Hepworth Silver Prize Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

How Mark Bentham’s band got us all in a Christmassy mood

The weekend before Christmas is typically a mad one for festive revellers. It is a most popular time for works’ dos, Christmas shopping expeditions and a busy one for brass bands. Last night’s band were no exception to the rule having done two concerts beforehand.

Frazzled lips aside, the spirit of Christmas saw no signs of waning in their performance. In fact it rubbed off on some audience members who were not quite ready for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

At Boarshurst Band Club it was also a welcome return for Mark Bentham. Having conducted previous concerts at The Mecca of Brass Banding, all the right ingredients were there for another cracker. This time, a set from Marks and Spencer or John Lewis and Partners instead of B&M.

It has also been a while since Hepworth Silver Prize Band did a concert at Boarshurst Band Club. Well before we started covering the concerts on this blog. Hepworth Silver Prize Band were formed in 1882 and have been in the Championship Section since 1999. They are in the midst of their second and most successful stint in the highest echelon of brass banding.

If you left Boarshurst Band Club (or switched off your digital device) without the joys of Christmas, you obviously watched the wrong concert. Hepworth Band had the joys of Christmas by the sack load and gave us all a meaty programme. One with all the trimmings, in the form of two smashing soloists and a dynamic duet.

The Programme

First Half

  1. First Movement from Christmas Triptych (James Curnow);
  2. Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Andrew Holmes): Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie, arr. Mark Freeh);
  4. Cornet Duet (performed by Joe Hainsworth and Phil Sanders): Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (J.S. Bach, arr. Mark Bentham);
  5. Gaudete (Traditional, arr. Stephen Roberts);
  6. Candlelight Carol (John Rutter);
  7. Gabriel’s Message (Traditional, arr. Mark Bentham);
  8. Jingle Jungle (arr. Nigel Lawless);
  9. Medley: Santa Claustrophoebia (Various, arr. Sandy Smith).

Second Half

  1. Troika (Serge Prokofiev, arr. Ray Farr);
  2. Bass Trombone Solo (performed by Tony Robertson): Frosty The Snowman (Walter Rollins/Steve Nelson, arr. Sandy Smith);
  3. Film Music (from Frozen): Let It Go (Kristen Anderson-Lopez, arr. Philip Harper);
  4. Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont, arr. Derek Ashmore);
  5. Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson, arr. Mark Freeh);
  6. White Christmas (Irvine Berlin, arr. Philip Sparke);
  7. Christmas Festival (Leroy Anderson)

Encore

  • Schneewaltzer (Traditional).

Season’s Greetings from Moscow, Munich, and New Mill

Our first piece was James Curnow’s Christmas Triptych – or more specifically its first movement. The piece in its entirety includes The Coventry Carol, Joy To The World and Silent Night. A lovely start which segued into our next piece.

As for the next piece, what a cracker. The addition of Alfred Reed’s Russian Christmas Music to the programme set this concert apart from many popular perceptions of Christmas concerts. Its bombastic yet Christmassy nature lent itself to a John Williams style piece that wouldn’t have been out of place in Hollywood.

With Russian Christmas Music being a statement of intent as well as a rousing start, Hepworth Band were on a roll. Under the Christmas tree was the first of two stunning solo works. This time with the effervescent cornet solo of Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Andrew Holmes. The Christmas song has been covered by numerous artistes including Bing Crosby (with The Andrew Sisters), The Jackson Five, and Bruce Springsteen. With a little help from Mark Smedley on soprano cornet, a fantastic performance.

The fourth item in the programme was a dynamic duet courtesy of Joe Hainsworth and Phil Sanders. The piece in question was J.S. Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. Yes, a Christmas greeting from Germany with a bit of help from Mark Bentham. A classy performance from Messrs Hainsworth and Sanders.

Our fifth piece of the night was a traditional Christmas song arranged by Stephen Roberts. This time, Gaudete. The sacred Christmas carol dates from the 16th Century and published in Piae Cantiones, a Swedish/Finnish anthology of sacred songs. In 1973, Gaudete was a Number 14 hit single for Steeleye Span. Hepworth Silver’s version, splendid.

Equally stunning was a more modern carol: John Rutter’s Candlelight Carol. John Milford Rutter CBE (born 1945) is also the founder of The Cambridge Singers and has a wealth of original pieces and arrangements to his name. Candlelight Carol, as we found, is a most delightful piece enhanced by Hepworth Band’s performance.

From one of our most modern carols we moved onto the second oldest piece in the programme. Arranged by last night’s esteemed musical director was Gabriel’s Message. In its lyrics are the opening quotes from the biblical account of the Annunciation from the New Testament Book of Luke, (Chapter 1, verses 26-38). Another neat piece.

