Milnrow Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 12 May 2019

Another great night of brass band music with Dennis Hadfield and Co.

With the Spring Festival in Blackpool less than a week away, Milnrow Band gave us a great curtain raiser to their appearance in the Winter Gardens. This was a concert with talent by the bucketload: not only in terms of musicality, but also in term of musical arrangement.

With Dennis Hadfield at the helm as Musical Director, you could be sure of another great concert. In true Milnrow Band tradition, more of the same. A fantastic concert which truly had something for everyone. Even a sneak preview of the Grand Shield test piece.

In the British brass banding world, a Grand Shield win is a gateway to the British Open which takes place at Birmingham Symphony Hall. Milnrow Band last won the Grand Shield in 2013, and repeating that feat in 2019 would be good for its 150th year.

There was two superb solos (euphonium and trombone), plus a splendid duet featuring a soprano cornet and a flugelhorn. Following on from a tremendous trombone solo was a trombone trio. All in all, a superb concert.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Test Piece: Fraternity (Thierry Deleruyelle);
  2. Overture: Henry the Fifth (Vaughan Williams, arr. Roy Douglas);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Matthew Shaw): Grandfather’s Clock (Henry Clay Work, arr. George Doughty);
  4. Light Concert Music: Pastime with Good Company (Henry VIII, arr. Roy Newsome);
  5. Soprano Cornet and Flugelhorn Duet (performed by Chris Musgrave and Natalie Beer): Pie Jesu (Andrew Lloyd Webber, arr. Sandy Smith);
  6. March: Third Movement from Epic Symphony: Heroic March (Percy Fletcher).

Second Half

  1. Classical Piece: Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 (Sir Edward Elgar, arr. Philip Littlemore);
  2. Popular Music: Hello (Lionel Richie, arr. Andi Cook);
  3. Jazz Standard: Birdland (Joe Zawinul, arr. Sandy Smith);
  4. Trombone Solo (performed by Don Logie): Star Dust (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Bill Geldard);
  5. Trombone Trio (performed by Don Logie, Rachel Squibbs and Tristram Cox): It’s Not Unusual (Les Reed/Gordon Mills, arr. Christopher Wormald);
  6. Light Concert Music: Polovtsian Dances (Alexander Borodin, arr. Howard Snell).

Encore

  • March: Theme from The Great Escape (Elmer Bernstein, arr. Thomas Wyss).

In good company with Henry the Fifth

The first piece of the concert was the Thierry Deleruyelle test piece Fraternity. Written in 2015, it has seven distinct sections and commemorates the 110th anniversary of a mining accident at Courrières on the 10 March 1906. The accident which saw the death of 1,099 miners remains the worst mining accident in Europe.

First performed at the 2016 European Brass Band Competition in Lille, each section depicts the incident. Percussion is used to replicate dripping water effects and the fire damp which took the lives. It is a powerful and cathartic piece, especially so in Lancashire with this year being the 40th anniversary of the Golborne pit disaster.

After a short break for the safe movement of some percussion instruments came the business end of Milnrow Band’s concert. For audiences watching The Stream Team’s work on Facebook, their first piece (and the concert’s second piece) was Henry the Fifth. The overture by Vaughan Williams was originally written for brass bands before being arranged for orchestral settings. With its mix of bombast and solitude, a neat contrast to the test piece with a solid performance.

The third piece of the night was the return of an old friend. If you have Boarshurst Silver Band’s magnificent Images CD (or frequented many brass band concerts), you will have heard Grandfather’s Clock. In solo form, Henry Clay Work’s song is often performed with a euphonium. Taking his position was Matthew Shaw. His performance, superb. We should be seeing more of this gentleman in the near future: definitely one to watch.

Continuing our sub theme with monarchs was our second regal piece (three if you count the National Anthem before the concert). That of Pastime with Good Company which was written by King Henry the VIII. Also known as The King’s Ballad, it was reputably written for Catherine of Aragon. It was also covered by progressive rock band Gryphon on their 1973 self-titled LP. A fantastic jaunt.

Our fifth piece was a duet with a difference: one with Chris Musgrave on soprano cornet and Natalie Beer on flugelhorn. Their piece was an Andrew Lloyd-Webber number from the musical entitled Requiem: Pie Jesu. The title is a text from the final couplet of hymn Dies Irae. Both Chris and Natalie gave us a superb performance with consistently good volume and tone along the way.

Taking us towards the interval was a strident march by Percy Fletcher. The third movement from Epic Symphony which is also known as the Heroic March. In its entirety, Epic Symphony was written in 1926 and first used as a test piece at the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain at Crystal Palace that year. The winning band was St. Hilda Colliery, conducted by William Halliwell. A fantastic finale for the first half.

