Following the BBC Young Brass of the Year competition that was held at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), the city is treated to play host to one of its universities highly-acclaimed orchestra ensembles in this gem of a venue - much like a mini Bridgewater Hall - the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall within the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama.

The multi-award winning Manchester University Music Society (MUMS) Brass Band's concert of eight perfectly executed pieces, was presented by a group of talented and attractive young musicians - all of who were extremely well-presented and very professionally accomplished. I admire anyone anyway who is willing to pursue a discipline or at least try, but to succeed in playing in sync with a group is pure brilliance.

Lead by conductor James Keirle (also of the Wind, Chamber and Symphony orchestras), who has received his own accolades with the band at the UniBrass competition both last year and this year as Best Student Conductor. The band were awarded Most Entertaining both years and Ben Hale won Best Soloist - not surprising from his performances tonight. The band provides opportunities for both music students and non-music student to play and perform, previously touring Ireland and having just returned from one in Edinburgh. Although the winner of the BBC Brass of the Year was named Daniel Thomas, although equally as talented, his namesake in this band was no he.

Kicking off their programme with Sir William Walton's 'Crown Imperial', arranged by Frank Wright, we instantly know we are in for an exciting evening of entertainment. Then we hear 'Gaelforce' by Scotsman Peter Graham; a piece comprising of three parts: The Rocky Road to Dublin, Tossing the Feathers and the Minstrel Boy. An upbeat medley, featuring a lovely solo from Martha Hamilton on Repiano Cornet in the second section, my admiration was drawn to the four percussionists Ella Walker, Siobhan Shay, Matt Edward and Dan Wainwright who all have to play in sync - as they do perfectly, as do the whole - and not just a single instrument (a selection of drums, cymbals, gong, chimes, xylophone, cowbell, timpani). They stand patiently together at the centre of their platform towards the rear of the performance space awaiting their participation, if even just to tap a triangle!

Then came a rather tenderer hymn score, aptly named 'All In the April Evening' - by Hugh Robertson, arranged by Eric Bell - with a solo from Christopher Bowman, also on Cornet. Philip Sparke's 'The Saga of Haakon the Good' was next as a dramatic presentation of four movements: The Future King, The Journey to Trondheim, The Missionary King and The Battle of Rastarkalv.

Here we heard a 'Blue' themed section of three songs the first of which was a bluesy number by Thomas Gansch, arranged by John Doyle, before anther hymn, Simon Wood's Deep Blue (Theme on Nearer My God to Thee). Maynard Ferguson's Everybody Loves The Blues, arranged by Sandy Smith, which included a solo by award winner Ben Hale. It is clear that everyone in this structure loves, not just the blues but, their part and all that they do. It was at the beginning of this that I was forced to put my notepad down and just enjoy what I was hearing and witnessing.

RNCM student and resident composer Callum Harrison's music had its place in the spotlight as the band performed his sonic 'Blue is the Mind' of which Ben Hale plays the first few notes. The piece showcased the versatility of a band such as this with a spacey, Star Wars-ish film soundtrack style. It was nice to match this with the tinkling stars above me when I tilted my head back whilst enjoying the tones.

Although we were not made aware of the soloists as we went along (therefore I hope they are correct), it was a collective effort and success that was rewarded with the somewhat unsure-of-timing applause from the surprisingly small yet intimate audience. In a space with such great acoustics, each sound of the air that was compressed through the instruments filled the air thrillingly.

With a finale of Lionel Ritchie's All Night Long - a song that they dueted with Edinburgh University's band - it just shows that you can still have a great night out of live music and without all the unreliable flashy effects. Just a good bit of brass (and the odd vocal from the gentlemen)!

These young people should be commended and recognised for their dedication in their hobby (and, I hope, career) and concerts like this should be sold out! It is a shame to see less than half empty venues that the outstanding musicians are performing to, for only an hour!

Details of their future concerts are available at:

Reviewer: Chris Oatway

Reviewed: 16th April 2016