It’s been a while since I played in a brass band, but one lasting memory is the dedicated concentration you’d find coming up to a competition. A singular focus on a single piece of music to get it sounding the best it could possibly be. There are lots of composers of brass band “test pieces” but two of my personal favourites are Gareth Wood and Gilbert Vinter, largely because their music is very descriptive, interesting to play and interesting to listen to. Their writing doesn’t feel like music that is written just to test the band, but music to convey an idea.
These days there are lots of modern composers writing for brass band or wind orchestra who write in this symphonic, thematic way, but 20 odd years ago there was still a lot of arrangements of classical music being used in contests. I personally don’t have any decent recordings of many of these works, but in the days of the Internet, YouTube can provide.
Except when it can’t! I’ve looked everywhere I can think of so far and can’t a recording of my favorite Gareth Wood piece – The Margam Stones, so I’ve had to upload a slightly dodgy MP3 from tape from tape from tape from vinyl recording that I’ve had for ages. The playing quality is not bad, but there are a few dodgy moments and the sound is very wobbly, so I’m not sure it really does the piece justice, but it’s all I have for now. If you know of a better recording, please let me know!
I also couldn’t find a recording of Variations on a Ninth by Gilbert Vinter, so again I’ve uploaded a slightly better, but still a bit iffy version of that too.
So here, with links to videos, are my favorite Gareth Wood and Gilbert Vinter pieces, all of which I’ve been fortunate to play at various times (although not all in actual performances).
All amazing pieces of music from two very talented composers.