When I first heard this group in the movie, "Brassed Off," my first thought was "Who *ARE* these guys??" My exposure to brass bands had been in high school (some 35 years ago), and more recently in the drum-and-bugle corps competitions televised periodically on PBS. NEITHER of these comes close to the level of technical excellence and incredible musicianship evidenced by the Grimethorpe Colliery band.
This particular CD, a collection of musical gems by French composers, includes only two pieces originally written for brass band (and one of those is a "fantasy" on melodies by Offenbach). All other tracks are transcriptions/arrangements of French pieces from piano and orchestral/opera literature.
I can find no weaknesses in this offering. Every track is beautifully played. The arrangements are amazing. They maintain the feeling and style of the original work, yet play up the band's strengths.
One thing that has always impressed me about Grimethorpe is their dynamic control, and this disc doesn't disappoint. Listen to the beautiful duet from Bizet's "The Pearlfishers," arguably one of the most beautiful duets written for two male voices. Alan Fernie's arrangement captures all the subtlety of the original, and the solo playing of Mike Kilroy (euphonium) and Jonathan Beatty (trombone) convey the pure emotion of the original solo tenor and baritone voices.
There's a particular style involved in playing/singing French music, especially music of the late 19th / early 20th century. It requires a delicacy, a "light touch," and yes, careful dynamic control. The selections on this CD demonstrate clearly that Grimethorpe has mastered these stylistic requirements. The three selections from the Debussy "Petite Suite" are shining examples of this, as is the Faure' Berceuse from "Dolly Suite."
If you want to hear a brass band playing something besides marches and "pop" tunes, check out this CD. I used to be a purist when it came to this kind of thing -- I used to believe that no transcription or arrangement would ever do justice to the original -- but I was wrong. Thank you, Grimethorpe, for widening my horizons!