The British Open is regarded not only as the oldest brass contest in the world, but also the most difficult title to win.
The Test piece is a new work by renowned international composer Peter Graham, making its debut at Symphony Hall. Peter approached the contest organisers regarding his ideas for a musical adventure to provide a tribute to the career of Harry Mortimer (affectionately known as ‘HM’). The title ’Dynasty’ reflects on his life, as well as his place in the family led by father Fred and brothers Alex and Rex, all accomplished and successful instrumentalists and conductors in their own right.
As a boy, Harry was a virtuoso cornetist, and with his father, Fred, away on military service during the Great War, he supported the family playing for the silent movies, including music hall artists such as the legendary Marie Lloyd.
In his twenties, together with the other members of the Mortimer dynasty, Fred Alex and Rex, he led the Fodens Band to unparalleled contest success, both as principal cornetist and later as conductor. His conducting career continued this success with nine winning performances at the British Open, and a further nine wins including a hat trick with Black Dyke at the Nationals.
At the BBC, as a producer and head of brass and military music he increased the broadcast output of brass bands to a level not seen before or since.
Peter Graham has produced timeless compositions for the British Open and other major competitions throughout the brass band contesting world. Using HM’s autobiography ‘On Brass’ as a source, Dynasty presents a range of musical scenes which incorporates solos, hymns and reference to brass band classics for the performers and audience to enjoy. The work concludes with a fugue based on themes from music which was an integral part of band and community music- making in HM’s lifetime –‘Messiah’.