This year’s Perth Festival of the Arts ended not with a touring orchestra as is usual, but with a mini-residency from adventurous Manchester ensemble The Fairey Band, under the baton of the Royal Northern College of Music’s Scottish Professor of Conducting, Mark Heron, with Dundonian Iain Culross the featured soloist.

Perth Concert Hall has proved adaptable for everything from Belle and Sebastian and Biffy Clyro to orchestras, opera and the regular star classical soloists programmer James Waters entices, but this was my first experience of hearing a brass band in the venue and it was as perfect as usual. As well as the brass virtuosi – and there were star soloists in every section during this programme – The Fairey Band, which owes its name to its foundation as the Works Band of Fairey Aviation, fielded a star percussion team of three whose contributions were just as crisp and accurate.

The Trumpet Concerto by Armenian Alexander Arutiunian dates from the 1940s and Soviet isolationism may explain its obscurity but not the hints of Glenn Miller alongside a more obvious debt to Shostakovich. Its influence may also have flowed in the other direction in the resemblance of a march sequence to John Williams’s familiar score to Star Wars.

Beginning with Berlioz’s overture La Carnival Romain in Frank Wright’s arrangement and ending with Ray Farr’s of the Bach organ staple, Toccata in D minor – both show-off party-pieces that win brass competitions – the main fare of the programme was Elgar Howarth’s brilliant arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which is every bit as visceral as Ravel’s.

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The Fairey Band, which memorably teamed up with artist Jeremy Deller for “Acid Brass”, further enhanced this performance with the animations commissioned to accompany Mussorgsky’s masterpiece by Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps the European premiere of the visuals – and a global first for its pairing with Howarth’s brass setting – was not on the scale seen in the Frank Gehry-designed auditorium in Miami but the results were impressive enough.

At their best when most literal, the projections of eras of gallery-going for the Promenades or laugh-out-loud Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks are state-of-the-art technology which time themselves to the music performed, rather than making the conductor and players slaves to a click-track. The result was a gloriously fluid and expressive rendering of the work, culminating in a spooky vision of Baba-Yaga’s Hut on Chicken’s Legs and a magisterial Great Gates of Kiev.

Earlier in the day, the band had provided the live score to a screening of the Aardman film The Wrong Trousers, starring Wallace and Gromit, alongside model-making workshops for the young audience: a triumphant closing fanfare for Perth 2024.

Perth Festival

The Fairey Band

Perth Concert Hall

Five stars