My latest CD featured on BBC Radio 3’s `Building a Library’

Posted in News on October 7th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on My latest CD featured on BBC Radio 3’s `Building a Library’

Very proud that`BBC Radio 3′ on `Building a Library’ looked at the recent Toccata Classics disc of my recent Symphonic Wind Orchestra composition collaborations. Harmen Vanhoorne gets a special mention!!

Thanks again to Harmen Vanhoorne (cornet), H. Stephen Smith (narrator), Malene Sheppard Skearved & the Middle Tennessee State University Wind Ensemble and conductor baton of Reed Thomas.

Disc: TOCC0412

The section that covers the disc review is at around 2 hours 31 minutes.

See Link:

My experience of writing my first brass band piece!!!

Posted in News on July 25th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on My experience of writing my first brass band piece!!!

My experience of writing my first brass band piece!!!

I wrote “Atlantic Toccata” back in 1993 for James Watson and the Black Dyke Mills Band – I remember so clearly Jim saying, “go up to Queensbury, and take the rehearsal!” – I had never conducted a brass band in my life at that point and I warmed them up with a `march’ and I remember, the whole way through the piece I was thinking `what the hell am I going say, and do when they get to the end’, all I could hear from the band was pure and undiluted perfection! I quickly got on to much safer territory with my own piece – and again soon as they started playing, they yet again gave me perfection and my heart sunk for the second time – I thought, `how am I going to survive the next two hours’ – My short term, and less than perfect answer was to lie, and lie big and say that I wanted the opening of “Atlantic Toccata” to be quieter and much, much faster, even though it was near-perfect. For me, this was one of the biggest ‘band’ learning experiences ever!!! The real lesson of course, is never get in front of any group of musicians unless you know what you are doing!

What you hear here, is the result of the bands magnificent playing and Jim’s (as ever)`midas touch’. For me it was Jim Watson and Black Dyke who gave me the first chance ever to write extended pieces for multiple instruments, with the freedom of writing music that lasted longer than ten minutes and with open-brief – I owe those days back in the middle 1990’s so, so much.



Robert Childs giving the premiere of “The City in the Sea” back in 1994

Posted in News on July 20th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on Robert Childs giving the premiere of “The City in the Sea” back in 1994

Robert Childs, James Watson myself, after a performance of the City in the Sea with the National Youth Brass Band of Wales in 1995. The venue is St David’s Cathedral, Wales.

I came across this recording recently of Robert Childs back in 1994 giving the world premiere of my euphonium concerto “The City in the Sea” and accompanied by what was then, the Black Dyke Mills Band conducted by the legendary James Watson. Today, the Black Dyke Mills band are simply know as Black Dyke Band. When I wrote my concerto for Bob, there were probably only a hand full of players in the world that were capable of playing music of this technical difficulty, and this live(!) performance is of great tribute to Bob’s extraordinary playing abilities! Today, many more players can tackle such a work which shows how times have changed. I was very proud of “The City in the Sea” at the time of writing, as there was nothing like this in the brass band repertoire.

A live recording of the premiere of “The City in the Sea” back in 1995


About The City in the Sea

The Concerto’s title comes from the poem `The City in the Sea’ by Edgar Allen Poe.

The history of the East Anglian village of Dunwich is a chilling tale of the consequences of the gradual erosion of Britain’s eastern coastline. The capital of East Anglia in medieval times, Dunwich was an important port with nine churches and a population of 5000. Successive storms led in 1326 to the city being engulfed and effectively vanishing from the map. Today Dunwich is a quiet village offering little evidence of its proud past lying beyond the beach and sand dunes.

To this day the sea has continued to erode the cliffs away and threaten Dunwich’s last surviving church, All Saints, which stands on the cliff-top. Gradually all the tombstones in the churchyard have disappeared beneath the waves and only the last remaining one has been rescued and moved to the safety of the Dunwich Village Museum.

The demise of this medieval city has thrown up a number of legends and ghost stories: It is said that the bells of Dunwich’s nine churches ring out on stormy nights and that the ghostly forms of some of Dunwich’s medieval inhabitants can be see walking close to the shoreline. Dunwich’s ruined monastery, Greyfriars, is also linked with the supernatural, in that a ghostly procession of Franciscan monks is said to walk around the ruins chanting ancient verses.

