Thurlstone Brass Band deliver a delightful concert, warmly received by all audiences – live and on-screen
In relation to competitive brass banding, the term Unregistered doesn’t do brass bands any justice. To the untrained ear, ‘Unregistered’ may be seen in the same light as a ‘U’ grade in GCSE examinations (as in ‘substandard’ or ‘dire’). In this context, ‘non-competing’ is a far better category. Whether they compete or otherwise, a brass band of any description ultimately serves its community. They also nurture local talent, taking them from village halls to (perhaps) The Royal Albert Hall.
Also true of the brass banding fraternity are family connections. With Boarshurst Silver Band, the Ashleys and the Paynes; with Tintwistle Band, the Barrows. With last night’s band, the Bates’ family. More precisely, its Musical Director Graham Bates and – his most famous son, a conductor, writer and arranger extraordinaire – Jonathan Bates. Both Graham and Jonathan started out at Thurlstone Brass Band and went to the heady heights of Championship Section brass banding.
Graham returned to his first love in 2003 as Musical Director, whilst playing for Championship Section bands like Hammonds Saltaire Band and Strata Band. With Graham recovering from a bowel operation and, three months ago, a heart attack, he had to take things easy at last night’s concert. The baton was handed to Huddersfield and Ripponden Band’s Musical Director Adam Bell. Instead, Graham Bates did the compering links between pieces. With Adam and Graham as a double act, this arrangement worked well.
Thurlstone Brass Band are situated in the titular village between Deepcar and Penistone. It is off the A628 road to Stocksbridge and Tintwistle (the notorious Woodhead Pass). They were formed in 1854 – five years after Boarshurst Silver Band – and became a non-competing band in the 1980s.
As for last night’s concert, the overall package was a joy to behold. As well as Graham and Adam, the programme was well thought out. One that wouldn’t have been out of place in a competing Third Section band’s repertoire. As this review proves, everything you may have heard about un… (sorry, non-competing) brass bands should have been stubbed out on the forecourt of Boarshurst Band Club.
- March: Barnard Castle (Goff Richards);
- Light Concert Music: Guardian of my Soul (Darren Shaw);
- Popular Music: Clog Dance (John Marcangelo);
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Josh Bailey): Magh Seola (Gerald Fahy, arr Sandy Smith);
- Original Piece: Glasnost (Dizzy Stratford);
- Light Concert Music: Russian Circus Music (Ray Woodfield);
- Trombone Trio (performed by James Broadhead, Chris Miles, Bob Eastwood): Frolic For Trombones (Reginald Heath);
- Popular Music Medley: The Best of ABBA (Andersson/Ulvaeus, arr. Frank Bernaerts):
- Dancing Queen;
- Take a Chance on Me;
- The Winner Takes It All;
- Thank You for the Music.
- March: Star Lake (Eric Ball);
- Light Concert Music: Prelude on Lavenham (Geoffrey Nobes) – dedicated to the memory of Stuart Fawcett;
- Light Concert Music: A Swingin’ Safari (Bert Kaempfert, arr. Edrich Siebert);
- Percussion Solo (performed by Tim Clarke): Helter Skelter (W.G. Lemon, arr. Ray Woodfield);
- Musical Piece (from The Phantom of the Opera): Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (Andrew Lloyd-Webber, arr. Steven Bulla);
- Euphonium Solo (performed by Peter Crossley): Stabat Mater (Sir Karl Jenkins, arr. Robert Childs);
- Popular Music: Mr Blue Sky (Jeff Lynne, arr. Christopher Wormald).
- Film Music (from Shrek): Shrek Dance Party (Various, arr. Paul Murtha).
Gimme Gimme Gimme (a band before midnight)…
As with last week’s concert, there seemed to have been an underlying travel theme. At the start, Graham stated that each piece had different composers. There was also tunes with links to retailers great and small, and the joys of oval track racing.
