Reading Festival of Brass – ‘Suite’!

Reading Festival of Brass

We’re thrilled to announce the resounding success of our recent Reading Festival of Brass open workshop rehearsal.

Held in the heart of Reading in Saint Laurence Church on Saturday 27th April, the festival brought together brass enthusiasts and musicians for an afternoon of brass band music-making that explored Eric Ball’s arrangement of ‘Suite Gothique’ by Léon Boëllmann under the baton of conductor Matthew Ruel.

I had a lovely afternoon playing and then socialising with new band people. Everyone was so welcoming and I loved Matthew’s attitude to playing and bands supporting each other.

susan robson

‘Suite Gothique’ is the most well-known of Leon Boëllmann’s works for organ. It was composed in 1895 for the inauguration of a new organ at the Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame in Dijon. The suite is made up of four movements: ‘Introduction—Chorale’, ‘Menuet Gothique’, ‘Prière à Notre-Dame’ and ‘Toccata’, the latter two of which are often performed as pieces in their own right.

The title highlights the work’s retrospective musical characteristics and evokes an aura of grandeur. The short but imposing ‘Introduction’ states an original chorale theme (a melody to which a Lutheran hymn is sung), with each bold phrase being subject to an echo, a trait that is reversed in the sprightly and more extensive ‘Menuet Gothique’. The mood changes completely for the pious and lyrical ‘Prière à Notre-Dame’, which introduces an assuring sense of calm. The calm is irreparably interrupted by the moto perpetuo (a continuous stream of notes, usually played at a rapid tempo) of the closing ‘Toccata’, which grows organically yet unremittingly towards a monumental climax and resolution.

Eric Ball’s prolific career saw him compose and arrange numerous influential works, including ‘Suite Gothique’ (1970), alongside fulfilling roles such as Bandmaster of The International Staff Band. Through his profound compositions and unwavering dedication to the brass band movement, Eric Ball’s music continues to resonate, leaving an enduring mark on brass band enthusiasts throughout the world…

… and in particular, musicians from Sandhurst Silver Band, Wantage Community Brass, Milton Keynes Brass, Uckfield Concert Brass, Epsom & Ewell Silver Band and Oxford Cherwell Brass who thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon with members of the band.

Plans are already underway for the next workshop event, promising an even bigger and better celebration of brass music-making in Reading – stay tuned for updates!