Eric Crees


Eric Crees and I have collaborated since 1997, first with the LSO and since 2000 at the Royal Opera House. A consummate professional, he has been front and centre in making the brass section at the Opera House so wonderful. I've had tremendous fun conducting his arrangement of the West Side Story Dances for brass ensemble and percussion - it was fantastic, and I know he's done many more. A salute to his continued success!

Sir Antonio Pappano, Director of Music, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Eric Crees is one the country's most senior, experienced brass players. He has been a leading player in some of our most distinguished orchestras, but his sphere of influence is by no means confined to his playing. As a teacher,arranger and composer, he is equally well-known both in this country and further afield.

Sir Mark Elder, Music Director of the Halle

It was as ever a huge pleasure to play your [Gabrieli] editions [in the 2020 Henry Wood Promenade Concerts with the LSO Brass]. I’ve been doing them with various orchestras in Berlin as well and they make life so easy and practical. It's all laid out for us ,and then we can get on with shaping and phrasing. And that music simply makes the world a happier place, somehow ecstatic.

Once again many thanks, and warmest best wishes.

Sir Simon Rattle, Music Director, London Symphony Orchestra

Eric Crees is a hugely influential force within the brass and trombone world. As a player he has performed at the highest level internationally and has been at the top of the orchestral scene in London for the past 30 years. His teaching at the Guildhall School has influenced a generation of young players and his ex-students fill most of the Principal Trombone jobs both in the UK and further afield. As an arranger and conductor he has opened a whole new world of repertoire to performers and audiences alike. His enthusiasm and constant enquiry have yielded a legacy to be proud of.

Jonathan Vaughan, Director of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama

I have the highest regard for Eric Crees’ talent as a conductor, having seen him perform on many occasions. I particularly remember a performance of Stravinsky Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments in the Milton Court Concert Hall, where he displayed a highly impressive technical command, a detailed knowledge of the score and its stylistic context and the crucial ability to inspire the players to perform with confidence and conviction.
I have no hesitation in strongly recommending Eric’s work as a conductor.

Professor Ronan O'Hora, Head of Keyboard Studies and Head of Advanced Performance Studies, Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Eric Crees is simply one of the most complete musicians on the planet! His skills and experience as a trombonist, composer/arranger, as well as teacher are world class. It is my honor and pleasure to know Eric as both a wonderful colleague and great friend.

Professor Jiggs Whigham, Director BBC Big Band

Without doubt Eric Crees is one of the leading brass experts and musicians in the United Kingdom and internationally. His work as a Director and Conductor of brass ensembles is well known world wide with London Symphony Orchestra Brass, Royal Opera House Brass and the Symphonic Brass of London. The Symphonic Brass of London is an ensemble which contains musicians of the highest talent and pedigree from London and the UK brought together by Eric Crees. Add to this Eric's sublime talent for transcribing music for brass ensemble of all sizes and the result is a very rare talent.

Philip Biggs, The Brass Herald

To Eric, with thanks and great appreciation on all of our collaborations.

John Williams, Film Composer

"The concert with The Symphonic Brass of London was an amazing experience. They presented an exciting programme with finesse and virtuosity. World-Class players and a World-Class ensemble. The Northern Lights Festival strive to present music of the highest quality and The Symphonic Brass of London truly met our expectations."

Øyvind Bakkeby Moe, Artistic and Managing Director, Northern Lights Festival, Norway

Eric Crees is one of the greatest arrangers for brass music in the world. I do many concerts around the world and I always insist on doing Eric's arrangements wherever I go. There simply is no better transcriber for brass than Eric Crees.

Jay Friedman, Principal Trombone, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Conductor

Eric really impressed on me the need for consistency in all areas. Production, articulation, slide movement, and air flow all have to be under the trombonist’s control at all times. It is only when you are in control that you can follow the composer’s instructions properly. Eric gave me a passion for seeking out the right way to approach different musical styles and how to use the right skills to make better music. Good technique is the servant to music making at all times and not an end in itself.

I wouldn’t be the trombonist I am without Eric Crees.

Mark Templeton, Principal Trombone, London Philharmonic Orchestra

I enjoyed my time studying with Eric at the GSMD. He was extremely thorough and disciplined in his approach, which is exactly what I needed at that stage in my development. He also taught his students to be open-minded and to practice playing a phrase or piece in a variety of different ways. This was invaluable advice, as this is what keeps us fresh in our musical approach. As soon as a player becomes ‘closed’ then they stop being part of the music and equally they stop enjoying what they are doing.

Eric has a great sense of humour too! In one of my fellow student’s lessons, he and Eric were exploring rubato in a Bordogni Vocalise (I think). After a few attempts Eric stopped the student and said, “Look, there is rubato, and then there is daylight robbery!"

Congratulations Eric on this very well-deserved award!

Helen Vollam, Principal Trombone, BBC Symphony Orchestra

I was one of Eric’s students at the Guildhall School of Music and was encouraged to study with him by Denis Wick. Eric was a particularly great teacher for me as I just required and wanted my teacher to import to me as much knowledge, advice and experience as possible. I think that pretty much sums up Eric’s teaching style. There was a constant stream of good stuff in virtually every minute of the hour.

Eric is an extremely knowledgeable musician and trombonist and so the lessons were an excellent balance of technique, style and musicianship. Although musicians are constantly listening to other players and enjoying other influences, I never felt that I would need to look elsewhere to complete my training. It’s no coincidence that Eric has had such an impact on the current generation of UK trombonists. His influence is, of course, now spreading to the next generation as his past students begin to teach.

Byron Fulcher, Principal Trombone, Philharmonia Orchestra and London Sinfonietta

It was a stimulating and practical pleasure to work on such a diverse collection of works from the Gabrieli : Eric Crees Performing Edition. Tempo indications, dynamics and above all imaginative phrasing brought these wonderful pieces to life with ease and enabled my students to perform with style and refinement.

Chris Houlding, Prof. Trombone & Brass Ensemble, Folkwang University of Arts, Essen, Germany

I am deeply grateful for having shared in a digital session (teaching skills for brass) in Febrary 2021with Eric Crees. His remarks were very inspiring und helpful for my own work with brass ensembles. It was impressive to meet Mr. Crees in person and to get to know him not only as a highly qualified trombonist and teacher, but also as a complete musician. His knowledge and ideas cover not only mere trombone playing but give multiple suggestions and motivations for every musician. Thanks a lot!

