Tony Banks: Reveille

Context

Known for being the keyboardist and founding member of the rock group Genesis, it might come as a surprise that Tony Banks has now released three classical albums. Five (5) follows Seven: A Suite for Orchestra (2004) and Six Pieces for Orchestra (2012). It was released on 23rd February 2018 by BMG Records. 

The album began to be compiled when Banks was commissioned to compose a 15 minute work for a performance at the Cheltenham Music Festival in July 2014. Banks chose a piece he has been working on, which was originally called Arpregg, which was later renamed to Prelude to a Million Years. The work was then used as the opening work on the album. 

Five is composed of five orchestral works composed by Banks, with arrangements by Nick Ingman. Banks commented that the album is full of music that he just wrote, without being in any particular frame of mind, like he would be if he was composing music for a film. There were careful considerations for the titles of the tracks as Banks did not want names with “too much baggage.” 

However, the five works do roughly follow the theme of ‘a period of time’. Opening with Prelude to a Million Years, then Reveille, Ebb and Flow, Autumn Sonata and Renaissance. Banks comments that Reveille is “waking up”, before the Ebb and Flow of the day carries on.

 

The Music

Reveille highlights Banks’ love for long sustained melodies which is always supported by a current of motion. Opening with tuned percussion to start the tempo off, the motion has been set. Long notes from the strings adds to the motion by fluctuating between notes. The music begins to grow together in both volume and intensity. 

A light trumpet solo sings out above the percussion and strings, who are now mimicking the opening percussion opening. A snare drum keeps the tempo of the motion parts as the indulgent trumpet solo sparkles over the top of the rich textures below.

The melody goes on for quite some time, with Banks commenting that “Melodies are very important to me, and I like when they go on a bit, rather than just repeating things.” After the intense first section the music comes back down in volume and texture, with the winds now leading the melody. An emerging clarinet, flute and oboe take it in turns to present the melody in slight variations. 

An intricate and rather poignant woodwind interlude paves the way for percussion’s motor rhythms to come back in. As the orchestra grows together again, the trumpet takes the lead on the melody, this time joined by the upper strings. Flourishes from the harp and upper winds adds sparkle to the texture, with the snare drum keeping tempo driving forward.

Now with added choir voice, the textures are even richer. The climactic trumpet solo is one of the highlight points of the piece, with it quickly shying away for another string interlude. Now, the cor anglais takes over the melody, with its rich and woody timbre sitting on top of the strings. Although the melody is similar throughout, it’s the way the orchestrations are ever-so slightly changed that makes the piece so effective. 

Reveille ends with another reprise of the melody, which seems rather nostalgic as it’s the last time we hear the melody before the end. The strings unite to play a slowly fading final tonic note, ending the piece peacefully.

 

Final Thoughts

Tony Banks’ Reveille is nostalgic in style and offers the listener a really satisfying experience. From the glorious trumpet solo to the intricate woodwind writing, Reveille is a real delight.

 

Happy Reading!

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