First off, our tour began in the picturesque village of Barnard Castle, County Durham. The piece, Goff Richards’ Barnard Castle, a bouncy contest march which you sometimes hear on Whit Friday. Of the castle themed marches, somewhat overlooked in favour of Raby (George Allan) and Castell Coch (T.J. Powell). Thurlstone Brass Band proved one thing: Goff’s effort needs a bit more love, and our fellows did it justice.
After this flying start came Darren Shaw’s Guardian of My Soul, which is based on two hymns. Those of I Worship You and O Jesus, I Have Promised. This was a more mellow counterpart to our opening march and demonstrated the band’s abilities with softer pieces. Another good performance.
With itchy feet setting in on our fantasy tour, we moved to Whitehaven for our third piece. Believe it or not, John Marcangelo’s Clog Dance is inspired by the world of retail. That of Whitehaven clog maker Lance Brew, who had a shop in the fine Georgian town. Nearly 40 years ago, it was a hit single for Violinski (Mik Kaminski‘s post-ELO group). Many people will have come across this piece via Brassed Off. Some listeners might have come across the tune via oval track racing (where Clog Dance was used for the rolling start of Ministox races).
The band’s only concession to Brassed Off made for a tight performance. One that neatly dovetailed with our first soloist of the night. Enter on flugelhorn our first soloist of the night, Josh Bailey. His piece was Gerald Fahy’s Magh Seola. The folk song is named after the site of an ancient battle which took place in 652 (or 649 A.D. according to some accounts). A smooth performance with superb clarity.
After our fictitious tour bus took us from Barnard Castle to Galway, the band realised they had an engagement in Russia. With ‘Putin on the style’ their key to standing ovations in Vladivostok, Thurlstone Brass Band continued with two Russian themed pieces.
First off was Glasnost, an original piece by Dizzy Stratford (or Jacob de Haan to give the Dutch composer’s Sunday name). The vibrant piece conjured up images of Gorbachev and the death throes of the Cold War. Nevertheless, this was a full bodied piece as comforting as a cup of Russian Caravan tea with a chocolate biscuit or two. It was one that brought Graham much joy with Hade Edge Band when he included it in their concerts. Thurlstone Band’s performance was another solid one.
This was followed by Russian Circus Music, a piece by Ray Woodfield. Besides political references, sporting prowess, and multifarious tower blocks, Russia is noted for its exquisite circuses. Thurlstone Brass Band’s performance of Woodfield’s piece reflected this very well, capturing the essence of high wire acts, clowns, and vibrancy.
From high wire acts we moved onto the high wire world of the trombone trio. Enter last night’s answer to The Three Amigos, James Broadhead, Chris Miles, and Bob Eastwood. Their mission was to play Reginald Heath’s Frolic For Trombones – a bit of a trombone trio standard these days – and the first item from this half’s cheeseboard of cheesy brass band tunes. As concert trios went, this was a cracker, a Cornish wafer with a slab of Extra Mature Cheddar.
For our closing piece of the first half came some more cheese of the highest order. That of the singalong variety in the form of Frank Bernaerts’ medley, The Best of ABBA. Anyone with a musical bone in their body cannot discount the collective talents of Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Annafrid. A brass band arrangement of their works is irresistible as a toe-tapper prior to any interval. After playing bitesize chunks of Dancing Queen, Take a Chance on Me, The Winner Takes It All, and Thank You For The Music, Thurlstone Brass Band finished the first half on a high. Needless to say, your reviewer and Master of Ceremonies was tempted to sing along.
“I’ve got blisters on my fingers…!”
After finishing the first half in a vivacious manner, we opened the second half with another march. This time, Eric Ball’s Star Lake. Many a seasoned follower of brass bands would come across his name in the world of test pieces (see also Journey Into Freedom). Star Lake was written in 1937 for the Salvation Army’s music camp. In a matter of hours, it was written, copied, rehearsed, and performed. Some going for a march which has been adopted by Fourth Section and Youth Section bands on many a Whit Friday contest. A very good performance to boot.
