It is easy to see why the Royal Northern College Of Music (RNCM) has the accolade of being one of the finest music conservatoires in the world. Their music tuition is second to none, as students from every nation on earth come to study here; but it is not just the 'stuffy' classical composers which are studied. The RNCM has, along with its mother organisation, the RCM in London, a long and proud history of tutoring students to become world class exponents in their chosen field, which to the uninitiated most probably would mean classical.
However, they would be very wrong, as the college embraces all music styles with equal gusto, and so jazz, pop music, Musical Theatre, and everything in between is given equal status. Just as here, tonight, in this year's first concert by the Big Band; embracing that jazzy, swing era and bringing it stunningly to life. And as I was listening to them this evening, it was impossible to tell that they were all still students, so wonderfully and enthusiastically did they embrace this style of music and their playing of it, spellbinding.
Nothing better exemplified this than when our conductor told us that this evening they had a last minute replacement. One of the saxophonists had been taken to hospital only this afternoon and a stand-in had to be found. So still sight-reading and playing along with the band, as well as some superb solo riffs, Nicholas Seymour showed just how versatile and talented the RNCM students really are.
Mike Hall made for an extremely entertaining and energetic conductor, as he bounced, danced, bopped and sang along to the music whilst conducting. I have never seen a more animated leader. He certainly knew how to steer his ship though as his direction was spot on every time.
Headlining this concert was the world-renowned guitarist Martin Taylor, whose CV reads a little like War And Peace. Having left school at the age of 15 to become a professional musician he has taken guitar playing to a new level. This evening he played several numbers with the band together, some with just the rhythm section, but it was the solo guitar pieces which really showed just exactly how brilliant this man truly is. I don't know the titles of any of the pieces sadly since none were given in the programme, but how he was able to make just the one guitar sound like three playing at the same time I will never know. Truly brilliant and awe inspiring.
It has been a long while since I last went to a Big Band concert, and had forgotten how alive and 'of the moment' it all feels. This was the first music concert I have been to this year, and what a wonderful start it proved to be. If music be the food of love, play on!
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 4th February 2017