show your support of the hardworking youth musicians in the organization by attending their next concert on May 12 at 4:00 PM at Meymandi Concert Hall. The program will feature popular brass music from all around the world and promises to be an entertaining performance.