Tom’s Diamond Takes Centre Stage
By Chris High
Brass bands and brass band competitions are central to the life of North West working communities and Liverpool-born Tom Moss has been commissioned to create Diamonds by the St. Helens Youth Brass Band under the enlightened leadership of conductor, Lynda Nicholson. Thanks to funding from Arts and Culture Fund (Merseyside), Diamond will be performed for the first time on Saturday 15th March in St George’s Hall – Liverpool’s central venue during this year of European Capital of Culture.
Tom created Diamonds after working closely with the four brass bands performing this evening’s concert and the show presents an opportunity for the normally competitive bands to work together. The four movements carry the name of significant historic diamonds: Kohi–Noor (Moon of Light) is performed by The Formby Band, Cullinan (The Crown Jewels Diamonds) by Wirral Schools Brass Band, Jonkers (Poor Man’s Diamond) by The Rainford Band and Brioette (The Disappearing Diamond) St Helens Youth Brass Band.
‘After visiting all four bands over a period of a week and hearing them play,’ Tom explained, ‘I was amazed that such a standard of music was being played in church and school halls all over Merseyside. The music was driven and motivated by fantastic leaders of the bands for no other motive than for the music itself to sound the best it could. After listening I went round to Andrew Sherlock, a Liverpool playwright who, in 2007, successfully staged Wall Talks with Jen Heyes at Stanley Dock. He was trying to eat his dinner and watch a big Liverpool match, but I told him about these little gems playing Elgar and Ravel beautifully and it seemed to me that everyone should be listening to this great music right now. I was afraid people were missing it and it was then Andrew quoted me this extract from ‘Elegy written in a Country Churchyard’ by English poet Thomas Gray:“Full many a gem of purest ray sereneThe dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:”‘When I heard those lines I immediately shouted “We'll call it Diamonds,” and ran off there and then to write it, leaving Andrew in peace to finish his dinner and watch the game. The Diamonds are the players - the band leaders and all the people working so these diamonds are able to be seen and heard to shine.’
Tom Moss was born in Liverpool. On obtaining a music degree from Liverpool University, he went on to gain a Masters degree in Composition at the London College of Music where he studied with Martin Ellerby. After winning a prestigious Vivian Ellis Prize for new musical theatre, he has worked extensively as a freelance composer, arranger and musical director in music theatre as well as writing music for short films, jingles and adverts for BBC Radio 4 Drama, BBC Northern Ireland, North West Arts, Studio Music, Action Transport Theatre, De Wolfe Music, BRM Music Publishing and several commissions for cellist Jonathan Aasgaard, of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Diamonds is a four-part work and is the highlight of Brilliant Brass – an evening showcasing the best in today’s brass band music, performed by four award-winning North West brass bands.
‘What I really want is for Diamonds to change people’s perception of what Brass Band music is all about,’ Tom said. ‘A lot of people’s knowledge derives from Christmas time and jingle-jangle type music that’s most often played then. The majority don’t realise just how big a brass band can sound. I’ve never written for brass bands before and I’ve really enjoyed working on Diamonds, partly because of the amount of rehearsal time we’ve been given which has created a fabulous sense of depth, but also because the players are playing simply out of their love for the music. Although they are all amateurs, their performance is anything but and their ability and dedication is just phenomenal.’
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