Diggle Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (November 2018)

Another great concert with three great soloists, a duet, and a trio 

As the nights get darker and longer, the bright lights of Boarshurst Band Club are a glorious sight. Each Sunday at 7pm, magic and mystique awaits the concertgoer who enters The Mecca of Brass Banding. Last night, by 10pm, they were treated to a spellbinding performance by Diggle Band. 

Last night’s programme was accessible yet full of meaty goodness. Nourishing chunks in the form of three stupendous solos, a delightful duet, and a terrific trio. As well as a few favourites, it was in part a dress rehearsal for their Remembrance Sunday concert. If Carlsberg did dress rehearsals, it would have been to the strains of David Pogson’s flugelhorn work.

Melvin Tay second visit to Boarshurst Band Club was another memorable one. This time he did his own links whilst Dorothy sat back and enjoyed the concert. Melvin is the assistant musical director for the Royal Northern College of Music’s brass section. Last October he was previously principal euphonium player for Eccles Borough Band, before doing a Masters Degree in Musicianship. With the links, introductions and other contingencies, Melvin’s confidence has improved since his last visit.

Once again, Diggle Band gave us a superb concert. Some of the pieces, which had a Remembrance Day theme, were strong enough as standalone concert items in any brass band concert. As for entertainment value, the programme was well thought out enough to quell boredom from setting in.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Concert Opener: Prelude for an Occasion (Edward Gregson);
  2. Light Concert Music: The Long Day Closes (Henry Fothergill-Chorley/Arthur Sullivan, arr. Eric Ball);
  3. Horn Duo (performed by Jane (flugelhorn) and Kyra (tenor horn)): Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue (Richard Leigh, arr. Darrol Barry);
  4. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Mike McLean): Concerto for Trumpet (Harry James, arr. Elgar Howarth);
  5. Classical Piece: Second Suite in F Major (Gustav Holst, arr. Sydney Herbert);
  6. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by David Pogson): Roses of Picardy (Frederick Weatherly/Haydn Wood);
  7. Original Piece: (From Three InventionsSorta Mixed Up (Dr. J (Pi.) Scheffer).

Second Half

  1. March: The Australasian (William Rimmer);
  2. Hymn: Nightfall in Camp (C.H. Purday);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Phil Kerr): Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn (Watching The Wheat) (Traditional):
  4. Film Music Medley: Disney Fantasy (various, arr. Goff Richards);
  5. Trombone Trio (performed by Gary Burgess, Jane Clark, and Bill Stott): Frolic For Trombones (Reginald Heath);
  6. Light Concert Music: The Seal Lullaby (Eric Whitacre)
  7. Film Music (from The Incredibles): The Incredibles (Michael Giacchino, arr. Philip Harper).

Encore

  • March: Royal Air Force March Past (Sir Henry Walford Davies/Sir George Dyson).

Prelude for a first rate concert

First off was a cracking concert opening piece: Prelude For An Occasion by Edward Gregson. As an opener it well and truly blew the cobwebs off (or some of the strip curtains off the stage). Born in Sunderland in 1945, he has also written several pieces including Of Distant Memories (Music in an Olden Style) (2012), and Rococo Variations (2008). A great piece to kick off the concert.

This was followed by another arrangement by a highly esteemed writer, noted for test pieces: Eric Ball. The piece in question, The Long Day Closes. Written by Arthur Sullivan and Henry Fothergill-Chorley, it is a part song choral piece written for several parts. It is also sung at funerals of members of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and has featured in the Mike Leigh film Topsy-Turvy. This piece offered a neat complement to the previous one and showed off the band’s capabilities at playing these soft sounding yet hard to play notes.

The third piece of our night was a showcase for two horn players. This time, a horn duet featuring Jane on flugelhorn and Kyra on tenor horn. Their piece, the well known Crystal Gayle Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. The rare beast of a jazz incursion into country music works surprisingly well in brass instruments. Jane and Kyra proved just that with a crystal clear performance.

For some people, Concerto for Trumpet will take you back to 1985. Back when Grimethorpe Colliery Band swept the board in that year’s Granada Band of the Year. Playing Elgar Howarth’s arrangement, instead of Alan Morrison, was Mike McLean. Note for note, Alan Morrison would have enjoyed McLean’s performance. With the live audience, rapturous applause and rightly so. Had the late great Bob Smithies hovered over Saddleworth, he would have thought he was back in the Spectrum Arena in Warrington.

The next piece was nothing lily-livered either, as we moved onto Cheltenham’s most famous composer. Many people associate Gustav Holst with The Planets suite, but his work for brass bands is worthy of greater attention. Enter stage left Second Suite in F Major. The Second Suite is also popular with military bands and comes in four movements. For Diggle Band, this was the first of their Remembrance Day concert themed pieces. A solid one to boot as all four movements flew past.

The penultimate piece of this half was a song that was popular during the First World War. A timely one given that Remembrance Sunday 2018 is exactly 100 years since Armistice Day, 1918. Our sixth piece of the night was Roses of Picardy. Also last night’s second soloist: David Pogson on flugelhorn. Continuing another link with The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, its original lyricist wrote the piece with Elsie Griffin in mind. Ms Griffin would join the aforementioned opera company. It has also been sung by Vince Hill and Alfie Boe (who recorded it for the soundtrack of Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey TV series).

