On Tour: LSO Brass Ensemble in Japan

LSO Principal Trombone Dudley Bright reflects on the LSO Brass Ensemble’s recent concert in Japan and life on the road...

After an exhilarating performance of Brahms First Symphony under the indefatigable Bernard Haitink in Tokyo’s NHK Hall – a performance which defied the miserable, sodden, autumnal weather outside, the ten members of the LSO Brass Ensemble were detached to a sunny and beautifully warm Shizuoka. Hardly an hour away by iconic bullet train, we seemed to have traversed the seasons. Less easy is the transformation required of the brass players from the heavies at the back of the orchestra into a finely honed, self-propelled, world class chamber group, required to sing, dance, tiptoe and swing through a programme derived from piano, jazz and commercial material which also included the world premiere of a charming new piece, Where the Clouds Meet the Sea, by LSO Soundhub composer, Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Each player is painfully aware that our part-time foray into the lime light is expected to be compared to established brass ensembles with stable repertoires and, all being busy musicians beyond the confines of the LSO, rehearsal time is bound to be restricted. So it was with gratitude that we were whisked from the station straight to a local school, to give some of our offerings a run out. 

It is an enduring facet of the life of a musician that the warmth and appreciation of our listeners, frequently lifts one out of the obsession with the mechanics of the job, onto a higher level. The children welcomed the players amongst themselves, to discuss (language not withstanding), to touch and experience at close quarters the instruments, spontaneous jam sessions breaking out in each corner of the assemblage. Suspecting that the real work was only just beginning, the group was spirited away to rehearse for the evening.

Ever mindful of the lip-numbing effects of playing brass instruments, the tightrope between preparation and stamina was never more taught. Trepidation was put aside, if not completely vanquished, when the group walked out to an enthusiastic, packed hall. All too soon the programme was done, one encore frolicked through and the much needed repast in sight. But one more duty was still required which saw the players seated at a table front of house, signing dozens of LSO live CDs, souvenir programmes and posters of the group, again language being no barrier to the enjoyment and appreciation painted firmly on each and every grateful face. 

Then, with as little delay as humanly possible the programme indicated food, the odd (?) pint and lots of laughs. 

Tomorrow - back to coal face at the back of the orchestra with Bruckner 7 and Maestro Haitink and 26 November we get a second chance to shine, this time at the Barbican. Thanks goes to the LSO’s Tim Davy and his colleagues from the Kajimoto music bureau for their quiet, relaxed marshalling of ten hapless LSO brass players.


Photo: The LSO Brass Ensemble
Front Row L–R: Dudley Bright (trombone), James Maynard (trombone), Paul Milner (bass trombone), Peter Moore (trombone)
Back Row L–R: Alex Edmundson (trumpet), Philip Cobb (trumpet), Gerry Ruddock (trumpet), Dan Newell (trumpet), Tim Jones (horn), Patrick Harrild (tuba)