Flixton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Stage, Screen, and Tradition Reigns Supreme

No-one would believe that in the space of two hours, we would have been treated to yet another fine concert at the Boarshurst Band Club. This time, it was the turn of the highest ranking brass band in Trafford MBC boundaries. Standing comfortably in Section Two, Flixton Band, gave us a varied programme with traditional pieces, plus a few from stage and screen. For the price of a bog-standard lager, the Boarshurst faithful were treated to a magnificent seventeen pieces including encore.

Formed in 1877 as the Flixton Volunteer Band. In 1894, they played in front of Queen Victoria on the opening day of the Manchester Ship Canal. The ‘volunteer’ part of its name was dropped in 1908. After the 1929 depression, the band lay dormant from 1933 to 1967. Their instruments were held till their reemergence as the Flixton Silver Band. In 1988, with the ‘silver’ dropped from their name, they resumed contesting.

Now in Section Two, 2016 has been a pretty good year for Flixton up to now. They have won the Second Section prizes at the Brighouse and Morley Hymn and March Contests – a Second Section Yorkshire Double. There are two bands: the Flixton Band, which is like the brass band of the first XXXIII; the second one is the Flixton Community Band, whose 33 players make up their training band.

The Musical Director for the night, Jason Smith, stated his enthusiasm for the traditional pieces. His programme struck a good balance between the modern and the traditional pieces whilst remaining faithful to the running order of a traditional concert. This was true of last week’s concert with Simon Cowen (at Jason’s former band). All in all, a packed and pacey programme with some memorable solos.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: BB&CF (James Ord-Hume);
  2. Popular Music: The Eve of the War (Jeff Wayne);
  3. Principal Cornet solo (performed by Katie Tyson-Phillips): Whirlwind (Peter Graham);
  4. Film Music: Theme from Schindler’s List (John Williams);
  5. Film Music: Theme from The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein);
  6. Musical piece: Mr. Jums (Chris Hazell, arr. Alan Catterall);
  7. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Victoria Finlay): In Heaven Above (Laurentius Laurenti/F Melius Christiansen/Trad. Norwegian, arr. Tom Brevik);
  8. Traditional: The Lost Chord (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Stephen Roberts).

Second Half

  1. March: Midwest March (Joseph John Richards);
  2. Song: To The Spring (Edvard Grieg, arr. Pat Ryan);
  3. Bass Solo (performed by Hazel Boxall): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkyson, arr. Leigh Baker);
  4. Jazz: Blue Rondo a la Turk (David Brubeck, arr. K. Edwards);
  5. Classical piece: Chanson De Matin (Sir Edward Elgar, arr. Denis Wright).
  6. Trio: 76 Trombones (Meredith Wilson);
  7. Hymn: Deep Harmony (Handel Parker, arr. Leigh Baker);
  8. Jazz: Caravan (Duke Ellington, arr. Stephen Sykes).

Encore

  • March: The Liberty Bell (John Philip Sousa, arr. James Ord-Hume).

Slowly but surely, he drew his baton towards them…

 

For the first march was a real surprise entry. We opened with BB and CF written by James Ord-Hume. The march was commissioned by John Henry Iles to commemorate the merger of two brass banding publications: British Bandsman and Contest Field. John Henry Iles, apart from being an influential figure in brass banding, was one of the main figureheads of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens and Amusement Park. Which was also the birthplace of the British Open Championship formed by John Jennison in 1853. James Ord-Hume was given the commission for this rousing piece.

The second piece was more contemporary, and the chances of hearing this as a deportment piece on Chew Valley Road remain a million to one. Still, on Greenbridge Lane at Boarshurst Band Club, came an excellent blast of The Eve of the War. Written by Jeff Wayne, it is better known by many as the opening piece from The War of the Worlds. The 1978 version featuring Julie Covington, David Essex, and Richard Burton. It transferred well to brass band and, without a doubt, would be a worthy addition to any concert programme.

Our third item was the first soloist of the night: Katie Tyson (or – as we found, following her marriage – Katie Tyson-Phillips) on principal cornet. She played Peter Graham’s Whirlwind, which was pleasing to listen to, and marked a neat contrast from the bombastic openers. Katie was the first of three female soloists of the night.

With a future film-orientated concert on the horizon (30 September, Urmston Parish Centre), film music would form part of Sunday’s repertoire. Our fourth piece was the theme from Schindler’s List. As one would expect from a John Williams piece, a transition seamless enough to warrant Honorary Brass Bander Status. Flixton Band played the haunting tune with great sensitivity.

Taking another turn in the contrast department was Elmer Bernstein’s famous piece. That of the theme tune to The Magnificent Seven (the original version with Coburn). This was a topical addition to the programme, as the remake is scheduled for UK release on the 23 September. You could never beat the odd blast of Bernstein’s theme, whether played on a comb and paper or with a brass band. (We strongly recommend the brass band option, and Flixton Band did a great job).

