Faber Music is delighted to announce that composer Kenneth Hesketh’s colourful work for brass band The Alchymist’s Journal has been selected by the Music Panel of Kapitol Music Promotions as a test piece for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain (First Section).
In March, over 500 brass bands, divided into five sections according to their technical ability, competed for a coveted place in the finals of the event, taking place in The Centaur arena of Cheltenham Racecourse on 19 & 20 September (Sections 1-4) and at the Royal Albert Hall, London (10 October). Following the regional rounds, around 20 of the country’s strongest community bands will perform Hesketh’s work in the Finals in Cheltenham to determine which will be judged the First Section Champion.
The Alchymist’s Journal (Variants for Brass Band) was commissioned by Faber Music Band Consultant Paul Hindmarsh in 2001, with the support of the Brass Band Heritage Trust, as a substantial concert/contest challenge that would be within the compass of the country’s most able youth and first section bands. It received its first performance in January 2002, by Black Dyke Band under Nicholas Childs, as part of the Royal Northern College of Music Festival of Brass.
Since its original publication, composer Kenneth Hesketh has made a number of revisions to the work. Most of these were included in the recording made by Foden’s Band (Bramwell Tovey) for NMC Recordings (NMC D142). A definitive new edition, including all the composer’s revisions, has been specially prepared for the 2015 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain and is the text that all bands performing in September will be required to use.
Hesketh introduces the work:
We are told that Time is a brisk wind bringing forth each hour some fresh proportion, some new shape, and as our thoughts hourly change…so it happens with Time. May not the close of a motion be also its beginning?
This quotation is from the book The Alchymist’s Journal by American author Evan S. Connell that fictionalises a number of famous Alchemists’ writing, each one developing another’s thoughts. An idea is continued but changed subtly to provide a new view point or way of thinking, the process itself in fact alchemical, transmuting one idea into another.
In The Alchymist’s Journal (Variants for Brass Band) the processes at work are similarly about retention and change. The work is constructed from 6 notes (C,A,Bb,Eb,F#,E) and is presented in 9 different sections, each individual in mood but still based upon the original pitches. This is not a thematic set of variations, as the themes are developed one at a time from small segments of the 6 notes. Whilst abstract with no descriptive programme, the music is dramatic and has a clear an unfolding narrative.
The music is conceived in a complete arch from beginning to end, and not in smaller sections; the overall shape of the piece emerges in broader proportions - introduction, menacing scherzo, slow reflective section followed by a varied reprise of the scherzo and final coda.

For more information on the Alchymist's Journal and to buy, please visit fabermusicstore.com