Diggle Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (Winter 2016)

Another top drawer performance from Saddleworth’s Championship section band 

Nearly five months ago, last night’s band darkened the doorstep of Boarshurst Band Club on a soggy Sunday night. Saddleworth’s Championship band gave us a fantastic concert. Though considerably lighter, that Sunday night was drizzly.

Five months later, more of the same weather though considerably darker. The most illuminating aspect of the damp November night was Diggle Band’s performance. Though we thought their June concert was superb, they excelled themselves. With Matthew Brown as guest conductor, we were treated to a traditional yet pulsating programme.

Our guest conductor, Matthew Brown (not to be confused with the defunct Blackburn-based brewery of Slalom Lager fame) has impressive credentials himself. He’s the Principal Trombone player for Milnrow Band. Born in Portsmouth, he has gained an excellent reputation as a Musical Director. Prior to tonight’s concert, he conducted the Bournemouth Concert Brass band at the Southern Counties Amateur Brass Band Association’s Own Choice Test Piece Competition.

This took place at The Hawth in Crawley, and Bournemouth Concert Brass finished in First Place for the hymn, and Second Place for the test piece. Adjudicated by Denis Wilby, they chose Melita for their hymn, and the Philip Sparke test piece, The Year of the Dragon.

Like June’s concert, this was another gourmet dish; a rare steak instead of a Steak Bake. Also in attendance was a former Manchester United manager. We kid you not.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Medley: Famous British Marches (arr. Gordon Langford);
  2. Test Piece: Third Movement (Heroic March) from An Epic Symphony (Percy Fletcher);
  3. Principal Cornet solo (performed by Amy Ellershaw): The Sunshine Of Your Smile (Leonard Cook/Lillian Ray);
  4. Popular Music: The Headless Horsemen (Ron Goodwin);
  5. Test Piece: Second Movement (The Cortege) from Pageantry (Herbert Howells);
  6. Flugelhorn solo (performed by David Pogson): I Don’t Know How to Love Him (Andrew Lloyd-Webber, arr. Ray Woodfield);
  7. Classical Music: Intermezzo and Finale from Carmen (Georges Bizet).

Second Half

  1. March: La Florentiner (Julius Fucik, arr. Barsotti);
  2. Song: Londonderry Air (traditional);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Kelvin Tsang): Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms (Thomas Moore);
  4. TV Theme: Theme from How the West Was Won (Lionel Newman):
  5. Bass Solo (performed by Andy Emms): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkysen, arr. Leigh Baker);
  6. Hymn: Melita (John Bacchus Dykes).
  7. Classical Music: March Slav (Tchaikovsky).


  • March: The Floral Dance (Kate Emily Barkley, arr. Derek Broadbent).

I Don’t Know How to Top This

What a sensational first half programme we were treated to last night! In spectacular fashion, we opened with Gordon Langford’s Famous British Marches, a quasi-patriotic five part medley of notable marches originating from Great Britain. The cobwebs were well and truly blown off with this number. It set the tone for the bombastic nature of the night’s concert.

How did we follow that one? With the third movement from a test piece. Before you sigh and think ‘too technical’, the Third Movement from An Epic Symphony (the Heroic March) was anything but overly technical. Percy Fletcher’s piece is hailed by many as a classic test piece. It was first performed as such in 1926 at the National Championships (two years before our celebrity audience member was born). Then revived in 1938, 1951, and at the British Open Championships contest at King’s Hall, Belle Vue in 1976.

On the very same day when Black Dyke Mills Band won the British Open Championship, our guest wasn’t too impressed with Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat. At Old Trafford against Tottenham Hotspur, Stuart Pearson and Steve Coppell scored for United. For Spurs, Ralph Coates, Ian Moores and John Pratt scored for the North London side.

Making an impressive debut as a soloist was Amy Ellershaw. She played on principal cornet, The Sunshine Of Your Smile. Her playing abilities brightened up the cold and dark night. Like Arthur Albiston’s Wembley debut in 1977, it was one to remember.

The fourth piece of the night was something a bit light-hearted though with gravitas. Befitting this description could be anything by Ron Goodwin, whose works include the music from the 633 Squadron and The Battle of Britain films. Other credits include The Trap (used by the BBC for the London Marathon) and the original startup music for Yorkshire Television. Well and truly ticking these boxes was The Headless Horsemen. This was first released as a 78 RPM record on the B side of Richard Rodgers’ No Other Love.

Our second piece of a test piece was our fifth piece of the night. Fitting Mr. Brown’s remit of being traditional brass banding material was the second movement from Pageantry (The Cortege) by Herbert Howells. The three movement test piece will be used as next year’s National Championships of Great Britain Area Test piece. Even with three rehearsals, they sounded fantastic. Heaven help us after twelve rehearsals – they would be phenomenal!

Calming things down a little was our sixth piece, a flugelhorn solo performed by David Pogson. At the previous concert, he was brilliant. With Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s I Don’t Know How to Love Him, business as usual: another outstanding performance. Used in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, it was sung by Yvonne Elliman in the original album (she was Mary Magdalene).

The final piece of the first half was something classical, yet popular. This time, the intermezzo and finale from Carmen. The Georges Bizet opera was panned at the time. It got the same sort of press coverage, often reserved for anyone with a working-class background in the Daily Mail. Then he died, a broken man. Two years after his death, they rediscovered it, and took the opera to their heart. Like Only Fools and Horses (after its reruns in the summer of 1983), success was slow yet lasting, to this day.

