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British composer Gavin Higgins to introduce Dark Arteries to the Easter Course

Written by The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain on March 27, 2021

The Ivor Novello Award winning British composer Gavin Higgins, whose iconic Dark Arteries, is to be a cornerstone of the Youth Band’s forthcoming Easter course, is just one of the many leading guests who will be visiting the young musicians.

In a short video released ahead of Easter, guest conductor, Ian Porthouse, one of the UK’s leading brass band conductors, has spoken to Gavin, a Youth Band alumnus, about the origins of Dark Arteries, a work which will be analysed during the online element of the band’s forthcoming course.

Blended educational space

The NYBBGB, the UK’s leading brass bands for young people, is holding its Easter Course online, complemented in June by a series of live performances, the result of the ongoing pandemic.

Ian Porthouse, the band’s guest conductor, said: “Dark Arteries was commissioned by Rambert Dance Company and first performed in May 2015 with my band, the Tredegar Town Band, in which we shared the stage with Rambert dancers. Dark Arteries is a personal and at times highly wrought response to the Miners’ Strike and its aftermath. The youngsters are going to love meeting Gavin.”

He added: “It is in three movements, the first and last are expansive, with widely contrasting sound worlds, from dark, brooding melodies and the haunting sounds of solo flugel-horn to wild syncopations on cornets, suggestive of an imposing, but often bleak mining landscape. In 2016 Higgins re-worked Dark Arteries into a virtuoso concert suite, which captures the essence of the work in three connected movements. It is this version, which the band will work on.”

Inspiring commissions

In addition to Dark Arteries, Gavin has been commissioned by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Manchester Camerata, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble 10:10, Rambert, the Carducci Quartet, the Fidelio Trio, the Piatti Quartet, David Cohen and Mark Simpson.

The Youth Band’s Easter Course will be held between 4th and 6th April, and subject to appropriate government guidance, will be followed by live components between 2nd and 4th June which will see the band split into three smaller ensembles playing at Chetham’s School of Music (Manchester), Malvern College (Worcestershire) and St Martin-in-the-Fields (London).

Mark Bromley, CEO of the NYBBGB said “I’m very excited that Gavin is joining the course to talk to members about his inspiration for Dark Arteries. Not only from a musical perspective but from an historical perspective”.

Register for our free online events as part of the Easter Course!

Join the Youth Band Open Day & Masterclass

Join the Masterclass with Dr Clarence Adoo MBE

Search for The NYBBGB (funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education and partnered with the Royal Marines Band Service) on FacebookTwitterLinkedin and Instagram or visit to keep up-to-date.

NYBBGB Easter 2021 is sponsored by Yamaha.

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