Skelmanthorpe Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (October 2017)

Another great night with Jim Davies and Co. at the Boarshurst Band Club

Boarshurst Band Club, the Brass Vegas of the North, has played host to the good and the great of brass banding, from its present home since 1979. Almost a year after his previous appearance at Boarshurst, Jim Davies gave us another great concert to remember. It was one that gave us some good technical pieces, four memorable solo performances, and the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest winning song.

If you missed last November’s review, we said that Jim Davies was in the elite league brass band players, conductors and musical directors. Alongside Roy Newsome, Harry Mortimer, the Childs Brothers, and Jim Shepherd. As proven last night, class is permanent: it was a tightly run concert with some humorous yet warm-hearted delivery from the musical director.

Skelmanthorpe Band gave a performance that was worthy of Championship status. There was plenty of pieces to keep the audience entertained and enthralled. Whether gasping for air from their technical pieces or tapping their toes along to the seventh item of last night’s programme. For the price of a poorly octopus, a treat for the ears.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Hoedown (Aaron Copland, arr. Howard Snell);
  2. Overture: Theme from Mack and Mabel (Jerry Herman, arr. Keith Wilkinson);
  3. Classical piece: The Girl With The Flaxen Hair (Claude Debussy, arr. Howard Snell);
  4. Trumpet Solo (performed by James): Cry Me A River (Arthur Hamilton, arr. Christopher Wormald);
  5. Popular Music: Don’t Stop Me Now (Freddie Mercury, arr. Philip Harper);
  6. Horn Solo (performed by Laura): A Time for Peace (Peter Graham);
  7. Big Band Style Hymn: Light-Walk (Barrie Gott, arr. Klaas van der Woude);
  8. Popular Music: Fairytale (Alexander Rybak, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  9. Classical Piece: Asturias (Isaac Albeniz, arr. Klaas van der Woude).

Second Half

  1. Popular Music: Let Me Entertain You (Guy Chambers/Robbie Williams, arr. Don Campbell);
  2. Hymn: Swedish Folk Song (Peter Graham);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Dan): Carnival Cocktail (Niccolo Paganini, arr. Steve Sykes);
  4. Popular Music: Ruby Tuesday (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, arr. Darrol Barry);
  5. Musical Piece: Theme from Singin’ In The Rain (Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed, arr. Rieks van der Velde);
  6. Bass Solo (performed by Gregor): Caprice (Alan Fernie)
  7. Light Concert Music: Gaelforce (Peter Graham);
  8. Test Piece excerpt: Victory from Cry of the Celts (Peter Graham).

Encore

  • Popular Music: Fat Bottomed Girls (Brian May, arr. Philip Harper).

Hoedown for a fairytale trip to Asturias

We had a rousing start to the concert, thanks to the lively arrangement of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown. Hoedown (or Hoe-Down in some sources) is the fifth and final movement of the ballet suite, Rodeo. The ballet was choreographed by Agnes de Mille and premiered in 1942. A somewhat fitting piece, being played ten minutes after the announcement of the Week 3 results of Strictly Come Dancing. What a great way to open the concert.

For the second piece, we had an overture. This time, the overture from Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel. Shortly after its premiere in 1974, audiences and reviewers left the auditorium well before the interval. Twenty one years on, the musical was revived in the West End, with a more enthusiastic audience. Thankfully, none of the Boarshurst audience left during the second piece (much to Jim Davies’ delight), and our fellows put in a good shift.

The third piece could have been one from Yellow Musicville (or the depths of the Skelmanthorpe Bandroom music library). This time, the little played yet delightful The Girl With The Flaxen Hair. Claude Debussy’s piece, arranged by Howard Snell was an enjoyable contrast from the previous two pieces. Also known in French as La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin, it is the eighth piece in Debussy’s book of Preludes.

The fourth item gave us a solo piece of the highest order. This time with James performing a trumpet solo of Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me A River. Usually seen on Bb Cornet, James put in a wonderful performance of the song. It has been covered by numerous artistes including Michael Bublé and Mari Wilson. Whatever instrument is used, the song never fails to lift the audience. In brass form, we saw living proof of that at Boarshurst Band Club last night.

Our fifth piece was previously played in their November concert. This being Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. It featured on their 1978 LP, Jazz and peaked at Number 9 in early 1979. It has been covered by McFly for Sport Relief in 2006, and hit the top spot of the UK singles chart. For some people, it reminds us of Peel Holdings’ neo-Italianette cathedral to shopping in Dumplington (today’s Intu Trafford Centre). With Philip Harper’s arrangement, a sublime performance.

The mood was calmed a little by our sixth item, and the second sololist of the night. This time with Laura’s performance of A Time for Peace by Peter Graham. It forms part of Peter Graham’s magnificent test piece The Essence of Time. On the 05 May 1990, Black Dyke Mills Band won the European Championships with the aforementioned test piece. Laura did us all proud.

Our seventh piece offered a real contrast to Peter Graham’s test piece. It was a toe-tapper of the highest order derived from a hymn. The piece was Barrie Gott’s Light-Walk, composed in 1986 as a Big Band style reworking of Walk in the Light. An earworm-tastic piece? Most definitely. If you are torn between adding a hymn or a swing influenced piece to your concert programme, you could kill two birds with one stone thanks to Barrie Gott’s work. It was written for the Star Lake Camp (whence a Salvationist march piece takes its name from).

