Goff Richards: Oceans
Commissioned from the West of England Bandsmen’s Festival in 1984, Goff Richards’ Oceans was premiered at the 60th Anniversary Festival of the Bugle Contest in Cornwall. A highly descriptive and challenging piece, Oceans has interestingly been used as a set test piece for the Championship, First and Second sections within the brass band system. Since its composition in 1984, Oceans has been used as a set test piece 43 times (this does not include those bands who chose to use it as their contest piece).
As with many of Richards’ works, Oceans is descriptive and musically satisfying. As the title suggests, the work takes its main inspiration from the sea and its many states. The Atlantic Ocean in particular, a force of nature never too far from the Cornish doorstep, ties nicely in with the commission from the contest.
Opening with bold fanfares led by the cornets, the strength of the ocean is laid out from the first note. After the majestic introduction the music makes way for the primary theme. Broad in character, this theme rears its head a number of times during the course of the work. The euphoniums lead this first exploration of the theme. As the dynamic drops, there are a series of quieter solo sections that are highly atmospheric, and perhaps show the ocean’s more playful side.
A slow build up of textures and dynamics lead to the first climax of the work. Here images of waves crashing is really at the forefront, making the music really come to life. As with any ocean, the idea of adventure and exploration is always at the forefront. Richards takes the listener on an exploration of new lands, with there being an apparent nod to the Caribbean in the central section of the piece. The playful rhythms paired with Richards’ rich and sonorous textures and colours makes this one of the highlight sections of the work.
As the original theme returns one last time at the end of the work there is a sense of jubilation as the racing cornets dance around the rest of the band. The return of the opening fanfare sets the scene for the broad entrance of the main theme. Now with a glorious full band complement, the rich harmonies sing through as the piece begins its final leg to the finish line. Oceans ends in triumphant unison across the band.
Goff Richards’ Oceans is a highly descriptive work that takes the listener on an exciting journey through lands old and new. From rich harmonies to playful rhythms, Oceans is a manageable challenge for many bands.
Ⓒ Alex Burns