Hello… is it B you’re looking for…?

The second half of Milnrow Band’s concert was a more lighter affair. First off the blocks was a nice bit of patriotic music: Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.4. The composer wrote his fourth march on the 07 June 1907 – five days after his fiftieth birthday. It has also been set to lyrics, initially as The King’s Way by his wife Alice. Later, Alfred Noye’s Song of Victory. A thrilling start to the second half.

In addition to Milnrow Band’s musicality, the band’s BBb player Andi Cook is a well-known arranger of brass band pieces. For our second piece of the second half was Andi’s arrangement of a Lionel Richie tune. That of Hello, a UK Number One single for six weeks in 1984. Much as I like the brass band arrangement of All Night Long, it was a refreshing change to hear another song from Lionel Richie’s 1983 album Can’t Slow Down. Andi Cook’s arrangement was a neat addition, well performed as well. Several times better than Margarita Pracatan’s cover version, and another arrangement that Lionel would appreciate.

This was followed by a jazz standard: Joe Zawinul’s Birdland. The piece is a tribute to a jazz club in New York. Also, it is the opening track on Weather Report’s 1977 album Heavy Weather. For some people, Birdland is a bit of an acquired taste though one I like now and then. Another fine performance, one which has reminded me of Eccles Borough Band’s concerts (it is a favourite of ex-Milnrow Band MD Mareika Gray).

From the sunny Weather Report number we moved onto our first and only soloist of the second half. Enter for the first of two occasions in this half on trombone Don Logie. This time with another jazz standard: Hoagy Carmichael’s Star Dust. Written in 1927, it is billed as “a song about a song about love”. It has also been covered by numerous artistes including Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. As for Don Logie’s performance, smooth and illuminating.

This was followed by a fairly unusual addition: a trombone trio performing a Tom Jones song. The song, one of his best known, was co-written by the late Les Reed and Gordon Mills: It’s Not Unusual. This diversion into 1960s music got the audience swinging and swaying before the raffle. It’s Not Unusual was a Number One hit single for Tom Jones. It was originally going to be sung by Sandie Shaw but the then-unknown Thomas John Westwood made it his own. The rest, they say, was chart music history. As for Milnrow Band’s trio, a vibrant performance (well, for the course of their concert, that’s not unusual).

Sadly, as with anything, all great things must come to an end, and last night’s concert was no exception. To finish we had Alexander Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances. This piece features at the end of Act Two of Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. The work was unfinished till Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov completed it in 1890. In brass banding circles, Howard Snell’s arrangement is among the most popular pieces. Last night, Milnrow Band’s performance reminded me of Snell’s arrangement (as performed by Desford Dowty Colliery Band). A truly polished performance.

To close the concert properly was their choice of encore piece. Giving the audience a chance to sit back, relax, and think of Steve McQueen on a motorbike was The Great Escape. Written by Elmer Bernstein, it has taken on a second life as a celebratory football song for avoiding relegation. Mossley Band have adopted this for their Whit Friday march up Stamford Road for several years. Last week, it was performed by the Dovestones Learning Partnership Brass Band who gave us a good performance. As for Milnrow Band’s performance, another day in the office: a cinch, a doddle. Another good ‘un.

Once more, our friends from Harmony Street gave us all a superb concert. As well as the solo performances, the duet and trombone trio were among last night’s highlights. Besides his performance in the soprano cornet and flugelhorn duet, Chris Musgrave’s performance in Polovtsian Dances was also amazing.

We wish Milnrow Band the very best in the Spring Festival at Blackpool Winter Gardens. In the Grand Shield, they have been given an early draw.

For the 99th Spring Festival at Winter Gardens, Blackpool, tickets are priced £12.00 and available in advance as well as on the day. For one price you get access to all three venues: the Opera House (Grand Shield), Empress Ballroom (Senior Cup), and the Spanish Room (Senior Trophy). Please note that tickets booked via Ticketmaster will incur a booking fee.

Next Week…

Another fantastic band will be making their way to Boarshurst Band Club, again from Lancashire. This time, making for a hat trick of Championship Section bands, Leyland Band.

Conducted by Thomas Wyss, you may have come across his name before. He has arranged numerous pieces and has previously played for Grimethorpe Colliery and Sellers Engineering bands.

Leyland Band have also been North West champions ten times, entered the European Brass Band Championships twice and won Brass In Concert five times. Not bad for a 72-year-old brass band ranked 19th in the world. Doors are open at 7pm for the usual 8pm start, so 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 are operated by First Greater Manchester. Please note that all post-7pm journeys of the 350 route is operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

Twitter details @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass

S.V., 13 May 2019.

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