Hats off to Jim Hunter and Co. in a jolly good show
Denton Brass marked the shortest and most important month of the brass banding calendar with a highly entertaining concert. With a traditional yet accessible programme, Jim Hunter guided the Boarshurst faithful on a journey that took in London’s West End and Australia. Within a tight two-hour programme. Along the way, our tour began at a castle immortalised by the late Goff Richards. We even found time to call in the British Legion club for a farewell pint.
The above paragraph only forms part of the story. Last night’s concert was dedicated to three brass banding giants whom we have lost. As well as Goff Richards (of whom the first piece was dedicated to), our second piece was dedicated to Harry Lever. The last pre-encore piece was dedicated to Janet Payne – Mrs Boarshurst due to her work with Boarshurst Silver Band.
Last night’s concert marked the first anniversary of Janet Payne’s death. She didn’t only know Jim Hunter from his involvement with Boarshurst ‘B’ Band and other bands in and around Saddleworth. They went to the same school, in the same year. Janet was also a member of the school’s choir besides her involvement with brass banding.
Musical Director Jim Hunter also has ties with Denton Brass’ predecessors Denton Original Band. Other bands he has been musical director for include Fairey, Lees and Glodwick, Carrbrook (also under its previous guise as Micklehurst band), and East Manchester.
With his 63 years experience, his experience in finding suitable players is second to none. At the end of last year, Denton Brass had some personnel issues of their own. Some players had to switch from one instrument to another during programmes. In the last quarter he was faced with the challenge of getting a band ready for this month’s Regional Finals in Blackpool.
Last night he succeeded and honoured their concert date at Boarshurst Band Club. Some players were promoted from Denton’s training band. There was also a bit of help from three players, from VBS Poynton, Glossop Old, and Delph brass bands. By the time you have read this review, Mr. Hunter will have gained some percussionists in time for Blackpool.
After a month’s practice together, Denton Brass put on a good show. From what we heard, so far so good in advance of the North West Regional Championships on the 25 February.
- March: Barnard Castle (Goff Richards) – dedicated to Goff Richards (1944 – 2011);
- Overture: The Lonely Mill (Handel Lancaster) – dedicated to Harry Lever (1923 – 2018);
- Musical Piece (from The Sound of Music): Edelweiss (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein, arr. Alan Fernie);
- Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Greta Brownridge): Solitaire (Neil Sedaka/Cody Sedaka, arr. Ted Parson);
- Musical Piece (from Cats): Memory (Andrew Lloyd Webber, arr. Goff Richards);
- Horn Solo (performed by Ruth Dunning): On My Own (Claude-Michel Schonberg, arr. Darrol Barry);
- Musical Piece (from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat): Any Dream Will Do (Andrew Lloyd Webber, arr. Peter Graham);
- Film Music (from Brassed Off): Clog Dance (John Marcangelo, arr. Martin Herold).
- Test Piece excerpt: First Movement from World Tour: Leaving Liverpool (Rodney Newton);
- Light Concert Music: All Through the Night (Gordon Langford);
- Light Concert Music: Endearing Young Charms (Sam Myers);
- Test Piece excerpt: Fourth Movement from World Tour: Australian Walkabout and Homecoming (Rodney Newton).
- Euphonium Duet (performed by Paul Johnson and Stacey Webb): Perhaps Love (John Denver, arr. Alan Fernie).
- March: The British Legion (Thomas Bidgood);
- Hymn: St. Clements (Clement Cotterill Scholefield, arr. A. Duncan) – dedicated to Janet Payne (1948 – 2017);
- March: The Great Escape (Elmer Bernstein, arr. Thomas Wyss).
The joys of the West End from another West End
Our opening piece of the night was dedicated to its writer, Goff Richards. That of Barnard Castle, one of a selection of castellated brass band marches by various composers. The march that takes its name from the castle and the town itself. It is a jolly march popular with fourth section and youth section bands. A likely candidate for Denton Brass’ Whit Friday contest march? Probably, given a very good performance of Richards’ piece.
