Baker’s Boarshurst Debut Well Received

Sunday night [27 March] made for a great concert with Middleton Band at the Boarshurst Band Club. They have maintained their position as a community-orientated Section Two band. From Sunday’s concert, one a a few notes away from being a future Section 1 band.

Embarking on this journey with Middleton Band is Andrew Baker, their musical director who joined early this month. He was introduced to brass banding at the age of eight at Northop Youth Band and has composed his own pieces. His manuscripts have been played by brass bands around the world. Among his recent works is Perseverance, a signature piece for Middleton Brass, written at the close of 2015.

Baker’s delivery was informative and good-humoured at the same time. The highlights of the concert included a superb soprano cornet solo, and a different – humorous take – on a popular march.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Fanfare: Shining Sword (Rob Wiffin);
  2. Overture: Madrigalum (Philip Sparke);
  3. Test Piece: Elegy from A Downland Suite (John Ireland);
  4. Cornet Solo (performed by Stephanie Greenhalgh): Buster Strikes Back (Alan Morrison);
  5. Soprano Cornet Solo (Louise Crane): On With The Motley (Leoncavallo);
  6. Overture: Horizons (Paul Lovatt-Cooper).

Second Half

  1. Classical: Canzona Primi Toni a 8 (Giovanni Gabrieli);
  2. Euphonium Duet (performed by Sarah Fitton and Mayo Aita): Softly As I Leave You (Giorgio Calabrese and Tony De Vita, arr. Alan Catherall);
  3. March: Viva Birkinshaw (William Rimmer);
  4. Classical piece: Arioso (J.S. Bach, arr. Howard Snell);
  5. March: La Florentiner (Julius Fucik);
  6. Classical piece: Sanctus (Charles Gounod).


  • Hymn: Hyfrydol (Rowland Pritchard).

Taking us by surprise was Shining Sword, a superb fanfare written by Rob Wiffin. It was written as a tribute to the RAF Bomber Command for February 2002’s 60th anniversary commemorations. The Shining Sword refers to the AVRO Lancaster Bomber, quoted by RAF Marshal Sir Arthur Harris as “the greatest single factor in winning the [Second World] War”. An appropriate choice of music to begin with given how close the band was to AVRO’s Chadderton works.

The second piece, Madrigalum, sounded like a possible second movement to Shining Sword (though composed by Philip Sparke). The two pieces gelled together as one. On the other hand, a piece that would have felt at home in Hans Zimmer’s or John Williams’ back catalogue. A fantastic start from Middleton Band. The opening two pieces were composed for woodwind instruments yet converted well to brass.

The mood for our third piece was a little more pensive, this time with John Ireland’s Elegy from A Downland Suite. The piece was previously used as a test piece at the National Finals at Crystal Palace, London, in 1932. That year’s contest was won by Fodens Motor Works Band, conducted by Fred Mortimer. The elegy was beautifully played and took us neatly to our first soloist.

Starting out on solo was Tony O’Mara Stephanie Greenhalgh on Cornet. She played the cheeky and effervescent Alan Morrison piece Buster Strikes Back. Whilst at Grimethorpe Colliery Band, a young lad by the name of Buster had leukaemia. Being cured of the condition inspired this piece which made for a well played solo.

Our fifth piece – and second soloist – was Tony O’Mara Louise Crane. Her playing of On With The Motley was probably the highlight of the first half. Beforehand, Andrew said you needed to be mad to play soprano cornet. Our verdict, was ‘sensational’ – perhaps on the right side of mad, the point where ‘genius’ enters the fray.

Closing the first half was the excellent Horizons, one of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s early compositions. Alongside Sir Karl Jenkins, one of our most exciting modern-day composers of brass band music. Its bombastic nature left the Boarshurst faithful gasping for more and took us into the interval with great style. This of course, not only a good time for another pint and some raffle tickets, but also to purchase their latest CD.

The first two pieces of the second half had Italian influences. Our first piece was Canzona Primi Toni a 8, which would have been top of the Hit Parade (had there been one of course!) when Oliver Cromwell was barely out of nappies. The piece dates from the early 17th Century and started our first half in Baroque style.

