Hammond Saltaire Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

A class act from start to finish

Say no more. If you went to the Boarshurst Band Club yesterday [02 April], you witnessed a virtuoso performance by Hammonds Saltaire Band. For the same price as two pints a lager, the Championship section band gave us all a magnificent concert. One that concluded a memorable weekend of brass banding in the Saddleworth area.

With almost every space filled by 7.30pm, this meant a search for spare tables and seats. The Boarshurst faithful lapped it up and by 10.10pm, they left The Mecca of Brass Banding on a high.

Hammonds Saltaire Band’s programme struck a very good balance between the technical pieces and the more popular standards. There was room for a bit of Mickey Bubble – Charlotte Horsfield’s solo of Cry Me A River (covered by Michael Bublé), and a traditional Yorkshire tune.

Hammonds Saltaire Band has its roots in the enterprise of mill owner and philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt. The Saltaire Band was one of several social pastimes he laid on for his staff. Probably as a diversion from drinking (Saltaire village was designed without pubs). By the 1930s, they began what became a lengthy sponsorship deal with Hammonds Sauce. On Whit Fridays, they used to give out little bottles of sauce to spectators lining the streets.

By the 1960s and 1970s, the benefits of their sponsorship began to pay dividends. They gained great success at national level, much of it under the tutelage of Geoffrey Whittam and David King. By the 1990s, they were sponsored by Yorkshire Building Society. On the expiration of that deal in 2009, they assumed the present name of Hammonds Saltaire Band.

The Musical Director, Morgan Griffiths, was taught by Geoffrey Whittam. At Black Dyke Mills Band in 1990, Morgan was also the youngest ever principal euphonium player for the Queensbury based band. Last night, he created a tight programme and his delivery between pieces was equally tight. No cruft, just concise and informative.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Signature March: Quality Plus (Fred Jewell, arr. Derek Broadbent);
  2. Overture: Russlan and Lyudmila (Glinka, arr. Walter Hargreaves);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Philip Varley): The Bells of Peover (Philip Doe);
  4. Musical Piece: Suite from Chicago (Fred Ebb/John Kander, arr. James Davies);
  5. Principal Trombone Solo (performed by Charlotte Horsfield): Cry Me A River (Arthur Hamilton, arr. Christopher Wormald);
  6. Light Concert Music: Libertango (Astor Piazzolla, arr. Leigh Baker);
  7. Light Concert Music: Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Tarrega, arr. Sandy Smith);
  8. Test Piece: The Final Dance of the Three Cornered Hat (Manuel de Falla, arr. Keith Wilkinson).

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Joy, Peace, and Happiness (Richard Phillips);
  2. Flugelhorn solo (performed by Catherine Owen): Magh Seola (Gerard Fahy, arr. Sandy Smith);
  3. Light Concert Music: First Suite from Pineapple Poll (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Geoffrey Brand);
  4. Light Concert Music: On Ilkley Moor Pastiche (Traditional, arr. Gordon Langford);
  5. Euphonium Solo (performed by Ashley Higgins): Rule Britannia (arr. John Hartmann);
  6. Popular Music: Nights in White Satin (Justin Hayward, arr. Brian Crookes);
  7. Popular Music: Music (John Miles, arr. Derek Broadbent).

Encore

  • Classical Music: The Can Can (Jacques Offenbach, arr. Gavin Somerset).

First Half

We opened with Quality Plus, Hammonds Saltaire Band’s signature tune. Written by Fred Jewell and arranged by Derek Broadbent, it is based on an American style quick march. From this piece onward, we were struck by the clarity and tone of Hammonds Saltaire Band’s playing abilities. It was released in 1913 and, on adoption by the band, fitted Hammonds’ motto in the sauce works itself.

After this cracking march, we followed this up in a traditional style with an overture. One that is a classic piece in brass banding circles. The band’s rendition of Russlan and Lyudmila was faultless. Taken from the five-part opera, written by Mikhael Glinka, it is based on an 1820 poem by Alexander Pushkin (Russlan and Ludmila). Its overture is the best known part of the opera and, at any brass band concert, never fails to please the audience. Last night’s performance was no exception.

Throughout the concert, there was some stunning solo performances. The first of our four soloists marked the third piece of the night. On principal cornet, Philip Varley played a stunning, fluent solo of The Bells of Peover. A marked contrast with the previous two pieces, the Philip Doe piece is based on the public house near Knutsford and the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope. Apart from being the first piece we have heard about a Cheshire public house, it is noted for being a gastropub. (Oh, and Soup of the Day is a snip at £5.95).

More likely to warm the cockles of any heart at a good concert is a musical medley. The first and only one of the night was the Suite from Chicago. Their tight performance of this number would have held its own in the West End or Broadway.

Before All That Jazz stopped creating a myriad earworms, we moved over to the second soloist of the night: this time with Charlotte Horsfield on Principal Trombone. Charlotte’s performance of Cry Me A River was a mature one; which, if you closed your eyes, could have come from a trombonist twenty years her senior. Michael Bublé would have been very pleased with her performance.

