The Levin and Districts Brass Band gave a “Pre National Contest Concert” on Sunday. With the Rotorua National Contest coming up fast, the Sunday concert gave locals the chance to hear the band play its entire contest repertoire. For the price of a gold coin donation, we joined the many other brass band devotees as we sat in the Salvation Army Hall and waited for the music to commence.
Conductor Colin Honey took the band through it’s paces playing the entire National Contest pieces. We also heard two solos, both a cornet and a base solo, and both musicians will be competing for the first time in the veterans solo event. Then there was a bit of shuffling around the stage as the six piece ensemble took their seats to play their concert piece to us. The ensemble recently won the Wellington District Brass Association’s Ensemble competition – so they must be rather good.
As a little light relief from competition music, the conductor announced, they would play Leonard Cohen’s 1984 composition “Hallelujah”. I love this hauntingly beautiful tune, which always sends a shiver up and down my spine, but must admit I had never heard it performed by a brass band before. And I can’t be the only one who ponders about some of the lines in the song. Leonard Cohen has said of the song's meaning: "It explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value."
The concert finished with a rousing march, which is compulsory in the competition. We didn’t get to see them march of course, but there was plenty of foot tapping sounds flavoured with the exuberant rat-a-tat-tat and boom, boom from the percussionists in the back row on stage.
Sadly for me, the band didn’t play “76 Trombones led the Big Parade”, possibly because the tune is not a serious contender in national competitions. But it was a great afternoon, and we wish the band the very best of luck on their trip to Rotorua. But……here is a question which I’ve been pondering. Why is it called a brass band when most of the instruments look like silver – or maybe chrome? Someone is sure to know the answer.