Stefan Mey, Prof. Music theory, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media

In February 2021 we had Eric Crees as a guest in our digital class (Teaching skills for Brass). It was a fantastic Zoom-Session! Eric held a fascinating and detailed lecture about trombone technique via Zoom. For me as a former student of Eric Crees it was wonderful to see how my students (prospective Brass teachers) benefitted from Eric's long time experience as a trombonist, teacher and musician — as I did some years ago at Guildhall!

I got plenty Mails and calls from my students with enthusiastic feedback after this memorable digital lecture!

Daniel Haupt, Lecturer/Teacher (Teachings Skills for Brass), Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media

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Reviews for The Symphonic Brass of London's ‘Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks’ – buy it here

“Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks is one of the most interesting brass recordings I have heard recently. Several elements come together to make this work a fantastic example of the great English brass ensemble tradition. The wise choice of repertoire merges the tracks during listening and sounds like a large orchestral suite put together by the prestigious arranger and conductor Eric Crees.

This refined arranging skill brings out the original beauty of the compositions with an added touch of elegance and sophistication; the unmistakable personal sound signature of Maestro Crees goes even further this time. The Symphonic Brass of London adds the icing on the cake with their magnificent performance full of delicacy, grace and style. Definitely a reference CD for music lovers.”

Daniel Perpiñán Sanchis – Professor Brass Academy Alicante, Catalonian Higher Music School, Barcelona Higher Music Conservatoire, Aragon Music Conservatoire

This classy, sassy collection of transcriptions of music by Debussy, Milhaud, Satie, Joplin and Auric could be just the tonic you need in these unsettled and unsettling times, regardless of whether or not brass ensemble repertoire is your usual line of country: everything really sings and dances, with Joplin’s Weeping Willow and Satie’s Parade standing out as particular highlights.

Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, Presto Editors Choices - April 2020

World famous trombonist, composer and arranger Eric Crees has researched the performance style of Joplin’s music and its influence on Debussy and other French composers. He has arranged eight of Joplin’s piano pieces for 10 brass players and two percussionists and has similarly arranged a selection of thirteen ragtime and jazz-influenced piano pieces by Debussy, Auric, Milhaud and Satie, providing a highly entertaining and virtuosic series of performances, which often makes one wonder whether this music could ever have been composed in any other way!

Presto News, 3rd April 2020

‘Superb - best thing I’ve heard in a longer than long time. These players are, as someone sometime said, ‘out of sight’ -  the standard remarkable: technically and musically several moves beyond reasonable expectations.

Their own obvious talents apart, they owe much to yourself [Eric] - the orchestrations and conducting skills are at the highest levels.

Daring too. I would never have tried (risked) especially Debussy, but you solved the various problems/difficulties with seeming ease - no casualties. Much pleasure, not simply for brass enthusiasts I’m sure.

I hope the CD has a great and well-deserved current and lasting life. The disc should have a great welcome both in the UK and US (Japan?) if it is promoted well.

I hope my enthusiasm for what I will continue to value as an outstanding recording is evident!

Congratulations - do some more.’

Elgar Howarth - Conductor, composer, arranger, trumpeter. Long time member of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble

‘It is sheer delight to hear this splendid collection of varied pieces so exquisitely performed. Congratulations to The Symphonic Brass of London!’

Ursula Jones - Former manager of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble

Directed by the internationally-renowned trombonist, Eric Crees, The Symphonic Brass of London is a hand-picked group of Britain’s finest brass and percussion players. The ensemble’s critically-acclaimed debut album, ‘A Bridge over the Pyrenees’, was released in 2014 and focused on the influence of Spanish music on French composers. ‘Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks’, the ensemble’s eagerly-awaited second album is, once again, adventurous in its exploration of repertoire, this time focusing on the enormous impact of ragtime music on French composers.

From the first of its 21 tracks, the listener can be in no doubt about the quality of the featured ensemble. Under the guidance of Eric Crees, The Symphonic Brass of London makes it sound so easy, with every player exuding class and style, from the elegant piccolo leads, down to the rock-solid bass lines.

Similarly, the skillful arrangements create an immediate impact, the instrumentation of ten brass and two percussion enabling the arranger, Eric Crees, to give the music proper reverence, detail and colour whilst respecting the original voicings of the composers. For some, the idea of presenting piano works in a burnished brass and percussion colouring, may not seem appealing, but when approached with such adept skill, the result is striking.

Featuring the music of Debussy, Joplin, Auric, Milhaud and Satie, the programme is well- structured and varied. The ragtime influence is easy to hear, particularly when listening to Joplin’s Swipesy and Debussy’s Golliwogg’s Cakewalk back-to-back. The technical execution is exceptional throughout, although it is some of the more reflective moments, including a sublime performance of Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin, that leave a lasting impression.

The presentation of this MPR release is much like the playing and the arrangements – first-class. A full colour 20-page booklet provides informative background to the music and the performers, together with historical images including original score covers. The sound produced is also to be admired; great balance and clarity at all dynamics, placing the listener in the front row to enjoy the music-making. The new arrangements, the uncovering of neglected gems and the general body of research involved in this project makes it an impressive release, but even if ‘Rags and Cakewalks’ are not for you, I highly recommend this CD for the brass playing alone; an object lesson in performing with musicality and style.

David Childs - Editor, Brass Band World. Programme **** Performance ***** Recording ***** Presentation *****

‘WOW!!!!!  Fantastic in every way. Your writing is superb, as usual - very inventive. The playing is wonderful and although I usually don’t read through the notes, even your prose is great (a lot of stuff I never knew). I especially like the information about ’stomp’. The ‘feet’ determines the tempo, (often sadly overlooked by today’s youth - attempting to impress rather than serving the music).’

Professor Jiggs Whigham - International Jazz Trombone Soloist, Director Bundesjazzorchester, Former Professor Hochschule für Musik Berlin, Former Director RIAS Big Band , BBC Big Band

‘I have been quite ill lately and just the first track lifted me out of my doldrums. Always enjoyed Swipesy, but your version is especially…well, Swipesy! I really enjoyed your CD. Great sounds coming out of the UK. I found it delightful.’

Larry Melton - Curator & Founder of the Sedalia Ragtime Archive, Founder and Adviser to the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival Board

‘Your CD is wonderful! What a good choice of repertoire! To mix Joplin and the French composers is a very good idea and very logical!

Your arrangements are terrific! Very good taste and perfect balance! Very good musicians, very good to see Paul Archibald and this new crew!

The sound is very ‘English’; you have in your country a specific sound and a way of playing in Brass Ensembles, probably the best in the world - I have loved it for a long time, even if it’s a little different from the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, more symphonic and more ‘muscled’.

Bravo and I would love to hear you live!’

