A class act under Chalk and Co.

St. George’s Day saw the arrival of Ashton-under-Lyne Band who brought us a great concert at the Boarshurst Band Club. In front of a packed audience, Philip Chalk’s Championship Section band gave us all a stunning concert. The balance between entertaining straightforward pieces and meaty yet entertaining pieces was spot on.

Phil himself was also a joy to listen to as well with his witticisms and scholarly manner. His brass banding career began at Boarshurst ‘B’ Band, when they used to rehearse at the (soon-to-close) Greenfield Conservative Club. He later moved to Fairey Engineering band where he took up an apprenticeship. Outside of his brass banding endeavours, he is the owner of Factory Transmedia.

On odd occasions, there was some one liners and jokes from Gilbert Symes. As well as being a member of Ashton-under-Lyne Band, he is known throughout Saddleworth and Oldham for presenting numerous concerts. On 99.7 FM, he presents Community Brass on Oldham Community Radio.

Ashton-under-Lyne band were formed in 1996, and their rise through the sections is the envy of many brass bands. After starting off as a venture with a few friends, their meteoric rise saw the band reach the Championship Section within ten years. After a brief in the First Section in 2014, they returned to the top flight of brass banding.

A cracking performance? Say no more. It was tighter than Ebenezer Scrooge in a spandex onesie.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Nieblungen March (Richard Wagner);
  2. Overture: The Barber of Seville (Gioachino Rossini);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Ellie Warren): Rusalka’s Song to the Moon (Anton Dvorak, arr. Gordon Langford);
  4. Light Concert: The Westminster Waltz (Robert Farnon);
  5. Jazz Music: Caravan (Duke Ellington);
  6. Trombone Solo (performed by David Priestley): Blessed Assurance (Phoebe Palmer Knapp, arr. Simon Wood);
  7. Light Concert: Ritual Fire Dance (Manuel de Falla, arr. Steven Sykes).

Second Half

  1. Light Concert: Fanfare and Soliloquy (Trevor Sharpe);
  2. Film Music: A selection from Calamity Jane (Sammy Fain, arr. Derek Ashmore);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Lindsay Marsden): Flowerdale (Philip Sparke);
  4. Light Concert: Just a Closer Walk With Thee (Traditional, arr. Bill Geldard);
  5. Light Concert: Satin Doll (Duke Ellington);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Brent Warren): Benedictus (Karl Jenkins, arr. Tony Small);
  7. Popular Music: An American Trilogy (Mickey Newbury, arr. Goff Richards).


  • March: Death or Glory (R.B. Hall).

A nice patriotic march for St. George’s Day

For our first piece, you could say “we love a bit of brass banding in the mid evening” but it wasn’t that piece from Apocalypse Now. Instead, it was another piece by Richard Wagner: the Nieblungen March. In a ironic and jokey sense, Philip said it was “a traditional St. George’s Day piece”. If you’re familiar with your classical music pieces, Richard Wagner was a favourite composer of Adolf Hitler. This one got the concert off to a great start.

The second piece, in traditional style, was an overture. This time, one about a Spanish stylist by Rossini. The Barber of Seville was similarly rousing and got the band on all four cylinders. Another solid whole band effort. The overture was used in the opera based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s French comedy Le Barbier de Séville (1775).

Our first soloist of the night was the youngest member of Ashton-under-Lyne Band. With a great future ahead of her, on cornet, was Ellie Warren. She played Dvorak’s Rusalka’s Song to the Moon. This was used in the opera, Rusalka, which was premiered in Prague in 1901. Ellie’s playing of the piece (arranged by the late Gordon Langford) was sensational, an accomplished performance.

Our fourth piece of the night was our first foray into ‘yellow music’. Yes, a nice trip to the archives and a piece you may have forgotten about. This time, Robert Farnon’s The Westminster Waltz. A most delightful piece written by the Canadian born composer in 1956, it is redolent of the Westminster chimes. It was also used as the link theme for the radio programme In Town Tonight (the programme’s main theme was Knightsbridge March by Eric Coates).

After a nice bit of mid-1950s cheese, we continued with Duke Ellington’s Caravan. In the last year, this piece has been well received and a concert favourite. As well as Ashton’s superb performance of the piece, it has been a concert favourite with Boarshurst Silver Band. The song by Duke Ellington was first performed in 1937 and, no matter whose version you hear, it is a timeless number.

The second soloist of the night was David Priestley on trombone. This time with Phoebe Palmer Knapp’s Blessed Assurance. The hymn tune represents the lyricist’s walk of faith, as expressed by the apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”). David’s version on trombone was smooth, contemplative and polished.

