Hammonds Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (21 April 2018)

Another stunning concert from Hammonds Band

On the 21 April, Boarshurst Silver Band began the first of a series of Saturday night concerts. Alongside the regular programme of Sunday night concerts, the Saturday night gigs will showcase Championship Section bands and ensembles.

The first band to have the honour of being Boarshurst Band Club’s Saturday guests are Hammonds Band. The band has its roots in the enterprise of mill owner and philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt. The present day band was formed in 1932, sponsored by Hammonds Sauce Company from 1946 to 1992. Yorkshire Building Society followed suit with David King taking the band to eight European brass band championship honours.

Since 2009, a stint as the YBS Band, they became Hammonds Saltaire Band. This year, ‘Saltaire’ was dropped with the band presently known as Hammonds Band.

The Musical Director, Morgan Griffiths, was taught by Geoffrey Whitham. At Black Dyke Mills Band in 1990, Morgan was also the youngest ever principal euphonium player for the Queensbury based band. If you thought last year’s concert was amazing, Saturday’s concert pushed the envelope even further. They were magnificent.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Rainbow Pier (Joseph John Richards);
  2. Overture: Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss, arr. Aubrey Winter);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Philip Varley): Zelda (Percy Code);
  4. Light Concert Medley: The World’s Greatest Storyteller (various, arr. Philip Harper):
    1. Theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Richard Sherman/Robert Sherman);
    2. (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) Pure Imagination (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley);
    3. (from Matilda) When I Grow Up (Tim Minchin);
  5. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Zoe Wright): Lark in the Clear Air (Gordon Langford);
  6. Light Concert Music: The Sullivan Fantasy (Gilbert and Sullivan, arr. Gordon Langford);
  7. Light Concert Music: Sandpaper Ballet (Leroy Anderson, arr. Geoffrey Brand);
  8. Test Piece: Le Roi d’ Ys (Edward Lalo, arr. Frank Wright).

Second Half

  1. Film Music (from The First of the Few): Spitfire Prelude and Fugue (William Walton, arr. Michael Antrobus);
  2. Trombone Solo (performed by Matthew Brown): Bluejohn (Peter Kneale);
  3. Opera Music (from Madam Butterfly): The Humming Chorus (Giacomo Puccini, arr. Sandy Smith);
  4. Choral Music: Gloria (Sir Karl Jenkins);
  5. Light Concert Music: Sir Roger de Coverley (Gordon Langford);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Ashley Higgins): Fantastie Brillante (Jean-Baptiste Arban, arr. Fred Muscroft);
  7. Hymn: Abide With Me (William Henry Monk, arr. Karl Jenkins);
  8. Light Concert Music: Shine As The Light (Peter Graham).

Encore

  • Light Concert Music: Gaelforce (Peter Graham).

First Half

Our first piece was Joseph John Richards’ vibrant march Rainbow Pier. It is based on a long demolished arch shaped pier in Long Beach, California. Inside the pier was a 40-acre boating and swimming pool. Underneath the rainbow shaped pier was a pavilion. Due to tidal conditions and the city being flushed with oil dollars, real estate developers sniffed around. By the mid-1960s, the lagoon was filled in, and Rainbow Pier became part of a property development.

J.J. Richards was born in Wales but spent most of his life in the US. He conducted numerous circus bands and wrote over 300 pieces for school bands and circuses. Long Beach was his last home. This worthy addition to the programme was a great start. This was followed up, in traditional fashion with an overture. Nothing too weedy: only Aubrey Winter’s arrangement of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus overture.

The operetta, composed by Strauss II is set to Haffner’s German libretto. It is based on a farce entitled Das Gefängnis (The Prison) by Julius Roderich Benedix. At that point Hammonds Band were in cruise control. It was time for us to get strapped in, thanks to their stupendous rendition.

It was clear that Hammonds Band were only in second gear for their pristine performance. This was bettered by our first soloist of the night. Enter on Principal Cornet Philip Varley and his masterful performance of a nailed-on brass banding classic. That of Percy Code’s Zelda. Edward Percival ‘Percy’ Code is quite a legend in Australian brass banding circles, living in Melbourne for most of his life. He was invited over to the mother country in 1910, playing for Besses O’Th’Barn Brass Band for a few years.

Zelda is one of a series of pieces that Percy wrote based on girls names. With Philip Varley’s performance, you could almost hear a touch of James Shepherd. If you closed your eyes you would have thought it was Black Dyke Mills Band’s most iconic cornet soloist. Amazing? That was quite an understatement!

The fourth piece gave us three modern day classics inspired by one of the greatest 20th century children’s authors. Philip Harper’s The World Greatest Storyteller – a suite inspired by Roald Dahl – has three songs inspired by Dahl’s works. First off was The Sherman Brothers’ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (where Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay). Then Leslie Bricusse’s and Anthony Newley’s contribution to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That of Pure Imagination, heard in Mel Stuart’s film based Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This was closed by Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up – as used in the stage version of Matilda (Roald Dahl’s best seller from 1989).

The results of Harper’s arrangement, and Hammonds Band’s performance, were truly scrumptious. Picking the second soloist’s Golden Ticket was Zoe Wright on tenor horn. This time with Hammonds’ first Gordon Langford arrangement of the night: the excellent Lark in the Clear Air. Coupled with her crystal clear intonation and dynamic range, a real joy to listen to.

This was followed by our second Gordon Langford arrangement. Something a bit lighter this time; Sullivan Fantasy. The song itself is a composite of Gilbert and Sullivan’s finest works, with bits from The Pirates of Penzance. Very good stuff.

