The traditional closing gala concert took place at Claude Ménard Hall this year with “The Flowers Band” under the wonderful direction of Music Director Paul Holland. The concert hall was packed at 8 p.m., ready for the start at 9 p.m.

The first half of the 28th Roland-Garros Gala Concert opened with the Brass performing Paul Lovatt-Coopers’ “Home of Legends”. The music started with Luke Barker off stage and the magnificent playing of this wonderful band. The Flowers Band was certainly in great shape from the start. Then we were all treated to one of the best performances of the weekend, with the wonderfully controlled playing of soprano Paul Richards in Peter Graham’s “Flowerdale” from “Hymn of the Highlands”. The band was also so thoughtful in its subtle accompaniment.

Then it was movie time as the band played “The Incredibles” by Michael Giacchino, skilfully arranged by Philip Harper, had a lot of fun being played and was well received by the audience in Amboise. We were then treated to a magnificent playing by flugelhorn player Lauren Chinn performing “Magah Seola” composed by Gerald Fahy and arranged by Sandy Smith. This was played with such ease across the scale, with a charming lyrical style and so well controlled.

The band ended their program with “Pall Mall” pieces by Jonathan Bates, “Mayfair” (An Evening in Town) composed by Eric Coates and arranged by Paul Saggers and “Go to Jail!” composed by Christian Overhead, which was taken from their innovative “Monopoly” set from 2021’s cleverly inspired Brass in Concert. After a quick start from “Go!”, there were carefully observed and choreographed moments. What a great set to end half of the program, simply breathtaking of this wonderful set.

Once the excitement had subsided, it was the Flowers Band who returned to the stage to entertain with the “Grandpa” of all the Spanish marches, Amparito, composed by Jamie Texidor and arranged by Aubrey Winter, which was delivered with so much panache from this wonderfully trained ensemble. The next soloist was solo baritone Matt Rowe to perform Herman Bellstedt’s “Napoli” arranged by Geoffrey Brand, which was performed with such ease and brought the hall down. Then, as announced, in an all-favorite ABBA “goes Brass” set, arranged by Alan Fernie, which was a treat for the Amboise audience. The last soloist of the evening was solo trombonist Chris Thomas who amazed the audience with Arthur Pryor’s “Blue Bells of Scotland”, a brilliant interpretation of one of the old favourites. Chris was brimming with confidence and played with such ease across the range. He showed excellent legato lyrical playing, exceptional technique, flexibility, and super-fast articulation.

Flowers then concludes his program with the finale of Tchaikovsk’s “Symphony No. 4″i. The show had a blast without a fortissimo explosion and having so much energy and excitement creating a carnival atmosphere.

To cry!

What a spirited final piece and what a wonderful program.

This was then followed by two encores of Bach’s “Bright Lights Big City” and “Toccata in D minor,” which unsurprisingly led to a standing ovation..

By midnight, the band had the audience buzzing and wanting even more.

Music director Paul Holland was also delighted with his band’s efforts: he spoke volumes about the commitment after leaving early on Thursday morning and arriving in Amboise on Friday afternoon, the band was still able to produce top-notch performances at every opportunity.

It was a great weekend, if it was a bit exhausting, and our thanks go to everyone involved in organizing the Open de France d’Amboise for making this trip such a memorable one.

Chris Jeans