Let’s Hear It For the (Besses) Boys

Last night [24 April], Besses Boys Band gave the Boarshurst faithful a fabulous concert. The band, formed in 1943 to save the senior band from a possible demise, have come from strength to strength. This year saw a sensational start, with the Lancashire band picking up the Second Section title at the Butlins Mineworkers’ Contest in Skegness, Lincolnshire. The Second Section test piece this January gone, was Fire in the Blood by the excellent Paul Lovatt-Cooper.

Making the short trip, from the northern fringes of Prestwich, was musical director James Holt. Born in Bredbury, in 1984, his path towards Bury New Road began with the Stockport Schools Intermediate Band via Milnrow Band. He has also appeared on Blue Peter. His wife, Claire, plays the principal cornet.

In all, the programme was an enjoyable mix of the traditional running order, with some populist goodies thrown in for good measure. It was well structured and, as with any self-respecting brass band concert, ticked the usual boxes of there being a march, a hymn, and the solo pieces. And the odd bad joke.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Street March: The Standard of St. George (Kenneth Alford);
  2. Opera: Finale from the ballet, Faust (Charles Gounod, arr. Ray Woodfield);
  3. Principal Cornet solo (performed by Claire Holt): When She Loved Me (Randy Newman);
  4. Jazz Standard: Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie/Maceo Pinkard);
  5. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by George Lawryshyn): Demelza (Goff Richards);
  6. Hymn Medley: The Smile (Arr. Matthew Hall):
    1. Lord of All Hope;
    2. The Lord’s My Shepherd;
    3. The Old Rugged Cross;
  7. Musical Medley: Selection from Les Miserables.

Second Half

  1. Overture: Activate (Matthew Hall);
  2. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Kara Horton): Under the Boardwalk (Kenny Young/Arthur Resnick, arr. Philip Harper);
  3. Popular Music: All Night Long (Lionel Richie, arr. Leigh Baker);
  4. Bass Solo (performed by Ellie Mead): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkyson, arr. Leigh Baker);
  5. Hymn: Abide With Me (W.H. Monk);
  6. Test Piece: Fire in the Blood (Paul Lovatt-Cooper).


  • Film Music (from Summer Stock): Get Happy (Harold Arlen).


Given St. George’s Day only fell on Saturday, The Standard of St. George was an appropriate piece to open the concert with. Composed by Kenneth Alford, it is a popular street march, and one you are likely to hear on the Whit Walks (Whitsuntide is less than a month away). Our second piece was just as energetic, the finale from the ballet Faust. Arranged by Ray Woodfield, from the original by Charles Gounod, it was a neat test for the cornet sections. The performances of both pieces were well received.

For our first soloist of the night, it was Claire Holt on principal cornet. This marked our first dalliance with Disney, thanks partly to Randy Newman. Her playing of When She Loved Me was slightly melancholy yet beautiful. Used in the Walt Disney/Pixar film, Toy Story 2, it detailed Woody’s lost love, Jessie (who was distraught by the cowboy figure’s departure).

The fourth took a lighter tone, and gave us our first sports-related theme of the night. This came courtesy of Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard’s Sweet Georgia Brown. As well as being a popular jazz standard, it has assumed another role as the run-out tune for the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

The fifth piece saw George Lawryshyn play Demelza. The Goff Richards piece, normally played with a soprano cornet, was played on a tenor horn. It translated well onto the lower notes, thanks to George’s stunning performance. Stirring performances were also the order of the day with our first hymn. Or rather, a medley of three hymns. Arranged by Matthew Hall, The Smile featured Lord of All Hope, The Lord’s My Shepherd, and The Old Rugged Cross.

The first half closed with another medley. This time, with a selection of pieces from the ever-popular Les Miserables musical. In much reduced form, Besses Boys Band played the whole song book, featuring the usual favourites (for instance, Bring Him Home, Can You Hear the People Sing?, On My Own, and Master of the House).

Our second half took a lighter theme, this time, starting with Matthew Hall’s Activate. In just two minutes, it gives the audience a good sense of anticipation. One that prepared the Boarshurst faithful for our next solo piece. This time, our first soloist of the second half was Kara Horton. Our tune, Philip Harper’s arrangement of The Drifters classic, Under The Boardwalk. As well as the original piece, it was covered by Bruce Willis in 1987 (and kept off the top spot by Madonna’s Who’s That Girl?). At this time of writing, a version by Cory Band is Number Four in the World of Brass website’s downloads chart.

It also gave us our second sporting reference of the night. Under The Boardwalk, since the club’s formation in 2005, has been repurposed by fans of National League North side, F.C. United of Manchester (as “Under the boardwalk, watching F.C…” with a elongated C in the chant). Prior to the raffle, this was followed by Leigh Baker’s arrangement of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long. The Latin American style beats saw the percussion section used to good effect, also with the first use of a cowbell in the 2016 Sunday Brass programme.

Continuing the tomfoolery after the raffle was our final soloist of the night. This time, the turn of Ellie Mead, with the flat E bass. Her piece was The Bare Necessities, as played in the Road End Fair concert. Her playing of the piece from Walt Disney’s film, The Jungle Book was sensational. Those at Boarshurst saw one of her last performances with Besses Boys Band, as her next move is the Royal Scottish Conservatoire of Music in Glasgow.

Our third and final sporting reference was poignant, being as prior to the concert, both Manchester United and Crystal Palace reached the F.A. Cup Final. For many people, Abide With Me is often regarded as the F.A. Cup Final hymn (which in the good old days of 3pm kick-offs, was sung fifteen minutes beforehand).

Remaining with final stage victories, cast your mind back to January of this year, between Ingoldmells and the centre of Skegness. For the final, non-encore piece, Besses Boys Band elected to play the test piece that brought them glory in the Butlins Mineworkers’ Contest. Cue the excellent Fire in the Blood by Paul Lovatt-Cooper. The test piece, full-bodied, in arrangement and volume, was performed to perfection by our fellows off the A56.

The encore piece was the Judy Garland song, Get Happy, taken from Summer Stock. This wrapped up proceedings on a high, leaving the Boarshurst faithful to head for home, last buses, takeaways, or a combination of all three.

We wish Besses Boys Band the very best in their Brass in the Park slot at St. James’ Park, London. A special mention should go to Ellie Mead, wishing her every success in Glasgow. If you cannot get a cheap ticket to London by any mode, Besses Boys Band’s next gig is the Procession of Witness in Dukinfield. From 9am, they shall be doing the Dukinfield Whit Walks with one of the churches, assembling outside Dukinfield Town Hall between 10am and 10.45am

Next Week…

We see the return of Eccles Borough Band on the 01 May. On the 21 February, they were one of five bands at the North West Regional Championship Preview Evening. They have come up in leaps and bounds as a Section One band thanks to Mareika Gray’s role as musical director.

Born in Papua New Guinea, she grew up in Australia and started playing musical instruments from an early age. In the brass banding world, she has appeared in Australian and Norwegian bands, prior to conducting Eccles Borough Band. She has also had success with Milnrow Band, James Holt’s former home.

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.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 24 April 2016.

One thought on “Besses Boys Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

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