Austonley Brass Ensemble: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

A pristine performance from a perfect ten players (well, eleven counting the percussionist)

Ten from the cream of brass banding enthralled a packed audience at last night’s [Sunday 8th May] concert with Austonley Brass, at Boarshurst Band Club. Among its personnel is the Boarshurst Band Club musical director, James Garlick (Trombone/Euphonium), and his father, Philip Garlick (Trumpet/Tenor Horn).

Also on trumpet were Dave Moore, Neale Hobson, and Jim Bulger (the main man behind Austonley Brass). On flugelhorn was Andrew Holmes, who played the first solo piece of the night. On trombone, along with James Garlick, were Ryan Watkins, Garrath Beckwith, and Steve Jones. On the tuba, Dave Clegg.

Though worthy of a perfect ten in performance and entertainment value, there was an eleventh man. On percussion was Keith Ramsgill, a guest percussionist, employed by Barnsley MBC Education Department’s music service.

Their regular ten players, and the guest percussionist, have an enviable pedigree. There are links with the Royal Northern College of Music, the Chethams School of Music, and Brighouse and Rastrick Band. All of the regular members are freelance musicians in their own right. As well as their experience, the special sauce in their pieces lay in their arrangements. Many of which by the New York composer, Mark Free.

A fuller than normal lounge and entertaining programme made for a great night. As the ensemble eschew the use of a musical director, John Whittle provided the links to the pieces.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Song: Malagueña (Ernesto Lecuona, arr. Mark Free);
  2. Film Music: The Children of Sanchez (Chuck Mangione, arr. Jock McKenzie);
  3. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Andy Holmes): Napoli (Herman Belstedt, arr. Mark Free);
  4. Quintet: Singin’ in the Rain (Arthur Freed, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Quintet: Anything Goes (Cole Porter, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Musical: Cheek to Cheek (Irvine Berlin, arr. Alan Gout);
  7. Medley: Suite from Chicago (Arr. James Davies).

Second Half

  1. Film Music: Theme from Skyfall (Adele Adkins, arr. Simon Barr);
  2. Trombone Solo (performed by Steve Jones): Theme from You Only Live Twice (John Barry, arr. Mark Free);
  3. Quintet: Frere Jacques (Traditional (French), arr. John Iveson);
  4. Popular Music: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Bob Crewe/Bob Gaudio, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Popular Music: Eleanor Rigby (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Medley: Fantasia on British Sea Songs (Henry Wood).

Encore

  1. Song: Kids in America (Marty Wilde/Ricky Wilde).

 

Austonley Brass’ first piece had a Cuban feel, opening with Ernesto Lecuona’s Malagueña, originally the sixth movement of Suite Andalucia. With Britain basking in sunshine, you couldn’t have wished for a more summery piece.

This was equalled by our first film piece of the night. The excellent Children of Sanchez by Chuck Mangione. Most apparent in this piece and the opener (beside their obvious summery nature) was their strength in depth. An enormous sound from the dectet as loud as whole brass bands.

Our third piece of the night was the first solo piece. This time, a classic piece in many a brass band concert, Napoli. Often heard with 33 brass band players on any other night, Andy Holmes’ sound from one flugelhorn. One flugelhorn player, and the sound of 33 players. His timbre, tone and virtuosity was that good. The reception that Mr. Holmes received was phenomenal.

Our fourth and fifth pieces saw the dectet whittled down to a quintet for two musical pieces – both of which arranged by Alan Fernie. The first of the two was Singin’ in the Rain, the best known piece from the Gene Kelly musical. In popular music, the piece written by Arthur Freed, was covered by a number of artists. One was Mint Royale’s 2005 remix, with footwork from George Sampson (2008 Britain’s Got Talent winner); another, was Sheila B. Devotion’s version with a disco beat.

The second was Anything Goes, our first Cole Porter number of the night. Taken from the musical that shares the same name, it is sung at the end of Act One. The majority of the musical was written by Cole Porter at his Rosecliff mansion in Newport, Rhode Island.

With the ensemble doubled (to its more usual ten), came another two musical numbers. Our sixth piece was Cheek to Cheek, which featured in the musical Top Hat. In recent times, it was used in Glee. It was also covered by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in their 1976 album, The Penthouse Tapes. The delightfully (not!) named Alan Gout, arranged this piece.

