Well thought out programme by Stephen Craig and Co. makes for well received concert
There are very few brass bands that could almost claim to return home with a trophy and another brass band from the Fylde peninsula. Give or take another week, Boarshurst Silver Band pulled that off. Seriously though, through happy accident, the next band after the North West Regional Championship Finals was Thornton Cleveleys Brass Band.
During their two-hour long set, Thornton Cleveleys Brass Band gave us all a well-rounded programme. As conductor Stephen Craig said near the close of the concert, “something for everyone”.
Formed in 1962 in the wake of Thornton Cleveleys Silver Band’s demise, it has links with Derek Broadbent and his one time instructor and founder Tom Birch. Tom was previously an instructor at The Kneller Hall Royal Military School, whose other alumnae included last night’s conductor Stephen Craig.
Stephen has also served in the army for 26 years, having served in Hong Kong, Australia, and as a medic in the Gulf War. He is also involved with Weeton’s first professional brass band – The Band of the King’s Division.
There was also a living brass band legend in the Boarshurst Band Club. Fellow Lancastrian Gordon Higginbottom, who was previously at Kearsley Band, CWS Manchester band, and Wingates Temperance Band. Few brass banders can claim to have played on the soundtrack of Madonna’s Evita film as well as dressing up as a bumblebee (in a James Shepherd’s Versatile Brass performance of Flight of the Bumble Bee).
It may be cliched to say this, but last night’s programme exuded military precision. There was only one mission brief: to entertain the live audience at one of the UK’s most iconic brass banding venues. Last night, they succeeded, winning friends with both the live audience and the many people who followed The Stream Team’s efforts.
- Concert Opener: The Spirit of Brass (Gavin Somerset);
- Light Concert Music: Appalachian Mountain Folk Song Suite (Various, arr. James Curnow);
- Sourwood Mountain (Traditional);
- Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair (Traditional);
- The Camptown Races (Stephen Foster).
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Natalie Beddows): Pater Noster (Rebecca Lundberg);
- Light Concert Medley: The Big Mancini (Henry Mancini, arr. Darrol Barry);
- Musical Piece (from The Greatest Showman): This Is Me (Benj Pasek/Justin Paul, arr. Michael Brown);
- Light Concert Music: The Shepherd’s Song (Goff Richards)
- Popular Music: Ruby Tuesday (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, arr. Alan Catherall).
- March: Men of Harlech (Traditional, arr. Gordon Langford);
- Popular Music: Music (John Miles, arr. Philip Sparke);
- Euphonium Solo (performed by David Cummins): The Road and Miles to Dundee (Alan Fernie);
- Popular Music: Happy (Pharrell Williams, arr. Scott Rogers);
- Light Concert Music: I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodzsky, arr. Denzil Stephens);
- Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Nicola Holland): An Untold Story (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
- Film Music Medley: A Disney Fantasy (Various, arr. Goff Richards).
- Popular Music: One Voice (Barry Manilow, arr. Ray Farr).
The Spirit of Ruby Tuesday
To begin with was a fantastic concert opener in the form of Spirit of Brass. Composed by Gavin Somerset in 2017, it was commissioned for that year’s BrassFestUK and originally performed by The Cory Band. Somerset’s piece has John Williams-esque leanings and wouldn’t look out of place in a thematic concert. If you are looking for a suitable alternative concert opener to Prismatic Light, this piece fits the bill. If you heard Thornton Cleveleys Brass Band’s performance, you would have been won over by this piece.
For our second piece we moved on to something much older – a trio of American folk songs under the banner of Appalachian Folk Song Suite. Arranged by James Curnow, the three pieces include an American folk song which has Scottish origins (Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair). Also everyone’s favourite go-to piece for cheap and cheerful horse racing features (The Camptown Races). Another good show.
This was followed by the first of our three fabulous solo performances. First off, on flugelhorn was Natalie Beddows, with a piece that feels like being snuggled up in front of the fire whilst Storm Freya was blowing merrily. No brass band lover could ever say a bad word about Rebecca Lundberg’s Pater Noster. It encapsulates the versatility of brass band music – its effectiveness with contemplative pieces as well as bombastic works. Well and truly fulfilling the former category was Natalie’s performance. Brilliant stuff.
Offering a neat contrast was another medley – this time, arranged by the late great Darrol Barry. Before you could say Inspector Clouseau, The Big Mancini is a whistle-stop tour through Henry Mancini’s works. This includes the Peter Gunn theme (popularised by Duane Eddy with his twangy guitar, and later covered by The Art of Noise). Also Baby Elephant Walk and the theme from The Pink Panther. A vibrant performance from Thornton Cleveleys Band.
You could say the Fylde peninsula’s showbiz leanings may have inspired the next piece. Or that your choice of the greatest showman could have been Peter Kay at the Opera House, or Charlie Cairoli in the Tower Circus ring. Or Mike Yarwood at North Pier. With absolutely nothing to do with the Bredbury born impressionist, This Is Me has become a modern classic, thanks to the success of The Greatest Showman. Based on P.T. Barnum, the film was a box office smash in 2017. In the film it was performed by Keala Settle. She would have been happy with last night’s performance, as were the live audience.
