Stunning concert sees Leyland Band firing on all four cylinders
Completing the hat trick of Championship Section bands at Boarshurst Band Club last night was a right humdinger of a concert. Thomas Wyss’ Leyland Band gave its live and streamed audience a night to savour. There was four great soloists and a programme that offered something for everyone whilst sating the desires of discerning listeners.
Many brass band players and enthusiasts will have heard of Thomas Wyss due to his arrangements and original works. Before joining Leyland Band as Musical Director, he was the six time Swiss Tuba Champion. He has also been MD for Williams Fairey, Tredegar, Northop and Boarshurst Silver bands.
Compared with Boarshurst Silver Band, Leyland Band are young whippersnappers. They were formed in 1946 – some 97 years after Boarshurst Silver Band’s formation in 1849. Leyland Band was formed as the band of the commercial vehicle works. In 1946, it was a world famous name in the manufacture of trucks and buses.
In 1950, when the first Royal Tiger buses and coach chassis came off the production line, Leyland Band became a Championship Section band. Part of their breakthrough was Musical Director Harold Moss – who also wrote the band’s signature march Royal Tiger. In 1952 they won the Grand Shield at King’s Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester.
During the 1970s they struggled, but a turning point came with the appointment of Richard Evans. They started climbing up the sections, returning to the Championship Section in 1980. For nearly 40 years they have been in brass banding’s top flight ever since.
If you ever wanted to see a band that is ranked 19th in the world, and one of the most decorated brass bands in the North West, last night’s concert didn’t disappoint. It was a truly remarkable concert to say the least.
- Overture: Force of Destiny (Giuseppe Verdi, arr. Frank Wright);
- Horn Solo (performed by Rebecca Doyle): The Piper of Dundee (Traditional, arr. Kenneth Downie);
- Light Concert Music: Steal Away (Traditional, arr. Dean Jones);
- Light Concert Music: La Cumparsita (Gerardo Matos Rodriguez, arr. Robin G. Hurst);
- Euphonium Solo (performed by Steve Walsh): Allegro from Bassoon Concerto (Mozart, arr. Norman Henstridge);
- Original Piece: The Red Machine (Peter Graham).
- March: The Avenger (Karl L. King, arr. Gary Westwood);
- Baritone Solo (performed by Sarah Lenton): Si Vis Amari (Jerry Estes, arr. David Gilson);
- Film Music (from Moulin Rouge): Come What May (David Baerwald, arr. Jan van Kraeydonck);
- Tuba Solo (performed by Chris Doran): Celestial Morn (Leslie Condon);
- Light Concert Music: Lullabying (John Barry);
- Test Piece: Shine as the Light (Peter Graham).
- March: Royal Tiger (Harold Moss).
Force of Destiny vs. The Red Machine
If you watch many brass band concerts, an opening march is the start of many concerts. Not with Leyland Band: we opened with the mighty Force of Destiny. Giuseppe Verdi’s overture, known as La Forza del Destino in his native language, is frequently played in the titular opera.
In brass banding circles, its overture was first played in the 1962 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. The winners that year was CWS Manchester. This year, a test piece in the Butlins Mineworkers’ championships for First Section bands (won by Boarshurst Silver Band). Leyland Band’s performance was nothing short of unbelievable. Clear, pitch perfect and immersive.
How would you top a superlative performance like Leyland’s first piece? How about a Horn Solo? Taking up her position on horn was Rebecca Doyle. Her piece, Kenneth Downie’s The Piper of Dundee. An arrangement of the traditional song The Piper o’ Dundee, it was originally written for Sheona White for her album Voice of the Tenor Horn. Rebecca’s performance was clear, crisp with superb intonation.
On the lighter side of things, this was followed by Steal Away, a negro spiritual song. Arranged by Dean Jones, the song is found in Protestant hymnals. One version has been set to lyrics by Wallace Willis some time before 1862. It has also been covered by Nat King Cole and Pat Boone. Another good addition to the programme.
This was followed by our most mainstream addition to the programme. A piece you would have heard as background music on Strictly Come Dancing and similar programmes. If you guessed La Cumparsita by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez, give yourself a ‘ten’. The tango was written in 1916 and named as the “Cultural and Popular Anthem of Uruguay” by law in 1997. Lovely stuff.
For the penultimate piece of the first half came our Neo (Nemo or Nino?) sponsored euphonium player Steve Walsh. His piece was Mozart’s Allegro for Bassoon Concerto. As a euphonium solo, a commendable transcription from its original instrument. Giving it the extra edge was Steve Walsh’s tonguing techniques, especially the gymnastics required for the last few notes. There was nothing fishy about his performance: it was superb, and a highly accomplished one at that.