If, like your reviewer, prefer the Eurovision Song Contest to Strictly Come Dancing, you may well remember the 2009 contest. Sweeping the board – and deservedly so that year – was Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale (Norway’s entry). Eight years on, thanks to Frank Bernaerts’ arrangement, Skelmanthorpe Brass Band gave us a superb performance of the Eurovision winning entry (if Graham Norton was in attendance, he may have been pleased).

Continuing our European connection, we took a trip to Spain for the last piece of the first half. This time to Asturias, hailed as an unspoilt corner of Spain. Composed by Isaac Albeniz, it was one of several pieces inspired by Spanish cities (Granada and Sevilla among others). With autumn upon us, a nice summery piece to get us in an upbeat mood for the interval.

Look me up in the Yellow Pages, I could be your rock of ages…

The second half opened with similar gusto to the first half. This time with a karaoke classic and much loved song by Robbie Williams. Arranged by Don Campbell was Skelmanthorpe’s rendition of Let Me Entertain You. For the most part of 1998, Robbie’s tune was never off the radio stations and music video channels.

This was a great start to the second half, with the next piece offering a real contrast. Our second item was Peter Graham’s arrangement of Swedish Folk Song. Many of you may remember this as a hymn. That of How Great Thou Art, which inspired a 1982 album by Bryn Yemm (with the Treorchy Male Voice Choir). Another good performance.

For our third soloist of the night, we were treated to a brass banding classic. A euphonium solo of Carnival Cocktail by Dan. Last Sunday, this piece won him the soloist’s prize at the Bolsover Entertainment Contest. With his excellent playing, this won him many friends among the audience. Steve Sykes’ Carnival Cocktail is an arrangement of Paganini’s Carnival of Venice. For five minutes, your reviewer thought he had dusted down Pye International’s recording of Black Dyke Mills Band’s piece (from 1966, conducted by Roy Newsome).

After some first class euphonium action came the raffle and our concession to classic 1960s rock. A year after Black Dyke Mills Band’s release of The Carnival of Venice LP, The Rolling Stones released Ruby Tuesday. The Stones’ original was on a Double ‘A’ side with Let’s Spend the Night Together. Our arrangement by Darrol Barry was vibrant and well played, and took us neatly towards the fifth piece of this half.

In the same year as Ruby Tuesday’s release, Morecambe and Wise appeared in a film entitled The Magnificent Two. The double act were on the verge of super-stardom with their Christmas specials attracting 20 million plus viewers in the 1970s. 1976’s Christmas Special gave us a parody of Singin’ in the Rain. Thankfully, there was no leaky guttering or brass band players getting wet. Instead, we had a superb performance of the song written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed.

The last three pieces gave the band a bit more of a workout. Our fourth and final soloist, Gregor, performed his second bass solo at the Boarshurst Band Club. Last year it was The Bare Necessities. This time it was Caprice by Alan Fernie, a solo piece that could sort out the men from the boys. Yet Gregor made light work of Fernie’s piece and the resultant applause was justified. Make no mistake: he’s a name to watch out for in future years.

Our last two pieces were Peter Graham compositions with Celtic overtones (a couple that Hebden Bridge’s Musical Director would have approved of too). Firstly, we were treated to Gaelforce. It was originally written by Peter Graham for Foden’s Brass Band and has three Irish songs. That of The Minstrel Boy, The Tossing of Feathers, and The Rocky Road to Dublin. All three parts, beautifully played.

This was neatly topped with Victory from Cry of the Celts, which includes the music of another hymn, Lord of the Dance. For some football fans, the source of many a football chant. Including one of Stalybridge Celtic’s from the early noughties (oh, and they beat Matlock Town 4 – 1 the Saturday before this concert). A gorgeous finale.

For the encore piece, we were treated to another Queen number. This too appeared on their 1978 LP, Jazz, and was arranged by Philip Harper. It was also the second piece of the night to have been on a single with a double ‘A’ side (with Bicycle Race). Skelmanthorpe Brass Band closed the concert with Fat Bottomed Girls. It peaked at Number 11 in late 1978 and featured in Morgan Spurlock’s documentary film on McDonalds entitled Supersize Me.

Once again, a great night’s brass band music. Another bargain with plenty of offer in a tight two hour long package. Jim Davies, as well as the band themselves, is also a joy to listen to with his warmth radiating towards the audience.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, and you know it is getting earlier and earlier when you see Tintwistle in October.

Well, to be precise, Tintwistle Band will be next up at Boarshurst Band Club. Again, another Section One brass band, this time from one of the most north-easterly parts of Cheshire (or, post-1974, north-westerly part of Derbyshire). In recent times, they have picked up prizes at regional level with the state-of-the-art bandroom its 34th bandperson.

Their Musical Director, Sarah Groarke-Booth, is also an actor, adjudicator, and compere. She studied music at the University of Salford (with a B.A. Honours in Band Musicianship and a M.A in Conducting to her name). In the last twenty years, she has directed bands in London, Wales, and Bristol as well as the North West of England. Another good night is in store so arrive in good time to avoid disappointment.

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., 09 October 2017.

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