The last three pieces of this first half had Spanish and Latin musical leanings. What a joyous climax to this half we had, firstly with Libertango by Astor Piazzolla. Noted as “the foremost composer of Tango music”, he was born in 1921 in Mar del Plata, Argentina before moving to New York City. Libertango was one of his later works, released in 1974. This piece could have also been classed as Film Music, as it appeared in the Roman Polanski film, Frantic.

This was followed by Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra. Tárrega is considered as one of the world’s greatest guitarists. Hammonds Saltaire, the second greatest brass band in Yorkshire (from the recent regional championship results in Huddersfield), played this piece with great fluency. The Alhambra refers to the palace and fortress complex in Granada (not the theatres in Bradford and Barnsley – they came after Tárrega wrote his piece in 1896). It was also as incidental music in The Killing Fields.

Our last piece of this half was also the final piece of a ballet by Léonide Massine and Manuel de Falla. One with set design by Pablo Picasso. This was the finale from El Sombreo de tres Picos – in other words The Three Cornered Hat. This breathtaking finale ensured the first half finished on a high. Could they top this?

Second Half

The second half set was slightly lighter but another smashing one nonetheless. This time with two more sublime solos. We began with a piece which did everything it said on the tin: Joy, Peace, and Happiness. Written by Richard Phillips, the piece was originally written by the Salvationist composer for piano. As for the brass band arrangement, beautiful, and well performed.

Our third soloist was Catherine Owen, on flugelhorn. She played a most beautiful rendition of Gerard Fahy’s Magh Seola. The piece is inspired a territory which included land along the east shore of Lough Corrin, County Galway. This translates into English as The Level Plain. Mr Fahy’s piece has also been covered by the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1998 for The Celtic Album.

This was followed by another brass concert classic: the first suite from Pineapple Poll. The comic ballet by Gilbert and Sullivan premiered on the 13 March 1951 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. It was based on The Bumboat Woman’s Story. Appropriately, with Easter Sunday less than a fortnight away, the vessel in the comic ballet was HMS Hot Cross Bun. Not a bum note whatsoever; another well played piece.

Our fourth piece of the second half was the first of two re-workings of fondly remember songs. Firstly, to placate any Yorkshire people in the audience, On Ilkley Moor Pastiche. Which is a version of On Ilkley Moor Ba’ ‘at with additional features. Arranged by the legendary Gordon Langford, this expanded and improved upon the traditional song, and gave it more depth. Helped in no small part by our friends from Saltaire.

Given a similar treatment, albeit in solo form, was Fantasia on Rule Britannia. Our last soloist of the night, Ashley Higgins, played a superb rendition of the song on euphonium. Rearranged and upgraded by John Hartmann, this too adds depth and body to the song. The Prussian born brass composer served as Bandmaster for Prince George and the Duke of Cambridge in the British 4th Regiment, 12th Lancers.

The last two pieces were more populist yet taxing for some brass bands. Our sixth piece of this half was Brian Crookes’ arrangement of Nights in White Satin, one of The Moody Blues’ best known works. This featured on the LP entitled Days of Future Passed, originally released in November 1967 as a demonstration album for the Deram label’s new sound system (Deramic Sound). It has also been covered – at about 300 mph – by US punk group, The Dickies. If there was one cover version that mattered last night, it was Hammonds Saltaire’s rendition. Need we say more.

Our finale piece could be described as Brass Banding Cheese by some commentators, though this is a slight injustice. Derek Broadbent’s arrangement of John Miles’ Music was a fitting, and well played finale. It distilled into six minutes all aspects of Hammonds Saltaire Band’s performance throughout the night. Tight, punchy, driven, and near perfect.

For the encore, we closed with the Can Can. Or, strictly speaking, the Infernal Galop from Orpheus in the Underworld. It has also appeared in the Cole Porter musical, Can-Can (1956) and Franz Léhar’s The Merry Widow (1905). More recently, in 1981, it was covered by Bad Manners and peaked at Number Three in the UK singles chart.

What more could we say, other than the fact we saw the best concert of the 2017 season up to now? They are well worth seeing. Their next engagement is on the 29 April at Morley Town Hall. This concert starts at 7.30pm. Should you choose to get the train, change at Huddersfield for Morley or Batley stations. Better still, go to Batley and get a taxi to Morley Town Hall, especially as Morley’s station can be unwelcoming at night time.

For further information on the band, and subsequent events, go to hammondsband.org.uk or give their social media accounts a ‘like‘ or a follow.

Next Week…

Our neighbours, Uppermill Band will performing at next week’s concert. With John Whittle on flugelhorn duties, this fellow who wrote this review will be your Master of Ceremonies. Uppermill is one of Saddleworth’s younger brass bands, starting out as a youth band in March 1979.

For twelve years, their previous musical director was Alan Widdop, who has recently retired. In his place is Dean Redfern, who has had several years experience with the conductor’s baton. Mr. Redfern was previously a player and the chairperson for Brighouse and Rastrick Band.

As always at the Boarshurst Band Club, doors open at 7pm with the concert starting at 8pm.

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., 03 April 2017.

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