Our first concession to all things feline came in the sixth piece. That of Mr. Jums by Chris Hazell, arranged by Alan Catterall. Directly influenced by The Old Possums Book of Cats rather than the musical inspired by T.S. Eliot’s work, it forms part of another brass banding piece, Three Brass Cats. A light and tuneful piece which neatly took us to our second soloist of the night.

The seventh piece – played by flugelhorn soloist, Victoria Finlay – was In Heaven Above. Based on a traditional Norwegian folk hymn, it was a serene piece enhanced by Finlay’s performance. She was backed by some good performances by the percussion section’s glockenspiel. Which, according to Mr. Smith’s anecdotes, compensated for the lack of a vibraphone (no electricity being the excuse).

The final piece of the first half was a brass banding classic. A piece by our friend, Arthur Sullivan, none other than The Lost Chord. A nice rousing piece to take us to the interval.

Nobody expected the Python composition 

 

After flitting from Norway and making a toilet stop at Heathrow, we continued to America for our first piece of the second half. Dusting off the cobwebs was J.J. Richards’ Midwest March. It has also been written for wind bands. As for its conversion to brass band music, well, need we say more: another cracker.

Once more, we returned to Norway for our next piece – Bergen to be precise. This time with Pat Ryan’s arrange of the Edvard Grieg piece, To The Spring. It is one of a suite of sixty-six pieces written by the composer for piano. How did this piece work for Flixton Band? I think you can guess the rest, another sound performance. To The Spring seems to be overlooked by most listeners in favour of Peer Gynt which is a bit of a shame really.

Our third and final soloist of the night was a bass solo. Many concertgoers see the stereotypical bass horn player as a stocky male. Last night’s soloist ticked none of the boxes. The slight frame of Hazel Boxall treated us to The Bare Necessities, from Disney’s 1967 film, The Jungle Book. She put in a fantastic performance, making this a concert début to remember for Hazel. There was also backing from six pairs of castanets.

After a super-sized raffle draw (with a Magnificent Seven prizes), we stumbled across an old favourite. The fifth item was David Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk. Arranged by K. Edwards, Flixton Band’s version was pleasing to the ear. For the notational geeks among you, it is written in the 9/8 and 4/4 time signatures, with the change giving any band a good workout.

Our fifth piece of the second half came from one of Great Malvern’s most famous ramblers: Sir Edward Elgar. His best known work is Nimrod, but last night’s concert saw the Boarshurst audience treated to Chanson de Matin. The composer used to walk along Sugar Loaf Hill and Worcestershire Beacon to clear his head and gain inspiration. Chanson de Matin was a departure from his better known pieces and offered a welcome change. Another good show.

Instead of a fourth solo of the night, we had a trombone trio for the sixth piece. The piece for the trombone showcase was 76 Trombones (though with some seventy-three short of recommended number). Somehow, one trombonist doing the work of twenty-five and a third worked very well. Written by Meredith Wilson, it is used in the 1962 film, The Music Man (starring Robert Preston as Harold Hill). There was a made-for-television remake in 2003 with Matthew Broderick (of War Games fame) starring as Harold Hill.

As always, no brass band concert is complete without a good hymn. Among the best loved hymns in the brass banding world is Handel Parker’s Deep Harmony. Flixton Band’s piece was Leigh Baker’s arrangement. Which for my ears, has superb depth. This was reflected in Flixton Band’s superb performance.

Cheerfully ending the concert was Duke Ellington’s Caravan, arranged by Stephen Sykes. I can never tire of the Duke’s piece, either as a pre-encore closing piece, or as a pre-interval finisher. Strident and radiant, it was a fantastic finale.

Or so we thought. Nobody expected the Python composition.

The finale ended exactly as the concert began, with a march. This time being one of John Philip Sousa’s most famous. Perhaps his most famous thanks to Messrs Palin, Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Chapman, and Jones. Liberty Bell is known by several people as the signature tune to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Which on its televisual début in October 1969, went out at 10.55 pm on a Sunday night. Around the same time when our fellows from Flixton Band went home. A fantastic closing piece.

Following on from Sunday’s concert, Flixton Band’s next engagement is on Friday, 30 September 2016. This is their movie-themed concert, billed as A Night of Stage and Screen Music. This will take place at the Our Lady and the English Martyrs Parish Centre on 1, Davyhulme Road, Urmston. It is just off the Davyhulme Circle roundabout (the 256 bus from Piccadilly Gardens to Flixton stops outside). At a contesting level, their next gig is the Rochdale Contest on the 23 October 2016.

Next Week…

There will be no Sunday Brass next week as Boarshurst Silver Band are otherwise engaged. This coming weekend sees them competing in the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain’s Final stage at Cheltenham. Championship Section bands will contest their final in The Royal Albert Hall, London.

To Boarshurst Silver Band and all other bands in competition on the 17 and 18 September, the very best of luck to you all.

The next concerts at Boarshurst Band Club will take place on the 25 September. 12 midday will see the introduction of the first Youth Band concerts, featuring Elland Silver Youth. Then at 8.00 pm, Macclesfield’s Silk Brass will be attendance. More details will follow nearer the time on East of the M60.

S.V., 12 September 2016.

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