Middleton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 14 April 2019

Kevin Gibbs and Co. shine again with another fine concert

How do they do it? With the same sort of precision you would expect from the Swiss railways instead of Northern’s trains, Kevin Gibbs and Company gave the good people of Saddleworth a superb concert. One with a thrilling number of pieces, including a cameo appearance from Roger Moore, and one of the world’s greatest comedy double acts.

Since Middleton Band’s last visit to Boarshurst Band Club, they had not only won the Second Section Regional Finals. At Cheltenham last September, they became Britain’s best Second Section band in the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. With the programme being different to last year’s there was only one familiar inanimate object to the mix. The Second Section Trophy, won by Boarshurst Silver Band in 2017.

Middleton Band’s road to the First Section is helped by the presence of another two bands; Middleton Youth Band and the Middleton Training Band. Both bands are conducted by soprano cornet player Louise Crane. This year, Middleton Band finished in sixth place in this year’s Regional Final. A very good start in what could be the beginning of a decent stay in the First Section – or a springboard to the Championship Section.

With Boarshurst Silver Band heading to Cheltenham this year, the need for fundraising initiatives are imperative. Last year, Boarshurst Silver Band funded the purchase of sheet music for Middleton’s trip to the racecourse. This year, Middleton Band returned the favour with monies going towards the First Section test piece Endeavour.

Middleton Band’s vibrant programme was one of two halves. The first half was full of golden oldies with more modern pieces in the second half. A bit of Piccadilly Gold followed by Key 103. Or Greatest Hits Radio followed by The Hits Radio to bring the story to 2019 terms. It worked like a dream.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Death or Glory (R.B. Hall);
  2. Overture: The Arcadians (Lionel Monckton, arr. Simon Wood);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Stephanie Coward): Hailstorm (William Rimmer);
  4. Cornet Trio (performed by Stephanie Coward, Adam Albinson and Tony O’Mara): Trumpets Wild (Harold Walters);
  5. Light Concert Music: Shepherds Song (Goff Richards);
  6. Xylophone Solo (performed by David Barker): Sparks (Kenneth Alford);
  7. Light Concert Music: La Danza (Gioacchino Rossini, arr. Gordon Langford).

Second Half

  1. Concert Opener: Fanfare and Flourishes (James Curnow);
  2. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Louise Crane): Live and Let Die (Paul, arr. Howard Snell);
  3. Light Concert Music: Cartoon Classics (Various, arr. Andy Duncan);
  4. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Jonathon Earl): The Children of Sanchez (Chuck Mangione, arr. Jock McKenzie);
  5. Light Concert Music: The Water of Tyne (Philip Harper);
  6. Euphonium Duet (performed by Sarah Fitton and Adam O’Neil): Another Fine Mess(Carroll/Hatley/Shield/Hill, arr. Sandy Smith);
  7. Light Concert Music: Big Band Tribute (J.M. Manone/F.W. Meacham, arr. Barry Forgie/Dan Price).


  • Concert Finisher: Prismatic Light (Alan Fernie).

Gibbs’ Golden Hour

To begin with was the first of Middleton Band’s seven golden oldie pieces. Anyone who had hoped there were no Brassed Off pieces in last night’s programme was out of luck. R.B. Hall’s Death or Glory got us thinking of the opening scene from Mark Herman’s film. For brass band lovers in 21st century speak, you could never ‘unsee’ the miners’ lamps in the film’s opening frames. A joyous start which set the tone for the next two hours.

Similarly uplifting was Lionel Monckton’s overture from The Arcadians. In the 1909 musical play by Alexander M. Thompson, the three part musical focuses on a utopian land known as Arcadia. The land, which has nothing to do with the much-missed flagship store of the Ashton-under-Lyne Cooperative Society is depicted as one of “rural perfection”. In the semi-rural splendour of our band club’s surroundings, Middleton Band gave us all a faithful rendition of this standard.

From rural perfection, we moved onto a piece characterised by the triple tonguing perfection of James Shepherd. Another classic in the form of William Rimmer’s Hailstorm. Taking her position on principal cornet was Stephanie Coward. Somehow she made light work of Rimmer’s polka and captivated us all in the process. A stunning performance.

This was followed by Stephanie’s second appearance – as part of a cornet trio with Adam Albinson and Tony O’Mara. No self-respecting Golden Hour/Top Ten at Ten/other radio retrospective programme is without a cheesy tune. Our answer to Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep was Trumpets Wild. Its composer Harold Walters has penned many light concert musical numbers including Hootenanny and Instant Concert. A fun little number made all the more radiant by Middleton’s terrific trio.

Our fifth piece of the night was a neat contrast, and our only Goff Richards piece of the night. If you guessed Shepherd’s Song, well done. Played by Skelmersdale Prize Band last week, it is an arrangement of Sir Edward Elgar’s piece, a pastoral work of longing. It tells the tale of two people being separated by a river. Instead of being cut off (a la Water of Tyne), one of them swims across the river. Whether that river was the Severn (in Elgar’s homeland) or the Irk is debatable. Another good ‘un.

This was followed by the second soloist of this half. A xylophonist no less, and one who also plays cornet. Enter David Barker with his solo performance of Sparks. Written by Kenneth Alford, it is a neat diversion from Alford’s raison d’etre (his Colonel Bogey, The Standard of St George and The Middy marches are his better known works). Our cornet player’s neat diversion was equally successful. Take a bow, David.

