A Brass Band Advent Calendar: 21. Don’t Stop Me Now

Having a good time? Not long till Christmas now…

Queen’s back catalogue and brass band music: it is amazing how the two art forms work so well together. Could Freddie Mercury have been the next Roy Newsome had he landed in Leeds/Bradford Airport instead of Heathrow? Strictly speaking, the use of popular music as a brass band concert item or album staple fulfils two purposes. One is to show off how good a brass band arrangement could sound. Another is to introduce newcomers to brass band music.

Our favourite arrangers of popular music in a brass band setting are the late great Darrol Barry, Sandy Smith, and Philip Harper. The Daddy of Philip Harper’s popular music arrangements has to be his take on Don’t Stop Me Now.

Don’t Stop Me Now featured on Queen’s 1978 LP Jazz. It was their first UK chart single of 1979. In 2005, Top Gear viewers classed it as their All Time Favourite Driving Song. The then Peel Group owned Trafford Centre used Don’t Stop Me Now to advertise the joys of its neo-Italianette pastiche of an out-of-town shopping centre. Ironically, the Peel Group and Greater Manchester’s motorists did more to scupper 2008’s Transport Investment Fund proposals which included congestion charging throughout most of Greater Manchester.

As for the arrangement by Philip Harper, the most complete arrangement of a popular music piece for brass band concerts. Not only in terms of its dynamic range and texture. Its vocal parts complete the picture with brass banders shouting “Don’t Stop Me, Don’t Stop Me…”

Doing Philip Harper’s work justice is the University of Nottingham Brass Band’s rendition from 2015. The band deliver a superb rendition of the Queen song. I think Freddie Mercury would have been pleased; what a shame he never got to hear Philip Harper’s arrangement.

Tomorrow’s Advent Calendar window will see a solo performance. Stay tuned for further developments.

S.V., 21 December 2018.

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