Young Artist Interview: London Metropolitan Brass

Band members:

Tom Freeman-Attwood – Trumpet
Emily Mitchell – Trumpet
Ben Hulme – French Horn
Benny Vernon – Trombone
Stuart Beard – Tuba

As the saying goes, ‘you can’t choose your family’, or your band mates, it seems. At least, that was the case for the London Metropolitan Brass quintet – a group of Royal Academy of Music undergraduate and postgraduate students handpicked in 2016 by Academy tutors Mark David and Bob Hughes as part of an experiment to launch the next great brass chamber group at the Academy.

The musicians, selected for their commitment to music making and hard-working attitudes, have formed an incredible bond. All five members bring their different ideas and personalities to rehearsals, where they connect on their common aim to develop into the best chamber group they can be. This can mean rehearsing for up to 15 hours a week, which they fit in around lessons, teaching and professional work. “But it’s never a chore,” says Emily, “Part of being a strong ensemble is being friends; you need to be in order to play and develop well together. We all understand each other and know what helps us improve the most as a group. Being such close friends is hugely beneficial to our chamber music, and after a hard rehearsal we’ll always relax with a beer together.”

Despite the group’s challenging work-study-rehearsal regime, the hard work is clearly paying off. Within seven months of forming, the group won The Musicians’ Company Brass Ensemble Prize and as a result are now Yeomen of the Company. This has opened up a wide range of performance opportunities and the quintet now have a diary jam-packed with lunchtime recitals and festivals up and down the country. “As Yeomen we can bid for lots different recital opportunities which has been great because it encourages us to learn new repertoire, do more concerts and get more experience,” says Emily. Upcoming events include recitals at Southwark Cathedral, Buxton Festival and Petworth Festival, before finishing off with a recital at the Unitarian Meeting House in Bury St Edmunds. The group are also semi-finalists in the prestigious 2018 ROSL Annual Music Competition chamber ensemble award taking place at the end of March.

Following their competition win, the group has had the opportunity to give a number of Academy lunchtime concerts which the audience appear to love. “Our first recital achieved around 70% capacity at the Royal Academy. Our second one was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields and saw us play to 400-500 people, and when we returned to the Academy for the next lunchtime recital we had people literally queuing at the door, with some having to be turned away!” says Emily. “The fantastic turnout at these concerts has inspired us to push our playing even further and explore some fantastic new works which we want to showcase to the public in our future recitals”. It’s all part of a wish to challenge themselves and tackle increasingly adventurous repertoire which is rarely performed.

“There are a lot of brass quintets and plenty of repertoire for your average brass configuration, but we don’t want to be your typical brass quintet. We want to stand out. We’ve just started learning a new piece for quintet that’s written for brass, two pianos and timpani, and although I’m not sure where we’ll perform that one, it’s important we keep challenging ourselves and putting in the hours. We spent 20-25 hours learning the Hillborg Brass Quintet, which we now showcase in almost all our recitals. I think it was that dedication which helped us win the WCOM Ensemble competition last year”.

The quintet is an ambitious and committed group with big plans for the future. If you would like to see them in action visit the group’s Facebook page @londonmetropolitanbrass for events details. You can also get Yeomen updates on twitter @MusiciansComp.