Vernon Building Society Poynton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Poynton Band opens 2017 Sunday Brass programme with great style

Last night [29 January], VBS Poynton Band had the honour of opening this year’s programme of evening concerts at Boarshurst Band Club. The North East Cheshire band have been promoted to the Championship Section this season. They proved their worth in the venue, colloquially known as The Mecca of Brass Banding. For the same price as two pints of lager in the club, the audience were treated to a wonderful night of music.

Poynton Band have been sponsored by the Vernon Building Society since 1988. The Building Society and the band have connections with the Vernon family who have been part of the village. The band’s records go back as far as 1824, making one of the oldest brass bands in the world. Possibly the oldest band after Stalybridge Old Band. Before the Second World War, Poynton was a mining village, with the Poynton and Worth Coal Mines providing work for its residents.

Our musical director and all-round good egg with the baton was Iain McKnight. Iain joined Poynton Band in March 2016, working with Neil Samuel. He has also conducted St. Austell, Stockport Schools (Senior section), Hebden Bridge, Flixton, and Lostock Hall bands. He has also played for Leyland Band. His specialist instrument: the Eb Tuba.

Poynton Band’s resident conductor, Iain McKnight, didn’t only gave us a varied programme. He was also authoritative, taking the audience on a musical journey with some tidbits of information about each piece. What a journey it was too with three stunning solo performances and a euphonium feature. As journeys went, this one was over too quickly. More like a Pendolino train to London Euston than an Optare Solo bus to Macclesfield.

Unlike the extortionate London train fares, we really did get our monies worth and savoured every minute of the journey.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Australasian (William Rimmer);
  2. Overture: The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. William Rimmer);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Frank Needham): I Hear You Calling Me (Charles Marshall/Harold Lake, arr. James Ord-Hume);
  4. March Medley: Famous British Marches (various, arr. Gordon Langford);
  5. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Will Dakin): On With The Motley (Ruggero Leoncavallo, arr. Ray Farr)
  6. Test Piece: Cortege from Pageantry (Herbert Howells);
  7. Popular Music: MacArthur Park (Jimmy Webb, arr Alan Catherall).

Second Half

  1. Jazz Music: Caravan (Duke Ellington arr. Steve Sykes);
  2. Euphonium Solo (performed by Sam Noden): Song For Ina (Philip Sparke);
  3. Popular Music: Don’t Stop Me Now/Who Wants to Live Forever (Freddie Mercury/Brian May, arr. Philip Harper);
  4. Euphonium Feature: Under The Boardwalk (Artie Resnick/Kenny Young, arr. Philip Harper);
  5. Song: It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow (Irving Berlin, arr. Howard Snell);
  6. Light Concert Music: Galaxies (Carl Davis, arr. Ray Farr).

Encore

  • March: Radetzky March (Johann Strauss).

A Traditional First Half

We opened with one of William Rimmer’s finest yet underplayed contest marches. Blowing off a month’s worth of cobwebs was their performance of The Australasian. It had previously been popular with Second and Third Section bands on Whit Friday. Even so, the gymnastics of switching notes give bands a real workout. Poynton’s rendition wasn’t only excellent; it was proof that Rimmer’s Antipodean piece felt at home with Championship and First Section bands.

Sticking to notational gymnastics, this was followed up by Rimmer’s arrangement of The Magic Flute. A taxing piece by any means, though one where Poynton Band broke a bead of sweat between all 33 of them. It is the best known piece from the Mozart opera which was written in 1791. 180 years later, an excerpt of it was used in Mel Stuart’s film version of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is heard when Willy Wonka (played by Gene Wilder) tries to gain entry to the factory proper.

Capturing the pure imagination of our audience was the first soloist of the night, Frank Needham on cornet. He played I Hear You Calling Me, written by Charles Marshall and Harold Lake in 1908 and arranged by James Ord-Hume. The ballad was a best selling piece for John McCormack and suited his tenor voice. In 1979, it was covered by Jonathan Richman (of Roadrunner and Egyptian Reggae fame). The piece based on a youthful romance was performed very well.

Halfway into our first half was an old favourite of ours: Gordon Langford’s arrangement of Famous British Marches. The evergreen collection of marches was well received and matched The Australasian in terms of its dynamics. This would be surpassed by our second soloist of the night, on Soprano Cornet.