Within an hour, we flitted from Havana to Chicago. Well, with the latter, we were treated to a Suite From Chicago. This was a medley of songs from the musical and popular film, set in prohibition-era Chicago. The medley opened with the earworm-tastic All That Jazz.

Austonley, the name’s Austonley…

Just to go off a tangent, you will be wondering whereabouts Austonley is. It is a very small part of Holmfirth, to the west, that is just off the A635 to Greenfield and Mossley. As to how small it is, too small a place to justify a bus route, let alone the half hourly or hourly frequencies of the 180 along Chew Valley Road.

If you were to visit Austonley, your nearest bus stop is The Huntsman Inn, then a modest walk. From Greenfield, you can take South Pennine Community Transport‘s 352 service (Saturdays only), or the X50 from Ashton-under-Lyne and Mossley (Thursdays only, limited stop). By car, you’re looking at 15 minutes from Boarshurst Band Club.

Unless of course that car happened to be James Bond’s Aston Martin (or a wayward powerboat from Greenfield Reservoir). Speaking of Bond, our first two pieces of the second half came from two generations of Bond films. The first one of the two, the excellent theme from Skyfall. Written by Adele herself, the brass band version was arranged by Simon Barr.

The second Bond theme of the night was a Trombone solo from Steve Jones. He played the theme from You Only Live Twice, composed by John Barry. The arranger, none other than the excellent Mark Free. Both themes were well played by the ensemble and Steve Jones respectively.

For the third piece of the second half, Frere Jacques. Arranged by John Iveson, it is a classic brass band ensemble piece which speeds up on its second, third, and fourth instance. Austonley’s version was fast yet disciplined. A marked contrast from the good, in a different way, acid-house/dance music treatment of Phoenix Brass’ playing (the beats per minute with their version was incredible).

Like the Phoenix Brass Ensemble’s concert, that piece also took us to the raffle. This time, four prizes and three colours of ticket (two different colours is often the norm). This was followed by a tune written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The tune? Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. Erroneously referred to by John Whittle as You’re Too Good To Be True, the Andy Williams version is its most famous one. To my ears, it was closer to The Boys Town Gang’s cover from 1982.

For our fifth and sixth pieces, the tone would change again. This time with Alan Fernie’s arrangement of Eleanor Rigby. The popular Beatles song felt more alive and vibrant than the original. Again, thanks to the strength in depth and fidelity of Austonley Brass’ sound.

For the sixth piece, there was one fly in the ointment: the omission of glow sticks or Union Flags for the audience. With the latter, more so being as the concert fell on VE Day. Flags or glow sticks aside, Fantasia on British Sea Songs captured the excitement of the Royal Albert Hall in no time. A fantastic finale.

Finale? The encore piece was a real surprise. Closing the concert was Kids in America – a superb arrangement of the Kim Wilde song from 1981, written by her father (Marty) and her brother (Ricky). Not only a great encore piece, also a good one for unusual deportment marches. The song was also covered by The Bloodhound Gang and The Toy Dolls (the Sunderland-based punk group adapted it as Kids in Tyne and Wear).

Austonley Brass were nothing short of superb. If you see them around, go to one of their concerts. If you’re planning a private function or looking for suitable wedding entertainment, it makes a change from the usual DJ. Their website is worth a visit too (www.austonleybrass.co.uk). Whether you’re seeing them in concert or hiring them, you wont be disappointed. Give them a go!

 

Next Week…

Next week’s Sunday Brass concert (15 May 2016, Whit Sunday) sees the arrival of Glossop Old Band. With Les Webb as their musical director, they have returned to the contest scene after several years. Near the end of 2015, they gave the Boarshurst faithful a great concert. The hub of the Derbyshire band is their cavernous band club on Derby Street, a short yet steep walk from the bus stops and railway station off Henry Street.

Another arm of Glossop Old Band is the Regent Big Band. They offer a commercial base for the band, playing a mixture of Big Band, swing and jazz music. They are available for weddings and private functions.

With the Whit Walks taking place in Tameside, why not make a day of your Whit Sunday? The Dukinfield Whit Walks take place in the morning, meeting at Dukinfield Town Hall (King Street). Stalybridge’s take place in the afternoon (assembling at Armentieres Square). After a nice Sunday dinner, you could nip up to Greenfield for the Boarshurst Band Club and see Glossop Old Band. Sounds good? Of course.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 09 May 2016.

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