Middleton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (November 2017)

Gibbs’ Boarshurst debut makes for exciting concert

As the mercury moves into single figures, you can be sure of a warm reception at Boarshurst Band Club in the winter months. Without exception was the reception during Middleton Band’s concert. Last night, their newly appointed Musical Director Kevin Gibbs, broke his Boarshurst Band Club duck. For him, a concert to remember, and the first of many visits to Greenbridge Lane.

Kevin Gibbs has previously been Musical Director with Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Band, though never visited the Boarshust Band Club with them. Before taking over the baton, he was an award winning trombone player with Brighouse and Rastrick, and Black Dyke bands.

There was an enjoyable mix of pieces with something for everyone. Not only some good hymns but also popular music and four good solos. If you went to the Middleton Band concert in March, there was a few familiar pieces. With the recent death of Bert Howarth, a leading light in the brass banding movement, there was also a tribute for him.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Concert Opener: The Crazy Brass Machine (Mark Taylor, arr. Sandy Smith);
  2. Overture: The Arcadians (Lionel Monckton, arr. S. Wood);
  3. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Louise Crane): Let Me Try Again (Salvatore Caravelli, arr Simon Kerwin);
  4. Hymn: Light-Walk (Barrie Gott);
  5. Hymn: ‘Mid All The Traffic of the Ways (Colonel Leonard Ballantine);
  6. Bass Solo (performed by Connor Dalton): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkyson, arr. Leigh Baker);
  7. Popular Music: An American Trilogy (various/arr. Mickey Newbury, arr. Goff Richards)

Second Half

  1. Hymn: Eventide (Henry Francis Lyte, arr. Leigh Baker) – tribute to Bert Howarth, conducted by Alan Lawton;
  2. TV Theme: Opening theme from Stingray (Barry Gray, arr. Sandy Smith);
  3. Musical Medley: Selection from Les Miserables (Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, arr. Gavin Somerset);
  4. Horn Solo (performed by Emma Davies): Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan, arr. Gavin Somerset);
  5. Musical Piece: Hello, Dolly (Jerry Herman, arr. Alan Morrison);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Sarah Fitton): The Rose (Amanda McBroom, arr. Juri Briat);
  7. Light Concert: Let’s Face The Music and Dance (Irving Berlin, arr. Goff Richards);
  8. Popular Music: MacArthur Park (Jim Webb, arr. Alan Fernie).


  • March Medley: 1914 (various composers, arr. Gordon McKenzie):
    • It’s a Long Way to Tipperary (Jack Judge);
    • Hello! Hello! Who’s Your Lady Friend? (Harry Fragson);
    • Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty (Arthur J. Mills/Fred Godfrey/Bennett Scott).

The power of the Crazy Brass Machine

We opened last night’s concert with a delightful piece arranged by Sandy Smith and written by Mark Taylor. In just under three minutes, The Crazy Brass Machine got the concert off to a good start. A nice deviation from a traditional concert programme in place of a march and an uplifting piece.

Similarly uplifting was our overture: Lionel Monckton’s The Arcadians. It is the best known work from his 1909 musical, styled as a “fantastic musical play”. On its opening performance on the 29 April at the Shaftesbury Theatre, its first producer was Richard Courtneidge (Cicely Courtneidge’s father). The musical focuses on the Arcadians who wish to turn London into a version of utopia.

After their sublime performance of the previous piece, we moved onto our first soloist of the night. This time with Louise Crane on soprano cornet. Her piece was Let Me Try Again, a song made popular by Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics were written by Paul Anka and, nearly 45 years ago, was a hit for the crooner. Louise Crane’s performance was another hit, especially for those in attendance last night.

This was followed by Barrie Gott’s Light-Walk, a swing reworking of Walk in the Light from 1986. If you are torn between adding a hymn or a swing influenced piece to your concert programme, this piece by Barrie Gott fits the bill. It was written for the Star Lake Camp (whence a Salvationist march piece takes its name from). Another cracker which led us to the next Salvationist piece.

Our fifth item was ‘Mid All The Traffic of the Ways, written by a Canadian living composer, Colonel Leonard Ballantine. Leonard also offers one-to-one tuition with his wife, Heather, who helps out behind the scenes. The piece is often played to the tune of Colne, and also known as Shenandoah. In many a brass band concert, this hymn never fails to impress (and Middleton Band put in a good shift).

This was followed by our second soloist of the night Connor Dalton, on Eb Bass. If you go to any brass band concert with a movie based theme, there is always room for a bit of Walt Disney. Connor’s rendition of The Bare Necessities (from Disney’s 1967 film The Jungle Book) was a brilliant one. He was helped by the rear cornet section on percussion and a monkey puppet (King Louis – or Cuddles of Keith Harris and Orville fame if you prefer).

