FEATURE: Durham BRASS Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“Brass: an alloy made of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties”

A range of brasses with varying properties perfectly describes the Durham BRASS Festival, which focuses less on the make-up of the metal, and more on the sounds it produces. These properties include every genre from baroque to Balkan, folk to funk and classical to colliery. In fact, the sheer volume of artists means it is impossible for me to adequately prepare you for each one independently (check out their website for a full run-down), so instead here’s a tasty tidbit of what’s on offer.

The headline act of the festival are the incredible Fun Lovin’ Criminals (Gala Theatre, Friday 17th), fronted by BBC6 Music DJ Huey Morgan. While they’re not renowned as a brass band, the boys have hand-picked a trio of brass stars to beef up their ranks on what will be the 20th anniversary of their first live show in NYC.

The day after, also at the Gala, Steve Lamacq hosts a day of funk-inspired brass anthems featuring one of my picks of the last year, The Hackney Colliery Band. Hackney isn’t a famous pitmatic village, but these guys are all brass and play some serious funk, hip-hop, ska and jazz all acoustically (check out their awesome rendition of No Diggity). Also playing the event are Hope And Social, the New York Brass Band (who aren’t as American as you might guess) and Land Of The Giants, plus the brilliant Renegade Brass Band will show off their big sound.

These properties include every genre from baroque to Balkan, folk to funk and classical to colliery

His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts has nothing to do with gravitational bottoms and ice cream, but everything to do with virtuosic baroque and renaissance musicians. The sagbutt is remarkably like a trombone, and the cornett, of course, like a trumpet; with their spiritual home in Venice, their Grand Tour pieces were written to be played in St Mark’s Basilica, and fortunately Durham has an equally atmospheric setting, with the Durham Cathedral concert on Friday 17th promising to be historic.

Streets Of Brass will see some superb musicians from across the globe trailing through the city (Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th), featuring North African brass band Fanfarai, German Trombone Vibration, musical comedy act Les Traine-Savates, Bavarian-style oompah band Oompah Brass, and much more.

The pride of the Welsh Valleys, Cory Band and Tredegar Town Band rock up to Gala Theatre on Sunday 19th, ably assisted by Durham’s Reg Vardy Band; also on the Sunday evening, the outstanding Afro-fusion beats and trombone-driven funk outfit Hannabiel And Midnight Blue (Durham Town Hall) will wow the crowds.

Every good festival has a Fringe element too, and Empty Shop HQ will be providing some alternative entertainment throughout the weekend. Renamed The Alligator Club, the part blues bar/part jazz club will play host to international street bands during the day and live jazz, funk, hip-hop and blues in the evening. Highlights include Thursday 16th’s Lindy Jazz and No Time To Jive night of live swing and lindy hop (dance class starts at 5pm); Saturday 18th sees Havana Club 5 and Jazz Latin Groove playing authentic Latin and Afro-Cuban grooves; and on Sunday 19th a range of impromptu street band performances and some top DJ action closes the festival in style.

Durham BRASS Festival takes place at various locations in Durham from Friday 17th until Sunday 19th July.

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