Outstanding Festival Band – North Shore Youth Symphonic Wind Band

The Festival prizegiving was particularly exciting for one young band; they received not only the Robert Lutt Trophy: Best Performance of a Piece by a Band, but also the Robert Lutt Annual Concert Band Award: for the Outstanding Festival Band.

The performance put together by the North Shore Youth Symphonic Wind Band, and conductor Leah Munroe, was well-received by the adjudicators, with comments such as “Bravo”, “Incredibly balanced at all times”, and “Oh my goodness, yes!”.

Their repertoire choice played a significant role in their success. They chose their pieces based around contrasting symphonic works, and made sure to include a final number that appealed to the audience. “Flashing Winds” has a great festive opening, and involved all the sections of the band relatively evenly, which warmed them up well for “The Witch and the Saint”. “Mambo” worked really well as a closing piece because it is short and has a lot of energy.

“The Witch and the Saint” was the piece that won them the trophy for “Best Performance of a Piece By a Band”. The piece has been described as “a melancholy story being told through powerful musical phrases”, and was chosen by assistant conductor Michelangelo Bisquera because it has been one of his favourites since playing it six years ago. He particularly enjoyed the storyline; full of pain and fear, supernatural horror and societal terror, and finishing with the suicide of an innocent. The band loved it!

From a musical perspective, he chose it as a Festival piece because it was not too difficult for a youth band, with a wide range of skills and experience, to put together in only two months. There are many repeated sections, and simple but still exciting rhythms! Even in terms of tuning, many sections are in octaves, 4ths and 5ths which can be easier for younger players to tune to than block chords.

As with many bands, there were some instrumentation challenges. Lacking some instruments, such as bassoon, they were required to cover parts elsewhere. The bells in “The Witch and the Saint” were another problem; while the percussion provided by the RNZAF Band at Festival was excellent, they had difficulty finding in-tune bells for their pre-Festival concert, and had to use a vibraphone instead.

Their final piece, “Mambo” used Latin instruments, such as timbales, and a lot of “added-extras” for excitement. Everyone had to be involved, so it was really fun, but took a lot of preparation. An adjudicator commented “I am taking some of your ideas!”.

A number of the 30 members, who range in age from 11 to 28, also participated as soloists and ensembles. They received one silver and two golds in the soloist category, and two silvers and one gold for their ensemble work.

What a spectacular success! This energy and dedication is what the NZCBA Festival is all about, and members of the North Shore Youth Symphonic Wind Band should be very proud.