Marsden Silver Prize Band, 10 February: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Andrew Lofthouse and Co. takes the audience on a journey through stage and screen

Royal Albert Hall, London, 7pm: the red carpet is rolled out for another star-studded BAFTA awards ceremony. All the greats from stage and screen pull into the palatial venue, used as the Championship Section’s National Finals venue each October.

Boarshurst Band Club, Greenfield, 7pm: Linda and Vernon opens up Boarshurst Band Club for another night of first class brass band music. This time with a hardy following of brass band lovers from Marsden, Saddleworth and surrounding area. Some from far flung parts of the world like Hyde.

With a fortnight to go till the North West Regional Championship Finals, Marsden Silver Prize Band’s latest Boarshurst jolly offered some light relief from the strains of Ray Steadman-Allen’s Seascapes. From the start, Andrew Lofthouse’s band gave us a tour through the world of stage and screen.

The film and theatre themed programme may have been undemanding for some discerning listeners. For the average concertgoer and (as we found in the live audience last night), a most enjoyable programme. There was five memorable solo performances, also a fantastic little trombone trio.

Andrew Lofthouse’s first visit to Boarshurst Band Club as Musical Director was a good one. He was humorous yet authoritative and kept the audience at ease. The kind of Musical Director who is just at home with matinee and evening performances.

All in all, it was a likeable concert. One that would have gone well with accompanying film slides. Also a good programme for introducing youngsters to brass band music with a matinee performance.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Film Music (from Star Wars): Theme from Star Wars (John Williams, arr. Steve Sykes);
  2. Film Music (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang): Theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (R.H. Sherman, arr. Thomas Wyss);
  3. Film Music (from Battle of Britain): Aces High (Ron Goodwin, arr. Frank Bryce);
  4. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Anna Ferguson): Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascagni, arr. John Howarth);
  5. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Charlotte Nuta): I Don’t Know How To Love Him (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice, arr. J. Graham Walker);
  6. Soprano Trumpet Solo (performed by Christie Smith): Concerto for Trumpet (Harry James, arr. Elgar Howarth);
  7. Hymn: Abide With Me (Henry Francis Lyte/W.H. Monk, arr. Rieks van der Velde) – dedicated to the late Stuart Fawcett;
  8. Film Music Medley: Selection from The Sound of Music (including Do-Re-Mi, My Favourite Things, Climb Ev’ry Mountain and overture) (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein, arr. Dennis Wright).

Second Half

  1. Popular Music: Soul Bossa Nova (Quincy Jones, arr. Andrew Duncan);
  2. Film Music (from An American Tail): Somewhere Out There (James Horner/Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill, arr. Darrol Barry);
  3. Eb Bass Solo (performed by Zach Schofield-Lea): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkysen, arr. Leigh Baker);
  4. Euphonium Solo (performed by Alex Barron): Bring Him Home (Claude-Michel Schoenberg/Alain Boubell, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Film Music Medley (from the Harry Potter series of films): Selection from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (John Williams, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  6. Popular Music: I Will Follow Him (Franck Pourcel/Paul Mauriat, arr. Goff Richards);
  7. Film Music (from The Student Prince): I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodzsky, arr. Denzil Stephens).

Encore

  • Film Music (from The Great Escape): March from The Great Escape (Elmer Bernstein, arr. Martin Ellerby).

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Take One

From a galaxy far far away (or the other side of the A62 after dodging the sheep) came our first John Williams piece of the night. No prizes for guessing which piece: the theme from Star Wars. For the best part of 41 years, the Star Wars franchise has been a licence to print money. Besides its hugely successful films, it has spawned its own cottage industry with spin-off merchandise, and countless imitators – including disco themed arrangements. Instead, we had Sandy Smith’s arrangement; for Marsden Silver Prize Band, the force was well and truly with them. A good start.

This was followed by Ian Fleming’s first foray into foisting flying automobiles on an unsuspecting public. Yes, our next piece was the theme tune from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The film version was co-written by Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes, with sonic interjections courtesy of The Sherman Brothers (Richard M. and Robert B. – also of Mary Poppins fame). To hilarious effect, a scene in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights shows a manic Jerry St. Clair singing the main theme. Thankfully, Marsden Silver’s performance was nowhere near as shambolic as the character played by Dave Spikey. Another fine performance.

