Fantastic night with virtuoso cornet legend

Only weeks after a former Manchester United manager came to the Boarshurst Band Club, another legendary figure came to call last night. This time, one of brass banding circles rather than football. On Sunday 27 November 2016, virtuoso cornet legend, Jim Davies came to Boarshurst Band Club with Skelmanthorpe Band.

Jim Davies is one of the creme de la creme of individual brass band players, conductors and musical directors. He is up with the likes of Roy Newsome, Harry Mortimer, the Childs Brothers, and Jim Shepherd. If we decided to use sporting allegories, this would be akin to seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Bower Fold.

Mr. Davies has previously been Musical Director for Carlton Main Frickley Colliery and Wingates Band. Other bands he has been associated with are Point of Ayr Colliery (as conductor) and Cory. At the latter, he was successful in Granada Television’s Granada Band of the Year in 1971 at King’s Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester.

Skelmanthorpe Band is the leading constituent of the Skelmanthorpe Brass Band Community. They are a Section One band. From last night’s performance, Championship level could be next on the cards. Formed in 1843, their ascent to the higher echelons of the brass band world began in the early 1990s. In 1993 – their 150th anniversary – they picked up the Third Section National Champions prize. They entered the year 2000 as a Championship Section band. Television and concert appearances followed, including appearances with Hayley Westerna, Paul Potts, and Aled Jones.

Last night’s concert was a real bargain. The sound from Skelmanthorpe Band was superb, with absolutely no half measures whatsoever. Every area from soprano to percussion, a very tight sound. As for Jim Davies’ delivery, warm, good-hearted and well-humoured with the audience at ease. The consummate professional.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Fanfare: Glory Fanfare (Otto M. Schwarz);
  2. Concerto: Arioso from Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe, BWV 156 (J.S. Bach, arr. Howard Snell);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Sharon): Chiapanecas (Rafael Mendez);
  4. Film Music (from The Blues Brothers): Everybody Needs Somebody (Berns/Burke/Wexler);
  5. Christmas Music: The Box of Delights (Movement: The Romance) (Victor Hely-Hutchinson);
  6. Ballet Music: Le Singe du Bresil (Frederic Auguste Blache, arr. Howard Snell);
  7. Baritone Solo (performed by Owen): I Know Why (and So Do You) (Harry Warren, arr. Leigh Baker);
  8. Musical Piece: A Friend Like Me (Alan Menkin/Howard Ashman).

Second Half

  1. Film Music: Theme from The Dam Busters (Eric Coates, arr. W.J. Dawson);
  2. Trombone Solo (performed by Dave): Londonderry Air (Traditional, arr. Bill Geldard);
  3. Popular Music: Don’t Stop Me Now (Freddie Mercury, arr. Philip Harper);
  4. Song: The Lost Chord (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Gordon Langford);
  5. Film Music (from The Witches of Eastwick): The Devil’s Dance (John Williams);
  6. Tuba Solo (performed by Gregor): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkyson, arr. Leigh Baker)
  7. Christmas Music: Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson, arr. Philip Harper);
  8. Christmas Music: God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen (Traditional, arr. Andrew Cooke);
  9. Christmas Music: A Christmas Finale (Paul Lovatt-Cooper).


  • Popular Music: Puttin’ On The Ritz (Irving Berlin).

A glorious fanfare for a friend like me

The first piece was a sensational opening number. We began in Austria with Otto M. Schwarz’s Glory Fanfare. It was commissioned by Brass Band Oberösterreich (the Brassband of Upper-Austria) for the 2010 European Brass Band Championships. This took place in Linz. A fantastic start which proved to be a showcase for the cornets and flugelhorns.

How does one follow the bombastic fanfare? Well, with a bit of Bach of course. Of Johann Sebastian’s finest, the beautiful Arioso from Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe, BWV 156. J.S Bach’s Cantata BWV 156 translates from German to English as I Am Standing With One Foot in the Grave. With good grace, Jim refrained from using its full title, German or English translation. It is Bach’s fourth and last cantina for the third Sunday after epiphany.

After a superb showing in the second piece, we came to our first soloist of the evening. On cornet solo was Sharon with Rafael Mendez’s tongue tester, Chiapanecas. An aural feast? Most definitely, and Sharon’s applause was well deserved for playing a piece which required laser sharp reflexes in the tongue department.

The fourth piece was our first incursion into film music. This time, from the popular Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi film, The Blues Brothers. The best known piece, none other than Everybody Needs Somebody. This an enjoyable contrast from the previous three pieces, and played to perfection. The length and breadth of their sound was apparent.

Our fifth piece was our first of four Christmas pieces. This being Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s The Box of Delights. The movement they played was The Romance (which many of you may recognise as The First Nowell from The Carol Symphony). The Box of Delights musical score is based on the children’s fantasy novel by John Masefield. There has been many adaptations of the book for radio and television with 1984’s adaptation for Children’s BBC its most celebrated. The 1980s adaptation featured former Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton.

The sixth piece was a ballet piece, this time the French ballet piece, Le Singe du Bresil by Frederic Auguste Blache.  Arranged by Howard Snell, it bears the same name as a two-act play by Edmond Rochefort. The play was inspired by the original novel written by Charles de Pougens. From French to English, its title translates to the slightly more prosaic The Monkey of Brazil.

