Pemberton Old ‘B’ Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Pemberton Old ‘B’ Band’s memorable Boarshurst debut 

In recorded music, particularly 45 RPM singles, the ‘B’ side is a source of curiosity to the listener. Some people (thanks to cinema and educational streaming) think of ‘B’ as inferior. Or the middle carriage of a Greenfield train. In music there are some exceptions. The Model, a double ‘A’ side is better known than Computer Love, the ‘A’ side of Kraftwerk’s UK Number One single from 1982. In brass banding, the ‘B’ bands can surpass the senior bands in their virtuosity and technique.

Pemberton Old Wigan DW Band has three bands: a youth band, a senior band, and the ‘B’ band. Both the Senior and the ‘B’ bands are among the world’s Top 100s brass bands. The ‘B’ Band’s rise from the fourth to the second section in 20 years is incredible, and there seems to be no stopping them.

Founded in 1998 by Peter Ashley, the ‘B’ band bridges the gap between the youth and senior bands. In 2003 they entered the inaugural Wigan Hymn and March Contest at the JJB Stadium with the senior band. Both bands performed in a mini concert after the end of the contest, prior to the announcement of the results.

Last night’s Musical Director Ian Brownbill has been a soloist with Black Dyke Band. He has also worked with Jimmy McGovern in a drama entitled King Cotton. Prior to last night’s concert, he had been Musical Director for Flixton Band.

With a light yet meaty programme, there was four fantastic soloists and a terrific trombone trio. For a mixed band it was refreshing to see an all-female line-up of soloists. Among last night’s XXXIII we had an Olympic Semi Finalist (Womens’ Swimming, at the 2000 Sydney Games) and a prolific fundraiser through ‘Brooke’s Barmy Army‘.

As for last night’s performance, a clear winner among the live audience and viewers tuning into The Stream Team’s efforts.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: O.R.B. (Charles Anderson);
  2. Original Piece: Andante from Variations on Laudate Dominium (Edward Gregson);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Emma Barkley): Pater Noster (Rebecca Lundberg);
  4. Popular Music: Don’t Stop Me Now (Freddie Mercury, arr. Philip Harper);
  5. Original Piece: A Little Prayer (Evelyn Glennie, arr. Robert Childs);
  6. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Emily Williams): Demelza (Goff Richards);
  7. Trombone Trio (performed by Harry Quirke, Lesley Quirke and Ethan Smith): Dem Bones (James Weldon Johnson, arr. Gordon Langford);
  8. Original Piece: Vitae Lux (Frode Alnæs/Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen).

Second Half

  1. Popular Music: Fat Bottomed Girls (Freddie Mercury, arr. Philip Harper);
  2. Jazz Piece: Lil Darlin’ (Neal Hefti);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Brooke Taylor): Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Alan Morrison);
  4. Hymn: Amazing Grace (John Newton, arr. William Himes);
  5. Light Concert Music: Soul Bossa Nova (Quincy Jones);
  6. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Lauren Barkley): Concierto de Aranjuez (Joaquín Rodrigo, arr. Kevin Bolton);
  7. Musical Piece: You’ll Never Walk Alone (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein).

Encore

  • March: Kenilworth (Edwin Firth).

Don’t Stop Them Now…

Our first half began in traditional fashion with a march. A classic one written by Charles Anderson. O.R.B. – whether standing for Oldham Rifle Brigade or Oldham Rifle Band (that is open to dispute) – is a fantastic William Rimmer style march. A popular one on Whit Friday and during Hymn and March contests, it never fails to lift the spirits. Pemberton Old ‘B’ Band’s performance never failed to impress.

The second piece, Andante from Variations of Laudate Dominium, was commissioned for the 1976 British Tour of the London Citadel Band (from Ontario, Canada). Written by Edward Gregson it was first performed in the Royal Albert Hall, in June that year. This joyous piece was well received and offered a neat contrast to the previous march.

This was followed by last night’s first soloist – the first of two Barkley’s that night. On Principal Cornet, Emma Barkley gave us a beautiful performance of Pater Noster. Written by Rebecca Lundberg, it was published in 2016, and the title translates into English as Our Father. A highly polished performance: you can bank on her going up the brass banding ranks.

Our fourth piece came from Queen’s 1978 album Jazz, and the first of two Queen songs of the night. Used to extol the joys of out-of-town shopping, Don’t Stop Me Now can be seen as a paean to conspicuous consumption. Nearly twenty years before Peel’s edifice opened, the song peaked at Number 9 in the UK singles chart in 1979. Last night we were treated to Philip Harper’s arrangement, complete with a sung middle eight. A lovely diversion.

Our fifth piece offered another contrast: Evelyn Glennie’s A Little Prayer, arranged by Robert Childs. The original has been used in a variety of projects since it was composed in 1990. One of them being a film entitled Touch The Sound. Thanks to Robert Childs’ arrangement, this is a popular piece among brass bands. Another good one.

