Littleborough Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (May 2018)

A smashing concert with a prime selection of ambitious and familiar pieces

Only months after Littleborough Youth Band came to Boarshurst Band Club, last night saw the arrival of their senior counterpart. Almost a year on from their previous visit, Littleborough Band gave us another cracking concert.

Last night’s concert gave us a mixture of concert favourites and more ambitious works. Two of which are Third Section test pieces for the Butlins Mineworkers’ Championships in Skegness. An excerpt of which was this year’s Third Section test piece in the Regional Championships. Under the ‘concert favourites’ category, one in the words of their Musical Director [Ady Woodhead] “should be a test piece”.

Ady Woodhead has been Musical Director for nearly ten years with Littleborough Band. He started out at Wardle High School as a percussionist. Then he became a rock musician. Had he not returned to the brass banding fold he could have been Stansfield’s answer to Phil Collins (or Milnrow’s answer to Ozzy Osbourne).

With last nights concert, you could say he made the right move. As with previous concerts, his delivery was informative and humorous in parts. We also had two superb solo performances, including a memorable debut soloist performance.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Contestor (T.J. Powell);
  2. Horn Solo (performed by Amy Eastwood): Apres un Reve (Gabriel Faure, arr. Gordon Langford);
  3. Test Piece: Rule Britannia Overture (Thomas Augustine Arne, arr. William Rimmer)
  4. Trombone Solo (performed by Sumayah Wright): With His First Breath (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  5. Trombone Trio (performed by Sumayah Wright, Alison Cowen, and Mark Howarth): I Will Follow Him (Franck Pourcel, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  6. Musical Piece: Time to Say Goodbye (Francesco Sartori/Lucio Quarantotto, arr. Philip Sparke);
  7. Test Piece: Third Movement from Napoleon on the Alps (Onwards To The Empire) (Philip Harper).

Second Half

  1. Mash Up: Music for a Festival (Philip Sparke)/Simple Gifts (Goff Richards);
  2. Hymn: Blaenwern (William Rowlands, arr. Nigel Lawless);
  3. Musical Medley: Les Miserables Concert Suite (Claude Michel Schoenberg/Alain Boublil, arr. Gavin Somerset):
    1. Prologue;
    2. On My Own;
    3. Bring Him Home;
    4. Master of the House;
    5. One Day More;
    6. Can You Hear The People Sing?.
  4. Hymn: The Guardian of My Soul (Darren Shaw);
  5. Musical Medley: Breezin’ Down Broadway (various, arr. Goff Richards):
    1. (From Kiss Me, KateAnother Op’nin’, Another Show (Cole Porter);
    2. (From Annie Get Your GunThere’s No Business Like Show Business(Irving Berlin);
    3. (From My Fair Lady and High SocietyGet Me To the Church on Time(Stanley Holloway);
    4. (From Oklahoma!Oklahoma! (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein);
    5. (From That’s Entertainment!That’s Entertainment! (Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz);
    6. (From The Music ManSeventy-Six Trombones (Meredith Wilson).

Encore

  • March: Goldcrest (James Anderson).

Time to say “12 days till Whit Friday” 

We opened in traditional style with a march. Or more specifically a march penned by The Welsh Sousa. Who might you ask was The Welsh Sousa? The late T.J. Powell who wrote Littleborough Brass Band’s contest march of choice, The Contestor. Alongside Castell Coch and Castell Caerffili, this is among T.J. Powell’s best known marches. A very good start which reminded us all of one thing: only 12 days to go until Whit Friday.

From Wales we moved to France for our next piece. Instead of an overture, the second piece was our first soloist of the night. This time with Apres un Reve (After The Dream), a piece by Gabriel Faure, arranged by Gordon Langford. Horn soloist Amy Eastwood, who was nervous, wanted “to get it over and done with”. The piece was originally written for piano and solo voice. On the horn, Amy Eastwood gave us all a sparkling performance.

For the British side of the bargain of our Entente Cordiale we followed this up with the Rule Britannia Overture. Written by Thomas Augustine Arne and arranged by William Rimmer, it is one of two Third Section test pieces for next year’s Butlins Mineworkers’ Contest. A 12″ version of The Last Night of the Proms favourite Rule Britannia. At some point in this piece you could see yourself waving a plastic Union Flag or singing along. Another fine aural journey.

This was followed by last night’s second soloist. On trombone was Sumayah Wright, breaking her eight-year soloist duck with Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s With His First Breath. The lovely, slow melody – suitable for any Bb instrument in PLC’s words – was brought to life by Sumayah’s brilliant performance. Here’s to more solos from Sumayah.

