A Brass Band Advent Calendar: 20. Toccata from Suite Gothique

Leon Boellman’s classic, arranged by the legendary Eric Ball

For our twentieth Advent Calendar door, there are no half measures in this piece. Originally written for organ, this one has held its own as a brass banding favourite. Whether performed as a whole or in part, it never fails to make the hairs of the back of your neck stand up on end.

The Mighty Suite Gothique.

In its entirety, Suite Gothique has four movements: its choral introduction; Menuet Gothique; Prière à Notre-Dame; and its most famous part, the toccata. Its composer, Leon Boellman, is also famous for Barcarolle and Fantaisie.

Two words sum up the vibrancy of this arrangement: Eric and Ball. The Mighty Eric Ball, who has given the brass banding movement a rich vein of original compositions and outstanding arrangements. If you haven’t heard Journey Into Freedom or the arrangement of Boellman’s piece, you haven’t lived a full life.

In full, Suite Gothique is played as a test piece. It was first used as a contest test piece in the Second Section Regional Finals in 1971. As a concert item, the Toccata from Suite Gothique is a popular first half or second half finisher. This clip featuring Wingates Brass Band and The Band of the King’s Division is a clear case in point.

A powerful piece. One that you will grow to like – or have on repeat after the first listen. In fact, yours truly listened to this three times whilst adding this entry to the Advent Calendar!

In our next Advent Calendar window, the world of popular music inspires tomorrow’s piece. All will be revealed on what is the winter solstice.

S.V., 20 December 2018.

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