The second piece – in traditional concert fashion was an overture. Not any old overture, but one dedicated to Harry Lever. That of Handel Lancaster’s The Lonely Mill. First published in 1936 by Boosey and Hawkes, it is a refreshing piece of music rich in melodic goodness. Before his death last month, Harry Lever was a regular attendee at Boarshurst Band Club’s Sunday concerts. He was also a fount of all knowledge of a Hydonian nature, with commendable knowledge of Hyde’s history. He also purchased for several local bands the manuscript of Handel Lancaster’s piece. A fine piece that deserves another airing.
For our third piece we bagged a last minute flight from Ringway to Austria. In other words, we sought inspiration from the Von Trapp family and added Edelweiss to the programme. If you are familiar with The Sound of Music – in theatrical or cinematic form – Edelweiss refers to the small white flower that Captain Ludwig Georg von Trapp sings about. It was written as a lament for the Austria he once knew. Well played it was too.
The fourth piece of the night gave us our first soloist. Welcome aboard Soprano Cornet player Greta Brownridge. Her piece was the Neil Sedaka/Cody Sedaka song Solitaire. The song’s origins were much closer to Denton Brass’ band room than the previous piece: Stockport. It was written by Neil Sedaka as a title track for his 1972 LP, and recorded at Strawberry Studios. His backing band? 10cc, no less. It was also made famous by The Carpenters. Greta’s rendition was another good performance.
At one time, Strawberry Studios’ original name was Inter-City Studios because of Stockport’s connections with the London Euston train. Whether on today’s tilting trains or the loco-hauled ones before then, a useful way of getting to London’s theatre district. With our Oyster Cards we headed for the West End.
First off was Memory, taken from the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, Cats. With the musical based on the T.S. Eliot book, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this is its best-known number. It was sung by the former glamour cat, Grizabella in the stage production. As well as Elaine Paige’s version, it has also been sung by Celine Dion and Barbra Streisland. Ms. Paige’s version peaked at Number Six in July 1981, in the UK Singles Chart. Well played.
Our next piece in our West End Trilogy was last night’s second soloist. Enter stage left, Ruth Dunning. On horn, she played On My Own, one of the best known songs from Les Miserables. For over three decades, Les Mis has played to packed houses at the Barbican, Palace, and Queen’s theatres in London. In 2013, the film version starring Ann Hathaway was well received. Ruth’s performance of On My Own last night, likewise at Boarshurst.
The final part of our West End Trilogy was a Number One single for Jason Donovan in 1991. That of the eminently singable Any Dream Will Do. Written in 1968 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice, it formed part of the original play of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It is heard at the beginning and the end of the musical. Owing to Jason Donovan’s rendition, the best known song from a musical that started out as a twenty minute play. Another fine performance.
We finished with a well known piece from Brassed Off: that of Clog Dance. If you’ve seen Brassed Off (I would assume that 99% of readers who follow our reviews would have done!), it is heard near the end of the film. It marks Grimley Colliery’s journey to the Royal Albert Hall. Besides the cameo appearance of Plaxton-bodied Leyland Leopards in Mark Herman’s film, Violinski’s version is associated with stock cars and banger racing. Their version peaked at Number 17 in the UK singles chart in 1979.
The last piece rounded off a very good first half which took us from County Durham to Liverpool, via Drury Lane, Windmill Lane, and Kirkmanshulme Lane. We wiped the dust off our eyes, changed our clothes, and scrubbed up ready for the second part of our musical journey.
Liverpool to Australia in twenty minutes
The second half gave us a sneak preview of the Fourth Section test piece for the National Championships of Great Britain. Our first four pieces were the first and final movements of World Tour by Rodney Newton, plus two other pieces by Gordon Langford and Sam Myers.
The first piece of this half was Leaving Liverpool, the first movement of World Tour. This is a lively first movement used to depict the ‘Ten Pound Poms’ who left England for Australia by boat. Before 1981, British subjects could move to Australia for £10. After getting their paperwork sorted out they could start afresh in Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth for example. A brilliant start to the first half.