The lighter pieces would enable us to enjoy the first half finale better. So far, the minutes were flying at an alarming rate. Which could have almost been as fast as Leroy Anderson’s typing skills. Instead of The Typewriter, we received another nailed-on classic by the same composer: the delightful Sandpaper Ballet.

To all intents it isn’t a ballet piece at all. Perhaps he predated the scorch marks ‘enjoyed’ (rather, endured) by footballers on first generation artificial pitches. Actually it was written as a tribute to the soft shoe style of dancing associated with Vaudeville acts. For yours truly and a few others in attendance, the first time sandpaper formed part of the percussion section. Yet it worked, very well.

The previous pieces were a lull before a storm. A storm at the close of the first half, written by Edward Lalo and arranged as a test piece for the 1959 National Championship of Great Britain. If you didn’t get strapped in, you would have needed to for their peerless performance of Le Roi D’ys. Every note, intense; every tone, perfect; every goose pimple, on end within the first two minutes. Unimpeachable, unbelievable; if that didn’t want make you go to the bar for a pint afterwards, what on earth would have done? Breathtaking to the power of 33.

Second Half

If you thought the first half was superb, the second half was just as amazing. This time we opened with a piece by William Walton: Spitfire Prelude and Fugue. The piece by the Oldham-born composer featured in The First of the Few, a Leslie Howard film which also starred David Niven. The 1942 was also known as Spitfire in the USA. Howard also starred as R.J Mitchell, the design of Supermarine’s most famous aeroplane. Hammonds were off to a flying start with this number.

Taking over the controls in the second piece of this half was a trombone soloist. Enter Matthew Brown with his rendition of Bluejohn, written by Peter Kneale. It was especially written for Sandy brass band as a trombone solo in the early 1980s. Kneale’s other works include Variations on a Welsh Theme. As for Matthew Brown’s performance, smooth, satisfying, and enjoyable.

This was followed by an infectious piece of opera music from Madam Butterfly. This time with The Humming Chorus. In the opera, it is used as a bridge between Act II and Act III. At this point, Butterfly, her child, and Suzuki wait for Pinkerton’s arrival. As Butterfly’s child falls asleep, Butterfly kept watch. Another enjoyable piece.

This was surpassed by the sheer power of Sir Karl Jenkins’ choral suite, Gloria. Two movements were played from the piece. It was commissioned by Don Monro in 2010, each one of the five movements [in full] cover Psalm 150. In all, Gloria takes the best part of 34 minutes to perform. From our excerpt, another great performance.

Our next piece was mentioned in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Stig of the Dump. It was also the last Gordon Langford arrangement of the concert: Sir Roger de Coverley. The name of the song pertains to an English folk dance. This was light concert music by Gordon Langford at its best. With a great band like Saturday night’s guests, say no more: another cracker.

Next up was our last soloist of the night: this time from Ashley Higgins on euphonium. His piece, Fantasie Brillante by Jean-Baptiste Arban. The song was originally written for Wynton Marsalis, on trumpet rather than euphonium. With triple tonguing skills required, not a solo for the faint hearted. Ashley Higgins made light work of this, giving us a great performance.

Only a couple of hours after Manchester United booked their place in this year’s F.A. Cup Final came the traditional Cup Final hymn. If you guessed Abide With Me or Eventide, well done. William Henry Monk’s hymn (also under the name of Henry Francis Lyte) gave us a great insight into Hammonds’ playing abilities with softer pieces. So good and so clear to a point where you could hear a pin drop. Especially with Sir Karl Jenkins’ arrangement which oozed colour and melody.

For the last piece, the last thing that Hammonds would have done was end on a whimper with something unchallenging. Proving they were made of stronger stuff, their second half finale was a blockbuster on a par with Le Roi D’ys. This time with Peter Graham’s sensational Shine As The Light. The song was written in 1997 for the composer’s visit to the Salvation Army’s Star Lake camp, in the memory of All Honsburger. Later on it became a popular test piece, first used on the 11 February 2000 at the Norwegian National Championships (for Division Two bands).

Peter Graham’s piece, like our first half finale, was similarly invigorating; edge of the seat stuff. Mere mortals would have been stuck for a suitable item for the encore programme. In the end, Morgan Griffiths and Co succeeded with another humdinger. Another classic piece by Peter Graham: the magnificent Gaelforce. The piece in full features three traditional Irish tunes: The Minstrel Boy, Tossing the Feathers, and The Rocky Road to Dublin. It was commissioned by Foden’s Band. An amazing finale to an amazing concert.

*                 *                 *

Wherever Hammonds Band are playing, I strongly urge you to go to one of their concerts. Forget what’s on the telly that night; hire a child minder or dog sitter (where applicable). Their next engagement is the Grand Shield at the Opera House in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. This will take place on the 12 May, starting at 10am.

Tickets are £12.00 for adults, £7.00 for concessions, and available on the day. Each ticket allows entry to all three venues (Opera House, Pavilion Theatre, Spanish Room) and is valid for the whole of the day from 10am to 6pm. If you wish to nip out for lunch or a fag break, just show your ticket on exit and entry at the main entrance.

Next Week…

The next band wouldn’t need to travel far to next week’s concert. This time, the resident band of The Mecca of Brass Banding will be in concert. Yes, The Mighty Boarshurst Silver Band. With respectable placings at Brass At The Guild contest and the North West Regional Championships (2nd and 4th place finishes respectively), it is a rare opportunity to see the house band in a concert setting.

As always at the Boarshurst Band Club, doors open at 7pm with the concert starting at 8pm. With this concert most likely to be a popular one, please arrive early to be sure of a seat. If you cannot make it to the Boarshurst Band Club, live streaming of the concert is available via their Facebook page.

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., 23 April 2018.

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