Diggle Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (June 2018)

Three sublime solo performances mark a splendid concert 

In the last year, there has been three concerts featuring Diggle Band at the Boarshurst Band Club. Each one including last night’s had three different conductors. Last June it was Sean Conway (who stood in for Steven Walsh, who was on holiday that Sunday); then in their December 2017 gig it was Steven Walsh. Last night was Diggle Band’s newest conductor, Melvin Tay.

Last night (to misquote a De La Soul song) three was the magic number. First off with Mike McLean’s cornet solo of The Nightingale. Then David Pogson’s flugelhorn solo performance of Forever Yours. Making up the third part of the magic number of soloist was Kelvin Tsang’s performance of Brilliante. Not to be content with having three soloists there was also a trombone trio.

Melvin Tay is the assistant musical director for the Royal Northern College of Music’s brass section. Last October he was previously principal euphonium player for Eccles Borough Band, before doing a Masters Degree in Musicianship. With his fast talking too fast for the audience (in his words), long-serving Diggle Band member Dorothy Rhodes provided the links – and jokes for the audience.

Overall, Diggle Band gave us a brilliant night of music. The programme wasn’t as taxing as their previous concerts but there was plenty to keep the audience engaged.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Film Music (from The First of the Few): Spitfire (William Walton);
  2. March: Knight Templar (George Allan);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Mike McLean): The Nightingale (Harold Moss);
  4. Light Concert Music: English Folk Song Suite (Ralph Vaughan Williams, arr. Frank Wright);
  5. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by David Pogson): Forever Yours (Darrol Barry);
  6. Classical Piece: Polovtsian Dances (Alexander Borodin, arr. E. Huckridge).

Second Half

  1. 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);
  2. Original Piece: Operas on Parade (Various, arr. Lee Jinjun);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Kelvin Tsang): Brillante (Peter Graham):
  4. Light Concert Music: Reflections in Nature (Colonel Robert Redhead);
  5. Trombone Trio (performed by Gary, Jane, and Gavin): Bugler’s Holiday (Leroy Anderson, arr. Roger Barsotti);
  6. Hymn: ‘Mid All The Traffic of the Ways (Colonel Leonard Ballantine);
  7. Classical Piece: Fantasia on Dargason (Gustav Holst)
  8. Hymn: I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodzsky/Paul Francis Webster, arr. Goff Richards).


  • Light Concert Music: A Quiet Moment (Darrol Barry).

A flying start…

Our first piece wasn’t just a piece of film music. This was a piece from a fellow whose music used to be heard each morning on Granada Television’s start-up routine. Enter William Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue. It was used in The First of the Few, a Leslie Howard film which also starred David Niven. The 1942 film was also known as Spitfire in the USA. Howard also starred as R.J Mitchell, the designer of Supermarine’s most famous aeroplane. If you pardon the pun, a flying start from Diggle Band.

This was followed by a familiar piece – a well-loved march by George Allan based on the Knight’s Templar. The piece in question? Obviously not Raby nor The Wizard: Knight Templar of course. Within most listeners’ lifetimes it has been associated with the J.H. Foster Black Dyke Mills Brass Band. Diggle Band put in a good shift with the piece associated with Queensbury’s finest musical export. Of some significance that week, your reviewer became the proud uncle of a baby boy. His name? George Allan.

If you have seen as many brass band concerts as I have done, the Hallowed Third Programme Item is mainly given to a soloist. This time to a gentleman who performed a brilliant solo in last year’s Diggle concert. On cornet we were treated to Mike McLean’s performance of The Nightingale. The piece was written by Harold Moss for his eldest child, Jenny. Like last year, another fine performance from Mike McLean.

Our fourth piece of the night offered a real contrast. It was inspired by English folk songs: Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite. It did everything it said on the tin, set to three movements: Seventeen Come Sunday; My Bonny Boy; and Folk Songs from Somerset. Written in 1923 for military bands, there was originally a fourth movement (Sea Songs). This was spun off as a standalone piece in subsequent arrangements. The Frank Wright arrangement was beautifully done.

The fifth piece of the night was a flugelhorn solo by David Pogson. Our third solo performance by the brass banding legend (previous bands have included Black Dyke, under the seat of Geoffrey Brand) in the last year. This time, another great performance of Darrol Barry’s arrangement of Forever Yours. Though his previous performance in June 2017’s concert was slightly more fluent, it was still a brilliant one nonetheless.

