North West Regional Section One Champions do Boarshurst proud
By 10.15pm yesterday, Vernon Building Society Poynton Band gave the Boarshurst faithful a sterling performance. With a varied programme, they demonstrated why they deserved their accolade as Section One Champions in Blackpool last month.
As a mark of Poynton’s progress, they will be starting 2017 in the Championship Section. The present musical director, Neil Samuel, achieved the same feat with Rainford Band. For Neil, brass banding has been his life. Born into a Salvationist family background, he started at the age of seven with the tenor horn. By sixteen, he joined the Chetham’s School of Music.
At his young age (34), he has a pedigree enough to make many players envious. His positivity worked just as well with the audience as well as the band. Sunday’s meeting was a joyous two-hour journey with plenty of sights, sounds, and the odd daft joke along the way. Even audience participation.
- Contest March: Washington Grays (Claudio S. Grafulla);
- Cornet Solo (performed by Georgina Moulsdale): Song to the Moon (Antonin Dvorak);
- Film Music: Theme from Star Wars (John Williams);
- Quartet: Cantus Lacrimosus(Sir Karl Jenkins);
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Peter Cookson): The Last Rose of Summer (Thomas Moore);
- Quintet: Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (Billy Joel);
- Test Piece: Essay (Third Movement, Edward Gregson).
- March: Knightsbridge (Eric Coates);
- Horn Solo (performed by Jillian Hambrooke): Goodbye To Love (Richard Carpenter/John Bettis);
- Nursery Rhyme: The Grand Old Duke of York (Traditional);
- Cornet and Euphonium Duet (performed by Georgina Moulsdale and Steve Gordon): Somethin’ Stupid (C. Carson Parks);
- Chant: O Magnum Mysterium (Traditional, arr. Morton Lauridsen);
- Musical piece (from The Sound of Music): Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Rodgers and Hammerstein);
- Popular Music: The Hustle (Van McCoy).
To say the opening piece blew off the cobwebs of Boarshurst Band Club was an understatement. Their performance of Washington Grays was loud enough to keep the roof cobweb-free till Whit Friday. As soon as the first three bars were played, we were in for a smooth ride. In the back of a Jaguar XJS sports car instead of a bog-standard hatchback. The march piece, Washington Grays, dates from the American Civil War in 1861.
From the start and right to the last note, we would find volume control a strong point throughout the concert. This was true at the other end of the scale with Georgina Moulsdale’s delicate playing of Dvorak’s Song to the Moon. In the opera Rusalka, it is the most popular excerpt, featuring in the first act.
For our third piece, last year’s instalment of the Star Wars franchise influenced Mr. Samuel’s programme. Demonstrating the band’s strengths in the percussion section as well as the soprano and flugelhorn section was John Williams’ Star Wars theme. From (what is known in today’s money as) Episode IV: A New Hope, the band’s arrangement included the Cantina Band’s part of the theme.
The only thing missing from the third piece was the bleeps from R2-D2 (and there was no way the raffle drum was going to double as the robot played by Kenny Baker). After Poynton Band’s first glimpse into the 1970s, our fourth item was a quartet. This time, the playing of Cantus Lacrimosus arranged by Sir Karl Jenkins. It is the first of twelve movements from Stabat Mater, which is based on 13th Century Catholic music. It was premiered at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on the 15 March 2008.
With St. Patrick’s Day only a few days away, an Irish piece was chosen for the fifth item. This time, The Last Rose of Summer, a poem by Thomas Moore as a flugelhorn solo piece. This was beautifully performed by Peter Cookson. The original piece was written in Kilkenny by Thomas Moore in 1805, and is inspired by a variety of rose.
For the penultimate piece of the first half is a quintet featuring three trombones. This time, courtesy of a Billy Joel recording and a set of speakers. Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) started off with Mr. Joel announcing how he wrote songs. Then the question, “Daddy, what happens when you die,” before continuing with “oh man, sure,” which sounded rather flippant on the recording (when the clip was paused). Then Neil elaborated on introducing the piece before continuing the clip and letting the quintet begin. The original work appeared on Billy Joel’s final studio album from 1994, The River of Dreams.