Dunwich is also featured in a traditional legend of three holy crowns buried in East Anglia to protect England from invasion. It is said that one of the crowns was buried there and lost when the city was engulfed by the sea. The second was said to have been dug up at Rendlesham further down the Suffolk coast in the 18th Century. The third has not yet been found!

The work starts off with the eerie sound of a foghorn played on the Euphonium. This sequence of music eventually breaks into a piercing scream, accompanied by the mournful ringing of the submerged church bells of Dunwich. I have used at various points in the piece quotations from Debussy’s piano prelude ‘La cathedrale engloutie’ (the submerged cathedral). I have also used one of these quotations to recreate the image of the Franciscan monks chanting their ancient verses.


Brass Band Version
Label:Doyen `Premiere’ DOY CD061
Euphonium: Robert Childs
Black Dyke Mills Band
Conductor: James Watson






Brass Band Version
Label: Mira Sound `When Worlds Collide’ 88931-2
Euphonium: Glen Van Looy
Brass Band Buizingen
Conductor: Luc Vertommen





Wind Orchestra Version
Label: CHEVRON `Harrison’s Dream’ CHVCD18
Euphonium: Steve Boyes
HM Royal Marines band
Conductor: Lt.Col Chris Davies

A cultural feast of great Fanfare and Wind Orchestras!!

Posted in News on June 25th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on A cultural feast of great Fanfare and Wind Orchestras!!

‘Koninklyke Fanfare De Werkmanszonen’ performing `Earthrise’

This weekend I have had the privilege of staying and working in the small town/village called `Riemst’ in the Limburg province of Belgium, a stone’s throw from the Dutch border and the old medieval city of Maastricht. There are 13 orchestras(!) in and surrounding `Riemst’ which only has a population of around 16,000 – I think this is truly amazing and an incredible achievement, something we can all learn from and something that Belgium should be very proud of indeed. I might add the standard is extremely high and is comparable to the best any country can offer around the world!

I was a guest of the ‘Koninklyke Fanfare De Werkmanszonen’ with their conductor Yves Wuyts who are preparing my `Earthrise’ for the World Music Contest in one month’s time. The band had a great rehearsal on the Friday evening and then took part in a `WMC Try-Out Concerten’ event with other Reist based orchestras. Manu Mellaerts (Principal Trumpet at La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra) and I listened to 5 great orchestras and (I hope) gave useful feedback to their conductors and musicians after each presentation.

One unusual experience for me was hearing a new version of `Earthrise’ transcribed brilliantly by Luc Vertommen, a real labour of love!  – His transcription, I believe loses nothing in this fanfare orchestra setup. For those that do not know what a Fanfare Orchestra consists of, it has all the instruments of the Saxophone family, Trumpets, (multiple, multiple!) Flugel Horns, French Horns, Trombones and Tubas and of course a battery of percussion. These instruments have a wonderful tone quality when played together, but can also have the punch of a brass band or wind orchestra. I believe its origins date back to the 19th century.

As for ‘Koninklyke Fanfare De Werkmanszonen’, yet again I have made more new lifelong friends and look forward to supporting them in the World Music Contest in Kerkrade. They gave a spell binding performance of `Earthrise’ full of music and colour. I was very taken by a new composition that they played by a young composer Nick Van Elsen – a talent to look out for in the future with his own musical voice. The band were perfect, perfect hosts and gave me a great afternoon out in Maastricht before the try-out concert. Thank you to one and all!

Proud and honoured to become a trustee of the world famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band

Posted in News on June 8th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on Proud and honoured to become a trustee of the world famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band

I am very proud an honoured to have been be invited to be a trustee of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. I very much look forward to being able to help the band further it’s `cultural and artistic aims’ along with the other trustees and band members. To quote Sir Harrison Birtwistle: “The brass bands of this country are unique, and the Grimethorpe Band is unique amongst them”. I also look forward to continuing as Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s `International Composer in Association’.

To find out more about Grimethorpe Colliery Band visit there website at: 

The band can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.


Grimethorpe Colliery Band on stage at the Royal Albert Hall during their recent live performance of the film score “Brassed Off” under the baton of Ludwig Wicki.

Grimethorpe Colliery Band in rehearsal, synchronising the music to the film “Brassed Off” at the Royal Albert Hall.