The Trumpets of the Angels


Programme Note

The Trumpets of the Angels was commissioned by the Fodens (Courtois) Band for their centenary concert at The Bridgewater Hall in 2000. It is based on a work written for the BBC Philharmonic and Huddersfield Choral Society in 1998, the starting point of which was a quotation from the Book of Revelation:

and I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets

Thus the idea behind the work is dramatic and I have tried to achieve this by the spatial deployment of seven solo trumpets around the band, four on-stage, the others off-stage. Six of the solo trumpets eventually join the band, but Trumpet 7 remains off-stage and, indeed, has the most dramatic and extended cadenza representing the words of the seventh angel …and time shall be no more.

The Trumpets of the Angels is a large-scale work, scored for seven solo trumpets, brass band, organ and percussion (deploying ‘dark’ instruments such as tam-tams, bass drum and two sets of timpani). The work opens with a four-note motif announced by off-stage horns and baritones and answered by fanfare figures on solo trumpets. In turn, each of the first four solo trumpets play cadenzas and then all four join together, independently playing their own music. The organ enters dramatically with its own cadenza, leading to the entry of solo trumpets 5 and 6 with music that is more urgent and rhythmic, describing the horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The music reaches another climax, more intense this time, with the horns and baritones (now on-stage) again sounding the transformed motif, before subsiding into what might be described as a lament for humanity, slow music which builds from low to high, from soft to loud, with a melody that is both simple and poignant. At the climax, Trumpet 7 enters playing the opening four-note motif, dramatically extended to almost three octaves. This cadenza (to the partial accompaniment of tam-tams) introduces new material and foreshadows the ensuing scherzo which is fast and aggressive. Despite the somewhat desolate mood of this music, it slowly moves towards an optimistic conclusion, transforming the ‘humanity’ music into an affirmative and triumphant statement.

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Audio Samples:


Reviews:

…. this profound, dramatic, yet ultimately life affirming work marks a milestone in both the composer’s personal musical journey and, in the wider canon of key works written in recent years, for this particular medium.

…the climactic 7th trumpet entry … takes the dark and searching opening paragraphs towards a colossal and triumphant conclusion.

As presented here, in its full and original glory under the authoritative direction of its creator, it cannot be denied that this is a deeply felt and moving contribution to the brass band literature.

Martin Ellerby, The Brass Herald, August 2004

… this truly epic work is inspired by a quote from the Book of Revelations and sets out to describe the end of the world as well as our optimism to make it a better place. And it does this in spades ….. this is Gregson at his very best.

It is undoubtedly a work of huge significance and deserves to be wider used. …. it would suit the Royal Albert Hall perfectly and provide … a memorable musical experience.

Ivor Duckels, Brass Band World, June  2000


Work Details

  • Date of Composition: 2000
  • Publisher: Studio Music
  • Genre:
  • Duration: 20'
  • Instrumentation: brass band, organ and percussion
  • Commission Information:
    by Nicholas Childs and the Fodens Courtois Band

First Performance

  • Date: 19 May 2000
  • Venue: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK
  • Performers:
    Martin Winter (trumpet), Jonathan Scott (organ) Fodens Band Nicholas Childs (conductor)

Recordings