Celtic theme marks David Hamilton’s first visit to Boarshurst Band Club as Musical Director

In brass banding, there are some parallels with football. Instead of divisions we have sections. There isn’t a transfer window that closes a month before the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. Players and musical directors do move to other bands. Last night, we were treated to David Hamilton’s first trip to Boarshurst Band Club, as Musical Director for Hebden Bridge Brass Band.

David Hamilton has previously been Musical Director for Yorkshire Imps and Camborne brass bands. He was educated at the Royal Northern College of Music and has assisted Mareika Gray at Eccles Borough Band. With his varied programme, we hope it is the first of many visits to the Boarshurst Band Club. Hebden Bridge Brass Band gave us all a wonderful performance, with a mix of Celtic and classic tunes.

Hebden Bridge Brass Band are a long established band. Formed in 1850, they are one of the oldest brass bands in the world. During the 1990s, they were sponsored by Walkley Clogs in Mytholmroyd. As well as performing to many audiences across the UK, they help to run the village’s Hymn and March Contest, which takes place in the middle Sunday of June. Often on the same Sunday as Morley’s Hymn and March Contest. Outside of brass banding, Hebden Bridge is also the birthplace of Ed Sheeran. His cousin is Gordon Burns of The Krypton Factor and Northwest Tonight fame.

If you liked late 1960s cop shows, fast sports cars, or used to wake up to the start up music of HTV till the late 1980s, this was the concert for you. There was something for everyone, whether your favoured concert setting is traditional or experimental.

The Programme

First Half

  1. TV theme: Theme from Softly, Softly (Fritz Spiegl, arr. Ray Farr);
  2. March: The Jaguar (Goff Richards);
  3. Cornet solo (performed by Don Wood): Aye Waukin O’ (Robert Burns, arr. Adrian Drover);
  4. Light Concert Music: Serenade (Derek Bourgeois);
  5. Tuba solo (performed by Ian Coleman): The Trouble With The Tuba Is? (William Relton);
  6. Popular Music: Bring Back That Leroy Brown (Freddie Mercury, arr. Svein H. Giske);
  7. Classical Piece: Lament and Victory from Cry of the Celts (Ronan Hardiman, arr. Peter Graham).

Second Half

  1. March: Men of Harlech (Traditional, arr. Gordon Langford);
  2. Horn solo (performed by Steve Gardner): Peace from The Essence of Time. (Peter Graham);
  3. Film Music: Theme from Chicken Run (John Powell, arr. Sandy Smith)
  4. Bass Trombone solo (performed by Jack Holmes): Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Wallace Willis, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Cornet Showcase: Yesterday (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Light Concert piece: The Long Day Closes (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Eric Ball).
  7. Hymn Medley: Hymns of Praise (Various, arr. Goff Richards).


  • Popular Music: Clog Dance (John Marcangelo, arr. Bill Charleson).

‘Softly softly’, cries the Celts

Over 51 years ago, our opening piece of the night was used for a spin-off TV series from Z-Cars. The first spin-off from Troy Kennedy-Martin’s police series was Softly Softly. The name was taken from the proverb, ‘Softly softly, catchy monkey’. Like the original series, co-starring Stratford Johns and Brian Blessed, its signature tune was penned by Fritz Spiegl. The Ray Farr arrangement, played by Hebden Bridge Brass Band was a neat opening piece. Also our first Fritz Spiegl link of the night, which features in the second half.

Back in 1966, what sort of cars would have been outwitted by the Z-Cars’ Ford Zodiacs and Ford Zephyrs? Or featured in The Sweeney and Inspector Morse? A Jaguar perhaps, but Goff Richards’ The Jaguar wasn’t inspired by the E-Type or the XJS. Instead, we were treated to a lively, yet overlooked march suitable for Whit Friday. Or the brass band’s Hymn and March Contests.

The first soloist of the night was Don Wood on Principal Cornet. This also marked the first piece of our Celtic strand. Robert Burns’ Aye Waulkin O’, arranged by Adrian Drover. It is regarded by some people as Robert Burns’ finest love song, and has been covered by many artistes, most famously Eddi Reader. This was a well played piece which neatly took us towards a brass banding classic.

Our fourth item was Serenade, a neat piece by the late Derek Bourgeois. In his piece, the premise was to create a wedding march that was impossible to dance along to. How did he do this? By adding different time signatures and changing the number of beats in a bar throughout the piece. An experimental piece that was a joy to listen to (but a pain in the proverbials for the most seasoned of hoofers).

