Review of Gaia Symphony – first performance

Cheltenham Music Festival

Sunday 10th July

The second Sunday of the Cheltenham festival offered an interesting perspective on the artistic directorship of Martyn Brabbins, whose changes, if not seismic, are perceptible. His considerable credentials in contemporary music are his strongest suit and there were a couple of clues to the future here.

The colossal scale of John Pickard’s hour-long Gaia symphony for brass band would have been enough to deter most festival directors. Not Brabbins, who confessed to living and breathing brass bands until the age of 18. Under the direction of Robert Childs, the famous Cory band, now Buy As You View Band, gave a virtuoso performance that broke various barriers of perception. Pickard’s inclusion of a concertante role for six percussionists surrounding the 30-piece band vastly extended his parameters, but it was the exemplary technique and the fine brass sonorities that made their mark, albeit a tad too loudly.

Rian Evans
The Guardian
Wednesday July 13, 2005