Festive Brass - A collection of favourite modern and traditional Christmas music for brass ensemble. © 2019 Hoxa Recordings

CD Spotlight

Jubilant Performance

Christmas music from the Bristol Brass Consort, enjoyed by KEITH BRAMICH

'... the arrangements here are varied and interesting, and the standard of performance quality is high.'


One of Bristol Brass Consort's claims is to be the most active symphonic brass group in the south west of England, and a quick look at social media appears to reinforce this statement, even during these difficult times. The consort appears in various formations, and in the past has used a series of concerts at St George's Bristol to promote young composers. The group was founded in 1985 and three of the founding members still play in the consort.

The quintet line-up here consists of Paul Harris and Tom Deakin, trumpets, also doubling flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet, Paul Tomlinson, french horn, John Cornick, trombone and Simon Derrick, tuba. This CD's subtitle, 'A collection of favourite modern and traditional Christmas music for brass ensemble', just about sums it up. Christmas music played by brass groups has become a tradition of its own, and it goes with the territory that every work recorded here is in some kind of arranged form. More than two thirds of these contributions are by two arrangers.

Paul Harris' arrangements range from the traditional Gaudete and the anonymous Angelus ad Virginem with uncredited percussion - see below - via J S Bach to Ariel Ramirez and Hugh Martin's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but my favourite of these is the opening Westminster Chimes-flavoured Ding Dong! Merrily on High.

Listen — traditional, arranged by Paul Harris: Ding Dong! Merrily on High
(track 1, 0:47-1:28) ℗ 2019 Hoxa :

Roger Harvey's contributions here include sensitive versions of Franz Gruber's Silent Night, the traditional German Es ist ein Ros'entsprungen, the Polish Infant Holy and the English Coventry Carol. There's a light-hearted but thoughtful version of the English Sussex Carol, and a rumbustious Past 3 O'Clock which seems to stray into the borderland of original composition.

Listen — traditional, arranged by Roger Harvey: Past 3 O'Clock
(track 11, 0:54-1:37) ℗ 2019 Hoxa :

Other arrangements include John Cornick's take on Mel Torme's Christmas Song and Vince Guaraldi's on the traditional German O Tannenbaum. John Iveson's witty combined version of Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls introduces an uncredited performer on sleigh bells, and the strangely labelled final Bonus Track - a special message from the BBC - presumably some kind of in joke that went right over my head - is actually John Rutter's arrangement of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Listen — traditional, arranged by John Rutter: We Wish You a Merry Christmas
(track 17, 1:04-1:34) ℗ 2019 Hoxa :

Hoxa Recordings' owner Richard Jeffrey-Gray sneaks in an appearance, credited this time, on celeste in a jubilant performance of the traditional Westminster Carol arranged by Don Gilles. I know it as Angels from the realms of glory.

Listen — traditional, arranged by Don Gilles: Westminster Carol
(track 8, 1:16-1:45) ℗ 2019 Hoxa :

The accompanying notes are even more minimal than usual for Hoxa, but the arrangements here are varied and interesting, and the standard of performance quality is high.

Copyright © 26 December 2020 Keith Bramich,
Worcestershire, UK







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