Delph Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (September 2018)

Exciting programme makes for great opener to new season of Sunday Brass nights

It has been a while since Delph Band had darkened the doorstep of the Boarshurst Band Club. Nearly two years ago since their last concert. Between the 02 September 2018 and the 02 October 2016, Delph Youth and Training Band have made a couple appearances. Was it worth the wait? Judging by the audience reaction, it was. Owing to Phil Goodwin’s involvement in Black Dyke Band’s concert in Mirfield, his understudy Jonathan Davies stepped in.

Delph Band are one of the oldest bands in Saddleworth. They were founded in 1850 and had a nomadic existence in their formative years. The band gained some stability when they moved to the present-day premises on Lawson Square in 1954. They have also appeared in Coronation Street and in the Pete Postlethwaite film, Brassed Off. They were also the first Saddleworth band to win the National Championship of Great Britain.

Jonathan joined Delph Band as the Associate Conductor in 2009. His first instrument was the electronic organ, as a member of the Sheffield Theatre Organ Society. In 1998, he joined his local village band, Woodhouse, and took up the cornet. In 2000, he moved to Chapeltown Band, and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2006.

Jonathan Davies likened being the first band of the new season at Boarshurst Band Club to being the first team in the F.A. Cup Draw. From the start, he stated how last night’s programme would offer a varied selection. Last night he succeeded with a mix of traditional favourites, memorable solo performances, and a bit of Queen. Guesting last night on flugelhorn was our friend from Uppermill Band (and Boarshurst Silver Band before then) John Whittle.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Death or Glory (R.B Hall);
  2. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by James Atkins): Song and Dance (Philip Sparke);
  3. Light Concert Music: Mr Jums (Chris Hazell);
  4. Light Concert Music: Clog Dance (John Marcangelo);
  5. Principal Trombone Solo (performed by Anthony Vaughan): Blessed Assurance (Phoebe Knapp, arr. Simon Wood)
  6. Popular Music: Fat Bottomed Girls (Brian May, arr. Philip Harper);
  7. Hymn: ‘Mid All The Traffic of the Ways (Colonel Leonard Ballantine);
  8. Original Music: Variations on Laudate Dominium (Edward Gregson).

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Let’s Face The Music and Dance (Irving Berlin, arr. Goff Richards);
  2. Eb Bass Solo (performed by Chris Brown): Four Preludes For Tuba and Band (Phil Greenwood);
  3. Musical Piece: Suite from Porgy and Bess (George Gershwin, arr. Alan Fernie);
  4. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Matthew Hall): Flowerdale (Philip Sparke);
  5. Light Concert Music: The Lincolnshire Poacher (Derek Broadbent);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Keith Palmer): Varied Mood (Ray Woodfield);
  7. Popular Music: An American Trilogy (Mickey Newbury, arr. Goff Richards).

Encore

  • Hymn: Be Still (In the Presence of the Lord) (David J. Evans, arr. Stephen Tighe).

Mr Jums’ Clog Dance

First off the blocks was R.B. Hall’s Death or Glory, an appropriate concert opener due to Delph Band’s appearance in Brassed Off. One which has become the unofficial signature tune of Delph Band. In the film directed by Mark Herman, it is the first piece you hear a few seconds before 20-odd miners’ lamps appear. In the theatrical version, it is often accompanied by clapping from the audience. A good start to the night’s proceedings.

Regular attendees may expect to hear an overture as the second piece of the night. Instead, the second item went to last night’s first soloist, James Atkins. On Principal Cornet, his piece was Song and Dance, a Philip Sparke composition with two movements. The first movement, Song, is a serene one which offers a real contrast to Dance, its noisy little brother. The latter demanded more tonguing-based gymnastics but, thankfully, James emerged victorious. A top notch performance from James Atkins.

This was followed by a lighter piece, a decent concert staple. Inspired by, though with absolutely nothing to do with the Lloyd-Webber musical based on T.S. Eliot’s most famous work, is Mr Jums. The third item on the programme is part of Chris Hazell’s Three Brass Cats suite (the other two cats are Black Sam and Borage). Mr Hazell wrote the suite for a ten-piece ensemble and has among his many talents, written pieces for orchestral settings. If you were a Child of the 1980s like your reviewer, you may remember a television programme called Let’s Pretend: he also worked on that for Central Independent Television. Another good shift from the band.

In making sure there was something for everyone in last night’s concert programme, Jonathan didn’t only placate fans of Brassed Off with the fourth item. Fans of oval racing sports would have been pleased with Delph Band’s performance of Clog Dance. Oval racing promoters Spedeworth adopted it for Ministox racing (where it was used for the rolling start of each race). The song was a UK No. 17 hit for Violinski in March 1979. Written by John Marcangelo, it was inspired by a shop in his home town which sold clogs (Lance Brew’s shop on Roper Street, Whitehaven). A tight performance all round.

Had Mik Kaminski (of Violinski fame) been at The Mecca of Brass Banding, Delph’s performance would have been a neat 67th birthday present. The fifth item offered a real contrast, courtesy of Anthony Vaughan’s performance of Phoebe Knapp’s Blessed Assurance. The hymn tune was written by Ms. Knapp in 1873. Its lyrics written by blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby. They reflect the lyricist’s walk of faith, as expressed by the apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”). As with his October 2016 performance, another cracker.

