Paul Lovatt-Cooper ‘Vitae Aeternum’: Breathtaking Brass

Hello readers! I hope you are all doing well. I start my master’s degree in a week, so I have been doing a lot of preparation for that, however this afternoon is completely dedicated to writing this blog! After the excitement of my Female Fortnight Challenge, it was such a tricky decision of who and what to write about. So I thought in terms of ensemble and straight away my mind went ‘brass band’. Realising that I haven’t actually written about a brass band work yet, I have decided to write about one of my favourite works and composer of this genre. So, dearest readers, today’s blog is on Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Vitae Aeternum. This piece is just one of the most fantastic things you’ll hear, so I do hope you relish in the pure delight that is Paul Lovatt-Cooper.

Lovatt-Cooper was born in Alderney, 1976. His parents were both Officers in the Salvation Army, so Lovatt-Cooper was quickly immersed in the family tradition of brass banding. Whilst at school, Lovatt-Cooper began learning the drums, which after he started proving his talents for percussion, was invited to play for the British Open Champions Kennedy’s Swinton Band. His career as a percussionist grew and grew, until he became Principal Percussionist with the Williams Fairey Band. In 2003, Lovatt-Cooper left the band to join the famous Black Dyke Band as a percussionist. He also did a lot of soloist work with a range of different brass bands. Lovatt-Cooper has performed as a percussionist for some 16 years now to a very high standard, which means he’s won contests including the British Open and National Brass Band Championships.

As well as a performer, Lovatt-Cooper is also a celebrated conductor, winning the coveted Roy Newsome Conductors Award at Salford University. He has worked with some of the finest brass bands in the UK including the Brighouse and Rastrick Band and the Black Dyke Band. Currently, Lovatt-Cooper is the Director of Music at the television and media company Factory Transmedia. He is also the Managing Director of his own music company PLC Music. As you can imagine, Lovatt-Cooper is in high demand all over the world as he is a ‘triple threat’ – composer, conductor and performer.

As a composer, which is perhaps what he is best known for now, he has had his music premiered in some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. His compositions have earned him commissions from different ensembles and soloists from around the world. His music is not only confined to concert halls either, Lovatt-Cooper’s music can be heard in a variety of different contexts on television shows and radio stations. Lovatt-Cooper studied at the University of Salford, under brass and wind band composer, Peter Graham. He has composed some very famous brass band pieces, which have often been selected as test pieces for contests. He has written some of my favourite brass band music including, Canzona Bravura, Where Eagles Sing and Vitae Aeternum. 

Vitae Aeternum was commissioned in 2007 by Gerard Klauke of GK Design. It was preimiered by the Black Dyke Band at the De Lawei Concert Hall, Netherlands. It was the first substantial composition by Lovatt-Cooper after he had become Composer in Residence with Black Dyke. ‘Vitae Aeternum’ translates into ‘Eternal Life’ and the work is inspired by three songs by Ivor Bosanko and Dick Krommenhoek. Although in three separate sections, the work is played continuously with no breaks.

The first song used in the beginning section is by Krommenhoek and is usually heard at Christmas time. It is entitled God came in Jesus to live among us:

God came in Jesus to live among us

And he lit the light of hope again.

True light, true hope to fill our yearning;

The Light that will for ever reign.

The first section is fast and begins with a burst and flourish of sound from both brass and percussion. The atmosphere is exhilarating and the syncopated rhythms and fast bursts of sound come together to make such spirited melodies. The music builds in dynamic and the melodies can be heard in various forms throughout this movement. The climax is reached and the style quickly changes in preparation for the next section, which has a very different atmosphere.

The second song used is by Krommenhoek once more and is entitled I will praise you Lord, with all my heart:

I will praise you Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of the wonderful things you have done.

I will sing with joy because of you.

I will sing praise to you, my God.

The second movement, which has segued smoothly from the first movement, is by far my favourite section of the work. This part is very slow and lyrical, and the change of key also makes this section stand out in such a beautiful way. The bells sound, which are answered with gentle sonority from the lower brass. The mixture of timbres in this movement is absolutely beautiful, it really gives you the chills! Muted cornets and lower brass move into a hauntingly delicate chorale. There are then solo lines from the flugel horn and euphonium, which give a very warm interpretation of the melodic themes. There is such a richness in the emotion of this section, which grows into fruition, with the ensemble reaching the climax. The flugel horn then brings the music to a very solemn and quiet ending.

The third and final section is based on Bosanko’s song His Provision:

Holy Spirit! Promised presence fall on me.

Holy Spirit! Make me all I long to be.

Holy Spirit! Holy Spirit!

Give your power to me, O Holy Spirit.

The finale section of Vitae Aeternum is nothing short of thrilling! An energetic and complicated solo is heard from a solo cornet, which is then joined by other solo instruments, creating a fugal-like introduction. From then the band comes together for an energetic burst of sound and textures using a variety of musical material. The movement is very heroic and requires performers to play with much dexterity. The end of the piece is majestic, bold and spine chilling! All sections come together to play dominant-tonic chords. It ends on a truly wonderful proclamation of sound!

Vitae Aeternum has been used as a test piece in contests and is also recommended for bands of the highest standard (1st and Championship section bands). I absolute love this piece, I think it showcases all the best bits of brass. A fantastic warm, bold and complex piece of music – thank you Paul Lovatt-Cooper! If you enjoyed this blog make sure you check out Lovatt-Cooper’s other pieces, they’re fantastic (I will write more on his works in due time though!). I for one have really enjoyed this blog, I hope you have to! I will be writing blogs when I can as I am nearly starting uni again and I am working different jobs – I will try my best to be as consistent as possible!

Happy Reading!

Recommended Recording: