Littleborough Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Concert offers a wealth of well known favourites with a festive theme

Last Sunday [04 December] saw the second visit of Littleborough Band to the Boarshurst Band Club. This time with the full band rather than the Littleborough Training Band. They gave us a delightful concert with a mix of festive favourites to get us all in a Christmassy mood.

Littleborough Band were formed in 1862 as the Littleborough Public Silver Band. Their first performance was for a flood relief benefit concert. In 1883, they won the British Open Championship at Kings Hall, Belle Vue. Today, they have established themselves as a Section Three band with Ady Woodhead as Musical Director.

Ady started out at Wardle High School as a percussionist. Then he became a rock musician, though shortly returned to the brass banding fold. He moved to Milnrow and Todmorden Old bands. He joined Littleborough Band as Musical Director in September 2008.

Last night’s concert was a good night, marked by some excellent solo performances by Joanne Ward (Flugelhorn) and Mark Haworth (Bass Trombone). It was also a concert of two halves with a pithy traditional programme in the first half, and a Christmas programme in the second half.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Goldcrest (James Anderson);
  2. Musical Piece (from Sunset Boulevard): With One Look (Andrew Lloyd-Webber, arr. William Himes);
  3. Medley: Bouquet de Paris (Various, arr. J. McInnis-Smith):
    1. Mademoiselle de Paris;
    2. Autumn Leaves;
    3. Le Fiacre (The Cab);
    4. The Seine;
    5. C’est Si Bon.
  4. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Joanne Ward): Concerto de Aranjuez (Joaquin Rodrigo);
  5. Musical Piece (from Wicked): Finale: For Good (Reprise) (Stephen Schwartz, arr. Gavin Somerset);
  6. Test Piece: Symphony No.3 in C Minor (Camille Saint-Saens, arr. Philip Sparke).

Second Half

  1. Christmas Medley: Christmas Crackers (Various, arr. Ray Woodfield);
    1. Joy to the World;
    2. Jingle Bells;
    3. Away in a Manger;
    4. Silent Night;
    5. Deck the Halls.
  2. Film Music (from The Snowman): Walking in the Air (Howard Blake, arr. Philip Sparke);
  3. Popular Music: Stop the Cavalry (Jona Lewie, arr. Phil Lawrence);
  4. Bass Trombone Solo (performed by Mark Haworth): Frosty the Snowman (Walter “Jack” Rollins, arr. Sandy Smith);
  5. Christmas Song: Silver Bells (Jay Livingstone/Ray Evans, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  6. Christmas Song: The Christmas Song (Mel Torme, arr. Philip Sparke);
  7. Christmas Piece: Christmas Swing (Dizzy Stratford).

Encore

  • Christmas Song: Jingle Bells (Ted Barclay).

In search of a goldcrest in C Minor

In traditional fashion, Littleborough Band began with a march piece. This being the Salvation Army march, Goldcrest composed in 1989. Its composer, James Anderson, was born in Scotland with this march being his most famous piece. This got the concert off to a good start.

The second piece was the exhilarating With One Look. Written by Andrew-Lloyd Webber for his 1993 musical, Sunset Boulevard, William Himes’ arrangement worked well in brass band form. The musical is based on the 1950 film noir, starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden.

Our third piece saw Ady and Co. devour some ‘yellow music’. In other words, something from the library that has been neglected. This time with J. McInnis-Smith’s Bouquet de Paris, a medley of five Francophile favourites (try saying that after a few pints of Silver Owl). Starting and ending with the French national anthem, this included Mademoiselle de Paris (once sung by Danny Kaye), Autumn Leaves (made famous by Frank Sinatra), and Le Fiacre (The Cab) (sung by Jean Sablon).

After our joyous excursion into French light concert music, we moved onto our first soloist of the night. This time with Le Concerto de Aranjuez performed by Joanne Ward. On flugelhorn, her performance of the Joaquin Rodrigo piece was superb. Besides the scene in Brassed Off where Gloria’s ‘wobbly’ interpretation moves the band, there is a slight local link. Not a million miles away from Littleborough, Todmorden-born musician Geoff Love covered the piece as Manuel and the Music of the Mountains.

We returned to the wonder of musicals with a wicked piece, both in performance and in name. That of Finale: For Good from Wicked. Opening in 2005, Wicked is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz from a different point of view. It is billed as The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz. London shows take place at The Apollo Victoria Theatre. The band took this piece in their stride with a strong showing.