The second piece was a Euphonium duet featuring Sarah Fitton and Mayo Aita. In spite of Tony O’Mara’s attempts at trying to butt in (also attempted in the previous two solo pieces), they got around to playing Softly As I Leave You. The Italian song is better known in its English form, sung by Matt Monro, Michael Bublé and Elvis Presley. Ramon “RJ” Jacinto was the last artiste to cover the song in 2014.

Tony’s attempts at trying to usurp Stephanie, Louise, Sarah and Mayo made for some comic moments throughout the concert. More of which would be seen in the fifth piece of the second half.

The third piece of this half was a more traditional piece – our first contest march of the night. This time, one of William Rimmer’s lesser pieces, Viva Birkinshaw. It is occasionally played on Whit Friday Brass Band Contests, mainly by First and Second section bands. The piece takes its name from a former Black Dyke Mills Band conductor, George F. Birkinshaw.

After our first march took us to the raffle, we continued with J.S. Bach’s Arioso, arranged by Howard Snell. This was a quiet, contemplative piece which formed a neat bridge between the two marches.

The second of our marches continued our second Grimethorpe connection. This time, another test piece – the test piece in Brassed Off. In other words, Julius Fucik’s La Florentiner march. This time, we see Tony O’Mara and Stacey Bown trying to disrupt proceedings. Tony comments on the lack of life in Stacey’s trombone player. Then he tries to take over on Cornet. This provided great entertainment, plus the tune was well played.

To finish the programme, we had what could also be our second film theme. This time, Charles Gounod’s Sanctus, which was used in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). As we found, Sanctus wasn’t your typical horror film theme. It is a piece which starts off serenely yet ends in crescendo. A fantastic show all round.

Ending the programme proper was Hyfrydol, a traditional Welsh hymn written by Rowland Pritchard. It is a traditional Easter hymn which has also been arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Translated from the Welsh to the English, Hyfrydol means Cheerful.

And a cheerful concert it was too, thanks to a Baker’s dozen of well-played pieces. Next on their agenda is the National Youth Brass Band Championships on the 17 April. Their North Manchester Youth Band feature at the University of Manchester.

On the Saturday before Whit Friday (14 May), Middleton Band will have a concert at St. Leonard’s Parish Church. Starting at 7.30pm, the band will play pieces from stage and screen. Tickets for the Music from Stage and Screen concert are priced £6.00 for adults, £4.00 for pensioners, and £2.00 for children. Admission is free for Friends of the Middleton Band.

Buses calling close to St. Leonard’s Parish Church include the 17 (Manchester – Middleton – Castleton – Rochdale) and the 163 (Manchester – Middleton – Heywood – Bury). Both are operated by First Greater Manchester.

Next Week…

Our fellows at Boarshurst Silver Band will be in the Netherlands, responding to an invitation to play a couple of concerts. The next concert at the Boarshurst Band Club will be with Tintwistle Band on the 10 April. Tintwistle Band are also in the Second Section and have a proud history.

As always at the Boarshurst Band Club, doors open at 7pm with the concert starting at 8pm.


  • 180: Greenfield [Clarence Hotel] – Lees – Oldham – Hollinwood – Manchester [Oldham Street];
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham.

Alight at Greenfield Conservative Club. Both services operated by First Greater Manchester (please note the recent change of operator for evening 350 journeys).

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.


S.V., 28 March 2016.

3 thoughts on “Middleton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

  1. Hi Stuart, this is a brilliant and detailed review! Thanks for taking the time to do it and thanks for your kind comments too.

    The definitely slightly ‘mad’ soprano player 🙂


    1. Hi Louise,

      Glad you love the review, it is much appreciated. You were great in the Soprano solo of On With The Motley.

      My late Granddad on my Father’s side used to play soprano cornet for Tintwistle and Stalybridge Old bands. Partly because of this, we always listen out for the soprano cornet sections of any band.

      Bye for now,



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