Westoe Brass Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

South Shields band kicks off 2019 season of Boarshurst concerts in style

Only three weeks ago, Boarshurst Band Club finished off its 2018 season of Sunday Brass nights in style with the Friends of Music For Youth Brass Band. That concert got us on a high for the 2019 programme, which has a tasty selection of bands coming our way. Kickstarting the new season last night [20 January] was Westoe Brass Band.

Following their two and a half hour journey from South Shields, Westoe Brass Band gave us all a memorable concert. There was seventeen tasty pieces, some of which were penned by one of the band’s three musical directors. Included in the programme was a signature march by the band’s most celebrated former MD, George Hawkins.

It was George Hawkins who put the band on the map in 1919. That year they became the first colliery band – also the first North East of England brass band – to lift the British Open title in King’s Hall, Belle Vue. Back then they were known as the Harton Colliery Band. The band was founded in 1911, though its roots lie within the Tyne Dock Temperance Band (formed in 1890).

Today they are known as the Westoe Brass Band, following the closure of Westoe Colliery in 1993. The Westoe name was added to the band in the 1950s with Harton dropped in 1986.

The band has three musical directors which makes for a more collaborative approach. Its main MD is Jason Smith, who has been associated with the band since 2002. The second man, Selwyn Thompson, is a more recent appointee, having taken the band to a runners-up spot at last year’s Brass at Beamish festival. The third MD, Lee Morris, played a key role in last night’s concerts in more ways than one, being Westoe Brass Band’s resident composer.

Even with the earlier start (7pm instead of the usual 8pm start time), the live audience turnout was encouraging. The first of many visits to The Mecca of Brass Banding? We hope so, as they gave us all a fantastic night. All three of their musical directors were humorous which added to the appeal of last night’s concert.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Original Piece: Call of the Colliery (Lee Morris)1;
  2. Hymn: I Know Thou Art Mine (Colonel Leonard Ballantine)1;
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Dan Robson): Concerto for Trumpet (Harry James)1;
  4. Hymn: The Water of Tyne (Traditional, arr. Jackie Stobbs)1;
  5. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Jo Wright): Postcards from Caledonia (Lee Morris)1;
  6. Light Concert Music: Sing Sing Sing (Louis Prima, arr. Ray Woodfield)2;
  7. Horn Feature (performed by Ann Stone, Alison Dixon, Tomos Roberts): Hat Trick (Roy Newsome)2;
  8. Light Concert Music: Malaguena (Ernesto Lecuona)2.

Second Half

  1. Signature March: Hartonian (George Hawkins)1;
  2. Eb Bass Solo (performed by Lee Morris): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkyson, arr. Leigh Baker)2;
  3. Cornet Feature: Mexican Holiday (Alan Fernie)1;
  4. Film Music (from Aladdin): Friend Like Me (Alan Menken/Howard Ashman, arr. Lee Morris)3;
  5. Light Concert Music: Felton Lonnin (Traditional, arr. Lee Morris)1;
  6. Film Music (from The Little Mermaid): Under The Sea (Alan Menken, arr. Frank Bernaerts)2;
  7. Hymn: Gresford (Robert Saint)2;
  8. Test Piece: Middle and final movements of Glorifico Aeternum (Dean Jones)1.

Encore

  • Light Concert Music: Amparito Roco (Jaime Teixidor, arr. Aubrey Winter)2.

Musical Directors

  1. Jason Smith;
  2. Selwyn Thompson;
  3. Lee Morris.

The call of the colliery shift alarm is set to Malaguena

Our first piece set the tone for last night’s concert with its handsome serving of original yet entertaining pieces with a bit of something familiar. We opened with the first of Lee Morris’ pieces, Call of the Colliery. The first of our band’s two signature tunes starts off slow before drifting us towards bombast. The sort of music that would get you ready for a great concert. The first stage of their mission to entertain was passed with flying colours.

For the second piece a hymn by Colonel Leonard Ballantine, one that is other than Amid All The Traffic. Instead of this popular hymn, Westoe Brass Band chose I Know Thou Art Mine. A more complex piece than Amid All…, it is one that truly tests the band. Westoe Brass made light work of the piece by Toronto’s famed Salvationist composer. An effortless performance.

Whilst on the subject of effortless, this applied to our first soloist of the night, Dan Robson. On principal cornet, Concerto for Trumpet isn’t the easiest of solos to perform. The jazz standard, released in 1939 by Harry James on the Columbia label, requires precision tonguing – a brass bander’s equivalent to leg day at the gym. Dan made light work of the challenging piece with astounding clarity and dynamic range.

After our diversion to Georgia, we returned to South Shields for the fourth piece. This time, the evergreen folk song The Water of Tyne. In the song, a woman sees her paramour being separated by the aforementioned river. The ferry depicted in the song is said to be near Haughton Castle. Today, no ferry exists, and buses are virtually non-existent. Westoe Band’s rendition would have made our paramour’s wait for a taxi fly by – it was smooth, well bodied and beautifully performed.

This took us to our fifth piece of the night and our second soloist. Also our second piece by Westoe Brass Band’s in-house composer Lee Morris. Enter on flugelhorn, Jo Wright with Postcards from Caledonia, a piece originally written for Foden’s Band’s Charlotte Ankers. Starting off gently, it conjures up images of the Scottish Highlands with a lively finish. Jo’s performance was irresistible enough to get yours truly yearning for a Highlands jolly. Spot on, and accomplished enough to impress Charlotte.

