Silk Brass: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (September 2017)

Memorable return to Boarshurst for Cheshire band

Once more at the Boarshurst Band Club, Silk Brass gave us a stupendous concert. There was a good variety of classic brass banding pieces, and a couple of tunes you seldom see in concert programmes. In layperson’s terms, there was something for everyone.

Just to recap, Silk Brass were founded in 1997, relative newcomers to the brass banding scene. Back when they set up home, yours truly, your reviewer, enjoyed his first legal pints of real ale. Boarshurst Youth Band came fourth in the Youth Section at the Rhyl Festival of Brass. The name of their headquarters? Resurgam House, named after the Eric Ball test piece.

Once again, last night’s Musical Director was Tony Wyatt. He started young at the age of seven, before joining Cheshire Youth Brass Band at the age of eleven. He has been Musical Director for Vernon Building Society Poynton Band, and Whaley Bridge band. He has also played for Fairey Band, and under various musicians.

If you liked your cornets, last night’s concert was for you. Overall, it was a well thought out and highly entertaining concert.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Dragons’ Rise (Matthew Hall);
  2. Overture: Pique Dame (Franz von Suppé, arr. Herbert Howes);
  3. Popular Music: Kiss From A Rose (Seal, arr. Adrian Horn);
  4. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Ben Bradley): Rusalka’s Song to the Moon (Antonín Dvořák, arr. Gordon Langford);
  5. Popular Music: When I’m Sixty-Four (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Light Concert Music: Londonderry Air (Traditional, arr. Stephen Roberts);
  7. Light Concert Music: Frere Jacques (Traditional folk, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  8. Light Concert Music: Fanfare and Soliloquy (Trevor Sharpe).

Second Half

  1. Film Music (from 1941): Concert March from 1941 (John Williams, arr Steve Sykes);
  2. Film Music (from The Lion King): Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Elton John/Tim Rice, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  3. Cornet Feature (performed by John, Tim, Ella, Laura, Adrian): Cornets a Go-Go (Derek Broadbent);
  4. Classical Piece: So Deep is the Night (Fredric Francois Chopin, arr. Arthur Wood);
  5. Classical Piece: Cossack Patrol (Lev Knipper, arr. Gordon Langford).
  6. Light Concert piece: It’s All Right With Me (Cole Porter, arr. Tom Brevik);
  7. Light Concert piece: The Long Day Closes (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Eric Ball);
  8. Film Music Medley: Music from Grease (various, arr. Frank Bernaerts):
    • Grease (Barry Gibb);
    • Summer Nights (Jim Jacobs/Warren Casey);
    • Hopelessly Devoted to You (John Farrar);
    • You’re The One That I Want (John Farrar).

Dragon’s Rise to Londonderry

Few concerts at Boarshurst Band Club have opened with a piece which could be described as a baptism of fire. The opening piece, Matthew’s Hall‘s Dragons’ Rise, was written in 2008 for Tredegar Town Band. It was premiered on the 03 August 2008 at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff and gave us a splendid opener to the night’s proceedings.

How does one top the first piece? With a cracking overture: one of Franz von Suppé’s no less and one you may have forgotten about. This time, the overture of Pique Dame. Silk Brass’ performance well and truly blew off the cobwebs. The operetta which it came from was – very loosely – based on Alexander Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades.

Drifting away from the Queen of Spades to the Joker was Kiss From a Rose, best known for its use in Batman Forever. The chances of hearing a Seal song at a brass band concert are far and few between. As proven at Boarshurst Band Club, the multitalented Adrian Horn penned a superb arrangement, which was played very well.

The song itself was written by Seal in 1987, but he was embarrassed by it. In 1994, another Horn: the unrelated producer Trevor Horn (famed for his work with ABC, Dollar, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, among others) added his magic. In the UK singles chart, it was a slow burner. Then it was used in 1995’s smash hit movie Batman Forever and the rest, they say…

…Led us to Ben Bradley’s performance on Principal Cornet solo. This with Gordon Langford’s arrangement of Rusalka’s Song to the Moon. His silky smooth play and fluency made for a beautiful piece. Song To The Moon is the best known part of Dvorak’s opera centred around the water nymph.

For our fifth item, we moved from the Czech Republic to Liverpool (maybe the Isle of Wight if Red Funnel’s fares are agreeable enough). This time with an Alan Fernie arrangement of The Beatles’ When I’m Sixty-Four. Instead of being a straightforward, pedestrian, arrangement, we had a cracking one which tested most parts of the band. From bass to percussion, with lots of musical twists and turns to keep the audience engaged.

From the second track on Side B of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, we ditched the summer cottage on the Isle of Wight (it was too dear!) for Grimley General Hospital. No prizes for guessing the film or the piece: Londonderry Air. We were treated to a well played arrangement by Stephen Roberts. With (unlike the scene in Brassed Off) a tenor horn among the band.