To close the first half we finished with La Danza. Any golden oldie brass band concert programme strand is incomplete without a Gordon Langford arrangement. In popular music terms, no self-respecting golden oldie station is complete without The Beatles’ works. Langford’s work is a pithy arrangement of the Rossini piece. Like Love Me Do, it is finished in just over two minutes without padding or waffle. A fantastic first half.

“a powerboat chase along the Rochdale Canal”

With the live and streamed audience back from the bar or their kettle, we opened the first half with Fanfare and Flourishes. If you saw Slaithwaite Band’s concert and Mass Brass 3, this is the third time you would have heard James Curnow’s piece. As we said, it depicts a military tattoo in bitesize chunks. Without the draughtiness of being sat at the back row of the stands beside Edinburgh Castle (during the Royal Military Tattoo). A breezy, solid performance.

This was followed by our first soloist of the second half, a tune that got yours truly in the mood for a powerboat chase along the Rochdale Canal. If you add ‘powerboat’ to ‘James Bond’, Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die should spring to mind. On soprano cornet, Louise Crane gave a stunning performance of the 1973 film’s title track. The original song was a Number Nine hit single in the UK charts. Guns N’ Roses fared better peaking at Number Four in 1991. As for the film, a box office smash as you would expect, and the last film to have been shown at the Mossley Empire. On the 20 January 1980, 23.5 million viewers saw the film’s TV premiere on ITV.

For our next piece we moved from live action to animated action with Andy Duncan’s medley of cartoon themes. Known as Cartoon Classics, it includes Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes music, the theme tune from The Flintstones (with a “yabba-dabba-doo”) and Danny Elfman’s theme from The Simpsons. A vibrant piece which showed off the band’s mission to entertain with good effect.

This was followed by our second soloist of this half, and the last one of the night. Enter on flugelhorn Jonathon Earl with the excellent Chuck Mangione piece The Children of Sanchez. The title track is the 1978 film’s best known piece which won a well-deserved Grammy. Jonny’s performance demonstrated superb volume and depth. With a flugelhorn, as a solo work rather than a whole band setting. Delightful.

Next on the programme was another concert favourite: Philip Harper’s The Water of Tyne. Whereas Sir Edward Elgar’s piece demonstrates how persistence pays off, the River Tyne separates two lovers from each other. In the song, a woman sees her paramour being separated by the aforementioned river. The ferry depicted in the song is said to be near Haughton Castle. Today, no ferry exists, and buses are virtually non-existent. Another good piece, but a lull before the storm of our next one.

Most of Boarshurst Band Club’s concerts have paused for the raffle halfway through the second half. This week’s raffle was late for a good reason. To allow for a slight costume change and a truly magical interlude.

Donning bowler hats for the euphonium duet of Another Fine Mess was Sarah Fitton and Adam O’Neil. Arranged by Sandy Smith, it is a medley of music from Laurel and Hardy’s films including The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. With Sarah and Adam aping Stan and Ollie’s antics to good effect, it brought the house down with their excellent likeness. A timely addition to the programme thanks to Steve Coogan’s role in Stan and Ollie, this was undeniably the concert’s finest hour. Oh, and they both played well with their euphoniums.

Sadly, all great concerts have to come an end. To finish off was Dan Price’s arrangement of big band music under the banner of Big Band Tribute. It has been quite a while since we had a decent big band piece at Boarshurst Band Club and last night’s performance was worth the wait. Featuring American Patrol and In The Mood, it got us in the mood for a little dance before we set off home. A fantastic toe-tapping finale.

As for the encore, last night’s choice of encore was truly special. Many bands consider this piece as a concert opener, whether in the first half or the second half. When a band chooses Prismatic Light as an encore piece, they have truly arrived. In Middleton’s case, a band that is set to stay in the top half of brass banding for several years to come. Alan Fernie’s work was written for the Loanhead Youth Band’s 10th anniversary concert in 2012.

Once again our friends from Middleton Band gave us a sensational concert. The programme was well thought out, popular yet exciting and adventurous. Whether you followed the live stream or went to Boarshurst Band Club, you will never forget Sarah Fitton’s and Adam O’Neil’s role as Stan and Ollie in a hurry. That will be talked about for many years to come.

As for Middleton Band’s next date, they are doing the East Lancashire Railway’s 1940s Weekend on the Sunday before Bank Holiday Monday. 1 Day Rover tickets covering the whole line (Rawtenstall – Heywood) are £21.00 on the day or £18.90 if purchased online. Family rover tickets, plus concessionary and child rover tickets are also available as well as single and return fares.

Next up…

Boarshurst Band Club will be hosting two concerts. First up on Maundy Thursday (18 April) is the traditional Road End Fair concert, featuring the Saddleworth Morris Men. Boarshurst Silver Band will open the first half, followed by the Saddleworth Morris Men. The fun begins at 8pm.

Then, on Easter Sunday, Crewe Brass will be heading to Boarshurst Band Club. Formed in 1989, they were previously sponsored by the Co-op and had previously been known as the Co-op Funeralcare Band and the United Norwest Co-op Crewe Band. They were originally known as South Cheshire Young Brass. For Musical Director Matt Pithers, this would be his first ever visit to Boarshurst Band Club.

For Sunday’s concert, doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Admission will be £5.00 (or £4.00 for concessions and members). To avoid disappointment, arrive as early as possible.


  • 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., 15 April 2019.

Middleton Arena background image by Rept0n1x, 2014 (Creative Commons License, Attribution-Share Alike 3.0).

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