Silk Brass: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 23 September 2018

Tony Wyatt and Co deliver another astounding concert

With only a week to go till they enter the Bolsover Entertainment Contest, Silk Brass gave us all another great show. As with last year’s concert (exactly a year to the day at the time of writing), another well-bodied programme. Though lighter than last year’s concert, it wasn’t lightweight to a point where the audience’s intelligence was insulted.

What, might you ask is ‘lightweight’ in eyes of Tony Wyatt and Co.? Firstly a couple of good hymns. Secondly, a one-time popular light concert piece which was literally barking. Thirdly, a cornet trio with a Mexican theme. Though the weather was more suitable for hot toddy instead of freezing cold lager, Bill Geldard’s piece did not feature in the programme.

Just to reiterate, Silk Brass was formed in 1997, back when Greenfield’s Sunday bus services with the Tameside area finished at 7pm. Also back when you could get a pint for less than £2.00 in Uppermill. With Robert’s Bakery, VBS Poynton, and Fairey bands being easy driving distance from Macclesfield, they are sometimes overlooked. Which is a shame as every Silk Brass concert I have been to is a real joy to behold.

Whether you saw the concert via Boarshurst Silver Band’s streaming service or at the band club, last night’s concert was no exception.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Film Music (from The Music Man): Seventy-Six Trombones (Meredith Wilson, arr. Alan Fernie);
  2. Film Music Medley: Music from The Pirates of the Caribbean (Klaus Badelt, arr. Bruce Fraser);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Ben Bradley): Brown Bird Singing (Haydn Wood, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  4. Cornet Trio (performed by Adrian Horn, Tim Foxley, Pete Weaver): Tre-Mendez (Rafael Mendez);
  5. Light Concert Music: The Lost Chord (Sir Arthur Sullivan, arr. Gordon Langford);
  6. Post Horn Solo (performed by John Worth): Post Horn Galop (H. Koenig, arr. S. Herbert);
  7. Hymn: I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodszky, arr. Goff Richards).
  8. March: Mein Tirolerland (Florian Pedarnig);

Second Half

  1. March: The Radetzky March (Johann Strauss, arr. Pat Ryan);
  2. Hymn: The Day Thou Gavest (Clement Cotterel Scholefield, arr. Peter Hargreaves);
  3. Principal Euphonium Solo (performed by Andy Ingleby): Grandfather’s Clock (Henry Clay Work);
  4. Popular Music: All Night Long (Lionel Richie, arr. Leigh Baker);
  5. Classical Piece: Elegy from A Downland Suite (John Ireland);
  6. Xylophone Solo (performed by Catherine Flanders): William Tell (Gioachro Rossini);
  7. Hymn: Swingtime Rhythm (Barrie Gott);
  8. Classical Piece: Four Dances from Checkmate (Arthur Bliss).

Encore

  • March: When The Saints Go Marching In (Traditional, arr. Gordon Langford).

76 Trombones, 16 Springer Spaniels

To kick off last night’s concert was a piece associated with brass bands by some less enlightened listeners. From The Music Man was its most famous piece, Seventy-Six Trombones. In the musical film its main characters feature a conman, a prim librarian, and several brass banding types – largely clad in red and gold. Like Silk Brass of course, though without the bucket hats. Only with Meredith Wilson’s piece instead of something like On The Quarter Deck, and closer to Houston than Hurdsfield. A rousing start to get us all in the mood with members of the band jumping up and down.

This was followed by a selection of music from The Pirates of the Caribbean. Of late, Klaus Badelt’s music from the films starring Johnny Depp have been a popular choice at brass band, and this medley included the likes of He’s A Pirate. You could almost feel the waves lashing against the MV Resurgam as Silk Brass gave us all a thrilling performance.

The third piece of the night saw a change of tone and the introduction of our first soloist of the night. On principal cornet, enter Ben Bradley – founder member of Silk Brass – with his performance of Brown Bird Singing. The composer, Haydn Wood, was born in Slaithwaite and moved to the Isle of Man at the age of three. He has written over 180 individual songs with the Rose of Picardy among his most famous works. As for Ben’s performance, excellent clarity and intonation.

The fourth piece would have ticked all boxes for the occasional quirky cornet trio/showcase item of any concert programme. Enter Cheshire’s answer to The Three Amigos – Adrian Horn, Neil Foxley, and Pete Weaver – with their rendition of Tre-Mendez by Rafael Méndez. For the trio’s polka, Señor’s Horn, Foxley and Weaver donned sombreros. Rafael Méndez was a noted solo trumpeter known as The Heifez of the Trumpet. A delightful wheeze.

The fifth piece was a real concert classic. This time with The Lost Chord, composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1877 by the bedside of his ailing brother Fred. Five days after he composed the song, Fred passed away. It has been performed by the likes of Enrico Caruso, who sung the piece at a benefit concert for the survivors of the Titanic disaster.

This was followed by the second soloist of the night for our sixth piece. What a solo it was as well – the rare addition of a post horn solo to a concert programme. Enter John Worth, Silk Brass’ regular soprano cornet player and his rendition of Post Horn Galop. With a little help from the Nether Alderley Working Dogs Society, the band’s barking well and truly added to the success of his solo.