For our sixth piece, we returned to the world of jazz music. This time with Sing Sing Sing by Louis Prima, arranged by Ray Woodfield. Over the years in which your reviewer has covered the Boarshurst concerts Sing Sing Sing is a popular number. A bouncy, radiant one reflected in Westoe Brass Band’s solid performance.

Our penultimate piece of this half another light-hearted number. This time with a horn trio, appropriately entitled Hat Trick, written by Roy Newsome. If there was ever a need for football themed brass band concerts, this would have been a keeper in any programme. Last night’s trio on the horns were Ann Stone, Alison Dixon, and Tomos Roberts. who gave us all a splendid display.

The final piece of this half was similarly exhilarating, one that was the last piece of 2018’s concert season. Enter Ernesto Lecuona’s Malaguena. This touch of Cuban style whimsy, even without audience participation, was beautifully performed. With outdoor temperatures closer to zero degrees Celsius last night, a real winter warmer.

Hartonian, glorifico aeternum

For the second half, we broke one duck in last night’s concert: the lack of a march in the programme. This was broken by Hartonian, Westoe Brass Band’s signature march. Unique to the band, it was written by their legendary former musical director George Hawkins. A fantastic march, also a nice change from the usual Knight Templar, Ravenswood or The Wizard.

This was followed up by a quirky yet memorable rendition of The Bare Necessities. Our first of last night’s three Disney songs was performed on Eb Bass by Lee Morris. Like the Louis Prima piece in the first half, Terry Gilkyson’s song from The Jungle Book is a popular crowd pleaser at many concerts. Morris’ rendition was no exception, even with a bit of pratting about. Fantastic work.

Taking us towards sunnier climes was the third piece of this half. This time, Alan Fernie’s Mexican Holiday, a neat showcase for Westoe Brass Band’s cornet section. Like our Cuban themed piece, this also added another Celsius to the thermometer at The Mecca of Brass Banding. A lovely summery piece to cast off these winter blues with. Great work from the cornet section.

Equally radiant was Lee Morris’ arrangement of Friend Like Me. Penned by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman, the piece is influenced by big bands and jazz music. In the Walt Disney film Aladdin, it was sung by Robin Williams. If the late great funnyman used Heaven’s WiFi connection, he would have been proud of Westoe Brass Band’s performance and liked The Stream Team’s production. It was smooth, bold, brassy, and vibrant.

After the raffle came another traditional Tyneside piece. This time, thanks to the arranger’s pen of the resident composer, Felton Lonnin. The ballad is also known as The Kye Have Come Hame, telling the story of a child lost in a farmer’s field. It has also been sung by the High Level Ranters, Eliza Carthy and Eleanor Waterson. Rachel Unthank and the Winterset also sung the song with Brighouse and Rastrick Band. Another great performance, thanks also to Lee Morris’ first class arranging skills.

Taking us to our last Walt Disney song of the night was Under The Sea from the 1989 film The Little Mermaid. The animated film marked a turning point for Disney’s fortunes leading to subsequent successes with Aladdin, Pocohontas and Toy Story (which marked another seminal chapter in Disney’s history). Many of us couldn’t help singing along or whistling to this tune. When backed by a superb Championship Section band from County Durham, you couldn’t help singing along.

Our penultimate piece of this half was a hymn that no self-respecting ex-colliery band should omit. The excellent, and tearjerking hymn, Gresford. Written by Robert Saint, it was written in memory of the Gresford colliery disaster near Wrexham (22 September 1934) which killed 266 mineworkers. Westoe Band’s rendition was a moving one and gave your reviewer some goose pimples.

For the finale, we had a real cracker: Dean Jones’ Glorifico Aeternum. Since leaving Kingston University in 1998, Dean has written over 200 pieces. Last night’s finale piece was written in 2003 and set to three movements, with the middle and final movements being performed. Since 2007, it has been used as a test piece at the SCABA Autumn Contest, Brass at the Guild (2012), and the Australian Championships (‘B’ Grade, 2015). A fantastic choice of finale with a thumping finish.

If you thought the previous sixteen pieces were enough, Westoe gave us a right humdinger of an encore piece. One you would expect to see in the main programme of many concerts. Enter Jaime Teixidor’s pasodoble Amparito Roco. The piece was named after a 12-year-old piano student and arranged by Aubrey Winter in 1935. A superb, lively end to a memorable concert.

*               *               *

By 9.15 pm, Westoe Brass Band’s concert turned out to be a pretty short two hours. The programme was well thought out, unique, and – most importantly – entertaining. Three turned out to be last night’s magic number, thanks to Messrs Smith, Thompson, and Morris, and the first half horn feature. We eagerly await their return to Boarshurst Band Club in 2020.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

Another Championship Section band will be heading to Boarshurst Band Club next week. This time, Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band. The Cheshire band is one of the world’s oldest brass bands and have held their own in the Championship Section for more than three decades.

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., 21 January 2019.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Tom Cowing says:

    A memorable and enjoyable concert to start the season. Westoe is local to me and I knew you would get a good show. I listen in every week and prais what you are doing for the Brass Band World. You are leading the way. Success to You All at Boarshurst.

    Liked by 1 person

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