Milnrow Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 18 June 2017

Milnrow Band’s scorcher of a performance

To meet up for a hymn and march contest, perform in conditions more Mediterranean than Mytholmroyd, and fulfil a concert engagement on the same day takes some doing. It would test the very best of us. Milnrow Band proved how possible it was to do just that. Within twelve hours of setting off for Hebden Bridge, they closed one of the finest concerts to grace the Boarshurst Band Club stage this year.

For just over two hours, where else could you hear Radiohead’s Creep and the magnificent Journey Into Freedom by Eric Ball? They were rewarded with a great turnout, and deservedly so.

Milnrow Band’s proud history (briefly documented in our previous review), saw a steady rise up the brass banding sections since 1995. Most notably, a move from Fourth Section to Championship Section in 2006 in eleven years. This year – which we are only halfway through at this moment – is proving to be a memorable one.

So far, they have won the All England International Masters at Kettering with the test piece, The Torchbearer. The 14 October shall see the band heading to the Royal Albert Hall for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. In between the hubbub of Whit Friday, Kettering, and Boarshurst Band Club, the 09 September sees them at the British Open Brass Band Championships at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

Mark Bentham is on the verge of making history for Milnrow Band. Their trip to the British Open Brass Band Championship is only their second in the band’s 148-year history. Last night’s concert was another tight performance. In fact, it was tighter than last year’s concert. The untrained observer wouldn’t have thought they performed a street march, hymn, and a contest march at 1.30pm. In baking conditions.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing) (Benny Goodman, arr. Mark Bentham);
  2. Horn Solo (performed by Jenny Brown): A Time for Peace (Peter Graham);
  3. March: Mephistopheles (Shipley Douglas);
  4. Hymn: Myfanwy (Joseph Perry, arr. Denzil S. Stephens​);
  5. Xylophone Solo (performed by James Kershaw): Rondo Alla Turks (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  6. Popular Music: Creep (Radiohead, arr. Mark Bentham);
  7. Test Piece: Journey Into Freedom (Eric Ball).

Second Half

  1. March: The Wizard (George Allan);
  2. Euphonium Solo (performed by Mick Morris): Pantomime (Philip Sparke);
  3. Popular Music: Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury, arr. Mark Bentham/Darrol Barry);
  4. Bass Trombone Solo (performed by Tristram Cox): Minnie the Moocher (Cab Calloway, arr. Bob Casey);
  5. Classical Piece: The Wand of Youth: Tame Bears and Wild Bears (Edward Elgar, arr. Gordon Langford);
  6. Classical Piece: Danses Polovtsiennes (Borodin, arr. Eddie Huckridge).

Encore

  • Medley: Turned Out Nice Again (George Formby):
    • Blackpool Rock (With My Little Stick of);
    • The Lancashire Toreador;
    • Leaning on a Lamp-post.

Sing, sing, sing… into freedom

With the National Anthem bringing the concert to a start, we started properly with a familiar piece. Mark Bentham’s arrangement of Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing). Composed by Benny Goodman, this opener gave us a foretaste of the next two hours. A solid performance with great tonal range, high on entertainment. This was the first of three pieces arranged by the band’s Musical Director.

Whereas last year’s concerts had a theme, last night’s concert had a slightly more traditional programme. The second piece gave us our first soloist of the night: Jenny Brown on tenor horn. This time with A Time for Peace by Peter Graham. With recent events (also reflected by the Manchester Bee on the back of band’s musical manuscripts at Hebden Bridge), this contemplative number was an appropriate one. It was beautifully played by Jenny Brown.

Sticking with the Hebden Bridge Hymn and March Contest, the next two pieces were the contest march and the hymn performed earlier in the day. First off the blocks was Shipley Douglas’ Mephistopheles, a popular march on the Whit Friday circuit as well as various hymn and march contests. Milnrow Band gave us a note perfect performance with great body and volume.

At the softer end of the scale was the stirring Myfanwy, arranged by Denzil S. Stephens. The hymn, composed by Joseph Perry, translates as Beloved from Welsh to English. It has been popular with many bands and has been performed by many choirs and solo artistes. These include Cerys Matthews from Catatonia and Rhydian.

After a polished performance of Myfanwy, we moved on to our second soloist. What a solo we got! On xylophone, we were treated to James Kershaw’s peerless performance of Rondo Alla Turks. The Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart piece, arranged by Paul Lovatt-Cooper brought the house down. A performance that was breathtaking to say the least.

For our sixth, a case of “now for something completely different” to most ears. Before last night, few people would have thought of leaving Boarshurst Band Club after hearing a song by Radiohead. By 10.30pm, that was possible with Mark Bentham’s arrangement of Creep. Though the indie song by Messrs York and Co. was well executed as a brass banding piece, the sung parts added extra spice.

