Milnrow Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 16 September 2018

Mark Bentham and Co deliver another great night of brass band music

In life, only death and taxation are certainties. If you live in Greater Manchester, particularly in the Rochdale, Oldham or Tameside boroughs, there is another one to the list. That Milnrow Band would always deliver a concert which is high on entertainment value and remarkably different to any of their previous ones.

For the quickest 125 minutes you would have had this month, the world’s 23rd greatest brass band (to 2018 rankings) gave us a varied programme with a healthy dose of experimentation. As well as adhering to a traditional programme, the most experimental part was reserved for its showcasing of different sections. How? A few tidgy versions of popular pieces showcasing, for example, euphoniums and baritones.

The use of bitesize pieces showed off Mark Bentham’s other talent as a teacher. In addition to his humorous delivery, the teacher side of Mr Bentham used the bitesize pieces to deliver his ‘tour’ through the band. An innovative approach which is good for audiences new to brass band concerts.

Instead of introducing the snippets in usual fashion, Mark invited the audience to guess each piece. None of which were too difficult and may have been played in other concerts.

There was a couple of superb solos by Jennifer Brown (Tenor Horn) and Adam Snape (Euphonium). Also a bit of singing, including a piece associated with South Pacific and The Morecambe and Wise Show. With Mark’s novel approach and a well balanced programme, another great night at The Mecca of Brass Banding.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Film Music Medley: James Bond Suite (John Barry);
  2. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Jennifer Brown): Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosta/Jacques Prevert, arr. Bill Geldard);
  3. Cornet Showcase: Snatch of Laudate Dominum (Edward Gregson);
  4. March: BB and CF (J. Ord Hume​);
  5. Horn Showcase: Snatch of He’s A Pirate (from Pirates of the Caribbean) (Hans Zimmer);
  6. Hymn: Vitae Lux (Frode Alnaes, arr. Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen);
  7. Original Piece: At the Edge of Time (Ray Steadman-Allen).
  8. Euphonium/Baritone Showcase: Snatch of Trepak Russian Dance (Tchaikovsky, arr. Thomas Wyss);
  9. Original Piece: Diversions on a Bass Theme (George Lloyd);

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Hora Staccato (Grigoras Dinicu, arr. Goff Richards);
  2. Bass Showcase: Theme from The Munsters (Jack Marshall/Bob Mosher, arr. Peter Ratnik);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Adam Snape): The Way We Were (Barbra Streisland/Marvin Hamlisch, arr. Darrol Barry);
  4. Trombone Showcase: Snatch of Corelli Quartet;
  5. Light Concert Music: There Is Nothing Like a Dame (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein);
  6. Classical Piece: The Wand of Youth: Fairies and Giants (Sir Edward Elgar, arr. Gordon Langford);
  7. Percussion Showcase: Party Piece (Milnrow Band percussion section);
  8. Classical Piece: Dance of the Russian Sailors (Reinhold Glière).

Encore

  • Medley: Turned Out Nice Again (George Formby, arr. Andrew Myers):
    • Blackpool Rock (With My Little Stick of);
    • The Lancashire Toreador;
    • Leaning on a Lamp-post.

Band, Milnrow Band…

Neither shaken nor stirred, Milnrow Band opened with a fresh suite of songs from the James Bond films. Starting with the original Bond theme (it is rude not to!) it also included the themes from The Man With The Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me. From the first few notes, you can tell this was a tight performance. As to which James Bond this performance would be, either Sean Connery or Roger Moore. A great start.

As with last June’s concert, our second piece of the night came our first soloist. Once again it was Jennifer Brown on tenor horn. This time with Autumn Leaves, a traditional song by Joseph Kosta and Jacques Prevert. Based on a 1945 French song (Les Feuilles Mortes) it has been covered by a wide variety of artistes from Cannonball Adderley to Eric Clapton. A fantastic performance by Jennifer Brown.

The third piece of the night was the first of our six showcases. At this point, Mark begun his ‘tour’ through the brass band with the cornets. This time with a snatch of Laudate Dominum by Edward Gregson. The piece was commissioned for the 1976 British Tour of the London Citadel Band (from Ontario, Canada).

Our fourth piece was a march: one that was written to commemorate two brass banding journals (the British Bandsman and Contest Field). Known popularly as BB & CF, J. Ord Hume’s piece marked the merger of the two titles. Milnrow Band’s performance was superb.

The fifth piece of the night was a shop window for the horns. This time with a familiar piece from Pirates of the Caribbean, the multi-million film franchise starring Johnny Depp. No prizes for guessing which Hans Zimmer tune that was: He’s A Pirate, as used in the first film from 2003.

Next up was our first hymn of the night, a classic Norwegian one by Frode Alnaes. Entitled Vitae Lux, it translates into the English language as Light of Life. With its understated opening bars it broods into a meaty piece which demonstrated the solidity of the band.

This was true of Milnrow Band’s performance of a piece by Ray Steadman-Allen. Based on the hymn St. Magnus, At The Edge of Time is a well-bodied piece that was penned in 1982. The composer himself was a prolific writer of brass band pieces for the Salvation Army’s International Staff Band. From 1967 to 1980 he headed their international music editorial department. He passed away on the 15 December 2014 leaving a wide body of work for brass bands of various levels. He would have been proud of Milnrow’s performance last night.