Amid a backdrop of reality TV programmes and the Official Charts having a Drake/Ed Sheeran duopoly on the Number One spot, there are two things which are unimpeachable. Firstly, how can anyone not like Queen? Secondly, how can any brass band enthusiast not like a Philip Harper arrangement? If you add the two together, the result is heavenly: especially with the arrangement of Fat Bottomed Girls. Alongside Clog Dance, this was another enjoyable workout for the band. It was clear that both the live audience and the band enjoyed Fat Bottomed Girls/Portly Female Posteriors (delete as appropriate). The original song appeared on a double ‘A’ side with Bicycle Race.

Just to remind the live audience (and anyone following The Stream Team’s handiwork) that the 02 September 2018 was a Sunday, we followed this with a hymn. A beautiful work by Colonel Leonard Ballantine in the form of ‘Mid All The Traffic of the Ways. The Salvationist composer also offers one-to-one tuition with his wife, Heather, who helps out behind the scenes. The piece is often played to the tune of Colne, and also known as Shenandoah. Ballantine’s expressive tune was, no doubt, enhanced by Delph Band’s performance.

We ended the first half with a meaty piece by Edward Gregson: Variations on Laudate Dominium. One that 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. Delph Band’s closing piece of the first half had us gasping for more. Well, not before an ice cold lager shandy or a pint of Chew Reservoir Light.

“What did you think of it so far…?”

If you were a Child of the 1970s, Irving Berlin’s Let’s Face The Music and Dance may remind you of one thing. The 1977 Christmas Special of The Morecambe and Wise Show where Angela Rippon quoted the song’s famous chorus before showing a bit of leg. In the second half, the 66 legs of Delph Band gave us a fantastic rendition of Berlin’s 1936 song. Originally heard in Follow The Fleet, it has been covered by a number of artistes including Nat King Cole.

Our second item of the second half was Four Preludes for Tuba and Band by Phil Greenwood. Eb Bass solo spots a rarity in most concerts, and last night’s performance was a joy to behold. On the tuba was Chris Brown, who gave us all a superb performance throughout its four pithy movements.

This was followed by a piece from George Gershwin, arranged by Alan Fernie. This time with the Suite from Porgy and Bess. Written in 1936, the piece is alternatively known as Catfish Row (which in today’s terms might have negative connotations). Another fine performance from Delph Band. Four minutes later, this would be overshadowed by the next soloist of the night.

For the fourth soloist of the night, youth was on our side. Enter on Soprano Cornet solo, 15-year-old Matthew Hall. For his solo piece we returned to our old friend Philip Sparke with Flowerdale. Inspired by a glen in Gairloch, it forms part of Philip Sparke’s Hymn of the Highlands, made famous by YBS Band’s performance (then conducted by David King). For some adult players, Flowerdale would be a challenging piece. Matthew gave a stunning performance which, quite rightly, went down well with the live audience.

Following the raffle, we moved from three figure numbers to a song once associated shortwave number stations. Or rather, the ‘B’ side to The Floral Dance by Brighouse and Rastrick Band. If you said The Lincolnshire Poacher, well done. Based on the traditional folk song, Derek Broadbent’s arrangement is an affable piece of brass banding cheesiness. Delph Band did the piece justice.

Our penultimate piece of the night came from our final soloist. This time from a stalwart of Delph Band, Keith Palmer. On solo euphonium he performed Varied Mood. Ray Woodfield’s piece is billed as a light-hearted solo, one which offered an aural treat to both live and screen audiences. For some time, Ray Woodfield was a composer and arranger for The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and also a teacher at the Royal Marines School of Music. He would have been proud of Keith’s rendition. A beautifully played piece, which gave us notes on a euphonium which few would have heard in their lifetime.

Our closing piece was one that has closed many a concert from Aberdare to Zennor. No prizes for guessing which song: Mickey Newbury’s An American Trilogy. Best known for Elvis Presley’s performance, you didn’t have to be an Elvis fan to appreciate Delph Band’s performance. For such a lively concert they couldn’t have picked a better song.

For the encore, we finished on a quieter note. Instead of a rousing march like The Radetzky March by Johann Strauss, we finished with a hymn. This time, David J. Evans’ Be Still (In The Presence of the Lord). The hymn was written shortly after the 7/7 terrorist attack in London in 2005. Arranged by Stephen Tighe, it was a neat showcase for the band’s ability to play quieter pieces.

By 2220 hours, Delph Band gave us a fantastic concert which blew off the cobwebs from the Boarshurst Band Club. After a four week break, Jonathan Davies and Co. gave the live audience (and the Stream Team) a concert that was worth waiting. We wish Delph Band the very best in whatever they do, and hope their future visit to Boarshurst Band Club would be much sooner than on the 26 July 2020.

Next Week at Boarshurst Band Club…

In a change to the programme, Lydgate Band will be making their way to Boarshurst Band Club. Their Musical Director is Jim Hunter, who has also been involved in Denton Band’s concert earlier this year. As usual, doors open from 7pm for an 8pm start. 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., 03 September 2018.

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