Our sixth piece came from last night’s second soloist – a classic piece as far as soprano cornet solos are concerned. Cue Emily Williams’ performance of Demelza. Written by Goff Richards under a nom de plume (Hugh Nash), it was written especially for Brian Evans. A challenging piece, written for one of the most legendary soprano cornet players, Emily’s performance was brilliant.

The penultimate piece of this half was a nice bit of brass banding cheese: a trombone trio of Dem Bones. Believe me, in the word of the Lord, it was cheese-tastic though not in The Lincolnshire Poacher/Hot Toddy continuum of brass band cheese. Based on the spiritual song by James Weldon Johnson, it was another bit of good fun.

Our final piece of this half was closed by Vitae Lux, composed by Frode Alnaes and arranged by Torsten Aagaard Nilsen. It is Frode Alnaes’ best known work in Norway, written in 2003. It translates into English as Light of Life. During Ian’s previous visit to Boarshurst Band Club, this closed Flixton Band’s June 2017 concert. The goose pimple factor, almost as good as last time.

…they’re having such a good time

With Ian Brownbill being a Queen fan we opened the first half with another piece from 1978’s Jazz album. This time, everybody’s favourite paean to obese posteriors on the Tour de France. Yes, you’ve guessed it: Fat Bottomed Girls, and another classy arrangement from Cory Band’s Philip Harper. This took us by surprise, offering us a cheery start to the second half.

The second piece of this half could have been written by a morbidly obese composer, but Neal Hefti wasn’t built like Giant Haystacks. From a Jazz track to a jazz standard came Lil Darlin’. Neal performed with Count Basie and His Orchestra on many releases, including music for Walter Matthau’s The Odd Couple. Laid back pieces of that ilk fitted in well with the recent warm weather. Our fellows from Pemberton Old ‘B’ got us in the mood for sipping cocktails, premium priced ciders, and more sultry weather. Well played.

Our third soloist of the night is accustomed to performing alongside 15 runners and 30 brass banders over a 10km run. Last year, as part of Brooke’s Barmy Army, she has raised funds for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. And again, this year in the last quarter (as detailed in a BBC interview). Their version of Don’t Look Back in Anger – a tribute to the victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack – is a joy to behold.

Last night, Brooke Taylor’s challenge was less arduous though equally well received. This time on Repiano Cornet for her solo performance of Georgia On My Mind. Written by Hoagy Carmichael, Alan Morrison’s bright arrangement was brought to life by Brooke herself. The song has previously been covered by artistes as diverse as Annie Lennox. A superb performance.

This was followed by another concert favourite: arranged by William Himes, Amazing Grace is the work of English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. It is set to a strict metre of 8-6-8-6, otherwise known as the Common Metre. They came from his past experience and work as part of the slave trade. It has been covered by many artistes and ensembles including The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards pipe band (a UK Number One single in 1972). Another cracker from Pemberton Old ‘B’.

For our next piece was a bit of exotica: a piece written by Quincy Jones which could only scream one series of films. Yes, the mighty Soul Bossa Nova as heard on the Austin Powers series of films. At around the same time when our previous piece hit the top of the hit parade, it was used by the BBC for Pick of the Pops (for the chart rundowns).

The penultimate piece (before the encore of course) was our final soloist of the night. This time on flugelhorn and the second branch of the Barkley’s family tree. This time, Lauren Barkley’s solo of Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. Taking us back to that point where Gloria entered Grimley Colliery Band’s practice room, there was nothing wobbly about Lauren’s performance. Another great solo performance from tonight’s concert.

To close the concert was Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein III’s best known work. Especially around certain parts of Merseyside. From the musical Carousel, You’ll Never Walk Alone has been covered by numerous artistes. From the other side of the Pennines, The Crowd’s version topped the UK singles chart in 1985 to raise funds for the Bradford City Fire Disaster appeal.

After leaving the live audience on a high, this was followed by Edwin Firth’s Kenilworth. Edwin Firth wasn’t any old cornet player: he was the finest cornet player that the Foden Motor Works band ever had. A winner of 20 First Prizes and 2 Silver Challenge Cups. This year is also the centenary of his death, so the choice of encore march was a fitting one. A nice rousing end to a fabulous concert.

Yesterday was a wonderful day for cornets. Due to the weather, some with raspberry and hundreds and thousands with a 99 Flake. Last night’s concert was a cracking one for lovers of the cornet – principal, soprano, and repiano varieties – and this was reflected in 75% of the solos. Ian Brownbill’s manner was humorous, erudite, and informative. Those two hours at The Mecca of Brass Banding flew away.

Pemberton Old Wigan DW ‘B’ Band clearly enjoyed their first visit to Boarshurst Band Club and this was reciprocated by the audience. They would be chomping at the chance to return to this corner of Saddleworth before long.

Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club…

We shall be keeping it local this time. Next week’s band is Greenfield Brass Band. Also a Second Section band, they have been recently promoted from the Third Section. They rehearse a few yards away from Boarshurst Band Club – at the Friezland Bowling Club.

Doors are open from 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £4.00, or £3.00 for members and concessions. Oh, and please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

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., 09 July 2018.

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