This extensive work for Brass Band was initially commissioned by the Tylorstown Brass Band of South Wales, which was the reigning National Brass Band Champion of Great Britain in the 1st section at the moment of the writing of this piece.
The only requirement was to especially build on the chorale of "St Ann" which is, together with the words of the hymn "our God, our help in ages past", traditionally used during the parades on Remembrance Day. The title of this piece also derives from the words of this hymn. The Remembrance Day service is a unique and dignified occasion that returns every year to pay tribute to those who have fought in conflicts around the world. Since the time of commission, the piece has transformed from a five-minute work into a fully-fledged contest piece.
Due to its foundations lying within a military theme, the music contains many martial characteristics. There are scenes of dramatic battle that can be detected, countered with moments of solitude as well as fragments from the melody of "St Ann."
Introduction and section A:
The piece uses in this section the first two notes of "St Ann" before developing a more chromatic feel and creating a more intense atmosphere. A great element of control and stylistic consistency are required here within the cornet section. Confidence and momentum are the key qualities required from the musicians in this passage, while special attention should be given to the articulation. The motif played in the euphonium solo will reoccur numerously throughout the piece. At this stage, it is the vehicle between a mysterious mood and one that builds and contains assurance. This culminates at the bars 17-18 with another fragment from "St Ann." The triplets of semiquavers and quavers will need to be full in length so the intensive mood is added to, rather than detracted from.
Sections B and C:
The thematic material of this fast-paced section derives from the first four notes of the melody of "St Ann." Again, a consistency of style and shaping of the semiquavers will require good technique, furthermore the supporting, driving rhythm should maintain a solid tempo. Section C should be another vehicle that merely links section B to the 2/2 theme in bar 41. The bars 35-40 are a great opportunity to demonstrate the technical skill of the band and to ensure that a seamless approach is provided, not detracting from the journey of the music. The theme in the 2/2 section needs to be well-balanced and consistent in style. An expression and a line to the phrase should be allowed here, which can only be felt with true musicianship. These are not just crotchets and minims! The supporting rhythm again requires a combination of precision and drive.
End of section D and section E:
The lead into section E will require careful rehearsal in order that there is a natural feeling of momentum towards the new theme and style. You will be able to note that earlier material is being recapitulated here and therefore the challenge is to ensure a smooth pathway throughout these bars, including that bars at section E itself. This section is also a recapitulation but as it has a new door to open, it should be ensured that this is being conveyed convincingly.
Sections F, G and H:
These expressive sections are the opportunity for the band to show a different skill. Tender understanding and a clear focus on the shape of the line of the melody are crucial here. Stylistic understanding and consistence, as well as well-balanced ensemble playing are of course prerequisites here. The music at this stage can tell its own story, so let yours be a compelling one.
Sections I and J:
This is the first point where the melody of "St Ann" is heard in full and the cornet section should be allowed to portray it with grace and sincerity. A balance of harmony as well as a clear presentation of the moving quavers is a big requirement here. An eight-bar phrase would be ideal here, but a convincing set of two four-bar phrases, done deliberately, would also suffice. The tuba section then follows this example, having the chance to offer a more full-sounding, richer expression of the chorale, which lends to beautiful sounds that are possible through good technique. Bar 154 needs to be played with confidence in order that the harmony can sit beautifully and comfortably here rather than feel like an obstacle. Instant precision of tuning and balance as well as the chord not being too loud are key characteristics of this passage. From here, the bars leading towards section J need to be a convincing "gear lever" to allow section J to really speak before the main theme will be performed at bar 166. So the first two bars of section J should really be used to set a clear tempo before the basses start their motif, setting the band off on a new direction. Bar 166-172 see the horns and after that the cornets echoing the previously heard motif. Drive, precision and consistency in approach are essential here throughout all three sections of the band who play it.
This section requires full-length notes; the quavers will be far better approached in a more legato way and a harmony should be created underneath them which creates suspense. This will aid your thought process in delivering the right articulation and length of the notes. Bar 188 is the start of a linking section where more attack is required. The 2/2 theme that leads into section L will enquire a full sound and rhythmic consistency.
The important thing in this passage is that the 7/8 measure is made up of two straight crochets and one compound (dotted) crotchet. It should be conducted in three, but the last beat is a longer, compound beat. Despite the time signature, there is a strong martial feel that underpins this whole section. Maintaining this feel and pulse will be a strong feature.
This is a thematic section that will be a great test for many bands. To enable it to work well, the band should have a more contemporary approach to this section. The drum kit and percussion section will aid this, if accurately played. Again, the key is not to attack the notes in a shortened, 'pecked', way but instead to have a longer approach. This is also the case for the quavers at the bars 235-236.
This section displays another martially routed theme. This has the ability to really engage the band and commit them to a full-sounding and intensive atmosphere. There is a certain aim for drama and excitement here.
There is a juxtaposition in this section that needs carefully defining. So, it should be ensured that there is a drive at the bars 260-262 and after that a more delicate phrase with a feeling of a question being posed at the bars 262-263, which carries on until bar 267. It should be ensured that this distinction is made very clear.
The chorale of "St Ann" is displayed here in a way that you have possibly never heard it. The contemporary sounds will require an understanding of the style, that is full note lengths should be played here. The counter by the flugelhorn as well as the trombones and baritones will require that approach to be juxtaposed with the driving rhythm of the percussion and basses. The use of the tenuto’s however, will again separate the best bands.
Sections S and T:
Again, this section uses much recapitulation and the goal here is to get to the finale of the piece. So, with this in mind, the thematic momentum here should be sensed, both harmonically as well as rhythmically. The chromatics starting in bar 321 should be rehearsed slowly, consistent understanding and approach is the key to section T.
The final presentation of the chorale of "St Ann" should be given a full treatment of technical precision as well as full-sounding, well-balanced melody and chordal support. It should be ensured that there is enough stamina to control this final section well in order for it to provide the required drama and positivity. The final few bars display one final recapitulation of the chorale before reaching the final bars and then the very final chord makes us remember that the third of the chord is always the most essential.