Thierry Caens - Trumpet Soloist, Cultural Ambassador for the Town of Dijon, France, Professor Lyon and Dijon Conservatories

As someone who has spent the vast bulk of his professional career steeped in London’s professional music scene, Eric Crees has a contacts book that is second to none. It comes in very useful indeed for the celebrated trombone player, director and arranger when he calls upon The Symphonic Brass of London, an ensemble comprising leading orchestral brass and percussion players including names familiar to brass band audiences such as James Fountain, who shares piccolo trumpet duties, and trombonist Chris Houlding.

In its latest release, the star-studded group turns to arrangements made especially for the world-premiere recording, by Eric, of music by Scott Joplin and his apparent influence on the likes of Debussy, Eric Satie and members of Les Six in France. Eric Crees has gone to painstaking lengths to retain a degree of authenticity in his music, paying close attention to tempi and harmonies found in the original arrangements. Swipesy, by Joplin and his pupil Arthur Marshall, sets the tone for this engaging release, encapsulating the cheeky charm and humour associated with ragtime. As one might expect, the playing is of a terrific calibre throughout, the ensemble finding a wonderful homogeneity and blend, no doubt underpinned by the quality and consistency of personnel, which endures across its appearances and recording work.

Joplin’s The Strenuous Life, Searchlight Rag and Weeping Willow are treated with a remarkable sense of poise, no doubt alluding to comments from the composer, highlighted by Crees in the sleeve notes, warning: “never play ragtime fast at any time”. It elicits a gentle swagger which often goes untapped in this genre.

La Puerta del Vino provides a refreshing change of pace, taking the listener into an altogether more violent sound world – not least thanks to the bass trombone interjections of Christian Jones. There’s a luxurious warmth, meanwhile, to Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin. Percussion is used sensibly, adding a variety of colour without becoming overbearing. Works by ragtime ‘guru’ Joplin permeate the release and his apparent influence never seems far away, even during the music of composers like Debussy, Milhaud and Satie; Debussy’s Minstrels and Le Piccadilly, by Satie, for example, feel at home.

In an album of this type, there’s a danger the repertoire could become one-dimensional and samey. The harmonic languages of the French composers bring the necessary variety.

The recording, which was made in London’s Henry Wood Hall, authentically captures the individual and collective sounds produced by these eminent musicians. Accompanied by detailed, informative sleeve notes, it makes for an engaging chamber brass recording which would be a worthy addition to any listener’s library, arranged and performed by musicians of the highest calibre.

Mark Good - Editor, The British Bandsman. Programme **** Performance ***** Recording ***** Presentation *****

Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks is the latest release from The Symphonic Brass of London. It adds exciting new colours to the piano works of the early twentieth century French composers Claude Debussy, Georges Auric, Darius Milhaud and Erik Satie while exploring the influence of ‘ragtime’ music and ‘cakewalks’ on their work. A showcase of these styles would, of course, be incomplete without the American ‘King of Ragtime’ Scott Joplin, whose lesser known works thread this series together nicely.

This project has been masterfully collated by the ensemble’s Artistic Director Eric Crees, who has researched each of these responses to the ragtime and cakewalk traditions with great detail and, with his widely celebrated orchestrating skill, has transformed each piece into new works for a line-up of ten-piece brass and two percussion.

This clever work has been brought to life by the musicians of The Symphonic Brass of London, a hand-picked pool of players who come together with a brilliant orchestral sound, but with the versatility needed to bring a varied programme to life. This release follows the ensemble’s fantastic debut album 'A Bridge Over the Pyrenees’.

With such a specific focus on style, influence and era, you might expect many of the pieces to sound similar, but this is a varied and carefully balanced programme. This music has it all; it’s sometimes calm - with a special nod to La Fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair), it has moments of terror and is both lively and serene. The satirical nature of this music is enhanced by the characterful brass. These works successfully highlight the immense capabilities of the brass ensemble, tastefully lifted by the percussion.

This delightful collection is not just a display of brilliant brass playing and directorship, but these arrangements are so clearly a successful enhancement of what is already exciting music. This is a classy creation and everyone will find plenty to enjoy here.

Jane Salmon, The Trombonist, the Journal of The British Trombone Society

Joplin would have loved being included on Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks, a project on which the Symphonic Brass of London performs eight of his compositions next to 13 works by Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Darius Milhaud, and Satie’s protégé Georges Auric.

The Symphonic Brass Of London, comprising a piccolo trumpet, three trumpets, french horn, four trombones (including a bass trombone), tuba, and two percussionists, performs arrangements by their conductor Eric Crees.

In many cases, a Joplin piece is followed by a classical work from the era that has some abstract connection, showing that Debussy or Satie were clearly a bit influenced by some aspect of ragtime (at least briefly), hinting at ragtime during their own much more dissonant writing. Sometimes there is only a slight connection and in most cases the Joplin rags sound absolutely jubilant compared to the more harmonically advanced classical pieces.The CD gives one a rare chance to hear such pieces as Debussy’s “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” and Satie’s Rag Time Parade” next to Joplin’s “Swipesy,” “The Strenuous Life,” and “Solace”.

The intriguing Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks is mostly recommended for listeners who have a strong interest in Debussy and Satie. Scott Joplin would have been pleased.

Scott Yanow. ’The Syncopated Times’ 27 May, 2020 – Rating *****

The French and Americans have enjoyed a rather complex form of musical ‘entente cordiale’ over the past century or more. Cajun music with its deep emblematic Francophone roots has remained hugely popular, yet when Edith Piaf first arrived in New York she was initially rejected by audiences who didn’t understand her lyrics.

And despite the latter day Trumpian disdain for French imports Jane Birkin sold out Carnegie Hall in 2018 singing nearly all her show in a peculiar form of lingua-franca.

On the other side of l’Ocean Atlantique the Parisian public adored the great Josephine Baker (and presented her with the Legion d’honneur), but by the mid 1980s the French Culture Minister was demanding that US pop videos only to be played with subtitles.

Mutual respect

Yet a lasting mutual respect has been retained through a love of jazz and its precursor, the era of ragtime at the turn of the 20th century.

Debussy was certainly a fan, as was Ravel and Stravinsky, so by the time Scott Joplin’s music with its rhythmic subdivisions and inventive progressions found worldwide popularity after being brought to Paris in 1903, a trans-Atlantic cross fertilisation of styles from the likes of Satie, Milhaud and Auric began to emerge and has been maintained ever since.

It is a fascinating tale told with academic rigour and performed with informed musical insight by the Symphonic Brass of London ensemble under the direction of Eric Crees, whose research underpins the project and the 21 splendidly arranged tracks.

From the high kicking ‘cakewalks’ and stylised syncopations of the vigorous two step ‘rags’, to the fluid movements of gentle swing, it is sophisticated music distilled into an intoxicating shot glass mix of bourbon and absinthe.