Our last piece of this half was a real stormer, and one that many of us haven’t heard for years. If not, at all in a concert setting. This time, the highly delectable yet (in the words of Dorothy) unpronounceable Polovtsian Dances. Whichever way you pronounced the piece, Alexander Borodin’s work was written in 1868 and forms part of his opera Prince Igor. Borodin wasn’t only a distinguished composer; he was also a chemist. With one of his last observations being on animal urea, it was apt that his piece signalled another scientific process. The chemistry of hops, water, and in some cases carbon dioxide. A good piece to take us to the interval.

…as we breeze down Broadway

Everything about a Goff Richards arrangement is appealing; brevity, tone, variation, melody. Our first piece of the second half is no exception to the rule: Breezin’ Down Broadway. Of late, Goff Richards’ medley of songs from the musicals has been a popular go-to-medley item. At Boarshurst Silver Band’s musical/movie themed concerts, used as an introduction. Jolly good stuff.

This was followed by another medley though one with a difference. Instead of 76 Trombones we had an opera theme. Operas On Parade does for opera what Instant Concert did for orchestral music. In this delightful piece (arranged by Melvin Tay’s friend Lee Jinjun) there was bite size chunks from The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, Turandot, and Can-Can. It has been written by Lee for wind and symphonic bands as well as brass bands. If you are looking for an alternative to the usual medley pieces, check out Lee Jinjun’s composition. It is a worthy addition to any brass band programme and Diggle Band gave us a brilliant rendition (and a superb sales pitch at that).

After this brilliant medley came a piece which could have been classed as superb-e. Enter Peter Graham’s Brillante, commissioned originally by Peter Wilson for the 1987 British Bandsman Centenary Concert. Originally a duet (first performed by the Childs Brothers – Robert and Nicholas of course), the fantasy on Rule Britannia saw another use as a solo piece. Our euphonium soloist that night was Kelvin Tsang, whom of the three soloists was the strongest performer. Brilliant-e? Formidable-e more like.

The fourth piece of this half was a calmer number: Colonel Robert Redhead’s Reflections in Nature. Today, Robert Redhead is one of our best known Salvationist composers; his Year Zero moment came when he ill in bed at the age of 12. Whilst he was bedridden he asked his father to bring home some brass band scores. Though he transposed them for piano music he ended up writing brass band music himself and composed over 200 pieces. The fruits of his labour were well reflected by Diggle Band’s performance.

After the raffle came another concert classic: a nice bit of brass banding bubblegum for the ears. Cue Gary, Jane and Gavin – Diggle’s answer to Rod, Jane, and Freddy on the trombones with Bugler’s Holiday. Composed by Leroy Anderson it is one of his most famous works alongside The Typewriter and A Trumpeter’s Lullaby. A brass banding guilty pleasure that was well performed.

Our sixth piece of this half was another piece by a Salvationist composer: this time the work of Colonel Leonard Ballantine. ‘Mid All The Traffic of the Ways. The well-known hymn is often played to the tune of Colne. As always you can never fault the brevity of Leonard Ballantine’s piece and Diggle Band’s performance proved just that. Meaning, Accessibility, and Satisfaction – Leonard’s mission statement as per his website personified.

Brevity was available in spades with Gustav Holst’s Fantasia on Dargason. Also known as the Second Suite in F it is a mash-up of the Dargason Dance and (the bane of all hold music tunes) Greensleeves. It is Gustav Holst’s second and last suite with Dargason in 6/8 time, and Greensleeves in the 3/4 time signature. Another good piece, if a little undemanding for some ears.

The last piece before the encore was a hymn: Nicholas Brodszky’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. As with last week’s performance by Marsden Silver Prize Band, Goff Richards’ arrangement added colour to the piece. As for Diggle Band’s performance, another good ‘un.

For the encore, we dispensed with the time-honoured tradition of finishing with a rousing march or popular musical piece. Instead we dedicated the encore to the late Darrol Barry, with a performance of A Quiet Moment. According to the Pennine Music website it is “a piece of music that allows both the band and audience a moment to reflect”. Last night’s performance took on a new poignance following Darrol Barry’s death, and it was a lovely way to end last night’s concert.

Once again our friends from Diggle Band gave us a good night. We wish them well in any future contests and hope, for Melvin Tay, that last night is the first of many future visits to the Mecca of Brass Banding.

Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club…

Flixton Band will be making their way from the western part of Greater Manchester. The Second Section band will be heading to Cheltenham this year, though with a new Musical Director. Taking his position at the conductor’s podium is Matt Ryan who joined the band late last month.

Doors are open from 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £5.00, or £4.00 for members and concessions.


  • 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., 11 June 2018.

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