A Legend Is Honoured

Post date: Jun 21, 2012 6:55:59 AM

Sunday 17th June saw a surprise concert in the Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh, to mark 50 years of service to the Brass Band movement by John A. Dickson.

Arriving at the Reid, John found an auditorium full of friends and family and pupils, past and present, waiting to surprise him with a unique scratch band formed especially for the occasion. Players were predominantly John's former and current pupils, along with colleagues and friends.

Featuring many of Scottish banding’s leading soloists and led by the charismatic Raymond Tennant, the band, of some 42 players representing 11 of Scotland’s best brass bands and also two special guests from Norway, tackled a thoroughly challenging and entertaining programme featuring many of John's favourite pieces from his 50 years experience.

The near capacity audience was enthralled from the start when the band romped through the opening March, Simoraine, before the first of the evening’s solo sections, with the Euphonium duet Deep inside the Sacred Temple given a classy performance by Scott Cameron and Michael Dickson, John’s eldest son. Next followed Siciliano from Little Suite for Brass. This music, used at John’s wedding to Fiona, who was also performing in the percussion section, is a lovely lilting piece that the band played with the appropriate care and attention to really show off the lyrical side of the brass band sound. A complete change of style saw the featuring of the band’s Trombone section in Frolic for Trombones. The section, swelled to double its usual number, thrilled the audience with their playing and brought rapturous applause on its finale.

The main feature of the programme was the performance of Land of the Long White Cloud. The piece is a real tour de force for bands and was expertly handled by both conductor and players to bring one of the most exciting pieces of the evening to the fore. Serenade by Bourgeois allowed the band to again show their control and warmth before bringing the first half to a rousing conclusion with The Final Hymn from The Firebird.

After the interval, a presentation was made by Peter Fraser MBE, representing the Scottish Brass Band Association, giving John his Life Service Medal to a standing ovation. Peter has known John for all of his 50 years in banding and made a touching speech to mark the occasion, taking the audience on a trip down memory lane with tales of the early years in John’s career.

The fireworks of the evening were provided when the band slammed their way through Birdland, complete with a lip smashing Jazz Cornet solo by John’s other son, Stuart, to bring it to a close. Following this the band featured their Horn section in the jazzy number The Lady is a Tramp. All four soloists were outstanding and handled the tricky number with ease.

After this John was summoned to the stage to play in the band. He first thought he was to support his long time friend and the band’s Principal Cornet Hugh Foster and son Stuart, only for them to take seats in the audience and leave him to lead the band through Mr. Jums, before they returned to play a new arrangement, Lux Aurumque from the pen of local arranger Alan Fernie, another of John’s great friends. The final section feature of the night was to be the Cornets playing Trumpet Blues and Cantabile featuring 7 players from five different bands, including John sight reading his way through, to the delight of the crowd. People, arranged by Glyn Bragg, gave the band a little time to recover before bringing the house down with a huge performance of Procession to the Minster that nearly took the roof off the hall, to bring the concert to its finale. Of course an encore was required and for this the conducting duties were handed to John to guide the band through the fittingly entitled, Music from The Incredibles, which allowed the band to really enjoy themselves and bring to a close a fantastic programme for a fantastic occasion.

A band of this quality is rarely assembled and it was testament not only to John’s teaching but also his standing as a person in banding that these players were willing and able to produce such a fine performance in his honour.