Stalybridge Old Band: A Sunday Brass Special at the Boarshurst Band Club

A memorable concert with a rare guest appearance from Steven Booth

In a packed Boarshurst Band Club, last night’s concert with Stalybridge Old Band was well and truly a night to remember. As with last August’s concert, David Ashworth’s band gave us a well thought out programme. There was plenty of traditional brass band favourites as well as a side serving of early Fleetwood Mac.

Besides David Ashworth’s humorous and informative patter, Stalybridge Old Band had some illustrious guests. On percussion, Boarshurst Silver Band’s very own Wilf Manford. There was also the Brighouse and Rastrick Band Chairman Rob Westacott (also noted for his work as Musical Director with Lindley Band).

The real star of the show was Stalybridge Old Band’s guest on baritone, Steven Booth. A living legend in New Zealand brass band circles, he has previously played for Black Dyke Band. In his native New Zealand he has been a Musical Director of many bands, including the Band of Royal New Zealand Artillery and Waitakere Brass Band. Last night was his last concert in the UK before returning home. Even so, he wasn’t above having to draw one of the raffle tickets that night.

Last night’s concert also gave us four solos of the highest quality, two of which by Steven Booth. The other soloists worthy of recognition were the principal cornet and euphonium performances of John Withers and Barrie Vinden. For slightly more that two magical hours, it sounded like a return to the Stalybridge Old Band of the 1980s and 1990s. Back when they were a First Section band (in your reviewer’s formative years).

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Ridgehill (Corporal Sam Sykes);
  2. Overture: Tancredi (Gioachino Rossini, arr. Ray Woodfield);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by John Withers): Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Alan Morrison);
  4. Popular Music: Thriller (Rod Temperton, arr. David W. Ashworth);
  5. Baritone Solo (performed by Steven Booth): Endearing Young Charms (Traditional, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  6. Light Concert Music: All in the April Evening (Hugh Roberton, arr. Eric Ball);
  7. Euphonium Solo (performed by Barrie Vinden): Springtime (Reginald Heath);
  8. Hymn: Deep Harmony (Handel Parker, arr. John Golland – dedicated to the late Bob Tresadern);
  9. Ballet Music (from Sylvia): March and Procession of Bacchus (Leo Delibes, arr. Eric Osterling).

Second Half

  1. Concert Opener: Prismatic Light (Alan Fernie);
  2. Classical Music: The Last Spring (Edvard Grieg, arr. James Curnow)
  3. Popular Music: Black Magic Woman (Peter Green, arr. E. Banks);
  4. Baritone Solo (performed by Steven Booth): The Way We Were (Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman/Marvin Hamlisch, arr. Darrol Barry);
  5. Hymn: Love Unknown (John Ireland);
  6. March: Florentiner (Julius Fucik);


  • Popular Music: Bring Me Sunshine (Arthur Kent).

A thriller? Most certainly!

As with last August’s concert we opened with Stalybridge Old Band’s signature tune, Ridgehill. Written by Sam Sykes, it is a rousing piece which best encapsulate the grit of the Victorian town. The composer is related to Robert Sykes, euphonium player for St. John’s Mossley. Also to the rather famous Melanie Sykes. The Ridge Hill we know and love, looks out to Stalybridge town centre and is served by the 389 bus route. Till Saturday [07 April], it was also served by the 387 route which now bypasses the housing estate.

In traditional style this was followed by an overture: this time from Gioachino Rossini’s Tancredi. The opera is based on Voltaire’s play, Tancrède which was premiered at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on the 06 February 1813. Some 205 years later, Stalybridge Old Band gave us a brilliant performance. With Westacott, Manford, Booth and friends, this made for an even enjoyable rendition.

Then came the first of our soloists; this time from a longstanding member of Stalybridge Old Band (50+ years). Cue John Withers’ Principal Cornet solo of Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia On My Mind. Written in 1930, their original version has been overtaken in popularity by Ray Charles’ cover. It has also been covered by Annie Lennox and Michael Bublé. John gave us all a solid, virtuoso performance.

With only 300 minutes to go till midnight, there was something evil lurking from Cheethams Park. Or rather, the first floor of their Corporation Street band room. For our fourth piece was David Ashworth’s adaptation of Thriller. Written by Rod Temperton, it is the title track of Michael Jackson’s multi-million selling LP. The Cleethorpes born songwriter’s other works include Boogie Nights for Heatwave. David Ashworth’s arrangement was written for Boarshurst Silver Band, especially for the Durham Miners’ Gala.

After this thrilling rendition came another soloist: this time, our star man on baritone, Steven Booth. This time with Endearing Young Charms, in a breathtaking performance. Known in full as Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms, it is a traditional Irish song written by Thomas Moore in 1808. More than the legendary Thriller promo video his peerless performance made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Our sixth piece gave us an air of spring, and the first of three pieces within a spring sub-theme. First off was All in the April Evening, a song by Hugh Roberton. It is a choral piece which opens with “All in the April evening/April airs are abroad/The sheep with their little lambs”. Within the song, lambs, sheep, and the Lamb of God are immortalised in lyric form. A beautiful piece.

The joys of spring influenced our third solo piece and the seventh piece of the night. This time with Barrie Vinden on euphonium, we were treated to Springtime by Reginald Heath. His other works include the Gay Senorita and Recitative and Romance. As for Barrie’s performance on euphonium, sumptuous. Silky smooth.