From Millennium Falcons to flying Bugattis, we moved onto the world of aerial combat. This time with Aces High – the theme music from Battle of Britain. Also known as The Luftwaffe March, it was written by Ron Goodwin. His other musical credits include The Trap (BBC’s theme of choice for the London Marathon), themes from Where Eagles Dare and 633 Squadron, and Yorkshire March. The last was Yorkshire Television’s startup routine music from 1968 to 1982 (replaced by Christopher Gunning’s Calendar theme).

With the first three pieces being beautifully played, these would be usurped by our next three solo pieces. First up was the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, performed by Anna Ferguson on principal cornet. Written by Pietro Mascagni, it is the best known piece from the opera with the same name. In 1959, it was the subject of a made-for-TV film in Australia. If you were a child of the 1980s or the 1990s, you might remember the piece for another reason. The peddling of a reassuringly expensive Belgian lager. Whether you remember the opera or the ad, a stellar performance from Anna.

This was followed by our second soloist. Enter Charlotte Nuta on flugelhorn, taking us back to the world of theatre. This time with a performance of I Don’t Know How to Love Him. From Jesus Christ Superstar, it was sung by Yvonne Elliman in the original 1970 cast. If Yvonne saw last night’s performance, she would have been proud of Charlotte’s rendition. Impressive work.

The first solos, though well played, would have been usurped by our third solo of the night. It was also our first diversion from the world of stage and screen. Enter Christie Smith, their usual soprano cornet player with his performance of Harry James’ Concerto for Trumpet. Played on a (cough!) trumpet. Quibbles of brass banding’s equivalent to mixing cross ply and radial tyres aside, Christie played the piece to perfection. Without music. By ear. Deservedly so, his performance of Elgar Howarth’s arrangement met with rapturous applause.

Our penultimate piece of this half was a tribute to Stuart Fawcett who passed away last month. Before retiring in 2010, he was the Musical Director for Meltham and Meltham Mills Band, and Skelmanthorpe Band prior to then. For our dedication to the late Stuart Fawcett was Abide With Me. It is noted for its use in the F.A. Cup Final – often set to William Henry Monk’s Eventide. A superb tribute to Stuart with a solid backbone from the bass and baritone instruments.

Before our interval, we finished with a selection from The Sound of Music. Dennis Wright’s arrangement was a medley of popular songs from The Sound of Music, including Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Do-Re-Mi, and My Favourite Things. A medley of great singalong quality which got us in the mood for a choc ice, hot dog, or a glass of Kia Ora. (Strictly speaking, nuts and a pint of Donkeystone Brewing Company’s finest).

Take Two

After a jolly first half, we moved from a film that was popular in the 1960s to a film series that sent up the 1960s flower power vibe. Enter Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova. Many people would associate this groovy tune with the Austin Powers series of films starring Mike Myers. Well before 1997 (the release of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), it was used for the chart rundowns on Pick of the Pops in the early 1970s. Other than being second fiddle to At the Sign of the Swingin’ Cymbal, Quincy Jones did pretty well afterwards (see his work with Michael Jackson).

After a swinging performance, the sight of adorable mice inspired our imaginary trip to Huddersfield ABC (or the video shelf at the off-licence on High Street near the Co-op). Our next piece came from a film with animated mice: 1986’s An American Tail. The soundtrack of Fievel’s adventures included Somewhere Out There (sung by Linda Ronstadt and the late James Ingram). In the UK, the film’s best known song peaked at Number 8 in the singles chart. Marsden Silver Prize Band’s performance was another good one.

This was followed by our first solo of the second half. A piece which is so joyful to a point that it should have been put on the National Health Service back in 1967. Enter on Eb bass, Zach Schofield-Lea’s rendition of The Bare Necessities. In Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book, we see Baloo the bear singing the song with Mowgli. Halfway through they are interrupted by Bagheera the panther. With a bit of instrumental backing, a fantastic performance from Zach.

