Journey into Freedom, Eric Ball (‘Blitz’, Black Dyke Mills Band)

Week four of lockdown and Track of the Week is putting a brave face on it with a deluxe piece of Sally Army memorabilia from the masterful pen of brass band legend Eric ‘Ball’ Ball. Journey into Freedom was written by Old Eric in 1967 (a year which, coincidentally, also brought us Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) as a reaction against the depressing and violent background of the times, responsible for horrors such as unfettered materialism, the nuclear arms race and serial tonality. The work begins with one of the most dramatic examples of horn/baritone flannel in the entire repertoire: four scrambling bars of unison ff triplets delivered as fast as possible to blaring accompaniment. After Eric finishes passing this frankly unplayable theme around all the parts that never normally get anything to do (hello 2nd cornet and 2nd baritone), the music settles down, aptly, into a Mahlerian ‘march of protest’, before the compositional forces of repression are brutally reintroduced in a recap of the horrors of the opening segment. Calm thereafter prevails for a while, including a period of trivial gaiety, before the music begins to build to an unforgettable conclusion marking the end of the journey to ‘ideal love’ and ‘inner freedom’. Happy Easter bank holiday to everyone, and here’s looking forward to a return to ‘outer freedom’ as well.