Eccentric and exquisite

It is both eccentric and exquisite in turn - the inner workings of ragtime chromaticism and virile harmonies paced, as Joplin insisted it must be, to perfection – and “never fast at anytime”.

Debussy’s appreciation is arguably more evocative and Satie’s implicitly charming, whilst Milhaud and Auric are definably idiosyncratic.

Joplin though is a genius – his works miniature masterpieces of form and function; the complexities made to sound almost naive in their simplicity. They are anything but - from the opening ‘Swipesy - Cake Walk’ to the glorious ‘Stoptime Rag’ to close.

The men may never have met in their lifetimes (Joplin died in tragically reduced circumstances in New York in 1917, Debussy less than a year later, but already celebrated, in Paris), but all seem to pay direct and personal homage in their writing to a man who defined the musical style of a generation.

Eric Crees also pays his affectionate respects in performances subtly styled, coloured and paced – from the touchingly restrained to the joyfully raucous. Musical authenticity permeates through, understated yet valued in placement and precision.

It is a fabulous exploration that deserves the richest of accolades on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean’.

Iwan Fox – 4 Bars Rest - Verdict *****

‘At first blush, the recent release of Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks, conducted by Eric Crees, might seem like an album of encores, or a collection meant for light listening. But this compact disc is much more. Arrangements of favorites from Claude Debussy, plus selections by Eric Satie, Darius Milhaud, and Georges Auric, carefully positioned alongside and around those of certain lesser-known yet quite substantial works of Scott Joplin, convincingly demonstrate something that is quite special and warrants widespread hearing. It’s persuasively audible, thanks to Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks, that just before and after the Great War, French musicians had recognized the artistry and innovation of America’s first true original classical music - ragtime. The opening juxtaposition of Swipsey - Cakewalk, Golliwog’s Cakewalk, The Strenuous Life, and Rag Time Parade immediately makes this connection crystal clear. And the linkage of Joplin’s Solace - A Mexican Serenade with Debussy’s La Puerto del Vino definitely demonstrates that both creative composers took inspiration just outside their own countries’ borders. Before jazz would inspire so very many French composers in the 1920s, the vigorous richness and expansive sophistication of American ragtime, as well as nearby Spanish sources, already had captured their attention.

Among the other tracks, six others stand out for different reasons. Joplin’s Weeping Willow - A Ragtime Two Step, and especially his Bethena - A Concert Waltz, reveal unsuspected lyrical gifts projected in Eric Crees’ imaginative arrangements for brass and percussion. Debussy’s humor comes through in the settings of his Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C. (which caricatures a Dickens character) and his Général Lavine - eccentric (inspired by an American vaudevillian who performed in Paris), which present a palpable physicality of the seemingly larger-than-life personae they portray. And Auric’s Adieu, New York!, as well as Satie’s Le Piccadilly, surely illustrate how open-minded and well-travelled French composers were in the early twentieth-century. New perspectives provided here readily elicit new appreciation of this vibrant music.

Of course, it’s easy to imagine other selections that could complement these fine choices. For instance, adaptations of Gabriel Fauré‘s energetic Le pas Espagnole, from the Dolly suite, his exotic Air de danse from the incidental music to Caligula, or even his elegant fourth Prélude might have fit well here too. Hmmm… why not a Fauré set in the next Symphonic Brass of London release?

Crees’ arrangements of this early 20th-century music, most originally for solo piano, re-imagine each within the brass domain via flexibly shifting configurations, creating intriguing and evolving effects of timbre, texture, and spatiality. Above all, rhythmic vitality, even in the slower works, dominates Preludes, Rags and Cakewalks. Of course, bringing all of this to life is the inspired playing of the Symphonic Brass of London, whose members include James Fountain (piccolo trumpet), Chris Deacon (piccolo trumpet), Paul Archibald (trumpet), Katie Smith (trumpet), Bruce Knockles (flugelhorn, trumpet), Hugh Seenan (horn), Christopher Houlding (trombone), Simon Wills (trombone), Nick Lloyd (trombone), Christian Jones (bass trombone), Adrian Miotti (tuba), Scott Bywater (percussion), and Jonathan Kitchen (percussion). Recorded at 24/96 resolution (hi-res audio), the CD’s sound has brilliance and impact, plus considerable presence.

While Online Trombone Journal readers may find these percussion-augmented arrangements of Joplin, Debussy, and the other French composers to be engaging concert features as well as exciting encore options, they also are apt to discover that many may serve as effective teaching pieces. Their incisive syncopations, contrasting dynamics, and divergent modulations require extremely precise ensemble and exceptionally careful intonation, so university troupes are sure to benefit as well as enjoy. Brass Wind Publications may be releasing the arrangements individually as soon as the late summer of 2020, so interested directors and performers might start with the CD, which is available through MPR and is distributed widely. Recommended!’

Online Trombone Journal - May 11 2020 - James William Sobaskie

More Recordings

Superb playing from living legends of the London orchestral brass scene. In these fantastic arrangements it’s sometimes hard to believe these pieces weren’t originally scored for brass. The musicianship throughout is second to none & the sound is an absolute treat.

Joby Talbot, Composer
The Symphonic Brass of London's ‘A Bridge Over The Pyrenees’

In our present age, where everything from a pizza to a sunset to God is deemed “awesome,” a reviewer needs to be careful that his words have meaning and he does not descend into adjective-laden hyperbole. But there is no exaggeration at play in saying that Eric Crees and students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have given us a wholly satisfying recording that exhibits all of the hallmarks of a superb, memorable and historically important offering: compelling repertoire, engaging performance, inspired leadership, informed scholarship and excellent recorded sound.

Readers of this Journal will recall Luc Vertommen’s book with three companion compact discs, Some Missing Episodes in Brass (Band) History, that was reviewed by this writer in HBSJ Volume 24, 2012, pp. 196-199. Vertommen's book – really an adaptation of his 2011 Doctoral dissertation from the University of Salford – highlighted three aspects of 19th and early 20th century brass history that had fallen into obscurity: the trombone with six independent valves and the solo music written for it by Jules Demesserman, Adolphe Sax's development of the saxhorn family and music written and arranged for saxhorns by Belgian composers from 1850 to 1913, and the original compositions for “Fanfare Wagnérienne” by Paul Gilson composed between 1894 and 1909. Aspects of this were explored by Ray D. Burkhart in his paper, “The Paris Factor: French influence on brass chamber music 1840-1930,” presented at the Historic Brass Society Conference in Paris, 2007, but Vertommen's book, despite its disjointed structure and alarmingly poor editing and proofreading, proved useful in shedding more light on instruments and music that are worthy of further study. Of the three subjects, it is the music composed by Paul Gilson, found in the Library of the Royal Conservatory, Brussels, that was Vertommen's great discovery.

