How Oldham Music Centre and Dovestones Learning Partnership brass bands dazzled in a fantastic concert
At Boarshurst Band Club, we have been blessed with many a memorable concert. We have had Laurel and Hardy impersonators, some smashing solo performances and many a fantastic encore. Last night’s concert at The Mecca of Brass Banding was truly a night to remember. Not only for its live and streamed audiences but also for last night’s bands.
For Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band, a seminal moment in the lifetime of its players. It is their first experience of being in a proper brass band concert. With all its conventions from the fire safety notice to the raffle and summing up, as well as the concert itself. Also a lesson in pragmatics as well as performance – social skills as well as music.
The Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band’s members are primary school age children from six primary schools in Saddleworth. They have links with Saddleworth School where its members aim to play brass band instruments beyond Years 6 and 7. Eventually, they progress to brass bands in and around Saddleworth.
Also part of the picture is Oldham Music Centre brass band. Formed in 1984 as part of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council’s music tuition service, they became one of the North West’s finest youth bands. They are based in the Lyceum on Union Street, Oldham – a short tram ride away from Rochdale and Manchester city centre.
Last night’s concert had twenty (yes, 20) pieces. Four of which were performed by Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band before the interval. There was also a duet and a solo performance. As for the audience that night, full to the rafters.
For both bands, a night that was truly unforgettable with a well crafted programme. Musical Director Jonathan Leedale was outgoing yet informative. Possibly the kind of MD you would appreciate in your formative years of brass banding.
First Half – Oldham Music Centre and Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Bands
- Classical Piece: Turris Fortissima (Steven Ponsford);
- Light Concert Music: Joy, Peace and Happiness (Richard Phillips);
- Film Music: Theme from Jurassic Park (John Williams, arr. Alan Catherall);
- Popular Music: Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury, arr. Jonathan Leedale);
- Trombone Showcase: Bold Gendarmes (Jacques Offenbach, arr. Edrich Siebert);
- March: Triumphant March (Edvard Grieg, arr. Jonathan Leedale);
- March: Dovestones March (Jonathan Leedale);
- Popular Music: Happy (Pharrell Williams, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
- Popular Music: Another One Bites The Dust (Freddie Mercury, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
- Film Music: Theme from The Great Escape (Elmer Bernstein, arr. Jonathan Leedale).
Second Half – Oldham Music Centre
- Concert Opener: Prismatic Light (Alan Fernie);
- Popular Music Mash Up: Material Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Peter Brown/Robert Rans and Robert Hazard, arr. Jonathan Leedale);
- Cornet/Euphonium Duo (performed by Georgia Payne and Harry Newton): A Country Scene (Goff Richards);
- Popular Music: Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond);
- March: Exeter Temple (Leslie Condon);
- Popular Music: Delilah (Les Reed/Barry Mason/Sylvan Whittingham, arr. Alan Fernie);
- Horn Solo (performed by George Sleight): One Day In Your Life (Sam Brown III/Renée Armand, arr. Darrol Barry);
- Popular Music: I Want You Back (Berry Gordy/Freddie Perren/Alphonso Mizell/Deke Richards, arr. Bob Driggs);
- Classical Piece: Finale from Corineus (Christopher Bond).
- March: Theme from Happy Days (Charles Fox/Norman Gimbel, arr. Norman Tailor).
Joy, Peace, and Happiness all round
Our first piece of the night was an excerpt of Turris Fortissima by Steven Ponsford. The piece is inspired by the city of Plymouth, whose motto is Turris Fortissima est nomen Jehovah. In English, this translates as “the name of Jehovah has the strongest tower”. In full, it was used as a test piece for Third Division bands in 2015’s Swiss National Championships. A lovely taster of the band’s capabilities in the first three minutes.
This was followed by Joy, Peace and Happiness by Richard Phillips. Vaguely reminiscent of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s excellent The Intro and Outro, it has also been used by Boarshurst Silver Band as a closing piece at some concerts. As the second piece for Oldham Music Centre’s concert, a sound performance which set the tone for the rest of the evening.
For our third piece, a bit of inspiration from Oldham Music Centre’s immediate neighbours: the ODEON cinema, which is behind The Lyceum. 26 years after its showing at The Roxy in Hollinwood, we were treated to the theme from Jurassic Park. Alan Catherall’s arrangement captures the film’s spirit very well, without the need to scare audiences with passing dinosaurs. In many concerts, John Williams’ theme is a popular addition to the programme. Oldham Music Centre’s performance was another satisfying one, sitting well alongside Hammonds Band’s performance the previous week.
