Christopher Barrett discusses the repertoire on our Debut Album

A staggering amount of thought has been put into the programming of our debut album: British Folk Music Vol. 1. The repertoire aimed to demonstrate the standard brass quintet in a brand new light. Though one that draws from our musical traditions in England and our heritage as British Brass players.

Our Artistic Director, Christopher Barrett discusses his fascinating ideas behind the album below. The album itself is available to buy here.

As we reach the end of the year 2021 it is not uncommon to hear political observers describe contemporary Britain as ‘divided: young and old; city and country; working class and middle class. Not for the first time in our history, we have engaged in a period of collective introspection in search of our individual, regional and national identities. This search for identity can be seen all around us; whether it be in discussions about class, sexuality and ethnicity, the re-establishment of Celtic languages and customs amongst the four nations, or the United Kingdom’s place in Europe’s political structures.

Christopher Barrett – Artistic Director

The role of the musician down through the ages, in addition to the creation of new works, has been to perform pieces from the historical repertoire in such a way as to reflect the universal experiences of humanity, using language and conventions that are particular to their own culture. As a British ensemble we are fortunate to be able to draw upon Percy Grainger’s recordings and transcriptions of folk music contained within The British Library. These working-class songs describe the nature of life in the 19th century and offer us a rare insight into the worldview of average men and woman as expressed in their own language. We offer this album to the public in order to help facilitate a greater respect for each other through a deeper understanding of our shared history. Music is unique in that it allows us to enter the past through the gates of the heart rather than the mind, it reminds us that these composers and their contemporaries felt and experienced life with the same poignancy and intensity that we do: history comes alive when music is performed.

British Folk Music for Brass Ensemble Vol. 1 – The Land Without Music : Album Cover

Our first album ‘British Folk Music for Brass Ensemble, Vol. 1 The Land Without Music’ is a document of a similar sort to the type that Percy Grainger created in the first decade of the 20th century when he visited the very same cathedral cities and market towns that EGB players perform in today, plying local folk singers with ale in the hopes that they might perform ancient songs to him and his early recording device before these oral traditions were lost forever.

With the exception of the Britten, the first half of the album consists of arrangements of works based around folk songs by the above-mentioned composers. The second half of the album from Lowlands’ onwards consists of new compositions based on folk songs captured in Percy Grainger’s ethnographic wax cylinders, and informed by the compositional techniques of Grainger and his approach to ‘elastic scoring’ in particular. We explore these fascinating and little-known techniques in videos and articles available on our website if readers should wish to find out more.

Christopher Barrett – Artistic Director