Middleton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (26 March 2017)

Holt and Co.’s traditional programme well received

Almost a year ago to the day, our friends from Middleton Band gave us a wonderful concert. Their musical director, Andrew Baker, opted for a traditional yet lively programme. Their performance would have made many a Section Two band proud. He was describe in last year’s entry as being “informative and good-humoured at the same time”.

Over to this year’s concert with Middleton Band. Standing in for Andrew Baker, who has left to pursue other musical interests, was James Holt. No stranger to Boarshurst Band Club, he was present at the Besses Boys concert on the 24 April 2016. Only five years younger than your reviewer, he was born in Bredbury, he started out at the Stockport Schools band. His wife, Clare, plays cornet for Besses Boys.

As observed with the Besses Boys concert, his delivery was warm, informative and concise. The music mattered. There was strong performances from the cornet and horn sections and, as we found later on, some cowbell action.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Viva Birkinshaw (William Rimmer);
  2. Overture: The Impresario (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Stephen Robinson): Whirlwind (Peter Graham);
  4. Musical Piece (from Hello, Dolly!): Hello, Dolly! (Jerry Herman);
  5. Horn Solo (performed by Emma Davies): The Power of Love (Jennifer Rush/Gunther Mende/Candy DeRouge/Mary Susan Applegate);
  6. Original Piece: Lady Stewart’s Air (Peter Graham);
  7. Popular Music: The Eve of the War (Jeff Wayne, arr. Christian Jenkins).

Second Half

  1. Original Piece: The Crazy Brass Machine (Mark Taylor, arr. Sandy Smith);
  2. Trombone Solo (performed by Stacey Bown): Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (Cole Porter);
  3. Musical Medley: Les Miserables concert suite (Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, arr Gavin Sommerset);
  4. Original Piece: A Special Place (Goff Richards);
  5. Popular Music: Don’t Stop Me Now (Freddie Mercury, arr. Philip Harper);
  6. Brass Quartet: The Irish Blessing (Traditional, arr. Stephen Bradnum);
  7. Popular Music: MacArthur Park (Jimmy Webb, arr. Alan Fernie).


  • Original Piece: African Funk (Alan Fernie).

The power of horn solos

Reminding us of the fact that Whit Friday is ten weeks away, we opened in traditional style with a march. A William Rimmer piece that Middleton Band have adopted as their contest march for several year. With vim and vigour, Viva Birkinshaw got us in concert mood. Needless to say, in the mood for The Greatest Free Show on Earth.

After this rousing performance, we followed this up with an overture. That of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart piece, The Impresario. It is the most famous piece from his 1786 opera, also known as Der Schauspieldirektor. The opera was first performed in the UK on the 30 May 1857 at St. James’ Theatre in London. A snatch of it also appeared in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), prior to letting the lucky golden ticket winners into Oompa Loompa land.

Equally exuberant was the first solo piece of the night, Whirlwind. Performed by Stephen Robinson and written by Peter Graham, his cornet solo was beautiful. His clarity and tone was spot on. Just as vibrant was our fourth piece of the night, our first musical number.

The signature tune to Hello, Dolly! well and truly ticked these boxes. Written in 1964 by Jerry Herman, the title track is the best known piece from the musical. It has famously been sung by Louis Armstrong. Its inclusion in the programme was timely; the musical is set to reopen in Broadway on the 20 April this year.

Our second solo was, in my view, the strongest solo piece of this half. On the horn, Emma Davies played a splendid rendition of The Power of Love. The horn version of Jennifer Rush’s power ballad was amazing, one that would have made Ms. Rush proud. Her Number One hit was the biggest selling chart single of 1985, in the UK singles chart. Born Heidi Stern in 1960, her self titled debut LP as Jennifer Rush spawned a second single in Ring of Ice, a UK Number 14 chart hit.

Our penultimate piece of the first half was another one of Peter Graham’s finest. This time, the original piece, Lady Stewart’s Air. This was commissioned by the Federation of Australasian Brass Bands as a tribute to Adrienne Stewart. She was well-known in the brass banding communities in Australia and New Zealand. Well-known to the Boarshurst faithful was the fact they were treated to a great performance of a fantastic piece.

