Diggle Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Stunning performance from top Saddleworth band 

A fantastic rip-roaring night of brass banding excellence was enjoyed by all at the Boarshurst Band Club on the 19 June. The Championship section band entranced its audience with a feast of dynamic classical pieces. There was nothing lily livered about the programme. It had oomph and gravitas, all within the realms of a traditional concert setting.

The usual Musical Director for Diggle Band is Alan Wycherley. For yesterday’s concert, we had a guest conductor. It was none other than the unflappable Phil Goodwin from Delph Band. They also competed at the 8th Hebden Bridge Hymn and March Contest a few hours before in such soggy conditions. His visits to the Boarshurst Band Club have always been a joyous affair. With Diggle Band and a supportive audience, this made for a special atmosphere.

In a contrast to previous concert programmes of the 2016 Sunday Brass Season, there was no musical medleys whatsoever. As concerts go, this was dinner at The Ritz instead of McDonalds on Huddersfield Road.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Standedge (Derek Broadbent);
  2. Overture: The Poet and the Peasant (Franz von Suppé);
  3. Principal Cornet solo (performed by Rob Westacott): A Brown Bird Singing (Haydn Wood);
  4. Incidental Music: Comedians’ Galop (Dimitri Kabalevsky);
  5. Hymn: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (C.H. Parry);
  6. Principal Horn solo (performed by Thomas Tengelsen): Apres Un Reve (Gabriel Faure);
  7. Classical Music: Slavonic Rhapsody No. 2 (Carl Bert Ulrich Friedemann).

Second Half

  1. Dance: Pastime with Good Company (Henry VIII, arr. Stephen Roberts);
  2. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by David Pogson): Crazy (Willie Nelson);
  3. Song: I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodzsky, arr. Goff Richards):
  4. Popular Music: Ticket To Ride (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Euphonium Solo (performed by Daniel Thomas): ‘Neath Dublin Skies (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  6. Song: Myfanwy (Joseph Parry).
  7. Classical: Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral (Richard Wagner).

Encore

  • March: Marching Onward (Ivor Bosanko).

 

Diggle Band opened proceedings with their signature tune, Standedge. Composed by Derek Broadbent, it takes its name from the part of Diggle noted for its tunnels. The canal tunnel, reopened in 2001 after falling into disuse in 1944, is the longest in Great Britain. On a narrowboat, only three boats a day can negotiate its three miles in two hours. Public trips are available. Phil also recommended the walk along the canal to Diggle, then over the hills to the visitor centre. (From the bus stop close to Diggle Band Club, there’s always the 184 bus for Huddersfield).

The second piece was our overture, Franz Von Suppé’s The Poet and Peasant. As ever, a piece that never fails to inspire or move the audience. Diggle Band performed the piece very well. This brought us to our first soloist of the night.

Our first soloist was Rob Westacott on principal cornet. His piece was Haydn Wood’s A Brown Bird Singing. His class was inherent: perfect tone, well pronounced notes and an awestruck audience. We shall be hearing more of him next week, in his guise as Musical Director for Slaithwaite Band.

Our fourth item on the programme was a contrast from Mr. Westacott’s piece. This time with about four minutes worth of music (seemingly) compressed in one and a half minutes. Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Comedians’ Galop (erroneously credited to Aram Khachaturian) was a breathless piece. A challenge for many a brass band. For Diggle Band, no sweat whatsoever.

Dedicated to Jo Cox, the Batley and Spen M.P. taken away too soon was our first hymn. That of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind by C.H. Parry. The hymn, popular with brass bands from all sections, was played with great sensitivity and would have won any contest prize for the Best Hymn.

This was followed by our second soloist of the night, Thomas Tengelsen on Principal Horn. He made light work of the Gabriel Faure composition, Apres Un Reve. His performance wasn’t only note perfect. He also played the piece without the manuscript in front of him! A well deserved round of applause was in order.

