Both Regent Brass and Regent Community Brass bands held a landmark event on 27th June as they performed the world premiere of “Ink Garden” by acclaimed composer Raymond Yiu. This new work for brass band was commissioned to mark the first anniversary of the formation of Regent Community Brass and was made possible thanks to funding from the BBC Performing Arts Fund and PRS for Music Foundation. The concert itself also marked the first musical performance in the heart of the community at the new Brent Civic Centre, and also featured the exceptionally talented youngsters of the Brent Music Service with their inspirational leader Paul Fensom, who is also the founder of Regent Brass.

Performing to a receptive audience which included local MP Barry Gardiner, the first half of the concert featured two of the Brent Music Service’s top ensembles: the award-winning Brent Concert Band and the Brent Junior Singers. Both groups wowed the audience with a wide range of music, from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” through to protest hit song “Shout”, made famous by ‘80s new wave band Tears for Fears. The standard of performance was exceptionally high, which was not surprising given that the Brent Youth Concert Band recently won a “Platinum Award” at the National Concert Band Festival while the Brent Junior Singers have been selected to perform at the National Music for Youth festival in July. The high level of young talent in these ensembles is really quite staggering, and a fantastic advertisement for the opportunities the Brent Music Service provides to young people across the borough.

The second half opened with the 53 musicians of Regent Brass and Regent Community Brass taking the stage to perform several pieces of music before the premiere. Regent Community Brass kicked-off the proceedings with a lively performance of the Lennon/McCartney classic “Got to get you into my life” before introducing euphonium players Liam Grunsell and Niall Carroll to perform “Lullaby”, written by Regent Brass’ very own compositional talent, Philip Doe. This was then followed by Regent Brass providing a whizz through the Jelly Roll Morton classic “Black Bottom Stomp” before the band’s star flugel horn player Victoria Curran performed a beautiful version of Crystal Gayle’s hit song, “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue”.

With both bands on stage and ready to perform, conductor Alan Duguid introduced Raymond to say a few words about the piece to the audience. Written as a tribute to the late Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012), “Ink Garden” takes its title from an eponymous collection of Chinese calligraphy and graphics and draws inspiration from one of Bennett’s unpublished jazz songs Goodbye for Now” (1995). Raymond also explained how Brent’s diverse community influenced his writing, with the piece made up of eight movements, each written in a different musical idiom. The piece also highlighted the link between the two Regent Brass bands, with the movements being tackled individually before the music of movement 8 jumping between the two ensembles. This was very challenging to put together as both bands were only able to perform on stage at the same time for the performance, but the music came across very well and the piece was very well received by both the bands and the audience.

Finally, to close the event, Paul Fensom took the reins of the massed forces of the Brent Concert Band, Regent Brass and Regent Community Brass to perform the lively march “Barnard Castle”. This really capped off evening celebrating the diverse range of musical talents that Brent has to offer.

The band would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to Paul Fensom for helping to put on such a great show, the guest musicians who performed with us on the night, the BBC Performing Arts Fund and PRS for Music Foundation for supporting our project, and especially to Raymond Yiu for writing such a great piece of music for us. We certainly hope to have the opportunity to work again with the Brent Music Service and Raymond in the future!