As for the performance, a close run between Mike and David in terms of quality. By a semiquaver, David usurped Mike’s performance in terms of clarity and virtuosity. The applause could have been heard from The Royal George.

To close the first half, we went Dutch. This time with Dr. J (Pi) Scheffer’s Sorta Mixed Up. Written in 1971, the big band influenced piece is the last of three movements within the Three Inventions suite (Drie Verzinzels). The other two movements are Flippant and Whimsical. Strictly speaking, there was nothing flippant nor whimsical about Diggle Band’s performances. The whole of the first half saw two powerful performance, plus some meaty yet accessible works. With a performance tighter than Scrooge on the eve of payday they left us gasping for more in the second half. Breathtaking stuff.

An Australasian Disney Fantasy

Whereas the first half gave us roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding, two vegetables, mash and roast potatoes, the second half was a delightful dessert. A bit lighter, yet appetising. A generous slice of rhubarb crumble with custard.

First off the blocks in the second half was The Australasian. William Rimmer’s march is a popular one at hymn and march contests, and on Whit Friday. Often played by second section bands on Whit Friday it never fails to get anyone in the mood for The Greatest Free Show on Earth®. In case you are wondering, only 220 days (at this time of writing) till Whit Friday, which falls on the 14 June 2019.

Our second piece of this half was Nightfall in Camp, a hymn written by C.H. Purday. It is what you would call (in modern noughties speak) a mash-up. This time a combination of The Last Post and Unto The Hills. The latter piece fitting, given how many years that Pots and Pans have been used for Remembrance Day parades. The second Remembrance Day themed piece of the night was another fine performance.

For our third piece of this half, we moved to another soggy yet hilly part of the world: Wales. This time with our first and only solo performance of the second half. Enter on euphonium Phil Kerr, with his performance of Watching The Wheat. Based a tragic love affair between Wil Hopcyn and Ann Thomas, the fairly jaunty piece (Bugeilio Gwenith Gwyn in Welsh) belies its bleak subject matter. Nevertheless, Phil gave us all a superb performance.

The next two pieces made up the bread for our raffle sandwich. Rightly so, two tasty fillings for use all. Making up our slice of Yorkshire Ham (nothing else will do, by the way) was Disney Fantasy, Goff Richards’ frenetic whistle-stop tour through the music of Walt Disney’s films. Various pieces in the medley included Zip-a-dee-Doo-Dah (from Song of the South), When You Wish Upon a Star (from Pinocchio) and a bit of Whistle While You Work (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). An enjoyable diversion; testing the audience, Melvin asked them if they could name every song. Even with a free pint up for grabs, nobody did.

The processed cheese slice (or bargain basement portion of grated Cheddar) came in the form of our trombone trio. Their piece was Reginald Heath’s Frolic For Trombones. Last night’s Sooty, Sweep and Soo were Gary Burgess, Bill Stott, and Jane Clark. All three gave a super performance of Heath’s quirky piece.

The penultimate piece of the night was a quieter number: Eric Whitacre’s The Seal Lullaby. As a choral composer, Mr. Whitacre has an enviable record works for Disney among his credentials. The Seal Lullaby could have featured on the soundtrack for a film based on Rudyard Kipling’s The White Seal. Instead, the film was canned as the production company he pitched it to chose to make Kung Fu Panda. Instead, The Seal Lullaby continued to be a strong seller in sheet music. Diggle Band proved to be a fantastic advert for Whitacre’s work.

Our last piece of the night came from a highly successful film franchise. Since 2004, Pixar Animation Studios’ The Incredibles has been a high-earning franchise with countless spin-offs. Capturing the essence of the superheroes’ adventures is Philip Harper’s arrangement of its theme music. With a powerful performance by Diggle Band, the audience’s call for “more” and rapturous applause was truly justified.

For the encore, we rounded off proceedings with a piece for their forthcoming Remembrance Day concert. Whether you have heard a military band or a brass band, you may have heard Royal Air Force March Past by Sir Henry Walford Davies and Sir George Dyson. It is the official march of the RAF, originally known as Adastral I. It is either played as a slow march or a quick march. A good way to finish a wonderful two hours worth of brass band music.

With a well thought out programme and some memorable solos, a concert with Diggle Band should be on your bucket list. It is fair to say that Melvin, backed by a strong line-up, could see Diggle returning to the Championship Section before long. As always, great work from the band and, most importantly, a different programme every time.

Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club…

Boarshurst Silver Band will be remembering the fallen in its Remembrance Sunday concert. With 2018 marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, this year’s Remembrance Sunday events will be even more significant. Like Boarshurst Silver Band, other brass bands across the UK will be doing the same that weekend.

Doors are open from 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £7.00, whether you choose to pay in advance before Sunday or on the door. There is no members’ discount but your admission price includes a free pie and pea supper.

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., 05 November 2018.

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