Stig and Co.’s high octane performance and warm reception makes for a most delightful concert
Consistency has been the order of the day for Poynton Band. Off the stage it has been their 30+ year association with the Vernon Building Society which has provided the band a solid base. On the stage, it has been their position in brass banding’s top two sections. Bringing the story up to date was the band’s other pillar of consistency: their concerts. Their ability to give the audience a delightful show with something for everyone.
Last night’s concert at Boarshurst Band Club was no exception. The programme was spot on, and the whole package was enhanced by Stig Maersk’s humorous delivery.
As we have said before, Poynton Band are one of the world’s oldest brass bands with records dating back to 1824. The village of Poynton – known by many of today’s visitors for the Brookside Garden Centre – was a mining village. The Poynton and Worth coal mines provided gainful employment for its residents.
Last night’s Musical Director Stig Maersk has an enviable C.V., having worked with the National Youth Band of Denmark, East Yorkshire Motor Services band, and Åarhus Brass Band. In the UK and in mainland Europe, he has gained an excellent reputation as a Musical Director and an adjudicator. For some, it seemed like two minutes ago when Stig made his first visit to Boarshurst Band Club – when he enrolled for a conducting workshop.
For the best part of two hours, Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band were in cruise control. A real seat of the pants experience without the journalist-turned-quiz show host wittering on about big boys toys of the four wheel drive variety.
- Overture: Jubilee Overture (Philip Sparke);
- Euphonium Solo (performed by Sam Noden): Fantasy on Swiss Airs (Roy Newsome);
- Quartet: The Irish Blessing (traditional, arr. Stephen Bradnum);
- Original Piece: Toccata from The Year of the Dragon (Philip Sparke);
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Jess Tredrea): The Way We Were (Marvin Hamlisch, arr. Christopher Wormald);
- Popular Music: Ticket to Ride (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie);
- March: Punchinello (William Rimmer).
- Light Concert Music: First Movement from Four Scottish Dances (Malcolm Arnold, arr Ray Farr);
- Baritone Solo (performed by Natsumi McDonald): Donegal Bay (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
- Medley: Keep Smiling Through (Various, arr. Darrol Barry);
- Film Music (from Despicable Me 2): Happy (Pharrell Williams, arr. Scott Rogers);
- Light Concert Music: Lake of Tenderness (Ben Hollings);
- Popular Music: Music (John Miles, arr. Philip Sparke);
- Popular Music: Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars, arr. Rob J. Hume).
- Popular Music: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Bob Crewe/Bob Gaudio, arr. Alan Fernie).
Week One: Kettering to Salford (via Zurich)
We opened with a fantastic overture by Philip Sparke, the barnstorming Jubilee Overture. The piece was written in 1983 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of The GUS Band. It was first performed at their Golden Jubilee Concert which was conducted by Keith Wilkinson. 36 years on, they are still performing as The Virtuosi GUS Band, under the stewardship of Chris Jeans. A nice rousing start to proceedings.
From Kettering, our next part of our musical journey took us to Switzerland – via St. Pancras International, Paris Gare du Nord, and Paris Gare du Lyon. Taking in the window views was our first soloist of the night, Sam Noden. On euphonium, Sam played Roy Newsome’s Fantasy on Swiss Airs, a piece that got us all thinking of The Glacier Express. A thrilling performance of an atmospheric piece. Timbre and intonation spot on.
Swiss Airs reminded us of the next leg of our fantasy journey: a Swissair flight to Dublin. All the more enhanced by our third piece. The third piece of the night was The Irish Blessing, a quiet piece to the listener though a lip smasher for brass bander. Instead of having the full band playing Stephen Bradnum’s piece, this was left to a quartet on euphonium, flugelhorn, baritone, and tenor horn. With the strength in depth in their performance, you could have closed your eyes and thought the whole of Poynton Band had played The Irish Blessing. Sensational.
In our fantasy journey, we couldn’t stay too long in Dublin. We had a boat to catch, and a date in North Wales. The soundtrack to this hour long sailing? Our second Philip Sparke piece, The Year of the Dragon, where you could be forgiven for thinking it was written in 1988, 2000 or 2012. Actually, it was written in 1984 to commemorate the centenary of The Cory Band. Like last year, we were treated to the first movement, its Toccata. An explosive piece which demonstrated the band’s strength in depth.
Continuing our fantasy journey, one of the members complained about the buses in Anglesey. He wished they were in the green of Crosville. He also yearned for Class 37 diesel locos to Birmingham New Street. Basically, “the good old days” which opens The Way We Were. Made famous by Barbra Streisland and Gladys Knight, it was written by Marvin Hamlisch. With perfection, Jess Tredrea performed The Way We Were on flugelhorn. Could it be the fact she made it “all so simple”? Nope, this was a solo performance of the highest calibre. Tone, dynamic range and volume, truly flawless.