The next two movements of World Tour (Chicago Rag and Pacific Paradise) were omitted in favour of Welsh and Irish influenced pieces. You could say we missed the boat and had to make do with a National Express coach to North Wales. Or a Merseyrail train to Chester and another one from there to Rhyl. What we got was Gordon Langford’s arrangement of All Through The Night. Also known as Ar Hyd y Nos, it was used by John Gay in The Beggar’s Opera. A good choice, being among my favourite pieces, and well played too.
Equally good was the effervescent Endearing Young Charms. Instead of an Off-Peak Return to Rhyl, we opted for the Rail and Sail deal to Dublin and stayed on our train up to Holyhead. Sam Myers’ piece was quite a good toe-tapper which neatly blended in with our fourth piece. It almost made us pine for a pint of Guinness and a bowl of champ mash and sausages.
Our fourth piece of the night was Australian Walkabout and Homecoming. This jaunty final movement of World Tour was a melodic workout for the band. As you would expect with such a title, there was a snatch of Waltzing Matilda for good measure. Waltzing Matilda also appeared in Saddleworth Festival Overture. This, due to there being a Saddleworth in Australia as well as the West Riding of Yorkshire. From what we have heard of the first and fourth movements, World Tour will be well received by audiences making the trip to Blackpool. Jim Hunter’s arrangement also worked very well, thanks to the sandwiching of Langford’s and Myers’ pieces.
After the raffle, we had our first and only duet of the night. This time with Paul Johnson and Stacey Webb on euphonium, playing Perhaps Love. Written by John Denver as a duet, he recorded the song with Placido Domingo in 1981. This was our second album title track of the night. Also our second number seventeen of the night too – its position in the UK album charts. Paul and Stacey’s put in a good shift with Domingo’s and Denver’s pop/opera crossover piece.
For our penultimate piece before the encore, something completely different. Traditional. A piece which Jim Hunter equated with inveterate marchers. That of Thomas Bidgood’s march The British Legion. Written for military bands it also works well for brass bands. In fact, it works better with brass bands than military bands; Denton Brass proved just that last night.
Our final pre-encore piece was dedicated to Janet Payne. That of St. Clement, the popular hymn set to the tune of The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended (by John Ellerton). The composer, Clement Cotterill Scholefield, was the younger son of Liberal MP and entrepreneur William Scholefield. There was only one word to sum up Denton Brass’ performance: beautiful.
For our encore was The Nation’s Favourite Horsepowered Escapee’s song. One that is a popular piece at the Mossley Whit Walks. Cue Elmer Bernstein’s march from The Great Escape. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, Steve McQueen’s escape on a modded Triumph TR6 Trophy springs to mind. A good way to finish a splendid concert.
* * *
Overall, Denton Brass gave us a very good concert. Not only with a well thought out programme. The most amazing backstory was the band was short of players by Christmas, and Jim worked his socks off to get a full band ready for Blackpool. Plus last night’s concert, which had seven members from last year’s line up. Maybe a few from their June 2016 concert.
The last Sunday of this month sees an early start for Denton Brass. At the North West Regional Championships, the Fourth Section bands begin at 10.30 am. They will be seen in the Opera House, the lovely Streamline Moderne style theatre part of Winter Gardens, Blackpool. If you want to see the North West Regional Championships, tickets are priced £10 for adults or £7.00 for concessions. As they cover all five sections and seven hours of brass banding, they are a bargain.
We wish Denton Brass band and Jim Hunter the very best in Blackpool on the 25 February. Persevere? They did just that last night and, with Jim as MD, they will.
Next at the Boarshurst Band Club
Next week, we have two bands on at the Boarshurst Band Club. The first band will be Littleborough Youth Band, whose concert starts at 2pm. There will be a performance by their Youth Band in one half, and one from the adult Training Band in the second half.
Then at 8pm, Deepcar Brass Band will be making their way to Greenbridge Lane. They are a Fourth Section band situated just off the Stocksbridge bypass. Formed in 1988 they started out as a training band before being a fully fledged contesting band. Their Musical Director is Cathryn Rogers.
As always, drinks and snacks are available at popular prices for both concerts. Oh, and don’t forget the raffle.
- 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., 05 February 2018.