University of Salford Brass Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Class act from future stars of brass banding world

Whereas the Oxbridge universities have produced Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers, the University of Salford has done the same with brass band players and conductors. The Brass Band Musicianship course, created by the late Dr. Roy Newsome, has an alumnae that is the envy of many institutions. Previous students have included Gary Cutt and Paul Lovatt-Cooper. Previous tutors include Peter Graham, Russell Gray, and Darrol Barry.

The University of Salford Brass Band form part of the University of Salford Music Directorate. Its other constituents are:

  • University of Salford Big Band;
  • University of Salford Symphonic Wind Ensemble;
  • University of Salford 10 Piece;
  • The Salford University Singers;
  • The Adelphi Brass Band, Contemporary Music Group, and Sax Quartet

Plus various ensembles including those for popular music, Rock, Jazz, Funk, and Heavy Metal. Which is great if you fancy being the next Ed Sheeran as well as (or instead of) the next Gary Cutt.

For lovers of first rate brass band music, Christmas came early for the regulars at Boarshurst Band Club. Last night we were treated to the brass banding excellence of the University of Salford’s students. As concerts went, it was a real bargain. As for their performance. the equal or any Championship Band. Before long, they could be playing for the likes of Cory, Black Dyke, Brighouse and Rastrick, and Fairey bands.

The University of Salford Brass Band’s Musical Director is Tom Davoren (that’s Da-voor-ren, not Davo-ren – Ed). He is also the associate Musical Director for Fairey Band and a composer in his own right. His work has been commissioned by the likes of The President’s Own United States Marine Band, the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, and Cory Band.

As a Musical Director, he began with the BTM Band in South Wales. Previous bands have included Desford Colliery Band. He studied tuba with Nigel Seaman at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and won the Harvey Phillips Award for excellence in composition.

University of Salford Brass Band gave us a slightly shorter set than the usual concerts at Boarshurst Band Club. Quality rather than quantity being the maxim. We also had a brief set by the University of Salford Graduate Band, a six-piece ensemble headed by Brett Baker. Yes, the same Brett Baker of Black Dyke Band fame. The award-winning trombonist no less. We were awestruck to say the least.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Ravenswood (William Rimmer);
  2. Hymn: Hymn to Diana (Joseph Turrin);
  3. Test Piece: Rhapsody in Brass (Sir Dean Goffin);
  4. Circus March: Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite (Karl King, arr. Peter Roberts);
  5. Operatic Piece: I Love You, Porgy (George Gershwin);
  6. Light Concert Music: Light-Walk (Barrie Gott).

Second Half

  1. March: Sosban Fach (Gareth Wood);
  2. Light Concert Music: Aftershock (Martin Cordner);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Adam Finch): Away in a Manger (William J. Kirkpatrick, arr. Peter Graham);
  4. Popular Christmas Music: The Christmas Song (Robert Wells/Mel Torme, arr. Philip Sparke);
  5. Christmas Song: Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont, arr. Ted Barclay).

The University of Salford Graduate Band:

  • Brett Baker;
  • Steven Butnell;
  • Rob;
  • James;
  • Adam Finch;
  • Jess Wilson.

N.B: in the programme notes, the University of Salford Graduate Band performances above are denoted in green.

174 173 days till Whit Friday”

We opened with a classic William Rimmer march. That of Ravenswood, a familiar piece to any veteran of Whit Friday band contests. From Championship to Second Section bands, Ravenswood is a highly popular march during The Greatest Free Show on Earth. If you looked away, you could have sworn that it was another Championship Section band rather than the University of Salford Brass Band.

With a contest-winning performance, this was followed up by a hymn. A seldom heard hymn these days, though one that might have been popular in late-1997. Hymn to Diana was written in 1997 by Joseph Turrin as a tribute to H.R.H. Diana, Princess of Wales. Whether you remember the piece for the dearly departed princess or not, it has stood the test of time as a hymn. This gave us a demonstration of the band’s ability to work with softer notes. Another great performance.

