Diggle Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (Winter 2017)

A winter warmer from Saddleworth’s Championship section band 

After a scorching summer performance, Diggle Band returned to the Boarshurst Band Club with a real winter warmer. Once more, the Boarshurst audience was treated to a superb concert which warmed the cockles of our heart. For six of your finest British Pounds, a delightful night with some great solo pieces.

As for the programme, a lovely mix of brass banding classics and something new to engage the audience. This was not your microwaved pub lasagne with a perfunctory garnish. This was a Sunday dinner with freshly cooked vegetables, the finest beef, and a home made Yorkshire Pudding.

Diggle Band’s Musical Director, Steven Walsh said he was fifteen years old when he last went to Boarshurst Band Club. Back then, he was playing for Linthwaite Band. On Whit Friday, he would have seen Robert Knight’s pork pies and the plethora of sandwiches and other snacks they sold. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Last night, he left Boarshurst Band Club on a high.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Signature March: Standedge (Derek Broadbent);
  2. Overture: Festive Overture (Dmitri Shostakovich, arr. Peter Kitson);
  3. Light Concert Music: O Magnum Mysterium (Morton Lauridsen, arr. Philip Littlemore);
  4. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Mike McLean): The Paragon (E. Sutton);
  5. Film Music (from Saving Private Ryan): Hymn to the Fallen (John Williams, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Rhiannon Walsh): Let My Try Again (Salvatore Caravelli, arr. Simon Kerwin);
  7. Popular Music: An American Trilogy (Mickey Newbury, arr. Goff Richards).

Second Half

  1. March: The President (William German);
  2. Light Concert Music: Lux Aurumque (Eric Whitacre, arr. Sandy Smith);
  3. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by David Pogson): I Know Why (Mack Gordon/Harry Warren, arr. Simon Kerwin);
  4. Light Concert Music: Spirit of Brass (Gavin Somerset);
  5. Hymn: Lloyd (Traditional, arr. Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Adam O’Neill): Benedictus (Sir Karl Jenkins);
  7. Overture: The Olympic Spirit (John Williams).

Encore

  • March: Death or Glory (R.B. Hall).

O Magnum of Magnificence

As with previous concerts featuring Diggle Band we opened with the band’s signature piece, Standedge. The march, written by Derek Broadbent, reflects that part of Diggle famed for its canal and railway tunnels. Standedge canal tunnel – Britain’s longest structure – is seen on Diggle Band’s badge and its music stands. Whether you think of it as a signature piece or a standalone march, it is a rousing number.

This was followed up by a nailed-on brass banding classic: an arrangement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. To give its full name, Festive Overture in A Major Op. 96, was premiered in 1954. His piece was written to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. Just over a century after the October Revolution, Diggle Band gave us an excellent performance. It was also performed at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

The third piece was a new one to many of last night’s audience. Written by Morton Lauridsen, O Magnum Mysterium is a favourite piece of Eikanger Band’s. It is based on a responsorial piece chant from The Matins of Christmas. It has been sung by various choirs and the piece itself would have tested many brass bands. Not so with Diggle who gave us a fantastic performance. As a link to the piece, Steven Walsh acknowledged Eikanger Band’s success in this year’s Brass In Concert at SAGE Gateshead.

Our fourth piece was the first soloist of the night: this time with Mike McLean on principal cornet. The piece in question was another brass banding classic: E. Sutton’s The Paragon. For some of the audience, myself included, a bit of a nostalgia value. I was back at home listening to James Shepherd’s performance on 1969’s Black Dyke in Concert LP. Mike’s performance was really that good. Virtuoso was an understatement that night.

The fifth piece gave us our finest whole band performance of this half. This time with our first and only concession to Hollywood: the peerless Hymn To The Fallen. Played by Boarshurst Silver Band at last week’s Remembrance Day concert, we had an equally powerful performance. As detailed in last week’s review, it was written for Saving Private Ryan and has taken on a second life beyond the Tom Hanks film. It was also the first John Williams’ song of the night.

Offering a neat contrast was a superb soprano cornet solo by Rhiannon Walsh. This time with the song Let Me Try Again. Last week, it was performed by William Reynolds with Boarshurst Silver Band. Last night’s performance was another good one. If you remember last week’s review, the song was written by Paul Anka and made popular by Frank Sinatra.

The final song of the first half was another classic. One that has been used to close a concert in the main set, or as the encore. That of Mickey Newbury’s An American Trilogy, best known for Elvis Presley’s performance. You didn’t have to be an Elvis fan to appreciate Diggle Band’s performance. Another cracker which took us to the interval.

An olympic spirit of brass

For the second half we opened with a march. A cracking one associated with Whit Friday Band Contests. That of William German’s The President. The piece was revived by Fairey Band in 1986. Nearly six months after their last concert at Boarshurst Band Club, well received again. It was used to open June’s concert.

This was followed by Lux Aurumque, a beautiful piece penned by Eric Whitacre. This was another choral piece which provided a challenge for the band. Needless to say, Diggle Band were well and truly up for the challenge and passed with flying colours. The composer, Eric, has worked with Hans Zimmer, conducted many choirs around the world, and has picked up Grammy awards along the way.

Speaking of award winners, our next piece of this half was a flugelhorn solo by David Pogson. Uncle Dave, as he is informally known, gave us a superb performance of I Know Why. The song by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon was made popular by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. It was used in 42nd Street, based on a 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes.

When is a light concert piece not a light concert piece? When it is a song that requires complex tonguing methods. Befitting that misnomer was Spirit of Brass. Composed by Gavin Somerset, it was commissioned for BrassFestUK 2017. On the 4BarsRest website, he stated how he was influenced by John Williams (more on him later). Diggle Band’s performance was a most enjoyable one. Easy to listen from the audience gallery but a test for any band.

For traditionalists, no concert is complete without a hymn. Lloyd tops the list of many listener’s favourites. The best arrangement, in my opinion, is Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s, which has gravitas in the melody department. Once more, Diggle Band delivered the goods, neatly taking us to the raffle.

After the raffle came another piece from a highly esteemed British composer. This time, from the pen of Sir Karl Jenkins. Performing Benedictus on euphonium was Adam O’Neill, who gave us all an accomplished performance. Benedictus is the penultimate part of a 45 minute long suite entitled The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.

For the last piece of the night, before the encore, we returned to the collected works of John Williams. Adding some harmony and progress into a first rate concert was their performance of The Olympic Spirit. It was composed for the 1988 summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. A wonderful finish to tonight’s concert which also worked as the second piece in their previous visit.

To close the concert properly, our final piece of the night was a well loved piece from Brassed Off. We finished off with R.B. Hall’s Death or Glory. A good rousing piece to round off a truly first rate concert.

Once again, Diggle Band took the audience on a fantastic journey. One with four memorable solo performances, and a well rounded programme. We eagerly await their next visit to Boarshurst Band Club before long.

*               *               *

Diggle Band’s concert was the second of two concerts which took place on the 19 November 2017. Prior to that, there was a lunchtime concert with Delph Youth Band. There will be a review by the end of this week on East of the M60.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club, we shall be seeing Glossop Old Band. Duncan Beckley, Marcus Jones and Co. will be making the trip up from Derbyshire. Forget Black Friday: Band Sunday at Boarshurst Band Club is the place to be, on the 26 November.

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., 20 November 2017.

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