How does one top this? For the final piece of the first half, Milnrow Band topped this in great style with an all time classic brass banding test piece. Eric Ball’s seminal Journey Into Freedom. Not one of the movements, all six of them. Unabridged. Complete. The full Montague. The piece, 50 years old this year, was written for the 1967 National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall (won by Black Dyke Mills Band, conducted by Geoffrey Brand). Again, given recent events, the message of compassion and love in the piece rings true today. Immersive and bombastic in equal measure, this closed the first half on a high.

Why the wizard turned out nice again

After a magical first half, the first piece of our second half was The Wizard. Written by George Allan, it is the Shildon born composer’s second best known contest march. On Whit Friday, one of two marches played by Milnrow Band (they alternated between the two contest marches across the contest venues). The sound well and truly filled the venue.

This was followed by the third soloist of the night: Mick Morris on euphonium. This time with the Philip Sparke piece, Pantomime. There was also a Boarshurst link with this piece: the Childs brothers – Nicholas Childs in particular. The piece was commissioned for Nicholas Childs in 1986. Mick Morris’ delivery was sweet, had lashings of clarity, and a full bodied sound.

Following the raffle came another great arrangement by Mark Bentham. With a bit of help from Darrol Barry (and Freddie Mercury 43 years earlier), came Bohemian Rhapsody. Darrol Barry’s arrangement was enhanced by choral parts added by Milnrow Band’s musical director, and it worked very well indeed. Another stunning performance, and one that got your reviewer head banging near the end, Wayne’s World fashion.

Equally delicious was our last solo piece of the night, Tristram Cox on bass trombone with Minnie the Moocher. This continued the slight cinematic theme, due to its use on The Blues Brothers official soundtrack. The fluency of his bass tones made for a beautiful and well received piece. Cab Calloway’s piece was written in 1931 and the original lyrics had drug references.

This was followed by The Wand of Youth: Tame Bears and Wild Bears. In brass band terms, our arrangement was the product of two great minds. That of the former Worcester Asylum Musical Director, Sir Edward Elgar, and the late great Gordon Langford. Both movements offered a distinct contrast between the bears. A rewarding piece for the listener.

To close the second half, we were given another aural treat: the brooding Danses Polovtsiennes by Alexander Borodin. The original piece lay unfinished upon Borodin’s death, so Rimsky Korsakov and Alexander Glazunof finished the job. Eddie Huckridge’s arrangement showed how an epic piece could be squeezed into a bite size portion. A great way to round off the concert – or so we thought.

The encore piece was something special: a medley of George Formby songs in tabloid format under the banner Turned Out Nice Again. The three songs in question were Blackpool Rock (With My Little Stick of), The Lancashire Toreador, and Leaning on a Lamp-post. The first of the three songs was banned by the BBC for being rather risqué (that we shall leave to your imagination).

At the end of the concert we had sex (the first George Formby song in the encore), drugs (Minnie the Moocher), and rock ‘n’ roll (Bohemian Rhapsody). Plus four superb soloists, a couple of brass banding classics (especially Journey Into Freedom). It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest concerts at the Boarshurst Band Club of the 2017 Sunday Brass programme. Next time they are on anywhere on our ‘pale blue dot’, just go and see Milnrow Band. Forget the soaps, put the big shop on hold, and prepare to be dazzled. Oh, and who said brass banders couldn’t sing?

Next on the calendar for Milnrow Band will be two carnival engagements. On Saturday 24 June, they will be doing Milnrow Carnival, followed by Stalybridge Carnival the following Sunday. Then on the 02 July, it is the Brighouse Hymn and March Contest on Bethel Street and Thornton Square. This is also the same day as Boarshurst Silver Band’s Songs from the Big Stage concert.

Next Week…

Diggle Band will be making their way to the Boarshurst Band Club on the 25 June 2017. After a long period of being a band club without a band, they returned to the brass banding fold in 2000, after a 74-year hiatus. They too have climbed the brass banding ranks from Fourth Section to Championship Section, and have spawned a ‘B’ band.

Their Musical Director, Steven Walsh, was born in Huddersfield and began playing euphonium at the age of ten for Linthwaite Band. In 1994, he began lessons at Huddersfield Music College with Geoffrey Whitham as his tutor. Under Richard Evans, at the age of eighteen, he played for Leyland Band, then played principal euphonium for Yorkshire Building Society band. Under his mentor, Professor David King, they were his most fruitful years. In 2009, whilst with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, he won the Best Soloist prize at the British Open Championships.

With another highly rated band following in Milnrow’s footsteps, please arrive early to be sure of a seat. Doors open from 7pm for an 8pm start.

Buses:

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

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. Both services operated by First Greater Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 19 June 2017.

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