For the last piece of this half was a truly breathtaking number by Peter Graham: The Red Machine. Commissioned in 2004 by the Band of Coldstream Guards, The Red Machine is their nickname. This is due to the guards’ unwavering efficiency and presence whilst marching during The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Peter Graham’s piece was as strident as the guards and enhanced by Leyland Band’s virtuoso performance. Powerful stuff and one that might be gracing my playlist more often than usual.
Avenger or Royal Tiger?
To begin the second half we had Karl L. King’s march The Avenger. Beloved of military bands as well as brass bands, it is a circus march with Sousa style leanings. Karl L. King’s most famous work is Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite. Our version gave us another side to Leyland Band’s talents: the arrangement skills of cornet player Gary Westwood. A fantastic start.
This was followed by our first soloist of the second half: the Lesser Spotted Baritone Solo. Performing Si Vis Amari on baritone was Sarah Lenton. The piece translates to English as Yes, My Love. It is a jazzy piece which starts off quietly before moving the listener to their feet. Offering a neat contrast to the concert’s more bombastic numbers, Sarah’s performance was superb.
This was followed by our only concession to cinema: Come What May from the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge (2001). In the film it is sung by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. It was originally going to feature in Luhrmann’s earlier film Romeo + Juliet (1997). We think Ewan would have been happier with Leyland Band’s performance which was truly first rate.
After the raffle came the final solo of the concert. A truly epic one at that from Chris Doran. His tuba solo of Celestial Morn clocked in at just under nine minutes and was quite extraordinary to say the least. Written by Leslie Condon it takes the tuba to places previously uncharted by some audiences. When you have a superb performance to boot like Chris’, we were taken to another time and space dimension. Sensational.
For our penultimate piece, we turned to John Barry, most famous for his music in the James Bond films. The piece in question was Lullabying. If you thought John Barry didn’t do quiet music, think again. This was a well defined quiet piece which showed off the band’s abilities in slow medley.
Like Horizons is to Supper’s Ready on Genesis’ Foxtrot album, Lullabying was only a lull before the storm of our last piece. What a last piece we had: Peter Graham’s Shine As The Light. Written in 1997, it features two Salvation Army hymns: The Candle of the Lord by Joy Webb, and Chuck Yuill’s The Light Has Come. With its thunderous crescendo, it is a piece that leaves you wanting more. Which is why it has become a modern classic. When you add one of the North West of England’s finest brass bands to the mix, the work of legends. Alchemy as well as top notch musicality.
To finish off the concert was a performance of Leyland Band’s signature tune, Royal Tiger. The march, written by Harold Moss, relates to the Leyland Royal Tiger bus and coach chassis produced from 1950 to 1954. It was also the first post-war Leyland bus to display a pictorial badge below the windscreen. This was superseded by the Leyland Royal Tiger Worldmaster for export markets. As for the march, one that conjures up images of Blackpool buses leaving Lower Mosley Street Omnibus Station. Or Whit Friday. A fantastic finish, precision engineered.
If you ever get the chance to see Leyland Band in concert, take it with both hands. You will leave the club, concert hall, town hall, or bandstand on a high. Their next concert takes place in Ingleton, just off the A65 from Kirkby Lonsdale, on the 08 June 2019 (7.15pm).
If you travel on public transport, their concert at Lowther Pavilion in Lytham may be a better option. It takes place on the following Sunday (09 June 2019, 7.00pm) and the 11, 17 (Blackpool Transport) and 68 (Stagecoach North West) bus routes stop nearby. Please note that though the 68 service finishes for 9pm, there are four buses per hour till midnight between Lytham and Blackpool on the 11 and 17 services.
After Leyland Band, we return to Greater Manchester (or Cheshire if you prefer) for our next band: Sale Brass. Like Boarshurst Silver Band, they were formed in 1849 and gained great success in this year’s North West Regional Championships. Next year, after winning the competition’s Fourth Section prize, they will be a Third Section band.
With Sale Brass following Boarshurst Silver Band down to Cheltenham in September, this is one gig that is worth supporting. At previous concerts in The Mecca of Brass Banding, they have never failed to give a great concert. Concerts with programmes beyond their nominated section high on entertainment value and performance. Doors are open at 7pm for the usual 8pm start, so arrive early to be sure of 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 are operated by First Greater Manchester. Please note that all post-7pm journeys of the 350 route is operated by Stagecoach Manchester.
Twitter details @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass
S.V., 20 May 2019.