In July 2015, Edward Gregson will celebrate his 70th birthday, and this special year starts with a world première and a festival featuring six Gregson works.
The String Quartet, Gregson’s first, was commissioned by Manchester Mid-day Concerts Society to mark its centenary. It is a substantial work, lasting some 25 minutes, and is in three movements, the middle movement having the sub-title ‘Fantasia on a Chorale’. In the composer’s words ‘it returns to the models of late Beethoven and Bartok in its use of tightly controlled counterpoint, textural adventure, and structural unity.
The Navarra String Quartet will give its world première on 14 January at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. The work was written especially for the ensemble, celebrating the special relationship with the composer, since its formation at the RNCM in 2002 when Gregson was Principal. The Navarra Quartet has gone on to build an international reputation as one of the most dynamic and poetic string quartets.
The 2015 RNCM Festival of Brass will celebrate not only Edward’s 70th birthday, but also the 80th birthday of fellow composer and friend, Elgar Howarth. The Festival, entitled Spirit of Celebration, spans three days (Friday 23 – Sunday 25 January 2015) and will feature some of the country’s finest brass bands and international soloists.
The Festival opens with a Gregson favourite from 1976, Variations on Laudate Dominum performed by Black Dyke Band, conducted by Nicholas Childs. Later in the programme,RNCM students will join the Band in a performance of The Trumpets of the Angels. Saturday evening’s concert by Foden’s Band, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, also features two Gregson works: Connotations and Variations on a Theme of Michael Tippett.
On Sunday afternoon, Dr James Gourlay, a former Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion at the RNCM and recently appointed International Chair, will perform the Tuba Concerto accompanied by Cory Band, conducted by Philip Harper, and The Grimethorpe Colliery Band brings the Festival to its flamboyant conclusion with a performance of Symphony in two movements, conducted by Robert Childs.
The Artistic Director of the Festival, Paul Hindmarsh, asked both composers for their suggestions of pieces they would like to hear alongside their own music. The result is an exciting and varied celebration of creativity and artistry within the brass band medium, for which this annual festival at the RNCM is renown.