The fifth piece came from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera, Pagliacci. Its most famous number is On With The Motley, which was played by Will Dakin. Very well at that with, undoubtedly, one of the best solo performances ever heard at the Boarshurst Band Club in the last half decade. If you weren’t moved to tears listening to Dakin’s exceptional performance, you must have had a heart the same size as the Tin Man did in L. Frank Baum’s masterwork. Expect great things from Dakin, who will be attending the Royal Northern College of Music later this year.

After the euphoria from the soprano cornet solo, we were introduced to the second movement (Cortege) of Pageantry. The Herbert Howells piece is this year’s test piece for the North West Regional Championship’s Championship Section bands. The composer was noted for his Anglican church music and his daughter, Ursula, featured in Bergerac, Upstairs Downstairs, and The Forsyte Saga. A fantastic effort and another aural treat.

Closing the first half was the most surreal baking song ever known to man. That of Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park, which has been covered by various artistes including Donna Summer and Richard Harris. It was beloved by DJs who needed to answer the call of nature and do… erm, other things pandering to one’s animal instincts. A roaring performance by Poynton Band.

A little more light hearted

Whereas the first half of the concert had a traditional running order, we wondered how the second half would have topped the first one. With a slightly more light hearted second half, they asserted themselves equally well.

This was proved by their rendition of Caravan, the Duke Ellington classic arranged by Steve Sykes. In the last year, the Duke’s piece had been a popular one with previous bands at Boarshurst. Usually at either end of the interval or as the final pre-encore piece. As an opener for the second half, a fantastic choice.

We changed the tone for a more reserved one in our second piece. This time with Philip Sparke’s Song For Ina, played by Sam Noden, a recent arrival to Poynton Band. The piece was commissioned by Riki McDonnell and given as a present to the widow of a friend’s wife. A splendid effort by Sam.

Our third item was two pieces: well, Philip Harper’s arrangement of two Queen songs. That of Don’t Stop Me Now, and Who Wants To Live Forever. The former was covered by McFly, resulting in a Number One single for the boy band in July 2006. The latter could have also qualified in this review as Film Music. It was part of the official soundtrack of the Highlander film franchise. Both pieces were well performed.

For our fourth item of this half, we had another old favourite. That of Artie Resnick’s and Kenny Young’s classic, Under The Boardwalk. The Drifters made it their own in 1964. It has also been covered by The Rolling Stones and Bruce Willis. Poynton Band’s rendition, blew the cover versions into Chew Brook.

The penultimate piece of the second half was a bit of Irving Berlin. This time with It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow. It was first performed in 1939 in London, at the start of the Second World War, and caused quite a stir. In the following year, it was used in the Louisiana Purchase, a film set in the 1930s depression. Dame Vera Lynn recorded the piece to boost morale, and Poynton’s rendition was similarly rousing.

Prior to the encore, we closed with a nice bit of light concert music. This time with Carl Davis’ Galaxies. This piece was light years away from his usual output. Mr Davis’ most famous work is the original music for Thames Television’s The World at War documentary series. A good piece to close a concert with, and performed to perfection by our North Cestrian friends. One ideal for a space themed brass band concert alongside T.J Powell’s The Spaceman.

For the encore, another favourite. That of Johann Strauss’ Radetzky March. There is little else that can be said about this piece that I have mentioned on previous reviews. Apart from another virtuoso performance, it was fitting that the first Sunday Brass concert ended with Strauss’ march. Well, if it is good enough for the Viennese concerts on New Year’s Day, why not on the first evening concert at Boarshurst?

We wish VBS Poynton Band well in their future endeavours and hope they do well in Blackpool next month. The North West Regional Championships in Winter Gardens is their next engage. Unless they come back to Boarshurst on the 19 February for a soon-to-be-arranged Preview Evening.

Next Week…

We have a two-week gap, so the next concert will be taking place on the 12 February. Next up at the Boarshurst Band Club is Tintwistle Band. A Derbyshire band in the First Section (well, Cheshire prior to the 1974 county boundary changes), they have a long and proud history. On the 11 September last year, they were runners-up to Elland Silver Band in the Hardraw Scar entertainment contest. Their musical director is Sarah Groarke-Booth.

If you’re itching to see a brass band concert on the 05 February, Glossop Old Band’s band room on Derby Street has played host to free concerts over winter. Starting at 2pm, Tideswell Band will be providing the entertainment, alongside the raffle and a booze auction. There is also real ale, locally sourced from Mouselow Farm Brewery. Buses to Glossop: 350 or 354 to Ashton-under-Lyne then 236 or 237 to Glossop town centre. Then a short walk or a taxi uphill to the band club.

Buses: Tintwistle Band, 12 February 2017.

  • 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., 30 January 2017.

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