On Saturday 23rd May, the RWCMD Cory Composition Prize was presented for the first time. The competition attracted a dozen entries, all brand new compositions for brass band, and the Cory Band performed the three entries which had made the shortlist at its concert in the Dora Stoutzker Concert Hall at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. All three shortlisted composers were in attendance – Stan Nieuwenhuis who had travelled with his parents from Belgium to be there; Lewis Furber, a postgraduate student at the college; and Ian McElligott who attended with his wife.
As part of its standard programme the band played each piece, one after another, towards the end of the first half. As well as Cory Band’s Musical Director Philip Harper, the judging panel consisted of three esteemed musicians, all of whom lecture at RWCMD: John Hardy, Head of Composition; Kevin Price, Head of Brass and Percussion; and Robert Childs, Head of the Brass Band Programme. Each of the three pieces was entirely different, resulting in a lively and stimulating debate. Stan Niewenhuis’s Echoes of Frictions was designed as a concert opener and features cornets and trombones spread about the hall to provide echo effects; Lewis Furber’s English Counterpoint is a lyrical piece in pastoral style with some arching solo lines; and Ian McElligott’s Hymn for Heroes used an immediately familiar tonal language creating a direct appeal.
The band continued with its programme, which included Von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture and Neil Hefti’s L’il Darlin, and at the end of the evening was joined on stage by all three composers, three judges and Philip Morris, representing Kapitol Promotions, the sponsors of this Composition Prize. After some words from the judges and Mr Morris, who kindly pledged his company’s support for this award in future years, the winner was announced as Lewis Furber and English Counterpoint. Collecting his prize, a clearly surprised Lewis said: “This was the first time I have composed for brass band, so I’m more than a little shocked even to be here this evening, but I would like to thank the Cory Band and the RWCMD for showing me what brass bands have to offer!”
It was just left for the band to raise the roof with Howard Snell’s arrangement of Wagner’s Procession to the Minster and an impromptu encore of William Rimmer’s Punchinello.