A Sunday Brass Christmas: Boarshurst Silver Band’s Cracking Concert

An illuminating Christmas concert with a dose of silliness and the usual festive thrills

Throughout Saddleworth, the last Sunday night before Christmas sees each of the village bands put on their Christmas. Whether they have any outstanding engagements or not during the yuletide period, it is a chance to let their hair down. The programme is, as you would expect, more Christmassy. It is also an excuse to wear Christmas jumpers instead of the usual brass band uniforms.

Boarshurst Band Club, and Boarshurst Silver Band, are no exception to this tradition. The club filled up at 7.45 pm, with every inch of space covered by 8pm.

Last night’s concert opened with a mini concert from the Beginners’ Band. The programme was as follows:

  1. Hymn: Now The Day Is Over (Sabine Baring-Gould);
  2. Traditional Song: Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star (Ann Taylor/Jane Taylor, arr. J.G. Mortimer);
  3. Classical Piece: Clair de Lune (Claude Debussy. arr. Jerome Naulais).

The first piece, Now The Day Is Over, was a hymn by Sabine Baring-Gould. Born in Devon in 1834, his other most celebrated work is Onward, Christian Soldiers. This was followed by a traditional piece which “needed no introduction”: the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.

Written by sisters Ann Taylor (lyrics) and Jane Taylor (the original poem), it is one of the most popular lullabies to have been written. It is usually performed to the key of C Major. Their mini concert came to a close with Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The song was written by Gabriel Fauré, which inspired Debussy’s work.

After a good performance from the Beginners’ band, it was time for the senior band to take over. Apart from Musical Director, James Garlick, every member of the band wore Christmas jumpers.

First Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Sing Sing Sing (Louis Prima, arr. Dan Price);
  2. Christmas Song: The Christmas Song (Mel Torme, arr. Philip Sparke);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Richard Wooding): O Holy Night (Adolphe Adam/Plaucide Cappeau, arr. Ted Barclay);
  4. Euphonium Duet (performed by Richard Wooding and Chris Lloyd): Babes in a Manger (C. Mallett);
  5. Christmas Song: Mary’s Boy Child (Jester Hairston, arr. Philip Sparke);
  6. Christmas Carol: O Come, All Ye Faithful (John Francis Wade, arr. Eric Banks);
  7. Jazz Music: Caravan (Duke Ellington, arr. Steve Sykes).

Second Half

  1. Christmas Song: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Jule Styne, arr. Alan Fernie);
  2. Christmas Medley: Christmas Swingalong (Various, arr. Derek Ashmore):
    1. Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard/Richard B. Smith);
    2. All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth (Donald Yetter Gardner);
    3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane).
  3. German Traditional: Schneewalzer (German traditional, arr. Jerome Naulais);
  4. Popular Music: Merry Xmas Everybody (Noddy Holder/Jim Lea, arr. Derek Broadbent);
  5. Christmas Song: The Twelve Days of Christmas (Frederic Austin, arr. Jan van Kraeydonk);
  6. Christmas Medley: Santa Claus-Trophobia (Various, arr. Sandy Smith):
    1. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town;
    2. Here Comes Santa Claus;
    3. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus;
    4. Giving (from Santa Claus);
    5. When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney;
    6. A Rootin’ Tootin’ Santa Claus.

Encore

  • Christmas Song: Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont, arr. Ted Barclay).

2016 Presentations:

  • Presentation of Flowers: Linda Finan;
  • Bandsman Award: Keith Welsh and Matt Williams (joint holders);
  • Sectional Award: the Bass Section;
  • Players’ Player of the Year: Vicky Ashley;
  • Presentation of Band Photo: Janet Payne;
  • Two Years’ Free Membership: Stuart Vallantine and Frank Vallantine.

Sing Sing Sing: an instruction as well as a Louis Prima piece

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The first piece could have also been seen as an instruction to implore the Boarshurst faithful to sing along. After this piece, Sing Sing Sing was the plan for the next thirteen pieces including the encore. The Louis Prima piece didn’t only demonstrate a call to action: it was further proof that Boarshurst Silver Band have arrived, and made a clear statement of intent. That we were going to be strapped in for two hours of fine entertainment and a dose of silliness for good measure.

The clarity of the first piece also showed how far up the scale Boarshurst Silver Band had gone under James Garlick’s tutelage. 2017 aims to be another memorable year. Changing the tempo was Mel Tormé’s well known seasonal piece, The Christmas Song. A fine version of the piece, made popular by Nat King Cole was punctuated by some singing.

This led us to the first of two euphonium pieces. Firstly with Richard Wooding our first and only soloist. Then with Richard in a duet with Chris Lloyd. The euphonium solo piece was O Holy Night. The traditional French carol is known in its native tongue as Cantique de Noël. Composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847, it is set to the French poem, Minuit, Chrétiens.

