A splendid traditional style brass band concert with five stunning solo performances
In the cosy surroundings of Boarshurst Band Club, Ryan Watkins’ Slaithwaite Band served up a delightful concert with traditional fare and a superb selection of solo performances. One of the five – the band’s youngest soloist – stole the show.
In spite of their disappointing result in the Yorkshire Area Regional Championships, Ryan Watkins was upbeat. Presently a Second Section band, he aims to make Slaithwaite Band a First Section band. From there, who knows: Championship section alongside the likes of Black Dyke and Brighouse and Rastrick?
Slaithwaite Band have previously been in the top section of brass banding. Their glory years were within the 1930s; in 1933 they won the Grand Shield at Crystal Palace with the test piece The White Rider. In 1937 they won the Belle Vue July Contest and came second in the British Open the same year. In 1938, they won the British Open with the test piece Owain Glyndwr.
From last night’s concert, Ryan seems to be taking the band towards First Section status. The concert had all the hallmarks of a First Section band programme. Purely by accident rather than design (yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day), their last item on the programme was an Irish themed piece.
In all, Slaithwaite Band gave us a well rounded concert. Some concertgoers may have been put off by the inclusion of a full test piece. Nevertheless, that was well performed and made for a performance worthy of a higher finish in the Regional Finals.
- March: Senator (George Allan);
- Overture: Egmont (Ludwig van Beethoven, arr. Eric Ball);
- Cornet Solo (performed by Joanne Griffith): Fifth Movement from Our Hidden Language: Ballerina (Jacob Vilhelm Larsen);
- Film Music Medley: Disney Fantasy (various, arr. Goff Richards);
- Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by John Mitchell): La Califfa (Ennio Morricone, arr. Stuart Pullin);
- Test Piece: Rise of the Phoenix (Darrol Barry).
- Light Concert Music: Fanfare and Flourishes for a Festive Occasion (James Curnow);
- Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Neil Hardy): An Untold Story (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
- Baritone Solo (performed by Graham Chadwick): Nessun Dorma (Giacono Puccini);
- Film Music: Theme from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (John Williams, arr. Ray Farr);
- Euphonium Solo (performed by Harry Newton): La Belle Americaine (John Hartmann);
- Light Concert Music: Gaelforce (Peter Graham).
- Light Concert Music: Fifth Movement from Cry of the Celts: Victory (Peter Graham).
The Rise of the Ballerina
In traditional fashion, we opened with a march. This time with one of George Allan’s finest in Senator. Often overlooked in favour of Knight Templar, it is a stately march popular across the brass banding sections. Especially during Whit Friday brass band contests. Slaithwaite Band got us off to a good start.
For our second piece, we continued with an overture: this time, some Beethoven with a bit of Eric Ball’s magic: Egmont. The overture is a set of incidental music pieces for the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe play with the same name from 1787. The original piece was written between October 1809 and June 1810, premiering on the 15 June that year. Its miniature movements made for a concert-friendly piece that was well performed by last night’s band.
The mark of any good brass band concert can be measured in the quality of its soloists. Last night, all five of them were superb. The first of our five solos came from Joanne Griffith on Principal Cornet with Ballerina. Listening to this, you could imagine being trapped inside a musical box.
Not to be confused with the march by Erwin Bootz, our Ballerina is the fifth movement of Our Hidden Language by Jacob Vilhelm Larsen. The piece in its entirety was premiered at last year’s Brass In Concert by Brighouse and Rastrick Band. The first airing of this movement in the West Riding of Yorkshire was at Boarshurst Silver Band’s humble abode. A fantastic, smooth performance from Joanne.
This was followed by a nice bit of whimsy, in the form of Walt Disney’s works. Goff Richards’ Disney Fantasy was a whistle stop tour of music from Walt Disney films in the last 80 years. This included Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah and, to comic effect thanks to Slaithwaite Band’s percussion work, The Bare Necessities. Well played.
Our penultimate piece of this half came from our second soloist. This time with John Mitchell on soprano cornet with his performance of La Califfa. Written by Ennio Morricone, it is the title song from a Franco-Italian film by Alberto Bevilacqua. In the 1971 film, there is a stormy relationship between a powerful capitalist male and a working-class woman. With a pristine performance by John, you could see why he deserved his Best Soloist prize at last year’s Pogson Bray contest. Take a bow, Mr Mitchell.
To close our first half, we had an epic piece: Darrol Barry’s Rise of the Phoenix. If you sat in the Blackpool Opera House, Huddersfield Town Hall or Bedworth Civic Centre in the last month, you would recognise it as the Regional Finals’ Second Section test piece. It was written to commemorate the history of Clifton and Lightcliffe Band. Near the end, a sneaky snatch of On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At is a neat touch.
Some people found the choice of piece overwhelming for a first half finale but I loved it. In fact, more satisfying than some performances I heard in Blackpool Opera House last month. Also an improvement on Slaithwaite Band’s previous performance at Glossop Old Bandroom. They could have finished in the top five on the strength of last night’s airing.
Fanfare, flourishes and euphonium excellence
We opened the second half with a more accessible piece: James Curnow’s Fanfare and Flourishes for a Festive Occasion. It is based on Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum and commissioned for the 1991 European Brass Band Championships in Rotterdam. A good choice of opening piece for the second half.