The last piece of this half was a real contrast. We closed with Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance. It was written in 1915 for piano, but Ashton-under-Lyne’s Band brass version had real body and vibrancy. What a way to finish the first half.

Fanfare, Soliloquy, and an American Trilogy

Our second incursion to ‘yellow music’ was a nailed on classic. That of the test piece Fanfare and Soliloquy. Penned by Trevor L. Sharpe, the 1966 test piece is a well loved overture. Born in 1921, Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Sharpe LVO OBE was Musical Director for The Band of the Coldstream Guards (1963 – 1974). If you’ve watched an episode of Dad’s Army, you would find the gentleman’s name on the end credits. A welcome inclusion to the programme as always.

The second piece of this half was our first and only medley of the night. This time, a selection from Calamity Jane. Arranged by Derek Ashmore, this included The Deadwood Stage, Secret Love, and Windy City. This allowed for some audience participation with some of the Boarshurst audience singing along. Going off a slight tangent, The Deadwood Stage by Doris Day was the first single purchased by train loving music producer, Pete Waterman.

Well away from any railway line is the village of Flowerdale, the subject of Lindsay Marsden’s cornet solo. Her last cornet solo for Ashton-under-Lyne Band was one to remember, superbly played. The piece was written by Philip Sparke, inspired by the Flowerdale Glen and its waterfall in Gairloch. As for the nearest railway station, it is Achnasheen on the line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh – 28 miles away.

The fourth piece of the night was a melancholy one: Just a Closer Walk With Thee. The traditional dirge, arranged by Kevin Geldard, was well performed by the band. It has been covered in vocal and instrumental form by numerous artistes. These include Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Patsy Cline.

This was followed by our second Duke Ellington piece of the night. A vibrant performance of Satin Doll. The jazz standard was written in 1953 and has been covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and The Stylistics.

This took us to our last soloist of the night. On euphonium was our second Warren of the night: Brent Warren. This time, the modern classic piece of Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus. Taken from the twelfth track of his 2001 album (entitled The Armed Man), Brent gave us a stunning performance. Possibly the best rendition of Karl Jenkins’ piece that we have heard to date at Boarshurst Band Club.

After the raffle, we moved on to the last piece of the night. That of An American Trilogy. In Philip’s words, the inclusion of this piece has become a regular fixture in Ashton’s concerts (that I can concur having heard this at a gig at Glossop Old Band Club). As for the song itself, your reviewer only needs to say two words: Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll. Written by Mickey Newberry, the song was sung at Elvis—Aloha from Hawaii, in front of a mammoth TV audience.

Returning to the subject of pieces that require little introduction to brass band lovers was our encore. R.B Hall’s Death or Glory. Unless you’ve sat in a cave for thirty years (or been banned from watching the film), it is played in the opening credits of Brassed Off. It is also a popular contest march among Fourth Section and Youth bands on Whit Friday (which is the day after the General Election).

One thing you could be sure of with any concert conducted by Philip Chalk is a solid programme. A meaty programme that made for a pleasurable concert. Wherever they are in the world, Ashton-under-Lyne Band are well worth seeing. A few more gigs in or around its own town could also be a good thing. They could probably fill the Jubilee Hall or Hyde Town Hall. At Boarshurst Band Club, we even needed extra seats.

*               *               *

We wish Ashton-under-Lyne the best of luck in their future endeavours. Especially in the Grand Shield on the 13 May at Winter Gardens, Blackpool. Success in this competition could see the band competing in the British Open Championship at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in September.

 Coming Soon: Middleton Youth Band:

Next up at Boarshurst Band Club, we see Middleton Youth Band, only weeks after the adult band entertained us. This will start at 1pm; sandwiches and soft drinks will be available for sale.

They are a community band which has rehearsals on Monday nights (Bank Holidays excepted) and the first Saturday morning in the month. Players are aged seven years old or older. Talented players can progress to the senior band. Its musical director is Louise Crane. She plays Soprano Cornet for the senior band.

Middleton Youth Band’s concert at the Boarshurst Band Club will take place on the 30 April 2017, at 1pm. Admission is a cool £3.00.


  • 180: Greenfield [Clarence Hotel] – Lees – Oldham – Hollinwood – Manchester [Oldham Street];
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham;
  • 354: Ashton-under-Lyne – Greenfield – Uppermill.

Alight at the (sadly) former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 180 and 350 services are operated by First Greater Manchester. Sunday journeys of the 354 service are operated by MCT Travel.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 24 April 2017.

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