After Richard’s superb solo came an equally good euphonium duet. Joined by Chris Lloyd, Babes in a Manger was a gentle heartwarming piece. It is based on a true story from 1994 when two American missionaries visited an orphanage in Russia. One of them retold the story of the orphans’ very first Christmas. This piece from the Houston Chronicle recalls the story.

For our fifth piece came the first Christmas Number One single of the night (or the original Harry Belafonte tune if you prefer). That of Jester Hairston’s Mary’s Boy Child, originally penned as a birthday song. At the time, he was sharing a room and took up the challenge of writing a birthday song. In the end, it became a Christmas one with Harry Belafonte and Boney M (UK 1978 Christmas Number One) who made the song famous. The evergreen classic was well played.

After Philip Sparke’s arrangement of the previous piece, we moved on to a traditional hymn. That of the O Come, All Ye Faithful. As well as a solid performance from Boarshurst Silver Band, the audience began to find their voice. A good thing from the band’s point of view, being as the second half involved more audience participation.

Instead of Stop The Cavalry (which could have been the last piece of the first half), was the ever-popular Caravan by Duke Ellington. Arranged by Steve Sykes, it has previously been played by Boarshurst Silver Band at the Remembrance Sunday concert. It went down just as well in the Christmas concert as it did in the previous month. In fact, the band’s performance of the piece was tighter than at November’s gig.

After the relative calm of this half, the second half was going to be much more light hearted.

Let it snow jingle bells!

As is the norm at the Boarshurst Band Club’s Christmas concerts, the second half was the most light-hearted. If you were expecting anything besides Christmas music, you were well and truly outvoted. This time, the band changed their Christmas jumpers for fancy dress, resembling the contents of a toy box (or Santa’s sleigh).

We began the second half with Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! The song was popularised by Dean Martin. Boarshurst’s playing got the second half off to a joyous start, before upping the ante with Christmas Swingalong. The medley of Christmas songs is a good addition to any concert with three well-known pieces of a singalong quality.

For the third piece of the second half, more audience participation was required; this time, it was non-negotiable. As much a tradition of the Boarshurst Christmas concerts is the performance of Schneewalzer. In English, it has the slightly less alluring title of The Snow Waltz. The Schneewalzer is a classic German Schunkeln number (audiences need to move left to right twice; folllowed by moving forwards and backwards, then jumping and cheering).

After the raffle (with eight prizes) came Derek Broadbent’s arrangement of our second Christmas Number One of the 1970s: 1973’s this time. Our fourth piece of the second half, Merry Xmas Everybody, proved one point of the Christmas concert. Christmas was well and truly on its way, and Boarshurst’s playing of the Slade classic proved that point, writ large.

The madness continued with more audience participation. This time with Frederic Austin’s 1909 version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. It is worth noting that The Twelve Days of Christmas has several variations, dating back from 1780. Austin’s version is the best known. Yours truly was one of the nine ladies dancing.

So as to give the band a rest, a brief presentation followed, with the awarding of prizes for the Bandsman of the Year, the Best Section, and the Players’ Player of the Year. A photograph of the band was presented to Janet Payne. Earlier, a presentation of a floral bouquet was made to Linda Finan after the sixth piece of the night. This fellow – your Master of Ceremonies for the night – along with his father – was presented with four bottled beers and two year’s honorary membership of the Boarshurst Band Club. This was following the raffle.

For our penultimate piece was a Christmas medley. The delightfully entitled Santa Claus-Trophobia, arranged by Sandy Smith. Though not in the crush-loader style of Instant Concert‘s structure, there was six Santa Claus orientated songs. A fantastic finish. Well, a fantastic one till the encore.

Our final piece of the night (and of the 2016 season of Sunday Brass concerts) was Jingle Bells. Arranged by Ted Barclay and written by James Lord Pierpont, it is popular with children aged four and four score (80). So much so that even The Singing Dogs had a minor hit with it in the mid 1950s.

What else could we say other than the fact Christmas isn’t Christmas without going to the Boarshurst Band Club Christmas concert. On a personal level, most definitely. Add in to the mix the tightest Boarshurst Silver Band of recent times, a night to remember.

Next up…

We look forward to 2017’s campaign, with more concerts to come, and the all important preparation for regional and national competitions.

For anyone who has followed the Sunday Brass reviews, we hope you have enjoyed them all. We hope it has convinced you enough to go to the Greenfield concert venue this year or next year. We wish all readers, brass band enthusiasts and brass banding personnel, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope 2017 is a prosperous one.

S.V., 19 December 2016.

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