Our penultimate piece of this half was Hepworth Silver Prize Band’s entry for Jingle Bells Challenge (for the Music For Youth charity). Instead of the Derek Ashmore arrangement of Jingle Bells (more on his arrangement later), they chose Jingle Jungle. This was Nigel Lawless’ take on the Christmas song with the Dukinfield arranger adding twiddly bits from other songs. A sensational performance which has been seen by nearly 1,200 viewers at this time of writing.

This was followed by another humdinger – a fantastic medley to round off the first half. Enter Sandy Smith’s Santa Claus-Trophobia, a cheap and cheerful medley of well loved Christmas songs including Santa Claus is Coming to Town (again), When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Excellent stuff.

Let it go, frosty one…

After the Christmas dinner of Hepworth’s first half programme came a lighter yet appetising post-Queen’s Speech tea. After watching the family film or a slightly charged game of Monopoly (well, the interval to be precise) we were ready for a bit of Serge Prokofiev. Yes, the ever-dependable Troika which depicts a midnight sleigh ride. For the best part of four minutes it temporarily lowered the temperature at Boarshurst Band Club.

After Hepworth’s scorching performance of Troika, we moved onto our second soloist of the night. Enter Tony Robertson’s bass trombone solo of Frosty The Snowman. Walter Rollins’ and Steve Nelson’s Christmas song has been covered by a variety of artistes. Not only by The Jackson Five, but also – most memorably thanks to Phil Spector’s production – The Ronettes (on the legendary A Christmas Gift For You LP). Though Andy’s cornet solo was superb, this was trumped by Tony’s performance. Which, if it was part of the Christmas tea, a warming Irish Coffee.

After the raffle gave Tony Robertson a rest, this was followed by our first piece of film music. This time, the bane of many a parent whose child have worn their copy of Frozen out to smithereens. If you guessed Let It Go, congratulations (please take an imaginary Quality Street toffee out of the tin). Let It Go is the best known song from Walt Disney’s Frozen film. In the film it is performed by Idina Menzel, at a point where Elsa’s secret powers were revealed.

There was no need for special powers with Hepworth’s performance which grew in stature during the concert. In our Christmas tea, we moved on to the butterfly buns with what was the lightest piece of the concert. This time, the ubiquitous Derek Ashmore arrangement of Jingle Bells. Albeit with more knobs on. Another good ‘un.

This was followed by the more rousing Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson from the Boston Pops Orchestra era. There was a strong showing in the percussion department which added body to their rendition. The whinnying of a reindeer was a nice touch to the end too. As with Jingle Bells, there has been no shortage of cover versions including one by The Carpenters. For Hepworth Band the hits kept on coming.

And come they did – this time with a rendition of White Christmas, the Irving Berlin song arranged by Philip Sparke. Penned in 1942, the song was heard in the film Holiday Inn. It is also the world’s most recorded Christmas song to date, covered by artistes like Jo Stafford and Michael Bolton. Alongside Johnny Preston’s Running Bear, as part of a recorded live encore set on the ‘B’ side of Stiff Little Fingers’ 1980 single At The Edge.

If you thought Hepworth’s performance of White Christmas was tasty, our slice of rich Christmas cake over Coronation Street was reserved for another Leroy Anderson piece. This time with a belter of a closing piece: Christmas Festival. This Christmas medley had everything – even the kitchen sink with a few half-eaten plates and turkey bones. Even the odd cracker joke which Mark had the temerity to read out between pieces. The medley includes Good King Wenceslas, Deck The Halls, and O Come, All Ye Faithful. A fantastic way to round off a Christmas concert.

Sadly, we reached the point where we needed to plonk our mother-in-law in the taxi. It was that point where we needed to put our toys away, or do the washing up. Nevertheless, Hepworth Silver Prize Band left us asking for more as we remembered that the orange creams remained untouched.

The final piece of the night was pure party fodder, a familiar number with many oompah bands. Yes, the mighty Schneewaltzer, the Carinthian dance song associated with Schunkeln. Needless to say, the live audience took up the opportunity to sway and jump about. Hepworth Band responded by throwing foam snowballs towards other members and the live audience. Only the most stoney faced concertgoer wouldn’t have been moved by last night’s concert.

*               *               *

After a marathon run of Christmas concerts prior to their Boarshurst visit, Hepworth Silver Prize Band were in stupendous form. For the live audience, a great atmosphere which got everyone in a Christmas mood. A neat spritzer for next week’s concert. One thing you can never fault with a concert directed by Mark Bentham is entertainment with a capital ‘e’. In bold type. This time with tinsel, coloured lights, and lashings of plum pudding.

Next at Boarshurst Band Club…

With only days to go before Christmas Day, Boarshurst Silver Band’s World Famous Christmas Concert will be taking place on the 23 December 2018. This year’s programme will have a Christmas Hits theme and, as with previous concerts, will feature flugelhorn player Georgina Hulme on vocals.

This will begin at the usual time of 8pm with doors open at 7pm. As always, please arrive as early as possible 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. The 180 and 350 services are operated by First Greater Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 17 December 2018.

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