The penultimate piece of the first half – often filed under ‘unusual’ or ‘junior band’ categories – was Frere Jacques. Why would you hear a Section One band play such a simple tune? Well, to add other bells and whistles, or to play it in an unusual way to entertain the audience. Silk Brass did just that to comic effect and it was well received by the Boarshurst faithful.

For the last piece of our first half, we had some more ‘yellow music’. A nailed-on brass banding classic in the form of Fanfare and Soliloquy by Trevor Sharpe. It was written as a test piece in 1966. If you are wondering why the composer’s name is familiar, his name appears on the end credits of Dad’s Army as Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Sharpe LVO OBE. Back then, he was Musical Director for The Band of the Coldstream Guards (1963 – 1974).

Greasy cornets a go-go 

Our second half opened in great style with the Concert March from 1941. It was penned by John Williams for the Steven Spielberg film (released in 1979) starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The comedy film is loosely based on the 13 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942. Steve Sykes’ arrangement was played with good volume and chutzpah.

Whereas 1941 is one of Steven Spielberg’s less remembered films, our next piece came from one of Walt Disney’s best known films of the 1990s. Packing them in at the Majestic in 1994 was The Lion King. Twenty three years later at a packed Boarshurst Band Club, Silk Brass played its best known piece, Can You Feel The Love Tonight. A splendid performance of the piece arranged by Frank Bernaerts.

This was followed by a nice bit of cornet orientated tomfoolery. Giving a rare platform for the band’s Back Cornets section was Derek Broadbent’s piece, Cornets a Go-Go. If the sound of five rear cornet players satisfies your musical palette, you couldn’t go far wrong with this number. Thanks to John, Ella, Tim, Laura, and Adrian, they didn’t disappoint at all.

For our fourth piece of this half, we turned to Fredric Chopin. This time with So Deep Is The Night. One of Chopin’s most popular pieces, it has been set to lyrics. Previous performers and singers have included the James Last Orchestra, Lesley Garrett, Joe Longthorne, and Tony Christie. The piece is based on Etude Op.10, No.3. Another good performance which took us to the raffle.

Three bottles of wine and two boxes of chocolate later (from the raffle), we were treated to another piece, this time with Soviet leanings. Beautifully arranged by Gordon Langford was Lev Knipper’s Cossack Patrol. Also known as Polyushko-polye, it is the composer’s fourth symphony. It has also been set to poetic form as Poem for the Komsomol Fighter by Viktor Gusev. A strident, well played piece.

This was complemented by a nice bit of Cole Porter. This time, It’s All Right By Me, arranged by Tom Brevik. Used in the 1953 musical Can-Can, it is introduced by the character, Judge Aristide Forestier. It also features in his other musical, High Society where it is performed by Tracy Samantha Lord. The piece has also been covered by Natalie Cole, George Michael, Frank Sinatra, and Crystal Gayle. Was it all right by our standards? Most definitely.

Our penultimate piece was an Arthur Sullivan composition, arranged by the mighty Eric Ball. The Long Day Closes is a marked contrast to his more complex pieces (for example, Journey Into Freedom), but has all the same polished production as anything arranged by Ball. A serene piece with teeth, well performed with each note clearly played. Everything going together, like the final piece.

To close Silk Brass’ slickly produced concert, we let our hair down for a bit. This time with a movie medley from Grease. Arranged by Frank Bernaerts, it distilled the soundtrack of the film into four bite size minutes. Firstly with the opening and closing theme, then the toe-tapping Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, and You’re The One That I Want. A piece which demands audience participation, which brought the superb concert to a finish.

Mark my words: Silk Brass were Slick Brass for the most part of two hours. If you didn’t come away from Boarshurst Band Club with a smile on your face, you must have been at the wrong concert. Well worth a waxy deep sea of anyone’s money.

Next on their agenda is the two-day NWABBA Rochdale Brass Band Festival at Rochdale Town Hall. Starting on the 28 October, Silk Brass will be on the following day. Then they will also be involved in the Remembrance Day parade in Macclesfield town centre (12 November). Once again, we wish them well at the Rochdale contest.

Next Week…

Making the short trip down to Boarshurst Band Club will be Hebden Bridge band on the 01 October. The First Section Band were formed in 1850 and it was where the Mortimer family rose to prominence. During the 1990s, they were sponsored by Walkley Clogs, a clog makers in nearby Mytholmroyd. The band also organises in the middle Sunday of June a popular Hymn and March Contest.

Their Musical Director is David Hamilton. After leading Hebden Bridge Band in the Brighouse Hymn and March Contest, he joined the band proper over the last month. Mr. Hamilton has previously been M.D. for Yorkshire Imps and Camborne brass bands. As this will be his first visit to Boarshurst Band Club (with Hebden Bridge Band), arrive in good time to be sure of a seat.

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., 25 September 2017

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