We finished the first half with a test piece. Something on the right side of technical which began with a familiar tune. The test piece, in its full unexpurgated form is Symphony No.3 in C Minor, composed by Camille Saint-Saens. For many people, the first part of the piece is more familiar. It forms part of the Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley song, If I Had Words from 1978. In 1995 – in speeded up mode – sung by the mice from Babe, the 1995 film based on the Dick King-Smith book, The Sheep-Pig.

Littleborough’s Christmas Cracker

The whole of the second half took on a Christmas theme, firstly with Ray Woodfield’s Christmas Crackers. This gave us a cheerful assortment of Christmas tunes (as one would expect). This would see our first snatch of Jingle Bells. A great Christmas concert piece for singing along to and taking us into the second half.

The second piece gave us the theme tune of a televisual favourite. Since 1978, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman became a firm favourite in many households. The picture book and the animated film (shown on Channel Four in December 1982) were well received. By far, the most enchanting part of the film was The Snowman’s flight, set to the song, Walking in the Air.

In the film, Peter Auty sung the piece, but Aled Jones peaked at Number Five with Walking in the Air in 1985. Straight in at Number Two on the second half (though Number One in Boarshurst) was Littleborough Band’s version. A beautiful composition.

Equally good was Stop The Cavalry. Arranged by Phil Lawrence, the piece worked well in a band setting. When Jona Lewie wrote the song, it was originally going to be a protest song. In 1980, the very year of its release on Stiff Records, some jingle bells and a reference to Christmas turned the protest song into a Christmas number. A year after, the record company brought together the Gwalia Singers and The Cory Band to do another version.

Just before the raffle came our second and final soloist of the night. On bass trombone, was Mark Haworth with one of the most surreal yet eminently listenable versions of Frosty the Snowman, ever. In all fairness he stole the second half with some superb playing of the classic tune. The original singer was Gene Autry, with the song later covered by The Ronettes, Nat King Cole, and the Jackson Five.

If you’re the proud owner of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album, you would have appreciated Littleborough Band’s playing of Silver Bells. On side two of the said album, third track in, it follows Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Littleborough Band did a sterling job.

The penultimate non-encore piece was our second reference to Nat King Cole. Inadvertently lowering the room temperature a couple of degrees, was the band’s version of The Christmas Song. This changed the mood to a quieter one and proved to be a showcase for their ability to do quiet pieces. Very well it was too.

The closing non-encore piece was a more swing orientated affair. This time with Christmas Swing. More Christmas songs in a swing theme arranged by Dizzy Stratford. Besides his brass banding alter ego, he is also known as Jacob de Haan, Ron Sebregts and Tony Jabovsky.

This neatly took us to our encore, a second helping of Jingle Bells. Wisely, audience participation was encouraged. In 1850, it was written by James Lord Pierpont. As a copyrighted work in autumn 1857, it was published as One Horse Open Sleigh.

Last night’s concert got the Boarshurst faithful in a Christmas mood. For brass bands, Christmas is a busy time, it is one of hard graft. That of continuous rehearsals; fundraising efforts by means of concerts; also going out on the road to superstores, market grounds, and town or village squares.

It is easy to forget that a brass band is for life, not just for Christmas. They enhance the cultural diversity of any town, village or city. They are one of the few institutions where age and class barriers are disregarded for one continuous goal: the band’s success, whether at concert or contesting level. They keep youth away from trouble. There has been countless studies in relation to intelligence and school performance if a child learns to play a musical instrument.

Littleborough Band did themselves proud. If you would like to see them again (or you missed Sunday’s concert), they will be appearing at St. Andrew’s Church on Arm Road in Dearnley on the 17 December at 7pm. Tickets are priced £5.00 for adults or £3.00 for under 12s, with festive refreshments available. Buses from Rochdale Interchange are the 590 and the X58 (alight at the stop before The Green Door then walk up Arm Road). Both continue to Halifax.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club will be Stockport Silver Band. They are a Fourth Section band, who rehearse in the shadow of the town’s famous viaduct (and the slightly less famous Daw Bank bus depot). The band was formed in 1870 rehearsing in and around Edgeley. They are very much a community band who have played most of their concerts in Cheshire and South Manchester.

Their Musical Director is Ian Colwell. He started brass banding at the age of six, playing for Burnage Brass Band, starting out with several instruments. Whilst at British Telecom Band, he settled on the euphonium. Subsequent bands he was involved in included Stalybridge Old and Carlton Main Frickley Colliery. After an injury to his hand, he retired from playing and turned to conducting. He joined Stockport Silver Band in February 2014.

Next week will also be their debut at the Boarshurst Band Club, so give them a fantastic welcome.

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., 05 December 2016.

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