After the madness of the raffle came our final soloist of the night. This time with Alex Barron on euphonium and his performance of Bring Him Home. From Les Miserables, it is sung when Valjean begs God to save and return Marius to Cosette. In the musical itself, it is a most touching and tearjerking song. On euphonium, Alex gave us a tight performance.

Our next piece offered a real contrast. This time with a selection of works from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Composed by John Williams, another joy to listen to. Marsden Silver Prize Band’s performance would have well and truly pleased Harry Potter fans the world over.

From J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world, we turned to religion for solace. This time with I Will Follow Him being the subject of a trombone trio. Composed by Paul Mauriat and Franck Pourcel in 1961, Little Peggy March’s 1963 cover gave the song some worldwide attention. In 1992, Whoopi Goldberg’s rendition closed Sister Act in great style (and the rest, as they say… double R.E. on a Monday morning). Showing the same chutzpah was last night’s trombone trio who put in a good shift. Sadly, they didn’t take up Andrew Lofthouse’s offer to dress up as nuns.

This was followed by our penultimate piece of the night: a song that was written for The Student Prince. In the film, Nicholas Brodzsky’s I’ll Walk With God is sung in full view of the coffin of Prince Karl’s grandfather, the King of Carlsburg. It has also been sung by Mario Lanza, Michael Crawford, and Placido Domingo. A pleasant way to finish the concert, but not before our final piece of the night.

For the last piece, we sat back, relaxed, and awaited the departure of Steve McQueen on a motorbike. You could have said it was the Christmas holidays or an Easter Bank Holiday. Seemingly a tradition in these parts on the holy days is a showing of The Great Escape. From Marsden Silver, its most famous part: the march. One that has been adopted by football fans and many a brass band on a deportment march. In case you are wondering there are 317 days till Christmas, 69 days till Easter, and 122 days till Whit Friday. As for Marsden Silver Band’s performance, a nice rousing cobweb blower. Good work.

*                         *                         *

We wish Marsden Silver Prize Band the very best in the future and hope Mr. Lofthouse’s focus on youth pays long term dividends. With the band having been in the higher echelons of brass banding for all of the 21st century, there is a lot at stake. Christie has potential to be up with the greats. His solo performance of Harry James’ piece could make a few older players sweat buckets.

Unlike the BAFTAs, there was nothing cringeworthy nor pretentiousness around Marsden Silver Prize Band’s concert. There was sincerity in their performance and in Andrew Lofthouse’s delivery. Whether they will follow in the footsteps of Olivia Colman in October remains to be seen. There is only three weeks to go till the Yorkshire Area Regional Championship Finals at Huddersfield Town Hall.

Boarshurst Band Club, Greenfield, 10pm: some of the live audience stay in the club, either retiring to the Members’ Room. By then, Marsden Silver Prize Band had packed up their instruments.

Royal Albert Hall, London, 10pm: the BAFTAs are still in full swing, after their tribute to dearly departed stars. Minutes later, Rami Malek would win the Best Leading Actor prize for his role in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

Next week is one of the most important nights in Boarshurst Band Club’s calendar. It’s the preview night for the North West Regional Championships. As usual, there will be five bands (one from each of the five sections) playing their section’s test piece. This year’s line up is:

  • Dobcross Youth Band (Fourth Section, Matthew Hindle): Stantonbury Festival, Ray Steadman-Allen;
  • Delph Band (Second Section, Phil Goodwin): Rise of the Phoenix, Darrol Barry;
  • Stalybridge Old Band (Third Section, James Atkins): First Suite in Eb, Gustav Holst;
  • Flixton Band (First Section, Matthew Ryan): Symphony of Marches, Gilbert Vinter;
  • Milnrow Band (Championship Section, Dennis Hadfield): Seascapes, Ray Steadman-Allen.

Once again, our adjudicator will be Mike Kilroy. He has regularly adjudicated at Delph’s Whit Friday Band Contest. In 2016 he was also the Programme Concert adjudicator for that year’s Brass In Concert at SAGE Gateshead.

The whole thing starts at 7.30pm, thirty minutes earlier than the usual Sunday Brass concerts. Arrive early 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. Both services operated by First Greater Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 11 February 2019.

Marsden mills image by Grassroots Groundswell, 2018 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-Some Rights Reserved).

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