If you thought they couldn’t raise the bar any higher, think again. Their performance of the Dean Goffin test piece Rhapsody in Brass was superb. They made seemingly light work of the three movement test piece with excellent depth and tone. Rhapsody in Brass was written in 1949 for the British Open Brass Band Championships at Kings Hall, Belle Vue. It was used as this year’s Second Section test piece at the Regional heats of the National Championships oif Great Britain.

The second part of this half was a showcase for the University of Salford Graduate Band. Within the main brass band, they are a six-piece ensemble fronted by trombone maestro Brett Baker. The ensemble alone gave us a spectacular performance with three pieces. All of which in terms of sound, superior to some lower section bands with a full 33 players.

The Grad Band opened with Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, a circus march written by Karl King in 1913. It is referred to as “The Granddaddy of Circus Marches” due to its lively nature. King was asked by Ned Brill, the titular circus’ bandmaster, to compose the piece. It is one of the best known circus marches, well played by the ensemble.

The second piece by the Grad Band was a musical piece by George Gershwin. This time, I Love You, Porgy from the opera Porgy and Bess. The production premiered at the Capitol Theatre in Boston in 1935. Its first version was four hours long including two intervals. 82 years after its premiere, another well played piece.

We closed the first half with the Grad Band’s third piece. This time, as heard in previous Boarshurst concerts, Barrie Gott’s Light-Walk. Written in 1986, Gott’s composition adds a bit of swing to scripture. In other words, a hymn set to a swing beat. Once more, the Grad Band gave us a stunning performance, taking us to the second half in style.

“Dashing through the snow…”

We opened the second half with a right pot-boiler of piece. This time with the vibrant Sosban Fach by Gareth Wood. Translated from Welsh to English, its title is the less alluring Little Saucepan. It is associated with Rugby Union Football, being the adopted song of Llanelli RFC and the town’s one-time tinplate industry.

The first piece made for a fantastic start to the second half, but the next piece was a real humdinger. This time with Martin Cordner’s Aftershock, a ten minute long overture of the highest calibre. The piece was premiered on the 03 November 2017 at Regent Hall, London. Their performance at the Boarshurst Band Club last night was sensational. Expect to hear more of Aftershock in future years: this piece is a modern classic in the making.

After the raffle came a lighter second half of the second half’s programme. All of which in a Christmas theme. First of all with our only soloist of the night, Adam Finch. This time he played Peter Graham’s arrangement of Away in a Manger. The most common arrangement of the carol is written by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895. A superb performance by Adam.

The penultimate piece was a classic song written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells. Made popular by Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song is guaranteed to knock a few degrees of any room temperature. Philip Sparke’s arrangement, performed by the University of Salford Brass Band, was another cracker.

With the mercury plummeting a few degrees, we closed the concert with another Christmas song. This time with James Lord Pierpont’s Jingle Bells. With the piece being the band’s least challenging number, it was Willow’s turn to take over from Tom.

Of this year’s concerts at the Boarshurst Band Club, this was up in the Top Ten. In the Top Three even. For anyone who saw the University of Salford Brass Band’s concert last night, it was a real bargain. Not only for the sighting of tomorrow’s brass banding stars but also for the sighting of trombone legend Brett Baker.

*               *               *

We hope to see them back at the Boarshurst Band Club in the near future. For anyone who missed last night’s concert, or the concert at Glossop Old Bandroom the afternoon before, ignore them at your peril. Drop everything, forget the hottest soap opera storyline or the latest reality TV series. Whether they are doing a lunchtime concert or an evening one, go and see them. Seriously.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club, we shall be seeing Stockport Silver Band. They are a Fourth Section community band whose bandroom lies in the shadow of the town’s famous viaduct. Their present Musical Director is Alex Parker. ‘Parky’ as he is also known, is noted for his work in the UniBrass contest. He has also spent some time with Brass for Africa in Kampala, Uganda. As per usual, doors are open from 7pm for an 8pm start.


  • 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.


S.V., 04 December 2017.

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