Overall, Diggle Band had a fantastic first half. The second half would be just as memorable.

How do you fix a broken tuba? With a tuba glue.

Though the above joke was no match for our audience member’s one liners, we lapped it up all the same. The second half was another thrilling encounter.

To begin with, we had two familiar pieces. Firstly, Julius Fucik’s La Florentiner, followed by Londonderry Air. Unless you have lived in a cave for the last twenty years, both pieces featured in Brassed Off. In fact, the first piece was played in the Semi Finals at Piece Hall, Halifax. After this piece…

“4 to 1 against…”

After Danny’s fall outside the now-closed Grimley Colliery, we see him in hospital, with Londonderry Air (or Danny Boy) being played by Grimley Colliery Band in the hospital grounds.

“Yes, he says you tenor horn’s too soft.”

There was nothing soft about Diggle’s performance of the two pieces. They were added to the programme following their stint at the Oldham Coliseum’s production of Brassed Off. Both fantastic efforts, though scratching the surface of the band’s capabilities.

“It’s a bloody euphonium…”

Our third soloist of the night was the magnificent Kelvin Tsang. On euphonium, he played the traditional folk song (written by Thomas Moore in 1808), Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms. The song was covered by John McDermott and Dick Gaughan. The Edinburgh-born Gaughan has had numerous albums as a solo artist and as part of a group.

Away from Ireland, we moved to America for our next piece. But not before Mr. Tsang received a chocolate covered birthday cake, with candles, in front of the Boarshurst audience. Immediately after playing a fantastic solo piece, they expected him to blow out the candles. You couldn’t fault the showbiz element there.

Our fourth piece of the second half was a television theme. This time, Lionel Newman’s How The West Was Won. The theme tune was used for the TV spin-off of the 1962 film. Featuring Bruce Boxleitner, it was the sort of programme that ITV might have put on after World of Sport (like The Man from Atlantis or Metal Mickey). In fact, it was aired across ITV’s franchises between 1978 and 1979. By then, our guest had taken up the home dugout at The Baseball Ground, and Gerry Daly along with him.

The fifth piece of the second half was our final soloist of the night, Andy Emms. This time, a tuba solo and a film theme. Add the two together, you would get Terry Gilkysen’s The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book (the first two words, appropriately being the name of a side terrace of our guest’s first football club). A splendid performance, which also gave us our first Brighouse and Rastrick Band link of the night. That of arranger Leigh Baker, who conducted Saturday night’s Brighouse and Rastrick Band concert at Uppermill Civic Hall.

For the penultimate non-encore piece of the concert, a hymn. Make that the hymn which paid dividends for Matthew Brown with Bournemouth Concert Brass only recently. That of the brilliant Melita. Written by John Bacchus Dykes, it was written to honour seamen with the name being an archaic name for Malta. Melita is the tune for the hymn entitled Eternal Father, Strong to Save. It is also known as the Navy Hymn. Not only beautifully played, but also a poignant choice with Armistice Day only five days from the performance.

The final non-encore piece of the night was the glorious March Slav by Tchaikovsky. With a snatch of The 1812 Overture for good measure, March Slav is also known as Marche Slave, Slavonic March, or Serbo-Russian March. It is also the only piece of the night to have been used in video games. In 2015, in Fallout 4 for the Xbox 4, PS4 and Windows 10 PCs; also in another game, Age of Ancient Empires. Who would have thought a brass banding classic would have made a transition from bass to binary bits? A fantastic way to close the concert, with the chutzpah level turned up to 11.

Before we finished proper, came a cracking encore piece. For those who visited Brighouse and Rastrick’s concert the previous Saturday, it was Groundhog Day. Concluding the concert – with another piece from Brassed Off – was The Floral Dance. A fantastic finale.

Once again, Diggle Band were magnificent. The guest conductor, Matthew Brown, delivered a well-rounded though none-too-populist programme which gave the Championship band a fantastic showcase of their abilities. Keep your eyes and ears open for Amy Ellershaw and Kelvin Tsang: they will go far and probably join the Manchester Uniteds, Bayern Munichs and Barcelonas of the brass banding world.

*               *               *

The illustrious audience member of last night’s concert was… Tommy Docherty.

Thomas Henderson Docherty, former Manchester United, Derby County, Chelsea, Scotland, Altrincham, and South Melbourne manager. After the concert, yours truly, his father (veteran of the 1976 and 1977 F.A. Cup Finals), and a few members of Diggle Band would talk to The Doc. Some – myself and my father included – would have selfies with the legend. At 88, going on 77, The Doc’s speed at delivering humorous one liners was amazing. Needless to say, he thoroughly enjoyed Diggle Band’s concert and said “he could listen to this [music] every day”.

Which says a lot for the timeless appeal of brass bands and the atmosphere of Boarshurst Band Club.

As with Boarshurst Silver Band, Diggle Band will be hosting a Remembrance Sunday concert at their band club, just off the 184 bus route. On the 03 December, they will also be at Kiln Green Church, as part of the Diggle Diamonds event.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week sees Boarshurst Silver Band’s traditional Remembrance Sunday concert. There will be a mix of a traditional concert programme, plus Remembrance Day themed pieces. Therefore, James Garlick shall be taking to the podium. To avoid disappointment, please arrive in good time to get a seat.


  • 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., 07 November 2016.


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