For the penultimate piece of this half, another change of tone. This time, The Shepherd’s Song by Goff Richards. Based on a traditional French folk song, this too shows the quieter side of brass banding. Since its publication in 1980, it has been a firm favourite among brass banders and audiences. Stephen Craig and Co. reflected this in their solid performance.
To close the first half, we moved on to a bona fide classic by The Rolling Stones. Ruby Tuesday is another object lesson in the versatility of brass band music, thanks to the arranger’s pen of Alan Catherall. On its original release in 1967, it was part of a AA side with Let’s Spend The Night Together. Due to the then risqué lyrics of the latter (also adapted to Let’s Spend Some Time Together), Ruby Tuesday got more airplay. In 1970, Melanie Safka’s cover was almost the equal of the original. Last night’s performance was another cracker, getting us in a joyous mood for the interval.
Happy Men of Harlech
The opening piece of the second half was our first and only march of the concert. Gordon Langford’s arrangement of Men of Harlech. Seen as the unofficial Welsh national anthem, it is often heard before a Six Nations International at The Millennium Stadium. If you happen to be 60-something and reading this post in Tenby, you might remember Men of Harlech as Teledu Cymru’s start up music. It was also used in Fritz Spiegl’s BBC Radio Four UK theme. Needless to say, we loved it: the sound of a band with a real spring in their step.
There are no prizes for guessing what our band’s first and last love is; that was answered by singer-songwriter John Miles. If you guessed anything other than Music, you must be reading a different review. John Miles’ most famous song peaked at Number Three in the UK singles chart in 1976. Its follow-ups, Slow Down and Remember Yesterday peaked at #10 and #32 in the same year. In this world of troubles, Thornton Cleveleys Band pulled us through with a sterling performance.
Giving the band a bit of a break was our second solo performance of the night. This time, with David Cummins on euphonium, we were taken on a trip to Scotland. Our trusty steed was Alan Fernie’s arrangement of The Road and Miles to Dundee. In the traditional Scottish folk song, a woman asks a man for directions to Dundee. He accompanies her on the journey to Dennis The Menace’s birthplace where she receives a token. Alas, the couple never meet again though remember each other years after. David’s performance deserves to remembered years after last night’s concert. Such smooth euphonium work.
This was followed by another modern classic. Dating from 2013, Pharrell Williams’ Happy was a monster hit in terms of downloads and airplay. Obviously with imitation being the most sincere form of flattery, it has inspired The Singing Dentist’s own two-minute take (as Gappy). Besides having goodness knows how much airplay around the world (and, possibly on Mars’ DAB+ channels), it featured in Despicable Me 2. Were we happy? Of course.
Following on from the raffle was another concert classic. This time, I’ll Walk With God, a song that was written for The Student Prince. In the film, Nicholas Brodzsky’s song 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. Lovely stuff.
Our penultimate piece of the night came from the final soloist of the night. This time with Nicola Holland on tenor horn. Her piece, An Untold Story, that rarest of beasties in the form of a quiet Paul Lovatt-Cooper composition. The solo work was written by The Mighty PLC for Owen Farr in 6/8 time. Like Pater Noster in the first half, this too demonstrates the underrated joy of slow melody in a brass band setting. Nicola gave us all a polished performance.
Last but not least was another medley. Whether you are eight months old or eighty years old, you can never whack the collected works of Walt Disney. Arranged by Goff Richards, A Disney Fantasy does exactly what it says on the tin. This all-stations journey, taking in the finest songs from Walt Disney’s, includes snippets from Mary Poppins, Song of the South, and The Jungle Book. At just under nine minutes, you could be forgiven for thinking this would drag on. As all-stations journeys went, more HS1 to Margate than a bus replacement service to Marsden. With some backing vocals in The Bare Necessities, plenty there to engage the audience.
After an energetic nine minute medley, the live audience were in the mood for another piece. Another feel-good number which, in pre-smoking ban times, was an excuse for waving your cigarette lighter in the air. Enter Barry Manilow’s classic One Voice. Released in 1979, it was later covered by the late William Piddington (or Bill Tarmey – Jack Duckworth in Coronation Street). Only Fools and Horses fans may recall Del Boy Trotter’s drunken version in the 1993 Christmas special Fatal Extraction. A fantastic finale.
Within their two hour slot, Thornton Cleveleys Band’s mission to entertain was a successful one. The programme was a tight one with something for all ages and all tastes. If you are new to brass band concerts or wish to introduce your friend to the joys of live brass banding, give Thornton Cleveleys Brass Band a go. Their Facebook page has details of forthcoming concerts.
Another Lancastrian band will be heading to the Boarshurst Band Club on the 10 March. This time, from the Whitworth Valley, Whitworth Vale and Healey Brass Band. Like Thornton Cleveleys Brass Band, they too are in the Third Section.
Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Admission will be £4.00 (or £3.00 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 March 2019.