This week we have learned about the sad loss of Bob Tresadern. Less than two years ago he retired from Middleton Band and had previously been at Moston and Beswick Band till its demise in 2006. Our penultimate piece of the first half, Handel Parker’s Deep Harmony, was dedicated to Mr. Tresadern. The arrangement we heard was John Golland’s, which is a joy to listen to. Bob would have been proud of tonight’s performance.

For our last piece of this half we had a jaunty piece from the Léo Delibes ballet Sylvia. This being the March and Procession of Bacchus. The ballet, written in 1876, tells the story of the nymph and her escapades. It is based on an earlier play entitled Aminta by Torquato Tasso (1573). An appropriate piece to take us to the interval, given that Bacchus is the Roman God of wine (other alcoholic beverages may be considered). What a wonderful first half.

In the prismatic light of a Sunday in springtime

For the second Boarshurst Band Club concert running, Stalybridge Old Band opened the second half with Prismatic Light. As always, Alan Fernie’s concert opener never fails to impress listeners of all ages. As with the August concert, they put in a good shift. Which is why Fernie’s piece is a near permanent fixture in Stalybridge Old Band’s concert programme.

This was followed by the third and final piece of our springtime theme: Edvard Grieg’s The Last Spring. Appropriately for the second piece of this half, it is one of the Two Elegiac Melodies for String Orchestra. Its transition from string to brass had clearly worked, and Stalybridge Old Band proved this.

Our third piece gave us a touch of early Fleetwood Mac (or Carlos Santana if you prefer). This time, we took a trip back to 1968 when Black Magic Woman was released and written by Peter Green. Two years on, this was covered by Carlos Santana on his 1970 LP Abraxas. Before you could say “they went their own way”, Stalybridge Old Band’s version was another joy to listen.

This neatly took us to the raffle with a staggering nine prizes. The shelf adjacent to the bar almost put a branch of Bargain Booze to shame. Even the star man wasn’t excused from drawing a ticket out for this worthy cause.

Ten minutes later came our last solo piece by Steven Booth. This time, a Barbra Streisland song shortly covered by Gladys Knight and the Pips: The Way We Were. Released at the start of 1974, The Way We Were was the title track of Ms. Streisland’s fifteenth studio album. With Darrol Barry’s arrangement, Steven Booth’s baritone playing was so silky smooth that it could have melted the easter egg and the bag of Celebrations in the raffle. Irresistible to say the least.

This was followed by another hymn. That of John Ireland’s Love Unknown which (unless you have a tin ear) never fails to move you. At many a hymn and march contest, open air or indoor venue, or concert setting. Its manuscript should carry this warning: “may contain goosebumps”. With recent changes to the acoustics at Boarshurst Band Club, and a sublime all band performance, it had the desired effect.

For our penultimate piece, the return of an old friend. In other words a piece from Brassed Off: Julius Fucik’s Florentiner March. Julius Fucik was a Czech composer of military band pieces, once known as ‘The Bohemian Sousa’. Written in 1907, it was written eleven years after his best known piece of all: The Entry of the Gladiators. For almost everyone in attendance last night, Florentiner March means Grimley Colliery Band’s semi final win at the Piece Hall in Halifax. Invigorated, the live audience begged for more.

To finish we turned to Arthur Kent’s most famous work – the signature tune of Britain’s finest comedy duo (Morecambe and Wise of course). Yes, Bring Me Sunshine, which used to close each episode of The Morecambe and Wise Show during their golden age on the BBC. Less well know was its use in a short-lived ITV comedy series set in a Job Centre (The Job Lot starring Sarah Hadland).

*               *               *

Once again, Stalybridge Old Band gave us a great concert. This, in no doubt was enhanced by our special guests including Steven Booth. A night to remember was quite an understatement, especially at such a bargain price.

Live Stream Viewing Figures:

So far, the Top Ten most viewed pieces from last night’s concert on the live stream are as follows:

  1. Endearing Young Charms (Baritone Solo by Steven Booth): 4,000;
  2. The Way We Were (Baritone Solo by Steven Booth): 2,700;
  3. Deep Harmony (dedicated to Bob Tresadern): 2,200;
  4. All in the April Evening: 1,700;
  5. Prismatic Light: 1,300;
  6. Georgia On My Mind (Principal Cornet Solo by John Withers): 1,200;
  7. Bring Me Sunshine (encore piece): 1,100;
  8. Springtime (Euphonium Solo by Barrie Vinden): 1,000;
  9. Thriller: 885;
  10. March and Procession of Bacchus (from the ballet Sylvia): 864.

Next at Boarshurst Band Club…

Sale Brass Band will be the second Cheshire band in a row to visit The Mecca of Brass Banding. The Fourth Section band came second at the North West Regional Championships in Blackpool. With a trip to Cheltenham awaiting the band, John Anderson’s team aim to be in pole position by September.

The band was formed in 1849, originally as the Stretford Temperance Band. One of the first events they played at was the opening of the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway. It forms part of today’s Metrolink system between Altrincham and Deansgate. As per usual, doors open at 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. The 180 and 350 services are operated by First Greater Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.


S.V., 09 April 2018.

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