From North Wales, there is only one correct way of travelling to Liverpool – by train, changing at Chester. Taking us to Liverpool was Alan Fernie’s arrangement of Ticket To Ride, one of The Beatles’ best loved songs from the Help! soundtrack album. Taking many of its audience back to 1965, Poynton Band’s performance was a virtuoso one with only one thing lacking: soot from a Stanier Black Five steam engine bound for Newcastle Central.
Closing the first week of our fantasy journey through last night’s concert programme, we boarded the express train to Manchester Exchange station. Thereafter, a green Salford bus would take us to L.S Lowry’s stamping ground. Why, might you ask is there a link with Punchinello and L.S. Lowry? Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs by Brian and Michael (1978), where you hear the opening bars of William Rimmer’s march.
As always, Punchinello is a popular contest march and road march. With strong volume and tone, we all lapped it up finishing our first half on a high. Not least the fact it reminded us that Whit Friday was only 137 days away.
Week Two: Glasgow to Oldham (via the Moon)
Week two of our fantasy journey meant the Lowland Sleeper train to Glasgow Central. Opening our second half was the first movement of Four Scottish Dances. The Malcolm Arnold piece, arranged by Ray Farr, was a neat toe-tapper. One which got in high spirits for the second half. A brilliant movement that had us yearning for the Western Isles.
With the Stornoway flight cancelled in our fantasy journey at Glasgow Airport, we stayed in our hotel for another flight – Loganair’s flight to Donegal. Its bay inspired Donegal Bay, Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s piece which was the subject of Natsumi McDonald’s baritone solo. The piece is written in the style of an Irish Air. A neat companion to The Irish Blessing, and a superb performance by Natsumi.
The next two pieces of the night were genuine feel good tunes with sing along qualities. Our first of the two tunes has cemented a place in many St. George’s Day and Remembrance Day concert programmes. Darrol Barry’s Keep Smiling Through is a medley of songs popular during the Second World War. These were sandwiched between the intro and outro of We’ll Meet Again. Making up the ‘filling’ was three songs: The Army, The Navy, and the Air Force, Lilli Marlene, and White Cliffs of Dover. Poynton Band’s performance proved you couldn’t keep a good Darrol Barry medley down. Fantastic stuff.
The second one of the two feel good tunes dates from 2013: Pharrell Williams’ Happy. A monster hit in terms of downloads, airplay, it has inspired one or two imitators (including The Singing Dentist’s Gappy). It is used in Despicable Me 2, a box office smash back then. VBS Poynton Band’s rendition got us all clapping and secretly singing along.
Were we happy? Over the Moon even, taking us to Ben Hollings’ Lake of Tenderness. Based on a simple premise, the piece reflects our silvery moon reflecting on a lake. It was commissioned by Dr. Robert Childs for Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and used for its 2015 Brass In Concert entry. Once again, Poynton Band’s playing of Hollings’ piece was well received.
As the budget for our fantasy journey couldn’t cover the Moon (well, the acoustics are awful there, no atmosphere), we had to make do with Jarrow, the birthplace of singer-songwriter John Miles. His most famous chart single is Music, which inspired the penultimate piece of the night. Peaking at Number 3, John Miles’ other singles included Highfly (UK #16 single, 1975), Slow Down and Remember Yesterday (UK #10 and #32 hit singles in 1976 respectively). Needless to say, Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band gave us all a superb rendition of John Miles’ most famous song.
In our fantasy journey, we ended up going up town for our final destination. Yes, Oldham. Which did not inspire the last non-encore piece of the night – Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. Once more, another piece that encouraged audience participation, and another monster hit. Since its release at the close of 2014, it gained five platinum discs (2,590,000 sales) – up there with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Elton John’s 1997 re-release of Candle in the Wind. Last night, Poynton Band’s performance was another monster hit.
If you thought Uptown Funk wasn’t lively enough, their choice of encore was similarly upbeat. Enter Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. Originally a hit for Frankie Valli, the song has been covered by Andy Williams, and The Boys Town Gang. What a way to end a stunning concert.
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With Stig Maersk behind the wheel, Poynton Band’s 2019 visit to Boarshurst Band Club was another joyous experience. There was everything there to suit audience members (or online viewers) irrespective of age or background. Also newcomers as well as dedicated followers of brass banding.
We wish them well in the North West Regional Championships on the 24 February. If any MD could get Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band up the brass banding hit parade, Stig could be that man.
Taking their chances along the Woodhead Pass and the Isle of Skye Road into Greenfield will be Thurlstone Band. Situated just off the A628, they are an unregistered though long established community band between Sheffield and Barnsley. In 1854 they were formed as the Millhouse Music Society. Its Musical Director Graham Bates has been involved with the band since 2010.
Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start on the 03 February. Admission will be £3.00 (or £2.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club). Arrive in good time to get 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., 28 January 2019.