Interview with Ibex Brass trumpeter Bradley Jones

Trumpeter Bradley Jones is part of Ibex Brass, a 10-piece ensemble which won the Company’s 2019 Brass Ensemble Prize. Formed at the Royal Academy of Music in 2017 and comprising some of the finest brass players on the London music scene, the group are driven by a passion to expand the existing repertoire for brass, often adding a new spin to old classics. We spoke with band spokesperson, Bradley, about their music and future plans.

How does Ibex differ from a typical brass dectet?

Until relatively recently, there have been no major composers writing seriously for larger brass ensembles. We think that is a shame. As a result, our repertoire consists entirely of bespoke arrangements for Ibex Brass and new compositions.

How do you select and agree on repertoire with so many members?

Most members of Ibex are also confident arrangers. We have an unwritten rule that anyone can bring whatever they are working on and we will workshop it and see if we can find a programme to play it in. Because of this we are almost constantly workshopping new pieces and arrangements, and at any given time could be developing anywhere from 1-3 different programmes.

Tell us more about the new pieces you are working on

At the moment we are working on a collaboration with the composition department at the Royal Academy of Music to do a showcase concert of new music for brass. We’ve only seen sketches so far, but it looks quite exciting. We workshopped a couple of the sketches last month and there is already such an impressive variety of styles and aesthetics. I’m really excited to see the final results in May!

How often do you get to rehearse?

Finding time to rehearse is quite tricky. Every member of Ibex enjoys a busy freelance career. Members of Ibex have played with the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, European Union Youth Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, and even the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Getting everyone in one place can be difficult. We are lucky to have a very talented group of friends to help us keep workshopping all our music. If we have a concert coming up, we will usually have weekly rehearsals for a few weeks before, and if it is a new programme, we will also have an intensive week leading up to the concert.

What does it take to play and develop well together?

We’re quite large for an unconducted ensemble. In the orchestra, you are lucky to have someone at the front calling all the shots and making sure everyone is together. For us, the one calling the shots tends to vary depending on what’s happening musically. We have all been playing with each other for a few years now, both as part of Ibex and externally. While we were students at RAM, we were playing together nearly every day. This helps develop a sense of assurance and confidence in each other. Say we’re playing and there is a rallentando coming up and it’s lead by one of our trombonists, William. We are all familiar enough with Will’s playing that we can almost predict exactly how he’ll take it.

Any standout moments in the last year?

As a group, winning the WCOM Brass Ensemble prize at the Academy was amazing for us. For me personally, our first concert as Chamber Music Fellows at the Royal Academy of Music stands out. It was a programme of American music, and it was also the first time one of my own arrangements had been the centerpiece of the programme. Seeing all the hard work pay off was amazing and I also had a degree of patriotic pride (I’m not sure if my accent comes across on paper, but I’m American).

What are your future plans?

We are returning to Regent Hall in April to perform a new programme featuring Ravel’s Le Tombeau De Couperin and Strauss’ Tanzsuite aus Klavierstücken von François Couperin. Our collaboration concert with the Royal Academy of Music composition department will be in May. We are also looking forward to ending our year as Chamber Fellows of the Royal Academy of Music with a composer spotlight concert of the music of Lance Dangerfield.

You can find out more about Ibex on the Musicians’ Company website

 

Interview by @suzywillmott.com