No-one would believe, in the last few minutes of this half, what our last piece was. We closed the first half with The Eve of the War by Jeff Wayne (arranged by Christian Jenkins). Jeff Wayne’s most famous piece from one of Britain’s biggest selling soundtrack albums worked well in brass band form. Sadly missing was the odd “Ulla” noises, but we couldn’t have everything. So slowly but surely, they moved towards the band room or the bar for a pint of Silver Owl.

I’m just a crazy brass machine (don’t stop me now)

On a similarly rousing scale was this delight arranged by Sandy Smith and written by Mark Taylor. In just under three minutes, The Crazy Brass Machine marked an energetic return for Middleton Brass. A brilliant piece worthy of any concert programme, good for a Section Two or Three band (and maybe some youth bands).

Our third and final solo piece came from Stacey Bown on trombone. This time, Cole Porter’s 1944 song, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye. The jazz standard was introduced in the revue, Seven Lively Arts. It has been performed by countless artistes including Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cleo Laine. It was also a Top Twenty chart single for Simply Red in 1987, peaking at Number 11 on Boxing Day that year.

After Stacey’s splendid rendition, we were treated to a musical suite. That of one of the world’s best loved musicals, based on a Victor Hugo novel. The selection from Les Miserables had bite size chunks from the musical with numbers including On My Own, Master of the House, and Bring Him Home.

This led us to the uplifting Goff Richards piece, A Special Place. The concert piece was written in 2007 for The Children’s Hospice South West and dedicated to them. Sales of the sheet music went towards the hospice which looks after children with life threatening conditions. Another gem.

After the raffle was a presentation for Boarshurst Silver Band: Middleton Band’s donation to the band for National Finals in Cheltenham, this September. Halfway through the second half, we were all having a good time. The fifth piece of the second half was Philip Harper’s arrangement of Don’t Stop Me Now.

Taken from Queen’s 1979 album, Jazz, it has topped polls for being the happiest song of all time. Personally, it always reminds me of the Trafford Centre’s adverts in the Peel Group era (my happiest song is Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine). Away from the digression, it was well played. Queen’s works tend to convert well for brass bands.

Offering a real contrast to the bombast was Stephen Bradnum’s arrangement of The Irish Blessing. In previous concerts at the Boarshurst Band Club, we have heard the traditional piece played by whole bands. This time, a quartet played the contemplative piece. Not only did this work well: it was one of the strongest performances of The Irish Blessing heard in this venue.

For the last – pre-encore – piece, we went from a song referred as The Happiest Song to one referred as One of the Worst Songs Ever Committed to Vinyl. For the best part of seven minutes, Alan Fernie’s arrangement of MacArthur Park. Written by Jimmy Webb, it has been sung by Richard Harris, then covered by Andy Williams and Donna Summer. Bad song? Far from it (worse, we could have had an arrangement of Mr Blobby for a flugelhorn solo piece). Well played by Middleton Band.

Closing the concert properly was the earworm-tastic African Funk by Alan Fernie. This too was released in 2007 and a special commission. The cause being for Make Poverty History. Fernie’s bouncy piece brought the show to a epic climax. A good piece for any light concert music, particularly with youth bands.

James Holt, as he did with Besses Boys, gave us a great concert. One which struck a nice balance between technical and populist pieces. Next up for the Moonrakers will be a concert at Middleton Civic Hall on the 27 May, featuring The Houghton Weavers. If you cannot wait that long, Middleton Youth Band will be performing at Boarshurst Band Club on the 30 April 2017 (at 1pm).

Next Week…


Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club will be a biggie: Hammonds Saltaire Band. Recently, the Championship Section band came second to Black Dyke Band in the Yorkshire Regional Championships at Huddersfield Town Hall. Prior to making their journey to the Royal Albert Hall, they will be calling into The Mecca of Brass Banding. Owing to the stature of the band, please arrive early to get a seat.

The band was formed in 1855 as the Saltaire Band by Sir Titus Salt for his workers at Salts Mill. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, they were best known as Hammonds Sauce Works band. Today, as Hammonds Saltaire Band, their musical director is Morgan Griffiths, who studied with Geoffrey Whitham. In 1990, he was the youngest ever principal euphonium player for Black Dyke Mills Band.

If you’re going to Saturday’s concert at Uppermill Civic Hall (featuring four Saddleworth bands), why not have a weekend of brass banding and see Hammonds Saltaire Band the following Sunday?


  • 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., 27 March 2017.


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