The fifth piece was another quirky, yet highly listenable piece. Penned by William Relton, The Trouble With The Tuba Is? marked our second soloist of the night. That of Ian Coleman who put in a fantastic shift. This fun piece was arranged by Relton for piano as well as the tuba. Mr. Relton was also the trumpeter of the BBC Concert Orchestra and has been conductor for the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Our sixth item featured on Queen’s 1974 breakthrough album, Sheer Heart Attack. The first track you might think of from that LP is either Now I’m Here or Killer Queen. Among the heavier tracks is Bring Back That Leroy Brown, a lyrical response of Jim Croce’s Bad Bad Leroy Brown. Musically, it is a tribute to vaudeville styles, which was also reflected in Svein H. Giske’s arrangement. Hebden Bridge Band did Messrs May, Taylor, and Deacon proud. There’s every chance Freddie Mercury would have been proud, listening in from the heavens.

The seventh piece and final piece of this half was part of a five movement test piece entitled Cry of the Celts. Written by Ronan Hardiman and arranged by Peter Graham, we were treated to the brooding Lament and Victory movements. The latter was based on the familiar hymn, Lord of the Dance (which has also spawned many a football chant). A good way to wrap up the first half.

From transmitters of the Independent Television Authority…” 

If you lived in Wales or the northern part of the West Country, your ITV franchise was HTV Wales or HTV West. Where, may you ask, does this tidbit of trivia fit in our review? Firstly, each television station had what was known as a start-up procedure prior to broadcasting (younger readers, please ask your parents). Its short lived predecessor, Teledu Cymru, used Men of Harlech. David Hamilton’s concession to Wales was this number, beloved of Rugby Union fans, and arranged by Gordon Langford.

Beautifully played by Hebden Bridge Brass Band, it gave us our second Fritz Spiegl link of the day. Men of Harlech was used in his BBC Radio 4 UK Theme: every morning from the 23 November 1978 to the 23 April 2006. This led us to our second Peter Graham piece: a superb horn solo by Steve Gardner with Peace from The Essence of Time. A cracker of a piece.

Back in 1978, Tony Hart’s Take Hart introduced us to Morph and the works of Aardman Animations. 32 years on, after the success of Wallace and Gromit, Nick Park and Co. gave us Chicken Run. The full length animated feature (an escape movie for children with claymation chickens) included a cracking theme by John Powell. Arranged by Sandy Smith, it featured kazoos, as per the original theme music. A lovely piece of light concert music as well as a highly memorable film theme.

Our fourth piece catered for English rugby union fans. This time, the slave song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, covered by many choirs and vocalists including Eric Clapton. Its writer, Wallace Willis, was a Choctaw freedman (emancipated after the US Civil War). This allowed for another touch: choral backing. A good take on the song, courtesy of Bass Trombone soloist, Jack Holmes.

This took us to one of the most performed pieces of popular music in the world. That of Alan Fernie’s arrangement of The Beatles’ Yesterday. Hebden Bridge Brass Band’s take on Lennon and McCartney’s work was as a cornet feature. This too worked very well, offering another chance to see the band’s lighter side.

The penultimate pre-encore piece was a nailed-on brass banding classic. That of Eric Ball’s arrangement of the Arthur Sullivan song, The Long Day Closes. Multilayered and mellow, it is a favourite piece of many listeners, including last night’s Musical Director, David Hamilton. Over the last week, this was the second of two superb performances of Eric Ball’s arrangement. Hebden Bridge’s performance, at least the equal of Silk Brass’ last week.

To close the concert, we had a medley of hymns. Arranged by Goff Richards for performance on BBC One’s Songs of Praise, Hymns of Praise was a cheap and cheerful medley of popular hymns. An Instant Service companion to Instant Concert, if you prefer. A great piece to put out if you couldn’t think of a suitable hymn to add to your programme. A nice finale.

For the encore, we had a piece which was apt for Hebden Bridge’s recent history. A favourite from Brassed Off that was a chart single for Violinski in 1979. That of Clog Dance, a lively way to finish the concert. Throughout the 1990s, Hebden Bridge Brass Band were sponsored by Walkley Clogs. Their clogs are still manufactured to this day and bespoke styles are available from their factory.

Hebden Bridge gave us all a wonderful concert. Wherever they play, they are worth seeing, and David Hamilton’s programme has enough to satisfy audiences of all ages. Whether you are new to watching brass band concerts or as a regular attendee. Give them a go.

Next Week…

Another Yorkshire band will be visiting the Boarshurst Band Club on the 08 October 2017. This time Skelmanthorpe Brass Band. Yesterday [01 October], they came second in the First Section awards at the Bolsover Festival of Brass. A point eluded them from picking up top honours (won by Unite The Union brass band).

Once more, cornet virtuoso Jim Davies will be the musical director for Skelmanthorpe. Last year’s concert also saw the presence of Tommy Docherty as well as a swashbuckling night of brass band music. With more of the same likely, arrive early to be sure of a good seat.


  • 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., 02 October 2017.

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