I wrote “Atlantic Toccata” back in 1993 for James Watson and the Black Dyke Mills Band – I remember so clearly Jim saying, “go up to Queensbury, and take the rehearsal!” – I had never conducted a brass band in my life at that point and I warmed them up with a `march’ and I remember, the whole way through the piece I was thinking `what the hell am I going say, and do when they get to the end’, all I could hear from the band was pure and undiluted perfection! I quickly got on to much safer territory with my own piece – and again soon as they started playing, they yet again gave me perfection and my heart sunk for the second time – I thought, `how am I going to survive the next two hours’ – My short term, and less than perfect answer was to lie, and lie big and say that I wanted the opening of “Atlantic Toccata” to be quieter and much, much faster, even though it was near-perfect. For me, this was one of the biggest ‘band’ learning experiences ever!!! The real lesson of course, is never get in front of any group of musicians unless you know what you are doing!
What you hear here, is the result of the bands magnificent playing and Jim’s (as ever)`midas touch’. For me it was Jim Watson and Black Dyke who gave me the first chance ever to write extended pieces for multiple instruments, with the freedom of writing music that lasted longer than ten minutes and with open-brief – I owe those days back in the middle 1990’s so, so much.