Closing the first half was another nailed on classic. We moved along from The King of the Swingers to The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll with An American Trilogy. Unless you’ve never seen an Elvis Presley tribute act, the song needs little introduction. It includes I Wish I Was in Dixieland and Glory Glory Hallelujah. Covering three songs in one, it was first arranged by Mickey Newbury who had modest success with the piece in 1972. Then came Elvis’ take (and you can guess the rest). Middleton Band’s rendition got us in good spirits for the second half.

“…While there’s music and moonlight, love and romance…”

As well as being Kevin Gibbs’ first concert at Boarshurst, last night was marked by a significant loss to the brass banding community. That of Bert Howarth (92) who had been Musical Director for many Saddleworth bands. Before then, he was a leading soprano cornet player with Fairey’s and Fodens brass bands.

His tribute was a performance of Eventide, the hymn otherwise known as Abide With Me. For the first piece of the second half, Gibbs’ position was taken by former Fairey Musical Director, Alan Lawton MBE. A beautiful, well played tribute.

The second item offered us a real contrast: a signature tune from a Gerry Anderson production. This time, the opening theme from Stingray. The original piece which captured the essence of the programme was written by Barry Gray. His other credits include the theme music for Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds. Middleton Band’s rendition did the original version proud.

Equally good was their performance of a musical suite from Les Miserables. The hugely successful musical with songs by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg is just under three hours long (excluding interval). Instead, courtesy of Gavin Somerset’s arrangement, some edited highlights clocking in at about five minutes. Which include On My OwnMaster of the House, and Bring Him Home. Another fine performance.

This was followed by the third soloist of the night: Emma Davies’ smooth performance of Make You Feel My Love on horn. The song was written by Bob Dylan in 1997, twenty years ago. Its first cover version was performed by Billy Joel. Eleven years later, it became a hit for Adele Adkins, appearing on her debut album, 19. Between 2010 and 2011 it became a UK hit single in its own right, peaking at Number 4.

After Emma Davies’ chart busting performance came the fifth piece of this half. This time, the signature tune to Hello, Dolly!. Written in 1964 by Jerry Herman, it is the best known piece from the eponymous musical. It has famously been sung by Louis Armstrong. The musical itself was based on the farce The Merchant of Yonkers.

Following the raffle was our final soloist of the night: Sarah Fitton’s euphonium solo of The Rose. Whereas it had taken eleven years for Make You Feel My Love to reach the charts, Bette Midler’s song took even longer. Released in 1979 for the eponymous film, it was a Number One hit for Westlife in 2006 – 27 years after the film’s release. Another superb solo performance.

The penultimate pre-interval piece of the night was a well known Irving Berlin song. For readers of a certain age, images of Angela Rippon on The Morecambe and Wise Show (1977) spring to mind. This time, a lovely piece of light concert fluff in the form of Let’s Face The Music and Dance. In the 1936 film Follow The Fleet, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were seen in a celebrated dance duet.

And of course, there may be trouble ahead if we choose to leave our bakery products in the rain. Not least an on-the-spot fine as well as a soggy Victoria Sponge. No prize for guessing our last piece: Alan Fernie’s arrangement of MacArthur Park. Written by Jimmy Webb, it has been sung by Richard Harris, then covered by Andy Williams and Donna Summer. A fine finish to an altogether well rounded concert.

But there was no march. No march? In a brass band concert? The encore piece put paid to this assumption. We closed the concert with 1914, a march medley arranged by Gordon McKenzie with three marches. Those being It’s A Long Way To Tipperary (Jack Judge), Hello! Hello! Who’s Your Lady Friend? (Harry Fragson) and Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty (Arthur J. Mills/Fred Godfrey/Bennett Scott). As for the link between the third and final piece of 1914 and Richard Courtneidge (The Arcadians), the answer is Cicely Courtneidge (his daughter). She sang the song in The L-Shaped Room produced by Sir Richard Attenborough (1962).

Overall, Middleton Band gave us a delightful concert. With each visit to Boarshurst Band Club, they have never failed to entertain and gave us a lively programme. Their Second Place finish in the Second Section prizes at the Rochdale Contest was thoroughly deserved. Onwards and upwards.

If you wish to see more of Middleton Band they will be taking part in Middleton’s Remembrance Day this coming Sunday morning. On the 18 November, they will be providing entertainment for the town’s Christmas lights switch-on. A week later, Openshaw’s Christmas lights switch-on at the Lime Square shopping centre. Plus their regular gig with the East Lancashire Railway on its Santa Specials.

Next Week…

Next week will be Boarshurst Silver Band’s Remembrance Day concert where we remember the fallen. This shall take place at the usual time of 8.00 pm (doors open from 7.00 pm).


  • 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., 06 November 2017.

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