4barsrest.com: Festival verdict

A trio of well prepared bands provided an enjoyable Sunday afternoon of entertainment at the Michael Malnick Centre – as well as a fitting tribute to conductor David Ruel, whose untimely death will be greatly felt in this banding area for many years to come.

Asked to provide a ‘traditional’ brass band programme containing a march, overture, hymn tune arrangement, solo item and entertainment work, the MDs responded with inventive musical thought. It’s not often you get Suppé , Freddie Mercury, Lennon & McCartney and Béla Kéler sitting so comfortably next to each other.


Saint Sebastian Wokingham under John Watts opened with a spirited ‘Henry the Fifth’ overture, followed by a fine flugel soloist in Michael Bird on ‘One Day’ and the sprightly Eric Ball march ‘Star Lake’.

Flugel soloist Michael Bird performing ‘One Day’

Contrast came with a tender rendition of ‘Guardian of my Soul’ before closing with a pulsating account of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s ‘Horizons’.

Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band under the baton of John Watts

Tadley Concert and Paul Chapman picked up where they left off; the energetic ‘Come Follow the Band’ followed by the romantic drama of ‘Poet and Peasant’.

Principal Cornet Megan Hope of Tadley Concert Brass

Principal cornet Megan Hope was the assured soloist in ‘First Light’ before PLC’s warmly hued arrangement of the hymn tune ‘Lloyd’ led into the operatic bonkerness of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Fitting tribute

Matthew Ruel led Reading Spring Gardens with a programme that had his father’s stamp of preparedness hallmarked from first note until last – the choreographed ‘National Emblem’ march played with bold purpose.

The choreographed ‘National Emblem’ march played with bold purpose

A fine horn and flugel quartet rendition of ‘Hey Jude’ was the prelude to another excellent soloist in Cheryl Heppenstall on ‘An Untold Story’…

The Quartet: Cheryl Heppenstall, Jacqueline Ruel, Elizabeth Chapman and Nigel Winter

… before a tribute was played to another much missed colleague Ron Curtis with part of ‘St Andrew’s Variations’ by Alan Fernie. A rare outing for the comic overture ‘Lustspiel’ put a musical smile on everyone’s face.

The Massed Bands of the 2019 Reading Festival of Brass

To close, the massed bands joined for Roy Newsome’s ‘Belmont’ march and ‘The Lost Chord’ to round off a Sunday afternoon that was a fitting musical tribute to a fine musician and a friend to so many.

Iwan Fox