Published on August 18th, 2017 by gavin

John Wallace Takes MD Role at Tullis Russell Mills Band

The Tullis Russell Mills Band is delighted to announce the appointment of John Wallace CBE as its new Musical Director.

John has been playing with the band for the last couple of years, and when the vacancy arose it offered an ideal opportunity for him to take up the baton and lead the band in a new direction for the future.

John started his playing life with Tullis Russell at the age of 7, and after his internationally acclaimed career as a professional musician, educationalist, composer and conductor which followed, it’s befitting that he now returns to his musical roots in a capacity which will help cement the band’s future.

A Visionary Approach

John’s vision for Tullis Russell involves a team of professional musicians who will act as associate conductors, including Bede Williams (Head of Instrumental Studies at the University of St Andrews), Professor John Miller (recently retired as Head of Wind and Brass at the Royal Northern College of Music), and Tony George (tuba player with The Wallace Collection, who also plays widely with period instrument orchestras such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)  Each team member will bring their own wealth of knowledge in their respective fields, offering a broad collection of experience and musical expertise to share with the band.  Plans to involve young conductors from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with the musical development of the bands  will also extend the benefits of this outreach beyond the organisation itself.

David Chesney, the organisation’s Chairman told A4B: “This is such an exciting time for our group of bands.  With John’s drive and enthusiasm, along with his obvious musical ability, he has such a positive impact on the members.  The new approach of working with a Principal Musical Director, as well as Associate Conductors enables the bands to have access to an unprecedented collection of expertise.  We are full of optimism for a great future and hope that the involvement of these esteemed musicians will also attract new players to the organisation, making this an even more momentous chapter in the band’s history.”

Structuring A Stronger Future

In support of the introduction of this new conducting ‘dream-team’, the Tullis Russell Mills Band is also taking significant steps in the restructuring of its whole organisation.  Now consisting of two bands and a Learning & Development Centre (LDC), the members have identified the key purposes of each group and will focus their future ambitions on developing their performances with these targets in sight.  The newly formed LDC, led by Mark Koziel and supported by a dedicated team of tutors, will continue to stimulate and nurture young musical talent, supporting its up-and-coming members with progression routes into the other two Tullis bands.  In response to its members’ preferences, The renamed Tullis Russell Concert Brass Band, to be led by the newly appointed Dean Bromage, will now leave the contesting environment and focus on its concert performances.  In contrast The Tullis Russell Mills Band will concentrate on being the contesting flagship of the organisation with additional public engagements when the opportunities arise.

On the restructuring, John Wallace told A4B: “It is so important for the members to have a clear understanding of its organisation as a whole and to see how each individual band plays such a significant role in this complete package.  It is wonderful to see this reorganisation taking place, as each band now has its own defined targets and purpose.  But just as importantly, the close interrelationships being formed between the bands means the members enjoy the best of every world, enabling them to participate in supporting young talent, develop concert performances and/or hone their playing skills for contest performances – whichever stream meets their personal interest.  It strikes me as a win-win situation and I think the members are very wise to provision for the different interests which brass bands are able to offer.”

Team in Action – De Profundis

The new conducting team has already been actively working with Tulllis Russell through their preparation and performance of the widely publicised De Profundis project at the recent East Neuk Festival.  The event was an unquestionable success and in line with the new direction of the band, it brought about an equivalently innovative dimension to the concept of brass band concerts.

Set amidst The Bowhouse – an ancient barn which was specially converted into an atmospherically lit performance space – the event took on an art installation approach.  Billed as a promenade concert, it enabled the audience to move freely around the groups of performers who were presented a celebration of Fife’s rich brass band and mining heritage through powerful music and the dramatic readings of poems written by miners.

An attendee at this extraordinary event commented: “De Profunids was an incredible presentation.  It was a performance concept beyond anything I had ever experienced before, and it was such an exciting way of interacting with the audience.  With today’s challenges in trying to engage audiences for brass band concerts this project really proved there is so much more on offer through brass music once the imagination is set free – it bridged the gap between so many artistic genres.  Everyone involved in devising the music, developing the performance creativity and setting the venue atmosphere was truly visionary – it’s a performance that should be embraced by bands across the world to demonstrate the versatility of brass music and its musicians.”

Whilst De Profundis was a landmark event in the band’s calendar, the East Neuk Festival is only one of two major festivals in which the band will take part during 2017.  Together with  national and local contests, three large-scale concerts, the possibility of a new CD recording and a variety of other plans under discussion, the future of the Tullis Russell Mills Band organisation looks set to be extremely eventful through its pioneering approach under the guidance of its new conducting team.

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