The second piece was more mellow, and dedicated to the late Stuart Fawcett. The former Meltham and Meltham Mills Band conductor retired in 2010, and he was also a good friend of Graham Bates. In his memory, Thurlstone Brass Band played Geoffrey Nobes’ Prelude on Lavenham. The former Bandmaster of Portsmouth Citadel Band set the tune to Reverend Nick Fawcett’s hymn. The band’s performance was sensitive, clear, and a fitting tribute.
This was followed by an easy listening number that has been used in oval racing fixtures and in the sale of furniture. From Lance Brew’s shop, we moved to DFS with Bert Kaempfert’s A Swingin’ Safari. As heard in the adverts, A Swingin’ Safari was written in 1962 and a bit of a slow burner in the US charts, before Billy Vaughn’s cover peaked at 13 in the Billboard charts. Though the piece didn’t tempt me to buy furniture, Thurlstone’s effort was about as sleek as a Chesterfield.
Following Kaempfert’s piece and the raffle came our first soloist of this half. Firstly, you seldom see a percussion solo in many brass band concerts. To see a repiano cornet player form a percussion solo is even rarer still. Enter Tim Clarke and his performance of Helter Skelter. W.G. Lemon’s piece is always a joy to listen to, but Tim Clarke’s rendition was nothing short of sensational. A performance that First and Championship Section bands would have been impressed with. Deservedly so, he was rewarded with thunderous applause.
Offering a real contrast to the piece which may have given Tim blisters on his fingers (like the totally different version of Helter Skelter by The Beatles) was a bit of Andrew Lloyd-Webber. To this day, The Phantom of the Opera continues to pull in millions of theatregoers around the world. Criminally forgotten is Sarah Brightman’s Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. One of the most emotional numbers from the musical is an underrated gem. Add a decent brass band to the mix, like our fellows just off the A628, even better.
This took us to our final soloist of the night. Enter on euphonium, Peter Crossley with Stabat Mater – a piece by Sir Karl Jenkins, arranged by Robert Childs. The piece is based on a 13th Century Christian hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ’s mother, during crucifixion. The powerful piece was brought to life by a fantastic performance from Peter.
With two more pieces to go, Thurlstone’s last two pieces were lively ones to boot. First off was Christopher Wormald’s arrangement of Mr Blue Sky. On ELO’s double LP Out of the Blue, it closes the four movement Concerto for a Rainy Day on Side Three. It is far and way the Electric Light Orchestra’s best known song. Furthermore, it has been used for advertising jingles, and television trailers all over the world. As a brass band piece, superb. Jeff Lynne would have been proud of Thurlstone Brass Band’s efforts.
To finish off the concert, Thurlstone Brass Band, plus Messrs Bates and Bell gave us a humdinger of a finale. That of Shrek’s Dance Party – a medley of cheesy tunes heard in the film. Numbers included the Baha Men’s Who Let The Dogs Out?, Culture Club’s Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? and The Village People’s YMCA. If you thought listening to Shine As The Light and The Pines of Rome were the high-water mark of brass band concert going, you couldn’t have lived a full life without hearing a brass band version of Who Let The Dogs Out? I kid you not.
This is why I love brass banding. Its diversity, its flexibility, and the fact you can take your audience on a journey across a wide range of musical genres. From marches to popular music; from test pieces to hymns.
Besides giving us a most entertaining concert, Thurlstone Brass Band clearly enjoyed themselves at Boarshurst Band Club. According to Graham, their last trip to Boarshurst was in the 1980s. We hope to see them back at the Boarshurst Band Club well before 2059.
A fairly well known local band will be tramping their way down the A62 to Boarshurst Band Club on the 10 February. No prizes for guessing the fact they are a band from the Colne Valley: Marsden Silver Prize Band.
Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Admission will be £6.00 (or £5.00 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., 04 February 2019.