Marsden Silver Prize Band: Sunday Brass at Boarshurst Band Club

May Marsden date delivers a strong and stable concert

Boarshurst Band Club’s first concert of May 2017 was well and truly one to remember. It was an enjoyable programme that was testing and entertaining in equal measure for the band. With the return of Alan Widdop, Marsden Silver Band are returning to the Championship section. Going off last night’s concert, they could be in the top flight for a lengthy stint.

With local interest and their ascendency to the cream of brass banding, there was a splendid turnout at The World Famous Boarshurst Band Club. Yesterday also saw the airing of some new chairs – for both the band and the audience.

Marsden Silver Prize Band were formed in 1889, after Holme Mills Brass Band decided to change their name. In 1936, they came first in the Belle Vue contest at King’s Hall. During the same decade, they appeared in the British Open. By 1961, they hired their first female brass player.

Playing a major part in the band’s present history was last night’s Musical Director, Alan Widdop. He joined Marsden Silver Band in the early 1990s and took them to the dizzy heights of the Championship Section from the Third Section. Prior to his return last year, Glyn Williams took charge and consolidated their success for eleven years.

Alan Widdop has previously been the Musical Director for Uppermill Band and has taught music professionally at Bury Grammar Schools and Barnsley Music College. The former bass trombonist has spent six years at Black Dyke Band, and five years at Versatile Brass. He has also played trombone with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra and the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra.

Throughout the two hours and ten minutes, we were treated to a great night of brass band music. A joyous mix of the technical and popular pieces, and some stunning solo performances. Alan’s vocal delivery and witticisms also added to the experience.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Test Piece: Prismatic Light (Alan Fernie);
  2. Overture: The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart);
  3. Horn Solo (performed by Hannah Schofield): Over The Rainbow (Harold Arlen, arr. Goff Richards);
  4. Film Music: Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (John Williams, arr. Steve Sykes);
  5. Light Concert Music: Chasing Wabbits (Gordon Goodwin, arr. Rick Mizell)
  6. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Anna Ferguson): Libertango (Astor Piazolla, arr. Dan Price);
  7. Medley: Tom Jones in Concert (Tom Jones, arr. Frank Bernaerts):
    1. It’s Not Unusual;
    2. Delilah;
    3. The Green Green Grass of Home;
    4. Help Yourself;
    5. What’s New Pussycat?;
    6. Sex Bomb.

Second Half

  1. Film Music: Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark (John Williams, arr. Steve Sykes);
  2. Euphonium Solo (performed by Alice Waterhouse): Grandfather’s Clock (Henry Clay Work, arr. George Doughty);
  3. Light Concert Music: Strike Up The Band (George Gershwin, arr. Alan Fernie)
  4. Musical Piece: There’s No Business Like Show Business (Irving Berlin, arr. Goff Richards);
  5. Solo Cornet Solo (performed by Jason Evans): My Love is Like a Red Red Rose (Gordon Langford);
  6. Hymn: Love Unknown (John Ireland);
  7. Popular Music: MacArthur Park (Jimmy Webb).


  • March: The Champions (G.H. Wilcocks)

“He knows more about the band than I do”

For the first of our fifteen pieces, we opened with Prismatic Light by Alan Fernie. This inspirational piece got things off to a good start and showed us one thing: this band meant business. Always a great concert opener, and a good test of the band’s abilities in every section. From solo cornet to percussion.

After Alan said “he knows more about the band than I do” (in reference to John Whittle), he introduced the second piece of the night. This time, the classic overture from The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Written in 1791, its overture is the best known part of Mozart’s two-part opera. In the opera, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina. She is held hostage by the High Priest, Sarastro.

Following our second bombastic piece, was our first soloist of the night. This time from Hannah Schofield, the youngest member of Marsden Silver Prize Band – and one of three Schofields in the band. As the 2nd Horn soloist, she played a magnificent version of Over The Rainbow. For many people, Harold Arlen’s piece is associated with the film version of The Wizard of Oz.

Taking a train from Kansas to Platform 9¾ (or a bus replacement service along the Yellow Brick Road), we drifted towards our fourth piece. This time, John Williams’ theme from the Harry Potter film franchise. Or, specifically, the one from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Arranged by Steve Sykes, a worthy addition to the programme. Definitely a boon to any Movie Brass themed concert, too.

Though it was too early to say ‘That’s All Folks’, our next piece was inspired by another Warner Brothers franchise. No prizes for guessing which cartoon inspired Gordon Goodwin’s Hunting Wabbits. The light concert piece – a real treat for the ears – was a musical form of chasing rabbits. If Elmer Fudd was a Yorkshireman, he would have approved of the piece. Needless to say, the Boarshurst faithful did.