We closed with the first half with a rousing piece by Carl Bert Ulrich Friedemann. Slavonic Rhapsody No. 2. It is an often overlooked piece worthy of great attention, and one that has been used as a test piece. From the excellent Brass Band Results website, its only airing as such was on the 19 November 1955 at the Olympia Ballroom in Reading (for the Berkshire and Neighbouring Counties Band Festival Guild). It ended the first half with a delightful crescendo, leaving much promise for the second half programme.

Needless to say, the second half programme was equally fantastic, though a tad lighter. We opened with a piece written by Henry VIII, which was arranged by Stephen Roberts. Pastime With Good Company got the second half off to a great start.

Our third soloist of the night, David Pogson, played the concert’s first concession to popular music. That of the Willie Nelson song, Crazy, popularised by Patsy Cline. His treatment of the song was warm, comforting, and transferred well from Country and Western standard to that of a smooth soloist’s piece.

The scene was changed again for the third piece of the second half, which was I’ll Walk With God. Another popular song, written by Nicholas Brodzsky with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, it was used in the film, The Student Prince. The piece was sung by Mario Lanza in the film, plus it was also covered by The Bachelors.

Using a chance to mention the Flying Scotsman’s journey along the Standedge line, Phil introduced us to the most populist piece of the night. Yours truly, the reviewer of this concert, knew for sure it would have been Alan Fernie’s arrangement of Ticket To Ride. There was something missing with the classic Beatles song which detracted from Diggle Band’s pristine performance. The lack of soot or grit approaching my table, or the smell of coal emerging from the toilets. Diggle’s performance had me checking my right eye for grit owing to the superb steam engine noises!

After one of The Beatles’ best known pieces was followed by the raffle, we moved onto our final soloist of the night. This time, on Euphonium, Daniel Thomas’ playing of ‘Neath Dublin Skies. For devotees of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s works, this was a contrast from the bombastic pieces he is associated with. The first movement of which started quietly, with a lively second movement, redolent of Irish reels and the craic of a good night out in Dublin.

From the Republic of Ireland to Wales, our sixth item was Myfanwy. Joseph Parry’s song was composed in 1875 and remains a favourite with Welsh choirs. It has also been covered by Cerys Matthews from Catatonia, Bryn Terfel, and John Cale (of the Velvet Underground fame, and the producer of The Happy Mondays’ 1986 début album).

Before the encore, we finished with the vibrant Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral. Which, as we learned from Phil, was the rare beast of a pithy Richard Wagner composition. One that was a few minutes short of ten minutes. At the end of this piece, Diggle Band left the audience asking for more. With great relish.

For their reward, the encore piece was Marching Onward. Arranged by Ivor Bosanko in 1985 for the Salvation Army, it is two popular marches. That of Onward Christian Soldiers and I’ll Go In The Strength.

What more can I say. Diggle Band were magnificent. The guest conductor, Phil Goodwin, was as warm and knowledgeable as ever. A brass band on the up? Most definitely.

*               *               *

Next on the agenda for Diggle Band is the legendary Brighouse Hymn and March Contest. It is a fantastic event which takes up most of the afternoon and runs into the early evening. Last year’s contest saw Wingates pick up top honours. If you wish to see them in concert again, they are on at the Diggle Band Club on the 31 July 2016. Plus, their next date at the Boarshurst Band Club will be on the 06 November 2016.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

We see the return of Rob Westacott, this time wearing his Musical Director hat for Slaithwaite Band. In 1892, they were formed as the Slaithwaite Brass and Reed Band. In 1905, they won the Grand Shield at the Crystal Palace contest. Of late, Slaithwaite Band has gone from strength to strength.

Not to be content with seeing the present M.D for Slaithwaite Band as a soloist, the writer of our first piece [Derek Broadbent] was Slaithwaite Band’s Musical Director in the late 1960s. Other former Slaithwaite alumnae include Tabby Clegg, the one-time editor of British Bandsman magazine.

Buses:

  • 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., 20 June 2016.

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