Marsden Silver Prize Band: Sunday Brass at Boarshurst Band Club (June 2018)

Superb concert with varied programme, and a tribute to a legendary composer

As with last May’s concert, Alan Widdop’s Marsden Silver Prize Band gave us another wonderful night of brass band music. With the 74th anniversary of D-Day and Armed Forces Day falling this month, there was a slightly patriotic air to last night’s concert. There was a good mix of traditional pieces, ‘Yellow Music’, and popular works. In all, a most enjoyable two hours and ten minutes in a concert with ‘entertainment’ set to 512pt Helvetica Bold.

The other side of last night’s concert was tinged with sadness. Yesterday afternoon we were sad to hear the death of Darrol Barry. If you have followed all the Sunday Brass reviews on East of the M60, Mr. Barry’s works have featured in many concerts. His most famous arrangements and original works include for brass bands include Suite for Four Trombones, A Celtic Impression, and The Greatest War Themes.

Darrol Barry was born in Salford in 1956; on joining his school band he entered wishing to take up the cornet. Instead he opted for an Eb bass (his parents must have been impressed!). Then he moved onto baritone (taking up less room) then the euphonium (taking up slightly less room than the bass). After enrolling on the University of Salford’s Band Musicianship course he studied at the seat of Dr. Roy Newsome, Goff Richards, David Loukes, and Geoffrey Whitham.

From there he enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London, where he was taught composition by Joseph Horowitz (who arranged many film and television themes from the 1980s onwards). He became a freelance composer and later worked for Royal Guard of Oman as his in-house. With his wife Rachael they set up home in the sultanate though found time to return to the UK as an adjudicator and a lecturer.

Following his death from heart failure, Darrol Barry has left behind a rich body of work. A plethora of original pieces for whole band settings, ensembles, and solo performers. Also a number of enjoyable arrangements and light concert music that have graced many a concert from Abingdon to Zennor (or Accra to Zanzibar). An enviable back catalogue to say the least, performed by bands of all shapes and sizes.

As a mark of respect, last night’s concert opened with an appreciation by David W. Ashworth and the performance of W.H. Monk’s Eventide. This review is dedicated to the memory of Darrol Barry and his family who survive him.

The Programme

Tributes to Darrol Barry:

  • Appreciation: David W. Ashworth;
  • Hymn: Eventide (W.H. Monk).

First Half

  1. March: The Wizard (George Allan);
  2. Overture: Rule Britannia Overture (Thomas Augustine Arne, arr. William Rimmer);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Alice Waterhouse): Allegro from Bassoon Concerto (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. Norman Henstridge);
  4. Film Music: Theme from Star Wars (John Williams, arr. Goff Richards);
  5. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Anna Ferguson): Magh Seola (Gerard Fahy, arr. Sandy Smith);
  6. Light Concert Music: In Perfect Peace (Kenneth Downie);
  7. Popular Music: Got To Get You Into My Life (Lennon/McCartney arr. Leigh Baker).

Second Half

  1. March: Royal Air Force Fly Past March (Henry Walford Davies/Sir George Dyson);
  2. Cornet Solo (performed by Jason Evans): I Dreamed a Dream (Claude Michel Schoenberg/Alain Boublil);
  3. Hymn: I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodzsky/Paul Francis Webster, arr. Goff Richards);
  4. Popular Music: Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury, arr. Darrol Barry);
  5. Trombone Solo (performed by Max Lawrence): I Wish You Love (Charles Trenet, arr. Ray Woodfield);
  6. Medley: Keep Smiling Through (various, arr. Darrol Barry):
    1. The Army, The Navy and the Air Force (Herman Darewski/Edward Lockton);
    2. Yours (Gonzalo Roig/Jack Sherr);
    3. Lili Marlene (Anne Shelton);
    4. (There Will Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover (Nat Burton/Roger Kent);
    5. We’ll Meet Again (Ross Parker/Hughie Charles).

Encore

  • March: The Dam Busters March (Eric Coates)

A traditional start

Our first half programme was a traditional one. As with traditional concert programmes the march usually comes first. We had a good choice of march in the form George Allan’s The Wizard. Besides being Marsden Silver Prize Band’s Whit Friday march of choice, it is among George Allan’s Holy Trinity of Iconic Marches. It was written in 1911 and, according to a contemporary small ad, “[it had] splendid, grand effects”. Which were felt in Marsden Silver’s virtuoso performance last night.

The second piece could have hinted at the future direction of the second half’s running order. Instead it was billed as a “traditional overture”, a staple of many concerts around 30 – 40 years ago perhaps. Our second piece was Rule Britannia Overture, the classic William Rimmer arrangement of Thomas Augustine Arne’s Rule Britannia. Marsden Silver’s performance would have had Third Section bands gasping for air by January; it is the Third Section piece at the 2019 Butlins Mineworkers’ Championships.

Instead of The Best of British we delved into the vaults of the Marsden Band ‘Ole. Our third piece was a nice bit of yellow music for our first soloist. Enter on euphonium Alice Waterhouse, with her performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Allegro from Bassoon Concerto. The Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K. 191/186e (to give its full title) is hailed as the most performed piece among bassoonists. Of particular note at this time of writing, it is exactly 244 years to the day when Mozart composed this piece. He would have been happy with its seamless arrangement on euphonium, and Alice’s sublime performance.