This was followed by another piece of film music. Or, if you prefer, one of the UK’s biggest selling chart singles of all time. Thanks to Bohemian Rhapsody (the film rather than the single), Queen is now richer than Her Majesty the Queen. Thanks to our Jonathan, we were treated to a different arrangement of Bohemian Rhapsody – an abbreviated version with the guitar solo taken out.
Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable arrangement, and it gave us a rough idea of how an edited version of Bohemian Rhapsody would have sounded. Originally, EMI wanted to edit the song to guarantee radio airplay but Freddie Mercury said otherwise. Shortly, the late Kenny Everett championed the full version on his Capital Radio show and the rest, as they say… didn’t stand in the way of Oldham Music Centre’s fine performance.
From popular music we moved onto classical music: Offenbach’s Bold Gendarmes. This was a showcase for OMC’s trombone section – six trombones instead of three. The piece features in the operetta known as Geneviève de Brabant, which is based on Medieval legend. It has also been sung by Josef Locke (younger readers, please ask your grandma or granddad). A lovely diversion.
To finish with, at least in the first half for Oldham Music Centre’s programme, was an Edvard Grieg march. Arranged by Jonathan Leedale, Triumphant March paid dividends for Oldham Music Centre. At last year’s Pogson Bray Contest they came second and won the Best March prize. Last night’s performance was living proof that their award was richly deserved.
For the next four pieces, Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band took over the remainder of the first half. First up was Jonathan Leedale’s Dovestones March, a signature march for the new band. It is a strident piece that conjures up images of scaling Indian’s Head or the road to Chew Reservoir. Besides being their signature tune it has great potential to be a street march or lower section/youth band contest march. A brilliant start.
Their second piece was another reassuringly familiar one: Pharrell Williams’ Happy. A smash hit in the physical and non-physical singles charts around the world, it is the best known song from Despicable Me 2. This wasn’t just a superb performance; it was also a statement of intent. A band that was clearly enjoying themselves in front of nearly 200 people.
Our penultimate piece was for a time Queen’s biggest hit in America: Another One Bites The Dust. It was originally going to feature in Rocky III, but Queen objected to its inclusion due to the film franchise’s visceral nature. Its rap style baseline borrows from The Sugarhill Gang’s Rappers’ Delight (which in turn is ripped off from Chic’s Good Times). Weird Al Yankovic adapted it to Another One Rides the Bus. Oh, and less said the better about the Dacia Duster advert. Needless to say, we loved Dovestones Band’s performance.
To finish, Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band gave us Elmer Bernstein’s march from The Great Escape. According to Jonathan, who also arranged the piece, the film has had more showings than the 6 O’Clock News. We think Hot Fuzz and Wimbledon is getting that way thanks to ITV3. The march has been used by countless football fans to celebrate staving off a relegation dogfight, On several Whit Fridays, a favourite march of Mossley Band. With Dovestones Band’s performance, another firm favourite.
During their brief programme, Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band have a lot to be proud of. We hope their players graduate to Oldham Music Centre and other youth bands before making the step to higher section bands. Most importantly, we hope Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band are there for the long run. Especially given the improvements that music lessons have on academic prowess.
Good times never seemed so good
With Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band having a rest, Oldham Music Centre returned to the stage. Well, return they did with another old favourite: Alan Fernie’s Prismatic Light. Written in 2012, it premiered at Loanhead Youth Band’s 10th anniversary concert. Since then, it has been used as a concert opener in several brass band concerts around the world. A good way of returning to the stage.
From the ubiquitous to the offbeat, Oldham Music Centre set the time machine to 1985. With the Delorean unavailable, a hired Leyland Olympian from Wallshaw Street sufficed. Next up was Material Girls Just Want To Have Fun, a mash-up of two songs by Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. The two songs, taking us back to Littlewoods’ record department were Material Girl and Girls Just Want to Have Fun. With Cyndi’s tune the most dominant of the two, it worked well. A neat addition.
Our third piece was different again and took us towards more traditional brass banding territory. With Georgia Payne and Harry Newton duetting (on cornet and euphonium) came Goff Richards’ A Country Scene. Whereas Dovestones March evoked images of Indian’s Head, Goff Richards’ pastoral piece could have been penned for the rolling hills around Scouthead and Delph. With stand out performances from Georgia and Harry, a real treat for the ears. Interestingly, it was also written in 1985.