Shortly after she returned to her seat she was back on her feet again – this time with Alison Cowen and Mark Howarth giving us all a good slide show. In other words, a trombone trio with the performance of I Will Follow Him. The song by Franck Pourcel was performed by Dobcross Silver Band last week and (as we said earlier) made famous in the Whoopi Goldberg film Sister Act. Last night’s trio was another belter.

Much to Ady’s relief, nobody left the Boarshurst Band Club after our penultimate piece of this half. Time To Say Goodbye – a UK Number Two chart single in 1997 – was originally written as Con Te Partirò in 1995. The English translation was sung by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman and featured on their album Timeless. 22 years on, Littleborough Band’s rendition was a hit with last night’s audience, thanks to their performance of Philip Sparke’s arrangement.

Our last piece of this half proved one point about test pieces: some individual movements can be good concert pieces. This was proved with Onwards To The Empire, the third and final movement of Philip Harper’s Napoleon on the Alps. Earlier this year, Harper’s work was chosen for this year’s Regional Championships as the Third Section test piece. Its third movement is the liveliest part which makes for a good concert finisher. Or a good piece to close the first half, as Littleborough Band proved last night.

Music for Simple Gifts

For our second half piece we could use the late great John Peel’s words in relation to ‘The Mighty Fall’: “same but different”. Instead of the late Mark E Smith’s collected works, we had a mash-up of two familiar pieces. One part was the vibrant Music For a Festival by Philip Sparke. The other was Simple Gifts, an arrangement by Goff Richards which includes The Lord of the Dance. Somehow it worked with alternate parts: a bit of Philip, then a bit of Goff, and Phil again, for the best part of five minutes. A neat experiment which used the test piece for the Butlins Mineworkers’ Championships in 2014.

After a mash-up made in the auspices of Littleborough Band Room came our first hymn. One arranged by Dukinfield’s second most famous brass banding icon after John Golland. Cue Nigel Lawless’ arrangement of Blaenwern. The piece, also known as Love Divine, was written by William Rowlands, a Welsh composer and schoolteacher. As well as being used at Prince William’s and Catherine Middleton’s wedding it was also used in Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in 2013. As no Sunday night concert is complete without a hymn, Littleborough Band fitted the gap very well.

Our third piece of this half – in Ady’s words, “should be a test piece”. Flying the flag for Light Concert Pieces That Are Anything But Light Concert Pieces for Brass Banding Types was their rendition of the Les Miserables Concert Suite. The medley covers six pieces from the hugely popular musical, from Prologue to Can You Hear The People Sing? and – in the band’s view – their most challenging piece. Thankfully they gave us a brilliant performance of Gavin Somerset’s arrangement.

After the raffle came our penultimate piece – well, the penultimate piece before the encore. This time we had another hymn – and another mash-up at that. Written by Darren Shaw, The Guardian of My Soul combines his own song I Worship You, with another hymn: O Jesus, I Have Promised. Fittingly given recent events at ten to five yesterday at St. Mary’s Stadium, in the 94th minute of our concert. Another good piece.

Whether you were celebrating the end of a record-breaking league championship run or enjoying a good concert, the phrase “over too quickly” springs to mind. With Littleborough Band, most definitely. Our last piece before the encore could have been one that Dobcross Silver Band played last week (though they didn’t). Enter stage left, Goff Richards’ trip through Broadway – Breezin’ Over Broadway. With favourites like Another Openin’ Another Show and 76 Trombones, six fine pieces from the musicals in a neat variety pack.

Worth an encore performance? Littleborough Band did very well with their programme. To round off a brilliant concert, Littleborough Band closed with a march piece. This time with a Salvation Army march, Goldcrest. Composed in 1989, this is James Anderson’s best known piece. Also the third piece of the night to be penned by a Salvationist (Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Fire In The Blood being one; Darren Shaw’s The Guardian of My Soul the other).

Whether performing their most challenging pieces or some of the old concert favourites, Littleborough Band have a lot to be proud of. We hope to see more solo performances from Sumayah who made an impressive debut as a soloist. Once again, Ady created a programme that struck a good balance between technical and popular pieces.

This was the concert of a brass band on the up. Having finished as the 4th place Third Section band in the North West Regional Championships in Blackpool, Ady was right to keep his drum kit in the garage. There’s probably a Fender Stratocaster in an attic that would sell for thousands at the Springhill Hospice charity shop.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club will be The Lindley Band. Rob Westacott, no stranger to this part of the world, is their Musical Director. More recently he lent a hand to Stalybridge Old Band in a very special concert.

Lindley Band’s history dates back to 1835. Appropriately, with next week’s concert falling on Whit Sunday, the band’s first engagement was a Whitsuntide parade. They also performed in an episode of Life On Mars.

As usual, doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Admission is £6.00, or £5.00 for Boarshurst Band Club members.

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., 14 May 2018.

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