Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band: Sunday Night at the Boarshurst Band Club, October 2018

Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band’s Boarshurst date closes September in style

In many cases, a brass band in its centenary year is a real milestone. Add another 50 years, similarly phenomenal. To reach its bicentenary is remarkable. Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band have reached this milestone this year; only Stalybridge Old Band has been established longer (formed in 1809).

To celebrate their bicentennial year, the second half of October will be a busy one. Their next concert will be at the Playhouse 2 theatre in Shaw on the 19 October, a Friday night soiree at 7pm (tickets £10.00 in advance or £13.50 on the door). Tickets are available in advance from the Playhouse 2 Box Office (on 01706 840400).

The week after, on the 27 October, this is followed by a special concert at Bury Parish Church featuring the Besses Reunion Band. Again, this will be a 7pm start and admission is £10.00 (or £8.00 for concessions). Tickets are available from members of Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band or by telephone on 0161 290 4721.

As a precursor to their forthcoming concerts was Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band’s Boarshurst date. Their last visit to The Mecca of Brass Banding was over two years ago on the 04 September 2016. They have entered the British Open 57 times, winning it in 1931, 1937, 1959, and 1982. Previous musical directors have included Alexander Owen, Roy Newsome and Derek Broadbent.

Whereas the 2016 date saw Simon Cowan conducting the band, Trevor Halliwell took the baton for this year’s gig. He returned to Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band earlier this year after a previous stint in 1993.

All in all, the concert had a neat balance between more demanding and more lightweight pieces. Whereas many concert running orders choose to have a contrast between the lightweight and heavyweight pieces, last night’s concert saw a different approach. One where the most demanding pieces were performed in the first half. Though some listeners may have found this heavy going, Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band put in a good shift.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Signature March: Besses O’Th’ Barn (W. Adamson);
  2. Test Piece: Purcell Variations (Kenneth Downie);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Lisa Thompson): Share My Yoke (Major Joy Webb, arr. Howard Snell);
  4. Popular Music: Watch Your Step (Bobby Parker, arr. Howard Snell);
  5. Popular Music: Sinfonia per un Addio (Gian Piero Reverberi/Laura Giordano, arr. Trevor Halliwell);
  6. Film Music (from We Were Soldiers): The Mansions of the Lord (Randolph Wallace, arr. Leigh Baker);
  7. Popular Music: Run (Gary Lightbody/Jonathan Quinn/Mark McClelland/Nathan Connolly/Ian Archer, arr. Gavin Somerset);
  8. Test Piece Movement: First Suite in Eb (Gustav Holst).

Second Half

  1. March: Berne Patrol (Swiss Traditional/Philip Jones, arr. Elgar Howarth);
  2. Light Concert Music: Lady Stewart’s Air (Peter Graham);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Andy Jackson): Nessun Dorma (Giacomo Puccini, arr. Thomas Wyss);
  4. Popular Music: A Taste of Honey (Bobby Scott/Ric Marlow, arr. Frank Bryce);
  5. Popular Music Medley: Blast from the Past (various, arr. Tilly Tompkins):
    1. Ring of Fire (June Carter/Merle Kilgore);
    2. In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins);
    3. Copacabana (Barry Manilow/Jack Feldman/Bruce Sussman);
    4. Come on Eileen (Kevin Rowland/Jim Paterson/Billy Adams);
    5. Starman (David Bowie).
  6. Popular Music: MacArthur Park (Jimmy Webb, arr. Alan Fernie);
  7. Classical Piece: Judex (Charles Gounod, arr. Alexander Owen);
  8. Classical Overture: The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. William Rimmer).


  • March: Whitefield (W.A. Allison).

Run (But Watch Your Step)

We opened the concert with Besses O’Th’ Barn, a signature march specially penned by W. Adamson. As Musical Director, his previous bands included Abram Colliery, the delightfully-named Greensplat Band, and the Independent Order of Rechabites. For a signature tune, a good rousing one to get us all in the mood.

Our second piece of the night saw both the live and streamed audience, and the band being thrown in at the deep end. Going off this opening sentence, the words ‘test piece’ may spring to mind. Next up was Purcell Variations by Kenneth Downie, a much-expanded variation of the hymn entitled Westminster Abbey. It was first used a test piece in 1998, for the First Section Regional Finals of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. Last night, our fellows from Whitefield put in a good shift.

The third piece of the night came from the first soloist of the night. Enter on cornet Lisa Thompson, with Share My Yoke. Written by Major Joy Webb and arranged by Ivan Bosanko, it offered a more mellow change of tempo to the previous piece. A neat performance from Lisa.

The fourth piece was different again, this time with a chunk of R&B. Well, strictly speaking, Rhythm and Blues instead of what is referred to as R&B in present parlance. This time, Howard Snell’s arrangement of Watch Your Step. Written and performed in 1961 by Bobby Parker, it was covered by Manfred Mann and Adam Faith. Its main riff inspired The Beatles’ I Feel Fine. Not a bad little diversion.

The fifth piece was slightly more left field: this time a piece by Rondo Veneziano which was arranged by last night’s Musical Director Trevor Halliwell. The piece in question, Sinfonia per un Addio, which sounds like a second cousin to Ennio Morricone’s Chi Mai. A very good piece that was well performed. An arrangement of La Serenissima (Rondo Veneziano’s most famous tune from 1983) would be much appreciated; a potentially good crowdpleaser and light concert music item. 

