Back in the day, when audiophiles wanted to demonstrate their latest "hi-fi" purchase to patient, eye-rolling friends, some might well have mounted a copy of William Walton's "Crown Imperial: A Coronation March" by Frederick Fennell and the storied Eastman Wind Ensemble. That 1937 masterpiece was the one chosen by conductor Lem Hardy and the Raleigh Concert Band to introduce their "British Sterling" concert. The band serenaded the spirited audience in the Broughton High School auditorium with this magisterial work. The players began this great kick-off piece somewhat tentatively, but they soon hit their stride, eliciting its proper pomp and grandeur.
They continued with another old standard, "The Earl of Oxford's March" by William Byrd (1540-1623). This surprising piece could almost make one a fan of Renaissance music. Adding interest here was the arranger, Philip Sparke. This world-famed London composer has visited Raleigh, conducting and mentoring Triangle Youth Brass Band personnel.
Still staying doubly-well within the Empire, the players next essayed the "Irish Tune from County Derry" by the prominent Australian composer and folk musician, Percy Grainger. They led to intermission with Set Two of English Dances by Malcolm Arnold.
One critic has declared that the "Toccata Marziale" of Vaughan Williams stands "among the best concert works of the band literature." This superb piece received deft treatment by conductor and players. The aforementioned Grainger returned later with "Shepherd's Hey," a happy dance based upon a British folk tune.
If one had to choose the strictly musical highlight of the evening, it might be Charles H.H. Parry's "Jerusalem," a setting of the poem by William Blake. Composed in 1916, it is said to have been an immediate hit, taken up as an anthem by the suffragette movement of the day. It is easy to see why, given its appealing refrains and near-liturgical character. The players seemed to favor this work with their most able and affectionate treatment.
The last scheduled piece retained total fealty to the Crown, offering a medley of highlights from movies featuring Her Majesty's Secret Agent 007. The players watched the Skyfall with Goldfinger, and they resolved to Live and Let Die. Conductor and band rewarded the audience with a clever encore, Hardy's own conflation of passages from "Rule Britannia" and the Australian standard, "Waltzing Matilda." What else could he have called it but "Waltzing Britannia"?
So here Triangle area listeners have found yet another source for obtaining a fine British band "fix" without having to cross the Atlantic.