Slaithwaite Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (July 2017)

A sweet sixteen pieces from Slawit on a sunny Sunday

Slaithwaite, Slawit or Slathwaite: if you’re familiar at all with the Colne Valley villages, you would know that the first spelling is correct, though the place is not pronounced as seen. It is pronounced in the same way as the third spelling (which is incorrect in English, though probably correct in Pitman’s Initial Teaching Alphabet). The second is another spelling. Before we begin, we’re not here to discuss the spellings and pronunciations of Slaithwaite. Instead, we shall concentrate on the band’s splendid concert, which took place at the Boarshurst Band Club on the 16 July 2017.

As with last June’s concert, last night’s was another good one. It was a tight programme, with a variety of some popular pieces and technical ones. There was an excellent turnout, with good support from brass band lovers from both sides of the Standedge tunnel.

The Musical Director of last night’s concert was Lee Skipsey. He started at the age of seven, on cornet at the Regent Hall Corps Salvation Army Band in London. After trying out several instruments, he settled on those of the percussion variety. This was reflected in the band’s percussion section.

Lee has had great success at European, regional, and national level, with honours including two British Open titles and three National titles. He has been at the City of Bradford Brass Band since 2010.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Signature March: Merridale (Haydn Wood);
  2. Overture: Marche Militaire (Franz Schubert);
  3. Principal Cornet solo (performed by Joanne Griffith): A Brown Bird is Singing (Haydn Wood);
  4. Musical Piece (from Oklahoma!): Oklahoma! (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein, arr. );
  5. Jazz Piece: Lil’ Darlin’ (Count Basie/Neal Hefti);
  6. Hymm: Reflections in Nature (arr. Robert Redhead);
  7. Popular Music: Music (John Miles, arr. Philip Sparke).

Second Half

  1. March: Bramwyn (John R. Carr);
  2. Horn solo (performed by Neil Hardy): The Lark in the Clear Air (traditional, arr. David Catherwood);
  3. Film Music (from The Pirate): Be a Clown (Cole Porter, arr. Alan Fernie);
  4. Classical Piece: Arioso (Johan Sebastian Bach, arr. Howard Snell);
  5. Classical Piece: Toccata and Fugue (Johan Sebastian Bach, arr. Philip Sparke);
  6. Hymn: Manchester (How Sweet the Name) (Richard Wainwright, arr. Andi Cook);
  7. Popular Music: Clog Dance (John Marcangelo, arr. Bill Charleson);
  8. Classical Piece: Suite Gothique (Léon Boëllmann, arr. Frank Bernaerts).


  • Light Concert March: They’re Off (Frederick Alton Jewell, arr. Sandy Smith).

Lil’ Darlin’s reflections in nature

We opened with the signature march, Merridale. This was the first piece of the two by Haydn Wood. Mr Wood, an icon in Slaithwaitean circles, featured in the 1905 line-up of what was Upper Slaithwaite Prize Band. He was in the band that won the Grand Challenge Shield at Crystal Palace on the 30 September that year. Merridale was first performed on the 19 December 1948 at a Christmas concert. On the 04 July 1949, it was performed live on the BBC North radio service (the precursor to today’s local BBC radio stations including BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Radio Manchester).

After a glorious start with the signature march, we moved onto Franz Schubert’s March Militaire. The overture has been arranged for military bands and orchestras as well as brass bands. It was published on the 07 August 1826, though reputed to be written in 1818, 1822, or 1824. A well performed piece which took us to our second Haydn Wood composition.

This time, also towards our first soloist of the night, Joanne Griffith (principal cornet). She gave us a wonderful performance of A Brown Bird is Singing. This alongside Merridale also appears on their CD entitled Evolution (again with Joanne on principal cornet). It was first performed on the 21 November 1934 at a Slaithwaite Philharmonic Society concert.

For our fourth piece, we sought inspiration from the wonderful world of musical theatre. This time with Oklahoma!, a piece which turned out to be more than a strong first attempt. In fact it was an overwhelming success for Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein alongside other gems from the musical it took its name from. The sound, well bodied.

Almost twenty years after Oklahoma’s launch in 1943, Neal Hefti’s Lil’ Darlin’ troubled the hit parade. Released in 1959, it was the title track of Red Garland’s LP. Some of you may have come across Hefti’s work in brass band form before; at Boarshurst last year, Cute was played by Marple and Milnrow bands. Another cracker which offered a neat contrast from the next piece.

Robert Redhead’s Reflections in Nature was a neat bridge between the previous piece and what would follow afterwards. There was a nice bit of melancholy melody to open the piece, ending in bombastic style. The Salvation Army piece’s bombastic end reflects the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Though he didn’t mind playing the piece as percussionist, Lee thought conducting it was a different matter again. It worked, and worked very well as a penultimate piece of this half.