Our sixth piece of the night was another brooding number. A piece of film music by Randolph Wallace known as The Mansions of the Lord. Used in the film We Were Soldiers, it has taken on another life as a concert item for Remembrance Sunday concerts. If you were to see Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band’s concert, this will be on their programme. From what we heard at Boarshurst Band Club, a very good performance.

For our penultimate piece of this half, we turned to the world of popular music and reality television shows. Enter Snow Patrol’s Run, arranged by Sheffield’s finest brass band music arranger Gavin Somerset. Originally a 2004 Number Four hit single for Snow Patrol, Run was covered by Leona Lewis in 2008, topping the charts for two weeks. She was denied the Christmas Number One spot by Alexander Burke, that year’s winner of The X Factor (with a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah).

Did Besses’ previous piece have the all-important X factor? It did, until it was overshadowed by Gustav Holst’s First Suite in Eb. For many listeners, the Cheltenham-born composer is noted for The Planets suite. Holst’s contribution to brass banding is worthy of note. Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band’s performance proved just that.

“Dad, can I have a Repiano…”

From Gloucestershire we moved to Switzerland with a piece arranged by Elgar Howarth. This time with Berne Patrol, based on a traditional Swiss song, written by Philip Jones. It started out as brass band chamber music and a worthy addition to the programme under Light Concert Music. A lovely start to the lighter second half.

For our next piece we moved from the land of Toblerone to that of some fizzy amber nectar once peddled by Paul Hogan. This time with Lady Stewart’s Air, a likeable piece penned by Peter Graham. It was commissioned by the Federation of Australasian Brass Bands as a tribute to Adrienne Stewart. It also appears on the test piece entitled The Journal of Phileas Fogg. A solid performance.

This was followed by the second and final soloist of the night. Taking us to Italy (or the infamous 1990 World Cup Semi Final with West Germany) was Andy Jackson’s euphonium solo of Nessun Dorma. Famously performed by The Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo), it features in the Puccini opera Turandot. In English, Nessun Dorma translates into the more workperson-like None Shall Sleep. Needless to say, no-one fell asleep during Andy Jackson’s superb performance.

Our fourth piece of the night was written for the 1960 Broadway version of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey. It has been covered by The Beatles (1963), Barbra Streisland (1963), and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1965). The piece, by the way, A Taste of Honey. A well performed lively number which took us to the raffle.

Following the raffle came another diversion to the world of popular music. This time in medley form by means of Blast from the Past. Arranged by Tilly Tompkins, this opened with Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash) which was followed by In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins), Copacabana (Barry Manilow), and Come On Eileen (Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Emerald Express). To close Tilly’s aural time capsule was the late great David Bowie’s Starman. Very good it was too.

If you remember James Stannage’s show on Piccadilly Radio (or Key 103 in the early noughties), the outspoken host would on rare occasions play a long record. Like the full length version of American Pie, or MacArthur Park. The latter, written by Jimmy Webb, was based on his estranged relationship and his observations at a real park in Los Angeles. It was covered by Richard Harris and Donna Summer. To the list of decent cover versions of Webb’s song, you could Besses’ rendition to your list.

Continuing the slightly tenuous link with the glory days of Piccadilly Radio was our penultimate piece: Charles Gounod’s Judex, arranged by Alexander Owen. If you listened to Phil Wood’s programme you would have come across a radio soap known as The Bradshaws. The opening and closing bars are used at the start and finish of each episode. Glossop Old Band’s rendition is heard on most of The Bradshaws’ 25 volumes.

Judex translates into English as judge and is heard in the opera Mors et Vita (or Death and Life). Its main character is the judge which is sat on a throne who utters judgements. The opera was premiered in Birmingham back in 1885. Another good performance from Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band.

The final (non-encore) piece would have felt equally at home as the second piece in the first half. Whatever part of a concert programme, you cannot resist a bit of Mozart. Especially the overture from The Magic Flute. The overture from Wolfgang Amadeus’ most famous opera never fails to lift the audience. The Besses’ performance was no exception to this rule. Interestingly, The Magic Flute was premiered on the 30 September 1791 at the Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna. At last night’s concert, exactly 227 years to the very day.

To finish off, our encore piece was a product of Whitefield origin – like the opening signature march. This time with W.A. Allison’s Whitefield, another signature march. In all, Besses O’Th’ Barn Brass Band gave us a good concert. Musical Director Trevor Halliwell came across as articulate and informative.

We hope their subsequent concerts in Shaw and Bury are well received. Both concerts are easy to get to on public transport with regular trams and buses. Both the Playhouse 2 and Bury Parish Church are five to ten minutes walk from Metrolink stations.

Next Week…

Another Lancashire band will be coming to the Boarshurst Band Club. This time, Phil Chalk’s Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band. If previous concerts are anything to go by, another great night awaits us all.

Outside of brass banding, Phil’s day job is the day-to-day running of Factory Transmedia. Situated in Altrincham they have worked on numerous animated children’s programmes – most notably the remake of The Clangers. Its Head of Music is prolific composer and Robert’s Bakery Band Musical Director Paul Lovatt-Cooper.

Next week’s concert will start at the usual time of 8pm with doors open from 7pm. Admission is £6.00, or £5.00 for concessions and Boarshurst Band Club members. Please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.


  • 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

S.V., 01 October 2018.

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