This was followed by the first of our three second half solo performances. First off with the rarest of beasties, a quiet Paul Lovatt-Cooper piece (An Untold Story) was Neil Hardy on Tenor Horn. The piece was written for Owen Farr in 6/8 time and proved to be an object lesson in performing slow melodic solos. On the tenor horn, a smooth, slick performance by Neil.
For our next piece was another solo – an ever-elusive baritone solo – performed by Graham Chadwick. Taking us back to the 1990 World Cup Finals (or Turandot, the opera it features in) was Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. For many, it is associated with The Three Tenors (Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, and Placido Domingo). Graham’s performance on the baritone was equally enjoyable. Plus we think the baritone needs a bit more love in soloist spots too.
After a deserved break due to the raffle, we moved from our two solo performances to the world of stage and screen. This time with John Williams’ theme from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The second film in the Indy Jones franchise was another memorable outing for Harrison Ford. As for Slaithwaite Band, their performance included percussion work that echoed the sound of a runaway mine train and the famous Raiders of the Lost Ark theme. Another good performance; one that should be added to the repertoire of any Movie Night Concert with the all-important visual effects.
If you thought the first four soloists gave a great performance, the best was yet to come. This time by last night’s final soloist Harry Newton. On euphonium he performed John Hartmann’s La Belle Americaine, a neat little brass banding concert classic. His performance was nothing short of stupendous. Heavenly, with fluency, volume and clarity well beyond his fifteen years of age. At least the equal of Lyndon Baglin’s performance in 1961 with CWS Manchester Band. Better, even.
If Lyndon Baglin BEM gets to read this review, he will be proud of Harry’s performance. Definitely one to watch for a decade or two from now.
Our last piece of the night couldn’t have arrived at a better Sunday than this one: St. Patrick’s Day of all days. Cue the Light Concert Music item of Peter Graham’s Gaelforce. Which, despite being labelled as Light Concert Music is a real lip frazzler for many a brass bander. In three movements it encapsulates the Riverdance schtick in great style. Slaithwaite Band gave us all a superb performance which got us in the mood for a good encore.
Our encore piece was Victory, the last movement of Peter Graham’s Cry of the Celts suite. Cry of the Celts’ Victory could have been applicable to Wales (their Six Nations title win) and Stalybridge Celtic (their 2-1 win against Scarborough Athletic) as well as Ireland. It includes the hymn The Lord of the Dance making for another toe-tapper alongside Gaelforce.
Last night’s concert had a very good programme, more like a concert from a First Section band than a Second Section one. Which fits in with Ryan’s aspirations to take the band to a higher level. With Harry proving to be last night’s star of the show and four more strong soloists, this was the sound of a band heading in an upward direction.
There will be three great concerts next weekend and all three of them will be unmissable.
Mass Brass 3 (Uppermill Civic Hall)
How does the thought of four brass bands and a massed band encore of 120 brass banders grab you? Featuring four Saddleworth brass bands, Mass Brass 3 is exactly what is says on the tin; an unforgettable night of brass band music at Uppermill Civic Hall.
Taking place on the 23 March at 7.30pm, Dobcross Youth, Delph, Diggle, and Boarshurst Silver brass bands will be taking to the stage. Each band has a 20 minute long set before combining for a mass encore.
If you can find a ticket, they are priced £10 and available from each of the aforementioned bands.
Elland Silver Band (Boarshurst Band Club)
If you thought the sight of four fabulous Saddleworth bands weren’t enough, Elland Silver Band will be making their way to Boarshurst Band Club the following Sunday. In the last two decades, Elland Silver Band have climbed from the Fourth Section to the Championship Section. Their youth policy and training bands is the envy of many brass bands across the UK.
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.
Milnrow Band (Slaithwaite Bandroom)
Slaithwaite Band are also hosting brass band concerts. Once monthly, afternoon concerts are held at Slaithwaite Bandroom (full details of the Sunday Concert Series here). Like our friends at Glossop Old Bandroom, admission is free with a 2pm start with a raffle and a collection.
Next week’s concert (on the 24 March) is Milnrow Band. With Mass Brass 3 and Elland Silver Band on during the same weekend, you could go mad a squeeze a third concert. Yes, six brass bands in the space of 24 hours without leaving the (pre-1974) West Riding of Yorkshire boundary!
Uppermill Civic Hall
- 184: Uppermill – Lees – Oldham – Hollinwood – Manchester [Oldham Street];
- 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham;
- 356: Denshaw – Delph – Dobcross – Uppermill – Greenfield [Railway Station].
Alight at the stop on High Street facing the Co-op (northbound) or beside the Hare and Hounds (southbound). Both the 184 and 350 services are operated by First Greater Manchester; the 356 service is operated by Nexus Move Ltd. System One and GetMeThere passes are accepted on all three routes as well as concessionary permits.
Boarshurst Band Club
- 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.
Slaithwaite Bandroom is on Castle Lane which is off Longlands Road. The closest stop you need is Heys Lane or Longlands Road/Ing Head. Sadly, buses are limited (just four return journeys every two hours) with one journey arriving a few minutes after the band begins their first piece. Therefore your best bet is either:
- Take a train from Greenfield to Slaithwaite (hourly seven days a week) and book a taxi from the railway station;
- Catch the 184 bus between Greenfield and Diggle (every two hours on Sunday) to Slaithwaite (alight at Manchester Road/Hollins Row) then walk down to Noble’s Bar and book your taxi from there to the bandroom.
Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.
S.V., 18 March 2019.