From 1774 to 1977, our time machine took us to the US of A where an obscure space opera movie packed box offices. One with Paul Simon’s one-time spouse, the Green Cross Code Man, and the star of Kind Hearts and Coronets. If you guessed Star Wars (or Star Wars: Episode 5, A New Hope), well done. Marsden Silver Prize Band gave us a blockbusting performance of John Williams’ theme from Star Wars. A neat contrast from the previous piece.

This was followed by the Yang to our Yin for tonight’s second soloist: Anna Ferguson on flugelhorn. Her piece was Gerard Fahy’s Magh Seola. The composer was previously in a group called Furry Village which had a pretty good stretch in the Irish singles chart. Today he is the Musical Director for Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. Anna gave us all a splendid performance.

Our penultimate piece of this half was a perfect piece for peace and quiet: Kenneth Downie’s In Perfect Peace. Born in Glasgow, Mr. Downie has composed over fifty pieces over a 30-year period. Many of which for The Salvation Army. In 1998 he was the Composer in Residence for the Yorkshire Building Society Band. Another great performance, though the best was yet to come for our first half finale.

Our last piece of the first half was referred to as “an ode to pot” by Paul McCartney. Written by Lennon and McCartney, Got To Get You Into My Life was a album track for The Beatles on their 1966 LP Revolver. Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers’ cover version peaked at Number 6 in August 1966. Instead, thanks to Leigh Baker’s sublime arranging skills, we received the more brassier cover by Earth Wind and Fire. What a performance we enjoyed – especially with the trombone solo being a neat Easter egg. A great first half finish.

The Best of British

With Alan Widdop and Marsden Silver Prize Band in cruise control, our opening march gave us The Best of British. This time, Henry Walford Davies’ and Sir George Dyson’s Royal Air Force Fly Past March. This year sees the march – a favourite with brass and military bands alike – celebrating its centenary. The march was originally known as Adastral I with the lyrics a reference to the RAF’s motto.

After dusting off the cobwebs with a daisy cutter of a performance, the next piece couldn’t have been any more different. We made a quick march towards the West End for our third soloist of the night. This time with Jason Evans’ cornet solo of I Dreamed A Dream (from Les Miserables). His performance of the Les Mis tune was polished with rock solid prosody and intonation.

This was followed by a hymn, a bit of a concert classic at The Mecca of Brass Banding these days. Nicholas Brodzsky’s I’ll Walk With God. It was published in 1954 and set to lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. In The Student Prince, it is sung by Mario Lanza at the coffin of his grandfather. Goff Richards’ arrangement added colour to the piece and this was reflected in the band’s performance.

For our fourth piece of this half, we came to our first arrangement by the late great Darrol Barry. When you let one of our finest brass band arrangers loose on a memorable Number One chart single, the results are magical. Even more so when the single is Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Besides being championed by the late (and equally great) Kenny Everett, it has topped many a listener’s all-time list of 1970s Number One singles or other genres. With your Master of Ceremonies tempted to do some Wayne’s World style head banging, it got us all in a good mood for the raffle. A no holds barred chart topper at The Mecca of Brass Banding no less.

After yours truly realised that 40 seconds of head banging wasn’t a good fit for the raffle draw, we moved on to our final soloist of the night. This time with Max Lawrence on the trombone. Bound for Chetham’s School of Music, he put in a good shift in his performance of I Wish You Love. I Wish You Love is the Anglicised version of Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours? In its original guise it was recorded by Lucienne Boyer in 1942. It has also been covered by a wealth of artistes including Chrissie Hynde, Judy Garland, and Englebert Humperdinck.

This took us to the final piece of the night before our encore piece. Another one of Darrol Barry’s arrangements and among his most celebrated at around this time of the year. That of Keep Smiling Through which has five songs, popular during the Second World War. Of a singalong quality, Marsden Silver Prize Band got us smiling through in what had been a sad day in the brass band world. Out of the darkness came light.

After this gentleman said his piece we finished with another popular march. One that conjures images of bouncing bombs, references to the Möhne Dam, and Operation Chastise. Or the 1989 Carling Black Label advert. To close the night was Eric Coates The Dam Busters March, as used in the film which chronicled the Operation Chastise campaign on the 17 May 1943. Another great night’s worth of brass band music over for another week.

As for Alan Widdop and Co., the small matter of three hymn and march contests loom large over The Band ‘Ole. Those of the Morley and Hebden Bridge Hymn and March Contests (which both take place on the 17 June). Then the Brighouse Hymn and March Contest on the 01 July. In local and national competitions we wish everyone at Marsden Silver Prize Band the very best in their endeavours.

Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club…

From one end of the Standedge tunnels we go to the opposite end of our trio of tunnels: to Diggle. The Diggle Band will be making a short trip along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Boarshurst Silver Band’s humble abode. In their previous visit in November we were enthralled by David Pogson’s solo work and the strength in depth of their programme.

Like last night, and the week before, expect to see another packed house at The Mecca of Brass Banding. We recommend arriving early as possible to get a good seat. Doors open at 7pm with the band on stage for 8pm.

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., 04 June 2018.

Dedicated to the memory of Darrol Barry (1956 – 2018).

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