If there was one piece that would have had us dancing away from the new chairs, it was Anna Ferguson’s flugelhorn solo of Libertango. Written by Astor Piazzolla in 1974, it is a portmanteau of Libertad (the Spanish for liberty) and Tango. The title was so-called to signal Mr. Piazzolla’s switch from Classical Tango to Tango Nuevo. Another great solo performance.

To close the first half of the concert, we had a medley. A medley of Thomas Woodward’s finest tunes no less, arranged by Frank Bernaerts. Entitled Tom Jones in Concert, it featured six bite size chunks of It’s Not Unusual, Delilah, The Green Green Grass of Home, Help Yourself, What’s New Pussycat?, and Sex Bomb. A superb first half.

Raiders of the Lost Grandfather’s Clock

For the opening second half piece, we once again turned to John Williams. This time, the march from The Raiders of the Lost Ark. The 1981 film was the first one of the Indiana Jones franchise, starring Harrison Ford. The march – played in whatever form – is an evergreen favourite. With the magic of Marsden Silver Prize Band, a cracker.

Our third soloist of the night was Alice Waterhouse on euphonium. This time, for the second piece of this half, she played Grandfather’s Clock. The original song lyrics were written by Henry Clay Work in 1897, arranged by George Doughty. Famously, it was been covered by Johnny Cash. Slightly less famously, on their 2005 album, Achtung Bono, Half Man Half Biscuit adapted a bit of it in a song entitled Joy Division Oven Gloves. Alice gave us a well bodied performance.

For our third piece came our second George of this half: this time, Gershwin. The piece was Strike Up The Band, offering a nice toe-tapping tune to take us up to the raffle. How did we follow this one? With a bit of Irving Berlin. This time with There’s No Business Like Show Business, arranged by Goff Richards. Both pieces were vibrant and the latter had a sing along-able quality.

This was followed by a quieter piece: our final soloist of the night. On solo cornet was Jason Evans, this time with a brilliant rendition of My Love is Like a Red Red Rose. The piece features on Marsden Silver Prize Band’s Riverhead CD. Jason’s playing was a worthy tribute to its composer, Gordon Langford, who passed away last month.

As a tribute to Boarshurst Silver Band’s Janet Payne, Marsden Silver Prize Band’s response was a hymn. That of the magnificent Love Unknown. It is used as the music to My Song Is Love Unknown, a hymn by Samuel Crossman from 1664. The composer, John Ireland, was born in Bowdon, near Altrincham, and he made his name in composing chamber music. It has been Marsden Silver Prize Band’s usual choice of hymn at Hymn and March contests throughout the UK. (One they could well be playing at the Brighouse March and Hymn Contest on the 02 July).

For our last non-encore piece was Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park. It has been hailed by some as The Worst Song Ever to Be Given a Single Release. Such ‘accolades’ didn’t do justice to the Alan Fernie arrangement played by Marsden Silver Band. It was a first class performance that left you wanting more of Marsden.

For the encore, they signed off with Major George Wilcocks’ march, The Champions, a truly rousing piece. It was written for J.H. Foster Black Dyke Mills Band, whilst he conducted the band between 1957 and 1961. Given Alan Widdop’s background with Black Dyke, a fitting encore.

Marsden Silver Prize Band gave us all a superb concert. It won’t be long till we see them back again, either on the Whit Friday trail, or at the Brighouse March and Hymn Contest on the 02 July. We hope their return trip to Boarshurst Band Club isn’t too far off. In the more immediate future, they will be participating in the British Open Senior Cup at Winter Gardens, Blackpool. That will take place on the 13 May (Saturday) and we wish them the very best of luck.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

A week after the arrival of Marsden Silver Band, Boarshurst Band Club will be attracting another band whose band room is close to an iconic railway tunnel. Instead of Standedge tunnel, Summit tunnel – a short distance from the base of Littleborough Band. Our fellows from the Red Rose county are a Third Section band, who are no strangers to The World Famous Boarshurst Band Club.

The band were formed in 1862, making them one of Lancashire’s oldest brass bands. They were formed as the Littleborough Public Silver Band with the Littleborough Flood Relief Fund concert as one of their first public engagements. In 1883, they won the British Open Championships at Kings Hall, Belle Vue.

In their recent history, they have consolidated themselves as a community orientated contesting Third Section band. Their Musical Director, Ady Woodhead, has been involved in the band since 2008. He began playing percussion at Wardle High School, at the age of eleven.

After ditching brass bands for rock music in 1990, he returned to his true vocation a year later with Milnrow Brass Band. He has also played for Todmorden Old, Dobcross Silver, and Phoenix Brass bands. This will be Littleborough Band’s first visit to Boarshurst in 2017.

Littleborough Band’s concert at the Boarshurst Band Club will take place on the 14 May 2017, at 8pm. Doors open from 7pm.


  • 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.


S.V., 08 May 2017.


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