Original works for mixed brass ensemble began to appear with greater frequency in the late nineteenth century; among the more compelling examples are Edvard Grieg's 1878 arrangement for brass of his Sørgenmarsch over Rikard Nordråk of 1866, the brass quintets of Viktor Ewald composed beginning around 1890 and the brass septets of Jean Sibelius from 1889–1899. However, Percy Fletcher has often been credited with having composed the first significant, original composition, Labour and Love, for a large brass ensemble; for British-style brass band to be precise. Composed as the test piece for the 1913 Crystal Palace National Contest (won by Irwell Springs conducted by William Halliwell), Labour and Love represented a radical departure from the standard fare for brass bands that had been played in concert and contest up to that point, that being arrangements of classical and popular orchestral works, marches and solos. That Luc Vertommen uncovered a substantial body of high quality original works written for brasses by Belgian composer Paul Gilson during the two decades before Fletcher's seminal work is not merely notable but it causes us to rewrite the received history of brass ensemble music.

Paul Gilson (1865-1942) composed six pieces (or seven, depending on how one counts them) for the “Fanfare Wagnérienne”, a brass and percussion ensemble organized in 1894 at the Brussels Conservatory by Henri Séha. The ensemble’s instrumentation was patterned after the brass scoring of Richard Wagner in his Das Ring der Nibelungen and called for trumpets (including bass trumpet), horns, Wagner tubas, trombones (including contrabass trombone) tubas (including contrabass tuba) and percussion. These are important, substantial pieces, the longest of which, Variations Symphoniques (1903) clocks in at about 20 minutes. Vertommen, with his deep roots in brass banding, arranged Gilson’s compositions for British-style brass band and released a recording, “Anthology of Flemish Band Music Volume 7 - Paul Gilson (1865-1942): Complete works for the Fanfare Wagnérienne” with Brass Band Buizingen and Delta Brass Zeeland under his direction. This recording brought Gilson’s music much needed attention but at the time of its release in 2012 it begged the question, “What does Gilson's music sound like in the composer’s intended instrumentation?”

Having been introduced to Gilson’s music by Luc Vertommen, into the breech stepped Eric Crees. His background as trombonist with the London Symphony and Royal Opera Covent Garden and as an arranger, composer, and teacher – he is Professor of Trombone and conductor of Wind, Brass and Percussion at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and was recipient of the International Trombone Association's 2014 Neill Humfield Award – uniquely positioned him to bring Gilson’s music alive once again as intended. The result is the 2013 release, “La Fanfare Wagnérienne (The Extraordinary Lost Collection of Paul Gilson)” and publication of Crees’ performing editions of Gilson’s music. The result is superb.

Eric Crees’ decision to explore this repertoire in its original instrumentation with students at London’s Guildhall School is testament to the skill and commitment of his young charges who, from all appearances, embraced rehearsing, performing and recording Gilson’s works during the 2010-2011 school year with startling commitment. One is hard pressed to find cause to think that the Guildhall Brass is “just another student group.” Rather, the nearly 50 students who participated in the three recording sessions for the project – a complete list of personnel is given in the CD booklet – show themselves to be professional in every way, with clarity and purity of sound, a wide dynamic range, blistering technique and, with a tip of the hat to those playing the Alexander Wagner tubas, spot-on intonation. Within the first 30 seconds of the opening track, Gilson’s Scherzo Fantastique, one hears the brass section enter in turn – trumpets, horns, trombones and then tubas – in a fanfare that is electrifying in its power and ability to engage the listener. This is both playing and music of extraordinarily high quality that makes for immensely enjoyable listening.

A word must be said about the comparison of Crees’ recording of Gilson’s music in the original instrumentation and Luc Vertommen’s recording of the same repertoire in his arrangement for British-style brass band. The sonic contrast could not be more striking, with the cylindrical bore trumpets and trombones of Guildhall Brass providing much more visceral impact and aural diversity than the saxhorns of the Vertommon’s brass bands. Each editor has made particular choices in how to negotiate Gilson’s considerable demands. Nowhere is this more evident than in Gilson’s Fantasie. In the Guildhall Brass recording, trombones expertly execute a rapidly articulated passage at 2:48 that comes immediately after a lyrical, soft chorale featuring Wagner and bass tubas. The contrast in color and articulation is very satisfying for the listener, to say nothing of the fine technical work of the young trombonists. But in the same passage, Vertommen moves the trombones to the chorale and leaves it to baritones and euphoniums to play the technical passage, and slurred rather than articulated. The result falls rather flat by comparison.

Not only does the Guildhall Brass recording contain well-written and informative program notes by Eric Crees, but Crees also has provided an extensive document – available on the Musical Concepts website – that outlines the editorial procedure for creating the performing edition of Gilson’s works. Crees has not created an urtext or critical edition. Rather, as the experienced performer and conductor that he is, he has edited Gilson with a modern eye and ear, modifying various instrument transpositions and indicating optional doublings, providing sensible metronome markings and bringing Gilson’s notation up to modern standards. Reading Crees’ document is an enlightening exercise that gives the listener even greater appreciation of the care given to showing Gilson’s music in the best possible light.

Recordings are too easy to produce and advertising is too successful in persuading the marketplace that mediocre is excellent. This is certainly the case with many recordings of music for large brass ensemble, where volume and power often are used to disguise either poor playing or musical kitsch. Happily, Eric Crees and students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have given us reason for hope. Not only is “La Fanfare Wagnérienne (The Extraordinary Lost Collection of Paul Gilson)” a recording of consequential repertoire, but the work of the Guildhall Brass students shows us that brass playing is in good hands with these players of the younger generation. Eric Crees is to be commended for his efforts in editing Gilson’s music and bringing it back to life in its original instrumentation over 100 years after it was first performed. Highly recommended.

Douglas Yeo (Arizona State University), Historic Brass Society Journal, Volume 27, 2015
La Fanfare Wagnérienne (The Extraordinary Lost Collection of Paul Gilson)

“The London Symphony Orchestra has recorded the third instalment in a series of the complete instrumental ensemble canzonas and sonatas of Giovanni Gabrieli, In this volume, Gabrieli explores changes in orchestration, harmonic language and scope.

Some works represent the high point of Renaissance splendour(Sonata XX uses twenty-two players in five choirs). Others are reminiscent or the more subdued early Baroque trio sonatas that were becoming popular at the same time(Sonata XX! was written for three soloists and organ continuo).