Reaching the halfway point of Mark’s tour of Milnrow Band, we focused on the euphonium and baritone. This time with a bit of Tchaikovsky in the form of Trepak Russian Dance. This well and truly showed off the real backbone of the band. In all, the first three ‘stops’ on Mark’s tour showed off the band’s strength in depth. The best was yet to come with the next piece.

To close the first half was a spectacular piece composed by George Lloyd. Written especially for brass bands in 1986, Diversions on a Bass Theme is an uncompromising, colossal work. Throughout its 12 minutes it is an immersive piece which shows off the bass work of Milnrow Band with enough to keep the audience interested. Far and away, the pinnacle of the first half.

Besides being a good workout for the basses, it was written for the 1986 Mineworkers’ National Brass Band Contest. Which was sponsored by Bass Brewers (North West) Ltd, who also sponsored the North West Counties Football League that year. Hence the play on words in the piece’s title. Also a subtle call for the interval (though Donkeystone Brewery’s Cotton Clouds instead of Draught Bass is the order of the day).

The review what I wrote

After imbibing some of Saddleworth’s finest ales, our first post-interval piece was the jaunty Hora Staccato. Written by Grigoras Dinicu and arranged Goff Richards, it brought us a neat bit of Romanian music to the programme. It was originally written for violin but who needed violins when Milnrow Band gave us all a splendid rendition?

Following a break at Hartshead Moor Services, Mark’s ‘tour’ of Milnrow Band was back on the road. This time was the basses being the next section. Complementing the band’s knack of finding the odd offbeat piece, they played a snatch of the theme tune of The Munsters.

This was followed by the second and final soloist of the night: Adam Snape on euphonium. This time with Marvin Hamlisch’s and Barbra Streisland’s, The Way We Were. Released in 1973 it hasn’t only featured in the eponymous film. The song has also been covered by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Before you could say a star was born, Adam Snape gave us a fantastic performance with great clarity. Tighter than Scrooge on the eve of payday.

Following Adam’s superb solo, the fifth leg of Mark’s ‘tour’ focused on the trombones. This time with a Corelli Quartet. Within a minute’s performance, it demonstrated the trombone’s role in adding body to any brass band piece.

The next piece demonstrated another leitmotif of Milnrow Band’s concerts with Mark Bentham: crowd-pleasing pieces with a bit of singing. Showcasing the band’s choral efforts (and taking us back to 1977’s edition of The Morecambe and Wise Show) was There Is Nothing Like A Dame. The Rodgers and Hammerstein song is noted for its use in South Pacific. For many people, it reminds them of singing BBC newsreaders.

Before you could lie back and think of Peter Woods or Michael Aspel, Milnrow Band (sans sailors’ outfits) would have lightened the least rosy of dispositions. A real feel-good piece.

This was followed by a movement from The Wand of Youth, almost taking us to where we left off in June 2017. Last year it was Tame Bears and Wild Bears. This time, the vibrant Fairies and Giants. Thanks to two great minds (former Worcester Asylum Musical Director, Sir Edward Elgar, and the late great Gordon Langford) a great movement. Undoubtedly enhanced by our friends off the M62 motorway.

Finishing our tour through Milnrow Band, our sixth and final snippet came from the percussion section. This time with some racket known as Party Piece. More than anything, a bit of improvisation to show off the timpani, snare drum and smaller percussion instruments. It would have been amiss to omit them from the tour (in spite of their singing from the back of the coach).

To close the second half, we have a bit of Russian ballet in the form of Dance of the Russian Soldiers. Also known as The Red Poppy or The Red Flower, Reinhold Gliere’s score was the first Soviet ballet with a modern revolutionary theme. It has also been the subject of a Soviet postage stamp. This stylish performance was a fantastic end to the concert. As for the encore, a real humdinger.

Following its fantastic reception last June, there was a welcome return for Turned Out Nice Again. Streamlined for mobile devices was Andrew Myers’ arrangement of three George Formby songs. Which (if you missed last year’s review) are Blackpool Rock (With My Little Stick of)The Lancashire Toreador, and Leaning on a Lamp-post. Better still, the Harmony Street Male Voice Choir were also in full song.

Well, what more could we say? Milnrow Band have given us another great concert at Boarshurst Band Club. Whereas previous gigs didn’t see the band club in full capacity, last night’s did with great support from regular attendees and fellows from Milnrow. We eagerly await their next visit to The Mecca of Brass Banding.

Next Week…

Silk Brass will be making their way to Boarshurst Band Club on the 23 September. The band were formed in 1997, three years after Mark Bentham was the youngest conductor in the All-England Masters with The Ever Ready Band. Situated in Marton on the outskirts of Macclesfield, off the A34, they have established themselves in the First Section.

Musical Director Tony Wyatt has previously been involved with the Fairey Band. As a Musical Director, previous bands have included the Whaley Bridge Band and, for more than 30 years as a player and conductor, Vernon Building Society Poynton Brass Band.

Like Milnrow Band, Silk Brass have never failed to give entertaining concerts wherever they go. Admission is £5.00 (or £4.00 for members and concessions). As per usual, doors open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Oh, and 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.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

Twitter details @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass

S.V., 17 September 2018.

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