This was followed by our seventh piece and second soloist of the night. On baritone solo, Owen played I Know Why (and So Do You), a ballad performed by Manhattan Transfer, arranged by Leigh Baker. Based on a Glenn Miller piece from 1941, it is one of Manhattan Transfer’s more recent works (released in 1997). A well played solo piece from Owen.

For the final piece of the first half, we took inspiration from Walt Disney. This time with the jaunty A Friend Like Me. Taken from the musical version of Aladdin, it is sung by the genie. Only two days before the playing of this piece, the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End had to cancel a Friday night performance of the musical. This was due to a power cut that affected Soho, Piccadilly Circus, and the West End’s theatres.

Don’t stop me puttin’ on The Ritz

After a bit of genie-ous [sic] from the close of the first half, the second half began in equally spectacular style. This time with Eric Coates’ The Dam Busters. Skelmanthorpe Band made light work of this piece which has been one of this year’s most played pieces at the Boarshurst Band Club.

This was followed by the third soloist of the night, Dave on trombone. Our first soloist of the second half played the classic Londonderry Air (or Danny Boy if you prefer). If you’ve been to brass band concerts over the last two decades, the piece needs little introduction if you have seen Brassed Off. In previous concerts at Boarshurst Band Club, we have heard the said piece played as a cornet solo. Owen’s trombone solo worked really well, thanks to Bill Geldard’s arrangement.

Were we having a good time? A ball even? The third piece was Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. The timing of which was poignant, being close to the 25th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death. Queen’s original peaked at Number 9 in early 1979. It has been covered by McFly for Sport Relief in 2006, and hit the top spot of the UK singles chart. For many people in Granadaland, it was used to advertise the joys of The Trafford Centre.

Our fourth piece of the second half was more contemplative, a bit of a classic in brass banding music. Arthur Sullivan’s The Lost Chord was written by the bedside of his brother Fred and inspired by Adelaide Anne Procter’s poem, A Lost Chord. It was well received and beautifully played.

The fifth piece of our second half was a piece by John Williams. Almost a month too late for Halloween was the theme for The Witches of Eastwick. The 1987 film co-starred Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher, and Susan Sarandon and is based on the book by John Updike. The piece was a departure from the music you would normally associate with John Williams. Another solid performance.

Our last soloist of the night was Gregor’s tuba solo, and our second dalliance with Disney. Proving to be a concert favourite is The Bare Necessities. Arranged by Leigh Baker, Gregor’s command of the tuba was exemplary. In the Disney animation of The Jungle Book, we see Baloo singing the song with Mogwai on backing vocals (and Bagherra the panther butting in).

The last three pieces were of a Christmas nature. It is worth noting that Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for brass bands. As for rehearsals, the hard work starts in November. With the next three pieces, accomplished performances all round.

First of the Christmas pieces in this half (or a Santa Hat Trick if you prefer) was Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. It has been covered by various artistes including The Carpenters, and The Andrews Sisters. In the Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) soundtrack, it was covered by TLC – two to three years before their success with Waterfalls and Creep.

Our second was the beautifully played God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen, a traditional hymn. It dates from the 16th century and was mentioned in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Of particular interest was the book’s year of publication: 1843 – the same year as Skelmanthorpe Band’s formation.

The final one of the trio was Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s A Christmas Finale. What a finale it was too, encapsulating the magic of Christmas. Quoting from the notes in the sheet music, Paul Lovatt-Cooper said:

“I love the magic of Christmas. I find the whole experience exciting, from the handing out of presents to the movies shown on television. However, it is the music I love the most…”

If he went to see Skelmanthorpe Band’s concert on the 27 November, he would have been well and truly impressed.

Closing what was a magnificent concert at the Boarshurst Band Club was a bit of Irving Berlin. In other words, a fantastic performance of Puttin’ on the Ritz. The song has been covered by various artistes, including Robbie Williams. A synth version was released by Taco in 1982. This was played a lot in the clubs and on radio, though didn’t reach the Top 75 in the UK singles chart.

The concert was one of the greatest Sunday Brass nights at the Boarshurst Band Club, for this year’s programme. Jim Davies was on excellent form and the soloists couldn’t put a note wrong. The sound from the whole band was smooth, loud and consistent throughout. Well worth a fiver of anyone’s money.

Skelmanthorpe Band’s Christmas CD

Well worth a tenner of anyone’s money is Skelmanthorpe Band’s latest Christmas CD. Entitled Christmas Joy, it includes contributions from all three bands within the Skelmanthorpe Brass Band Community. That of the senior band (the subject of this review), the Skelmanthorpe Prospect Band, and the Skelmanthorpe Training Band.

We like the idea of including all bands which make up the Skelmanthorpe Brass Band Community on a CD release. For further information on track listings and how to purchase their seasonal album, visit their website.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club will be Littleborough Band. The band’s first recorded performance was on the 20 December 1862 as the Littleborough Public Silver Band. This was a fundraising concert in aid of the Littleborough Flood Relief Fund. It was formed from three bands including Littleborough Temperance Band.

Their Musical Director, Ady Woodhead, joined the band in 2008. He started out as a percussionist for Wardle High School band and has previously been involved with Milnrow and Flixton brass bands.


  • 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.


S.V., 28 November 2016.

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