The LSO Brass recording brilliantly displays the ensemble, performing these works with both power and finesse.

Similar to the second volume of the series, the CD is replete with vivid ensemble colours, textures, and dynamic contrast. The strength of Gabrieli’s compositional skill is enhanced by the performers’ ability to engage the listener in the contrapuntal interplay of the voices while building drama for the powerful homophonic textures that are inevitable in this music. Melodic complexities are always present, even when they are written for inner voices. Syncopations are consistently emphasised, and articulations are varied appropriately throughout the recording, Intonation is impeccable, and sonorities jump to life with the superbly even tone qualities of the LSO Brass.

The CD was made in All Hallows Church in London: the recording quality is excellent. The natural cathedral-like resonance is maintained without sounding manufactured.

Brass players can learn much from the musical interpretations of conductor Eric Crees and the superb performance of the ensemble.

This recording is highly recommended.”

International Trumpet Guild Journal, January 2002
Giovanni Gabrieli: Music for Brass – Volume 3

“All 13 selections receive splendid performances by the LSO Brass, a truly world-class ensemble that plays with ringing, and ensemble clarity. tone, beautifully blended sonority, and immaculate clarity. Eric Crees, who prepared new editions of Gabrieli’s works for this series, conducts with scholarly authority, sparked by evangelistic fervour.”

Classics Today
Giovanni Gabrieli: Music for Brass - Volume 2

“This is the best modern-instrument recording I have heard of the great polychoral works of Giovanni Gabrieli…The big moments are rich and very impressive, intonation is impeccable, and the players sound like they truly understand what they are playing. Brief moments of leading melody or interesting countermelody are brought out nicely, due at least in part to Eric Crees’s conducting and to his new editions of the pieces…”

American Record Guide
Giovanni Gabrieli: Music for Brass - Volume 2

‘This recording was made at a live performance given in the Floral Hall, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in December 2005. it brings together an entertainingly varied programme of (mostly) seasonal music, all of it arranged and directed by the Royal Opera House Brass Soloists’ Artistic Director (and Peter Warlock Society member), Eric Crees. if you are weary of hearing the traditional sound of an Oxbridge Christmas CD collection, then this might well be one to put on your shopping list.

In assembling this programme, variety has obviously been a prime consideration. Thus, we hear a spirited and extremely stylish performance of ‘the King’s March and Prince Eugene’s March’ by Jeremiah Clarke, delivered with great gusto and finesse, juxtaposed with new arrangements of traditional carols, three pieces by Bach and an upbeat carol medley arrangement. Warlock is represented by ‘Balulalow’, ‘When He is King’ and ‘Tyrley Tyrlow’, and the latter receives a sparkling and vivid rendition - aided considerably by the imaginative and colourful orchestration of the arranger. A further non-seasonal piece of Warlock is with the rich-toned bass soloist, Matthew Rose, in Eric Crees’s own witty, clever and entertaining arrangement of ‘Maltworms’ which he has arranged from Warlock’s still yet unperformed full orchestral version.

The arrangements of three of J S Bach’s organ choral preludes make for very interesting listening. Crees’s arrangement of Bach’s introspective setting from his Orgelbüchlein of ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’ - played here with great sensitivity - is an enigmatic evocation of the sense of reverie and awe that is inherent in the original organ setting, whilst his exuberant arrangement of ‘In dulce jubilo’ (from the same collection) is masterful in its articulation of Bach’s canonical counterpoint.

Perhaps the most entertaining items on this CD are Crees’s arrangements of traditional carols. These include a high-spirited version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ - one of the real highlights of the disc- a superbly imaginative setting, full of witty references and snippets of melodies (you can play ‘spot the tune’ in this one), all given in a sparkling performance, where the rich, full-toned operatic style of the singers is absolutely right for the music.

The disc includes with Crees’s Christmas Trilogy. This medley is yet another cracking arrangement, giving ‘We three kings’ in a way you will never have heard it before. This gives way to an unashamedly indulgent, chromatic treatment of ‘Silent Night’, in which the singers are supported by an ever-changing and inventive accompaniment, whilst the programme comes to a rousing conclusion with a delightfully swung jazz arrangement of ‘Deck the Hall’. Recommended.'

Graham Dinnage, The Peter Warlock Society Newsletter Autumn 2008
Royal Opera House Brass Soloists, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’

“This CD may be short in its list of works, but it is long in fantastic performing! First of all, it is worth noting that this CD was recorded live during one of the Royal Opera House Brass Soloists’ concerts. Upon listening to this CD for the first time, I was impressed by the overall sound and accuracy of this fine organisation, then I was taken aback at the sound of applause at the end of the first track, proving that it was recorded live. Upon further investigation, I find in the jacket of this CD that it was indeed recorded live in one concert in June the 5th 2005 not in a succession of takes or in a series of concerts.

The name of this organisation implies that you will hear impressive soloistic brass playing by the members of this group, this is absolutely true, but the ensemble sound, pitch and group dynamics equally match the virtuosic individual playing.

The Bach and Liszt both transcribed fro original works for organ and both about twelve minutes in length display wonderful technical passages as well as sensitive lyric playing. It is worth mentioning that the added percussion in each of these works sounds tasteful, while contributing great impact to the work and create a natural extension of the music. The second work on the disc is Eric Crees’s original composition ’The Birth of Conchobar’, a twenty-five minute long programmatic work based on the early epic tales of Ulster. This work pushes each section of the ensemble to the limits and literally features nearly every member of the ensemble at some point of the piece. The solo passages that occur in every section of the ensemble throughout the work are inspiring and sound as if the musicians are having as much fun performing the work as the audience is listening.

The Bernstein closes the concert in a truly exciting way and displays the ensemble’s ability to successfully cross into other musical styles. Any fan of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble or London Brass will vastly enjoy this recording and be pleased to have it as part of their listening library.”

Online Trombone Journal
Royal Opera House Brass Soloists, ‘On The Town’

“The three Renaissance pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli [Eric Crees edition] are especially successful…The various voices of Bach’s “Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor”[arr. Crees] shine out with absolute clarity in this arrangement that projects the work’s contrapuntal complexities with gleaming clarity.”

All Music Guide
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live

“The editions are by Gabrieli scholar Eric Crees. Crees also provides the organ-like performing version of the Bach work, an arrangement most notable for its transparency and delicacy, yet with a finale of blazing power.”
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live

"The very best in brass playing, brass-arranging and brass-recording [American Brass]. A basic ensemble of some 21 brass and percussion players displays every possible skill in the handling of the superlative arrangements by Eric Crees… The arrangements are predominantly of music which lends itself ideally to the project; indeed the Bernstein West Side Story and Copland's El Salon Mexico come up in places shining in a burnished brass colouring more effective than the original."