Our penultimate piece of this half was 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. As at Marsden Silver’s concert, Goff Richards’ arrangement added colour to the piece. This was reflected in the vibrancy of Silk Brass’ performance. It is also the first piece of the night to have featured on Boarshurst Silver Band’s Images CD.

Our last piece (alongside Seventy-Six Trombones and a few others) went down very well in Austria. Unlike the Right Honourable Member for Maidenhead, Silk Brass’ excursions to the landlocked country have been more fruitful. Last night gave us living proof of that with Mein Tirolerland by Florian Pedarnig. Now 80 years old, the composer started out on clarinet at the age of 12 and joined the Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra in 1965. In 1980 he succeeded Professor Sepp Tanzer as the National Bandmaster of the Tyrolean Brass Band Association.

As for the march, another cracking performance by Silk Brass which neatly took us to the interval.

Can’t Slow Down

For the first piece of our second half we stayed in Austria. This time with The Radetzky March. One of Johann Strauss’ best known works, it is the traditional encore piece at the New Year’s Day Concerts in Vienna. The piece was written as a dedication to Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz and – like The Blue Danube– became a de facto national anthem for Austria.

Our second piece of this half was another old favourite. This time, Clement Cotteril Scholefield’s hymn The Day Thou Gavest. You may have come across the song as St. Clement, its alternate title. In previous concerts we have heard Christopher Wormald’s arrangement. This time, we heard Peter Hargreaves’ arrangement, which brought out the colour in Scholefield’s hymn. Add a good band like Silk Brass, bright Kodachrome colours or 4K digital.

This was followed by the second and final soloist of the night: a euphonium solo by Andy Ingleby. The piece: Henry Clay Work’s Grandfather’s Clock, which was the second piece of the night from Boarshurst Silver Band’s Images CD. The bumptiousness of his rendition made for fantastic listening and his solo was well received.

After an early raffle came the first of five pieces for Silk Brass’ Bolsover Entertainment Contest programme. This was marked with Leigh Baker’s arrangement of All Night Long. Complete with backing vocals from the Broken Cross Barbershop Quartet, Lionel Richie’s song was brought to life. There were some excellent contributions from the horns and cornets. Thanks to Silk Brass, I am torn as to whether to play the original from Lionel’s Can’t Slow Down LP or Leigh Baker’s arrangement.

The next piece demonstrated Silk Brass’ fine performance work with slow melodies. This time with the Elegy from A Downland Suite by John Ireland. A Downland Suite was especially written for brass bands in 1932 for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. That year, Foden’s Motor Works band took top honours. It is based on the composer’s love of the Sussex downs and reflects the piece’s pastoral leanings. Had it been a piece of visual artwork, it would have been Eric Ravilious’ painting of Cuckmere Haven. Another great performance.

Offering a real contrast is their only solo item for the Bolsover Entertainment Contest and our last soloist of the night. After opening our solo items with a stalwart of Silk Brass we moved on to one of Silk Brass’ younger players, Catherine Flanders. This time with Gioachro Rossini’s William Tell Overture. On xylophone. Did it work? Yes, yes, and yes several times over. A crowd-pleaser in the truest sense; a great way for her to celebrate her eighteenth birthday.

Our penultimate piece gave us a change of musical direction with a dash of gospel music. This time with a swing themed hymn entitled Swingtime Religion. Penned by Barrie Gott (he of Light-Walk fame from 1986) it is based on (Give Me That) Old Time Religion, a traditional gospel song written in 1873. A neat bit of tomfoolery which led us to the final piece.

The final (non-encore) piece was a more serious one: this time with Four Dances from Checkmate by Arthur Bliss. Penned in 1937, it is a musical interpretation of a chess game in progress. It forms part of a one-act ballet with the same name, co-written by choreographer Ninette de Valois. Their performance had the gravitas demanded by the suite, which was on a neat border between the lightweight and the heavyweight. Well played.

As for the encore, something less taxing to complement Silk Brass’ previous piece. How could you not like When The Saints Go Marching In? It is not a bad little march, but Gordon Langford’s arrangement adds a bit more bounce to the work. Add a great First Section band, a delicious confection.

The penultimate concert at The Mecca of Brass Banding for September 2018 was a real cracker. Tony’s delivery was measured and scholarly; a ‘lightweight’ programme which struck a neat balance between simple pieces and crowd-pleasing works. We hope Silk Brass get a great result at Bolsover Entertainment Contest next week because going off last night’s concert, they will go down a storm in Denis Skinner’s neck of the woods.

Next Week…

One of Lancashire’s most famous bands will be making their way to The Mecca of Brass Banding. This time, Besses O’ Th’ Barn Band. Formed in 1818 as Clegg’s Reed Band, they saw the light in 1849 and became a fully fledged brass band.

They didn’t do too bad out of it, entering the British Open 57 times and winning it in 1931, 1937, 1959, and 1982. Previous Musical Directors have included the likes of Roy Newsome and Derek Broadbent. To celebrate their success in winning the British Open in 1982, they were the subject of a one-off documentary presented by the late Roy Castle.

This year, Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band are celebrating their bicentenary. There will also be a special concert featuring some special guests from the Besses Reunion Band at Bury Parish Church on the 27 October 2018 (£10.00 adults, £8.00 concessions).

Next week’s concert will start at the usual time of 8pm with doors open from 7pm. Admission is a cool £5.00, or £4.00 for concessions and Boarshurst Band Club members.

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., 24 September 2018.

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