We closed the first half with the late 1970s concert standard, Music. For the benefit of any 1980s music anoraks, this is John Miles’ best known piece rather than the lesser known minor hit by F.R. David (which followed Words). Arranged by Philip Sparke, it was well received by the audience. As always, this piece from one of Jarrow’s finest musical exports seldom fails to please.

Be a clown, seeking a partner in the clog dance

We opened the second half with a traditional march. This time, John R. Carr’s Bramwyn, a favourite of most Whit Friday Brass Band contests from Denshaw to Denton. Written in 1968, this was also Boarshurst Silver Band’s Whit Friday march of choice. It is a portmanteau of the composer’s two personal friends: Bramwell (first four letters) and Wyn. Mr. Carr was also noted for conducting the Cowpen and Crofton Band.

This was followed by our second soloist of the night. On the horn was Neil Hardy, with a superb rendition of The Lark in the Clear Air. A traditional Irish piece, it was arranged by David Catherwood. Another Salvationist composer and musical director, he was born in Belfast and became a Bandmaster at the Belfast Temple in 1979. Like Lee, he too started parping along at the age of seven.

This was followed by a number from the 1948 musical film, The Pirate. Famous for Judy Garland and Gene Kelly’s performance is its best known piece, Be A Clown. This was also a showcase for Slaithwaite Band’s percussion section with drums and whistles accompanying muted cornets and horns. A nice light hearted piece worthy of addition in any concerts. Possibly for an encore as well as in the second half of the programme.

The next two pieces came from that rather obscure composer, Johan Sebastian Bach. To begin with, we had the Arioso, a lull before the storm that was Toccata and Fugue. Arioso is a warm, delightful piece, suitable for solo work as well as whole band settings.

As for Toccata and Fugue, Bach’s most famous work. The opening bars squeal ‘horror film’ as an organ piece, whereas the brass arrangement offers a sense of anticipation to the listener. Before progressing to its most bombastic glory. Apart from its performance in previous concerts, many listeners may remember Sky’s version from April 1980 (Toccata, a UK Number Five hit single).

Changing the tone after the cylindrical charade (in other words, the raffle), was Richard Wainwright’s Manchester (How Sweet the Name). Arranged by Andi Cook, his arrangement of the piece has been a big seller in brass banding circles. Shortly after the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena, £10.00 of the £12.00 is helping families affected by events after the Ariana Grande concert. If you went to the Brighouse Hymn and March Contest, Andi Cook himself also conducted Slaithwaite Band.

Our seventh item of this half was a late addition, as Lee realised Slaithwaite Band had enough time for an extra piece. The last minute addition was Clog Dance, best known by many for its use in Brassed Off (where Grimley Colliery Band are heading off to the Royal Albert Hall). If you have a penchant for late-1970s and early-1980s music, it was written by Violinski’s John Marcangelo. On release in April 1979, it became a popular piece for trailers (ITV used it to advertise some of its spring offerings) and oval racing. As incidental music for the rolling start of Ministox race meetings at venues like Great Yarmouth Stadium.

The eighth, and supposedly last item was a real breathtaking piece. That of Léon Boëllmann’s Suite Gothique. Prior to this piece’s performance, Lee said how he enjoyed going to the concerts with epic endings (particularly The Pines of Rome). The magnificent Suite Gothique, and a very good performance from Slaithwaite Band well and truly fulfilled the remit.

To finish off a well received concert, we finished with They’re Off. Written by Frederick Alton Jewell, this has often been used as a concert closer with its lively circus like rhythm and arrangement. The composer, born on 28 May 1875, was at one point gainfully employed as Bandmaster for the Barnum and Bailey Band. He had also led the Ringling Brothers, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and the Sells-Floto Circus bands.

Once more, our friends from Slaithwaite Band and guesting Musical Director Lee Skipsey gave us a wonderful night’s music. Next on the agenda for Slaithwaite Band is a beer festival performance at Outlane Golf Club on the 30 July 2017. Then on the 20 August, they will be playing at Greenhead Park in Huddersfield (1.30pm). Also a good excuse to see Slaithwaite Band again and get the train to…

Boarshurst Band Club’s next concert

Between now and the 19 August, there will be a break in Boarshurst Band Club’s season of Sunday Brass concerts. This is owing to other engagements in the Saddleworth area, particularly the Yanks Weekend and the Rushcart Festival.

Therefore, the next concert at Boarshurst Band Club will be Stalybridge Old Band. Formed in 1809, they are the world’s oldest brass band. They were founded by Thomas Avison and Billy Hall, and played at the Peterloo Massacre. In 1840, they became the first brass band in the world to have piston valved brass instruments.

Its Musical Director, David Ashworth, has ties with the Boarshurst Silver Band, with a successful six-year stint. In 2014, he joined Stalybridge Old Band as M.D. in a permanent capacity. With his track record, he could get the world’s oldest brass band back to their best. Back to their heady days from the 1970s to the early noughties.


  • 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.


S.V., 17 July 2017.


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