Gramophone Magazine

The musical arrangements and the opening fanfare are by Eric Crees who is a trombonist and member of the London Symphony Orchestra. They are extemely well done and imaginative with Crees turning out spectacular work on Eric Clapton's Layla and Meredith Wilson's 76 Trombones. The Pink Panther Theme (with special percussion effects) and Gershwin's Someone to Watch over Me provide excellent material for Richard Edwards' jazz improvisations and truly beautiful ballad work. The playing and ensemble work on the Monteverdi, Brahms, Gabrieli, and Barber are absolutely first rate. I would like to have heard a little more than the "Galop" from Eight Aphorisms, by Wilfred Josephs, however. One short movement hardly gives one a chance to judge a work. Still, it is agreeable enough and leaves the listener wanting to hear the rest rather than the other way around!

This album is a delight from the opening fanfare to the last reverberation of the 76 trombones (on 76 Trombones). Hats off to Geoffrey Simon and Cala Records for producing such a fine tribute to a great city's trombonists.

Online Trombone Journal

"Watch out for your speakers! [American Brass] The dynamic range and vividness are stunning, but Eric Crees' arrangements aren't half bad either."


"Two excellent CDs of London Symphony Brass [American Brass and Sacred Brass]…. The exhilarating collection of American music … contains mainly works arranged by Eric Crees – and what superb arrangements these are. West Side Story and El Salon Mexico (arr. Crees) will become classics although my favourite is the delightfully eccentric Variations on America (incorporating 'God save the Queen') by Charles Ives."

The Horn Magazine

[The London Trombone Sound] …. "London Symphony Orchestra trombonist, Eric Crees was assigned to do the arrangements – another inspired choice…. It's wonderful, it's marvellous and it's the best recording in the series so far – not only because of the sound, which is alternately brassy and mellow and sensuous, but because the arrangements are so well-crafted and the programme so perfectly fits the ensemble. It's not easy to successfully mix Eric Clapton's Layla with Gabrieli, Monteverdi and Mancini ("The Pink Panther Theme"), but Crees, Simon and these fine players convince you that the whole thing is going to work even before the first selection – a dazzling fanfare by Crees – has ended…. And speaking of endings: When was the last time you heard Meredith Willson's "Seventy-Six Trombones" actually played by 76 trombones? ….. The ingenious arrangement begins with a sort of fanciful warm-up. Players are wandering around, snippets of famous classical trombone themes fade in and out. And then, everything comes together for the rousing finish. What else can one say? It's a smash."

CD Review, USA

[Gabrieli Canzonas & Sonatas Volume I] …. "Sidestepping 'authentic' considerations of timbre and ornamentation Eric Crees has concentrated on getting his LSO colleagues to do what they do best. Using his scrupulously prepared new edition these players, with their long tradition of immaciulate ensemble, give polished and disciplined performances. The degree of textural clarity achieved reveals the wealth and variety of musical invention in these 16 pieces."

BBC Music Magazine

[Gabrieli Canzonas & Sonatas Volume 1] "classy and unusually revealing...immaculate ensemble, give polished and disciplined performances"

BBC Music Magazine

"Naxos could not have chosen better for their first volume [Gabrieli Canzonas & Sonatas Volume 1] of what promises to be an exciting series."

Penguin Guide

"The London Symphony Orchestra is famed above all for its brilliant brass section. At home in the Barbican, their sound slices through the still air in the wood-panelled concert hall with razor-edged bite, or spreads itself out behind the cheese-wire strings and cool woodwind like a warm, comfortable cushion.

"The section often plays alone - just as it does here on this new Naxos disc, the second of three devoted to the dazzling brass music of the 16th-century Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli (1553-1612). The disc gives proof that the Early Music movement is really only about getting brass players to shut up. There is not a narrow-bore horn in sight and yet few would dare to accuse the band of lacking authenticity.

The sound is warm, spacious, squashy and beautifully clean. Period instrumentalists are luck to play a piece without splitting any of the notes and generally one excepts them to do so. But the LSO brass produce tone so shiny and modern that it would seem distinctly odd if any blips or misfires were permitted to pass. The ensemble on the disc is like a shiny, well-lubricated piece of precision engineering, such as one might find under the bonnet of the most expensive cars.The music includes imitative canzoni and more freely composed sonatas with the most delicious counterpoint. Groups of players are set against each other. This was one of the famous features of the music at Venice's St Mark's Church, where Gabrieli was employed. His antiphonal effects are the origins of all techniques of opposition and confrontation, soloist against ensemble and concerto form, in Western music. The disc is a valuable historical document, as well as an inspiring artistic indulgence."

Evening Standard (Rick Jones)

"Starting with the Canzon XVII of 1615 in 12 parts, involving three choirs of instruments, Eric Crees and his brilliant players from the brass section of the LSO demonstrate at once what variety of tone they can produce, with the finest shading of timbre and texture. Eric Crees in his notes, both scholarly and informative about the younger Gabrieli and his Venetian background, helpfully highlights such original items as the Double Echo Canzon in 12 parts. Beautiful sound, both clear and atmospheric, not aggressive. Naxos could not have chosen better for the first volume of what promises to be an exciting series."

The Guardian

"This third and final CD completes a series containing all Giovanni Gabrieli's instrumental ensemble music. We wait to the end of the third disc to hear the smallest scale Sonata a3, followed by the largest and immeasurably grand Sonata a22 (the reverse of the order Gabrieli, or his 1615 publisher, favoured.) the playing, on modern brass, is always dazzling, with some lyrical passages and much luxuriance of technique. The resultant easy and massive sound owes its movement more to the inescapable momentum of a well-working engine, rather than to human volition. The semi-quaver passage-work, rather than being woven into the texture with trochaic swing, stands proud of the substrate like a row of gleaming rivets. And how can every final chord be the last word in triumph? Notwithstanding, there is a palpable feeling for the architecture of the pieces, and exciting performances well worth the listening."

Early Music Review (Stephen Cassidy)

"The Winner! A fun and unpretentious version" [Gabrieli Canzonas and Sonatas Volume 3]

Classic CD

"The Toccata and fugue in D minor, BWV 565, of Bach is somewhat unlikely, although the arrangement by London Symphony Brass leader Eric Crees succeeds in making the brasses sound very organ-like, and organ music and music for wind instruments were thought during the Baroque to have an affinity. The program moves on to a group of canzonas and sonatas by Giovanni Gabrieli, part of the bread and butter of the brass ensemble repertoire. Historically oriented groups tend to perform these with a more variegated ensemble, but the London Symphony Brass offers near-ideal brass versions, with clean arrangements that delineate Gabrieli's polyphonic touches and shifting antiphonal groupings, bringing out the contrasts among the pieces.