Next up, our imaginary 183 bus over the tops became a number 13 in North Western livery. From 1985 we moved to 1969 when Neil Diamond released Sweet Caroline. Nearly 50 years ago, he made his début in the UK singles chart later peaking at Number 8. The song was inspired by John F. Kennedy’s eleven-year-old daughter Caroline and has been adopted as a football chant by some supporters. For some members of the audience, carte blanche to wave imaginary lighters and sing along. Could this be Oldham Music Centre’s deportment piece of choice on Whit Friday? Don’t be surprised.
From a fantastic performance of the Neil Diamond song, we moved onto what has been Oldham Music Centre’s contest march for several years. Seldom heard in the Boarshurst Band Club and warmly received was Major Leslie Condon’s Exeter Temple. Continuing a mini South West English theme, the march is inspired by Exeter’s Salvation Army citadel. Written in 1982, it forms part of the late composer’s General Series of brass band music. Since his death on Christmas Eve, 1983, a trust has been set up to advance the development of his work. Another fine performance.
Following the raffle came another cracking piece. A song by Tom Jones that was first recorded by P.J. Proby. Yes, the ever-popular Delilah, a ballad about a murder which peaked at Number Two in the UK singles chart in April 1968. It was kept off the top spot by The Beatles (Lady Madonna) and Cliff Richard (Congratulations). It has also been covered by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Biggles Wartime Band. Like the latter cover, a healthy number of “na na na naas” from the live audience. It has also been chanted by Stoke City supporters. Fantastic stuff.
To calm the mood a bit more came our first and only soloist of the night. Enter on horn solo George Sleight. His piece was Michael Jackson’s first UK Number One single from 1981 (One Day In Your Life). The song was first released in 1975 in the US, with the UK release coming six years later (on Motown rather than on his then 1981 label Epic). This was to capitalise on the popularity of his previous album Off The Wall. Like the original song, a splendid piece and a superb performance from George.
Staying with the subject of Michael Jackson’s Motown back catalogue came another memorable performance. This time with I Want You Back by The Jackson Five. With Musical Director Jonathan Leedale wearing a lamé jacket and dancing along with four other members. Then with all fifty members of Oldham Music Centre brass band dancing together. In this case, “it had to be seen to be believed” wasn’t a hollow cliché – it did happen. A stunning performance and, for my money, their likely choice of deportment piece on Whit Friday.
To finish, they performed the finale from Corineus by Christopher Bond. It is inspired by Corineus, the man whom Cornwall takes its name from. On the 30 March 2019, this was the test piece for the National Youth Brass Band Championships (Championship Section). Sadly, last night’s band finished eighth that day. From what we heard last night, we think they may have been hard done. Many Second to Fourth Section bands would have been happy with Oldham Music Centre’s performance and it went down well with the audience. Fantastic work, happy days indeed.
Yes, these days were ours, happy and free. Their choice of encore was a cracking one too: the theme tune from Happy Days. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Happy Days was a popular 1950s themed comedy series which spun off from Love, American Style. It starred Henry Winkler as The Fonz. One of the serial’s alumnae, Ron Howard, went on to become a highly regarded film director. It also spawned countless spin-offs like Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy. Superb stuff, a great night for both bands and their audience.
Like Hammonds Band’s concert last week, last night’s concert was equally memorable. Firstly, a packed Boarshurst Band Club which made for a very special atmosphere, as good as Boarshurst Silver Band’s Christmas concerts. Secondly, strong performances from both bands.
Thirdly, there was something else we learned. Oldham Music Centre’s programme wouldn’t have been out of place in a concert hosted by Second and Third Section. This was why they came second at Pogson Bray – above several bands in higher sections.
Well done to everyone at Oldham Music Centre, and the Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band. Long may they continue.
Darkening the doorstep of Boarshurst Band Club will be our friends from Harmony Street: Milnrow Band. The band are celebrating their 150th year and, like our fellows from Hammonds Band last week, will be competing in the Grand Shield final at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Due to good local support, please arrive as early as possible.
- 180: Greenfield [Clarence Hotel] – Lees – Oldham – Hollinwood – Manchester [Oldham Street] (First Greater Manchester);
- 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester).
Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. Please note the change of post-7pm operator for the 350 route (Stagecoach Manchester).
Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.
S.V., 06 May 2019.