The last piece of the first half was temporal and spiritual proof of how Poynton’s success at Blackpool was deserved. Closing the first half was Edward Gregson’s Essay, the First Section test piece from Winter Gardens, played by Eccles Borough at the NWRC Preview Evening on the 21 February. Neil commented on how difficult it was to rehearse and perform – in spite of being easier than the Championship Section’s test piece last month (Cambridge Variations by Philip Sparke). The most rousing part, its Third Movement, was well played, taking us neatly to the interval.
The second half programme was more light-hearted. As with the first half, we began with a march. This time, Knightsbridge by Eric Coates. It was introduced by Neil as In Town Tonight, the name of the BBC Home Service’s long-running radio magazine programme from 1934 to 1960 (which used the Eric Coates piece).
Our last solo piece of the night was performed by Jillian Hambrooke and marked our second incursion to popular music. This time, the evergreen Carpenters got the brass band treatment with an arrangement of Goodbye to Love.
After breaking for the raffle, our third piece came out of the blue: a nursery rhyme. With audience participation! This followed a question by Neil as to whether Boarshurst was in Lancashire or Yorkshire (due to the red rose on the Boarshurst crest), which led us to The Grand Old Duke of York. With this singalong, the Boarshurst faithful began singing the nursery rhyme in the normal fashion. Then the same again without ‘up’. Ditto the above, though with ‘down’. Then, the same nursery rhyme, refraining from mentioning ‘up’ and ‘down’,. Latterly, the same rhyme, though with only ‘up’ and ‘down’ mentioned. The atmosphere was electric, on a par with the Saddleworthian institution which is the Boarshurst Band Club Christmas Concert.
The mood was calmed with a cornet and euphonium duet (Georgina Moulsdale and Steve Gordon). Appropriately enough, after the silliness of the previous piece, it was Somethin’ Stupid. Our very own Nancy and Frank (Nicole or Robbie if you prefer) performed a great duet, minus the singing. Somethin’ Stupid was originally recorded by Carson and Gaile in 1966, where it was a minor hit in the States. A year later, it was picked up by Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and the rest they say… double Thursday night rehearsals. Younger ears may remember the version by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman, which was a UK Christmas Number One in 2001.
Taking a more contemplative mood was O Magnum Mysterium, arranged by Morten Lauridsen from a traditional responsorial chant. The piece has had several arrangers over the last 600 years. Lauridsen’s arrangement is among the most recent. He has been the Professor of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for 50 years.
Our last piece was inspired by one of Neil’s long-time favourite films. This time, The Sound of Music, where Poynton Band closed with Climb Ev’ry Mountain. A good one considering how the Saddleworth hills are alive to the sound of brass band music. As Sunday proved, very much so at the Boarshurst Band Club with the second highest turnout from the 2016 season of concerts. A handful of people had to stand up.
Ending the concert proper was their choice of encore piece, an arrangement of Van McCoy’s 1975 hit single, The Hustle. Over forty years on from original release, it has assumed a second life as a favourite brass band piece – either in concert or on the road. In the UK, Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony band’s tune peaked at Number Three in the singles chart.
At a fiver (or £4.00 on members’ rates), Vernon Building Society Poynton Band’s concert was a real bargain. Neil’s humorous approach and dynamic programme made for a great night. Our Cestrian fellows will host another concert at Poynton Methodist Church as a ‘thank you’ to the Vice Presidents (17 April, 7pm). The one after that is on St. George’s Day at 7.30pm [23 April of course] at the Low Leighton Methodist Church (a 358 bus ride away from Stockport, Marple or Hayfield).
Next week’s Sunday Brass concert (20 March 2016, Palm Sunday) sees the arrival of Belle Vue Brass Band. Its home base is famed for the missed King’s Hall contests and John Henry Iles‘ involvement in the brass band world. The band was established in 2005, and they made their Whit Friday début in 2007 at the equally missed Millbrook contest. In 2013, they started doing some of the Whit Friday contests in Saddleworth as well as in Tameside. Their website has had a revamp and is worth a visit.
Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.
S.V., 14 March 2016.