"The sequence of Gabrieli works is broken up by a couple of brilliant marches by Jeremiah Clarke of Masterpiece Theatre fame, and then comes the neatest trick of all: Crees arranges two Brahms Intermezzi and one Rhapsody for brasses. He's helped in his task by the chordal nature of the particular pieces he chooses, but the effect is nevertheless to transform the music into something sufficently distant from the originals that even the perfect Brahmsian may wonder what he or she is hearing. Crees returns to Bach for the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, furnishing a massive finale. Recorded on two separate occasions, the program might have come off as a hodgepodge, but it works, partly thanks to the consistent musicianship of the players involved. The disc would make a good offbeat gift for someone who likes brass quintet music."

James Manheim, allmusic by Rovi

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"There is a feeling of eminence about this illustrious body of windy men and one woman as they take the stage. ..LSO Brass is the successor to the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble as the pre-eminent brass chamber group in this country. What is most impressive about their playing is their almost intuitive togetherness and the extraordinarily diverse range of tone colour they achieve. You will even swear you hear clarinets, strings, even the human voice"

Evening Standard

"Judging by the turn-out at the Barbican, the London Symphony Brass Ensemble have built up their own large following… Charles Ives's Variations on "America" (actually our own national anthem), originally written for organ, adapted wonderfully well to brass: this version by the conductor, Eric Crees, made the most of Ives's irreverence… The execution of the ensemble was impeccable, their stamina amazing, their high spirits irresistible..."

The Guardian

"The LSO Brass featured exclusively in the first half. Their programme included Spitfire Prelude and Fugue (Walton), Suite from the Fairy Queen (Purcell) and Prelude and Fugue on BACH (Liszt) – all superbly arranged by conductor Eric Crees….. The Quality was as one would expect from this illustrious group. Their use of short multi-movement works and variations in seating provided ample contrast in tone, colour and acoustic perspectives. This ranged from brilliant antiphonal displays to imaginative scoring including the use of two flugel horns."

The British Bandsman

"Their conductor [Guildhall Brass] Eric Crees's 10-part arrangements, piccolo trumpet and all, have got Warlock buttoned up. Warlock, who had only half a dozen euphoniums and things to jot for; would have been aghast with admiration. These brilliant and sympathetic arrangements are classics in their own right..."


The Paviors Livery company dines each year in the Egyptian Room at the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs as our guests. This Banqueting Hall contains a balcony running three sides of the Hall.

As Master of the Company in 2000, I asked Eric Crees whether he could arrange to play some music during and after the dinner. He suggested music by the Venetian renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli and appointed twelve of the best brass musicians in London, The Symphonic Brass of London. He arranged them in three groups on the three sides of the Hall to mimic the arrangement Gabrieli would have employed in Saint Mark's Church in Venice.

The result was a superb and special sound which reverberated around the Hall to the great appreciation of the liverymen and their guests. He also composed some music based upon the initials of the then Lord Mayor, the score of which was presented to Sir Clive Martin at the end of the evening.

John Cruse, The Paviors Livery Company

"This arrangement [Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor] for brass ensemble by Eric Crees showed off the musicianship and flexibility of the performers and captured the different timbres that can be created by skilful grouping of instruments and careful mute and percussion effects. "

The Brass Herald

[The Birth of Conchobar with the Royal Opera House Soloists] from start to finish it was extremely exciting, especially the use of percussion. The building of textures grew ever so slowly, resulting in hearing the brass at full pelt, which in the Floral Hall was spine tingling and most certainly had me on the edge of my seat. This was a fantastic ending to the first half.

The Brass Herald

"Eric Crees, had made special arrangements for the ensemble [LSO Brass] of the Variations on "America" by Charles Ives, treated with some tongue in cheek innovations of instrumental effect and of Peter Warlock's Capriol Suite. The latter's medieval dance tunes in a modern guise actually sound more lively and boisterous than in Warlock's own string orchestra version, and they were played here with infectious rhythmic spirit."

The Times

"…the only arrangement of the evening, 'Spitfire Prelude and Fugue' by William Walton. For me this was a highlight of the programme, showing off the players' skill and great musicianship; the truly world class score worked to perfection for large brass group by the masterful pen of Eric Crees."

Will Watson, The Brass Herald, on the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Ensemble Concert Cadogan Hall, October 2013

Shining Brass

When the Northern Lights Festival finally decided to introduce a brass ensemble into its concert series, they chose the very best: The Symphonic Brass of London

Ishavskatedralen (The Arctic Cathedral of the Ice Sea)

Within musical circles it is well known that England is the country which provides the best of the world's brass playing. When the Symphonic Brass of London is composed of brass soloists hand-picked from the British capital's orchestral scene, it is surely raising the stakes and promising us an ensemble that will be the best of the best.

And when the Symphonic Brass of London visited Norway for the first time, the musicians of the ensemble really kept their promise.

French and Spanish

The Symphonic Brass of London is a versatile ensemble which performs in many different shapes and sizes – from brass quintet to full symphonic brass.

For the concert in Tromsø, they came as a dectet: four trumpets, four trombones, french horn and tuba – supplemented by two percussionists. The concert was led by director Eric Crees, who also made many of the arrangements in the programme they performed.

It consisted of music by French and Spanish composers: Debussy, De Falla and Bizet, to name just a few. The span of colours was vast – from the force and power of Couperin's military triumphal music, to Bizet's firey 'Carmen Suite', and the purity of Debussy's soft and beautiful harmonies in 'The Girl with the Flaxen Hair'.

Virtuosity and beauty

The audience enjoyed a varied concert, with much of the music having elements of Spanish folklore, even from the French composer Ravel.

We were given a wide breadth of musical expression and a great insight into all the possiblities that a brass ensemble can offer. The concert in Ishavskatedralen had everything. The arrangements of the music had a sense of elegance, but also challenges for the group.

The ensemble was precise, with a large dynamic range and displayed an excellent communication of the very beautiful, lyrical, powerful, fiery and lively arrangements. On top of this, the musicians showed excellent instrumental virtuosity.

And, these very talented musicians are not travelling directly home to London. Over the next few days they will share their knowledge by working with students from the Tromsø Conservatory of Music. The result of this cooperation will be presented in yet another concert in the festival ,'Brasserie', in the Spare Bank's banqueting hall on Tuesday, with both the students and the musicians playing alongside each other., 26 January 2014

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