Flixton Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (16 June 2019)

Over a year on from Matt Ryan’s arrival, another superb concert

There was a slightly familiar air to last night’s concert. One, most obviously was the band. The other was last night’s weather: colder and wetter than a typical June for Saddleworth. Back then, Matt Ryan made his concert debut as Musical Director for Flixton Band at the Boarshurst Band Club.

They say a week is a long time in politics. A year is a long, busy time in brass banding. Last night’s concert showed us how Flixton Band have come on in the last 12 months and the results were amazing.

With pulsating finales for the first half and the second half, there was a mix of concert classics and new pieces. Two of which were given a World Premiere. With the wonders of modern technology, for both the live audience and viewers on The Stream Team’s feed.

Part of the concert was tinged with sadness with the death of Trevor Hamilton. Shortly after Whit Friday he passed away the following morning. Mr Hamilton had previously played for Mossley, Stalybridge Old, and Boarshurst Silver bands. The third piece of the concert programme was dedicated to his memory.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Concert Opener: New Horizons (Max Stannard) – World Premiere;
  2. Overture: Prelude to Hänsel und Gretel (Engelbert Humperdinck, arr. Eric Ball);
  3. Hymn: My All Is On The Altar (Morley Calvert) – tribute to Trevor Hamilton;
  4. Cornet Solo (performed by Katie Tyson-Phillips): Don’t Doubt Him Now (Colonel Leonard Ballantine, arr. Craig Woodland);
  5. Contest March: The Wizard (George Allan);
  6. Horn Solo (performed by Jess Wilson): Aria (Philip Sparke);
  7. Euphonium Solo (performed by Danny Lowery): Fantasia on Rule Britannia (J. Hartmann, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  8. Film Music (from Breakfast at Tiffanys): Moon River Cha Cha (Henry Mancini, arr. Philip Harper);
  9. Test Piece: Resurgam (Eric Ball).

Second Half

  1. Popular Music: Gøta (Peder Karlsson, arr. Tina Kvamme);
  2. Musical Piece (from West Side Story): Tonight (Leonard Bernstein, arr. Mark Freeh);
  3. Light Concert Music: Balkan Dances (Etienne Crausaz);
  4. Original Piece: Hear Me (Dale Vail) – World Premiere;
  5. Original Piece: Heart of Courage (Thomas Bergensen/Nick Phoenix, arr. Christopher Wormald);
  6. Original Piece: Windows of the World (Peter Graham).

Encore

  • Light Concert Music: Malaguena (Ernesto Lecuona, arr. Mark Freeh).

New horizons in brass banding

The first half of the concert took on a traditional programme, albeit with a concert opener instead of a march. For Musical Directors seeking an alternative to Prismatic Light as a concert opener, they should look no further than New Horizons. Written by Max Stannard (Friezland Band’s M.D.), it is a vibrant number that wouldn’t look out of place as an opener for either the first half or the second half of a concert. If Max is looking for a convincing sales pitch for this work, Flixton Band’s performance should be a suitable benchmark as seen in this video.

Next up was an Engelbert Humperdinck composition. If The Last Waltz springs to mind, think again; instead of Arnold George Dorsey, we had a composition by the German composer. His best known work was the opera Hänsel und Gretel. Therefore we were treated to the Prelude from Hänsel und Gretel. This was a mellow piece made all the more majestic by Eric Ball’s arrangement. With Flixton Band’s performance, a brilliant performance demonstrating their abilities in the slow melody department.

Our third piece was a hymn, dedicated to the memory of Trevor Hamilton, who passed on the Saturday after Whit Friday. Following David Ashworth’s tribute was Morley Calvert’s My All Is On The Altar. As tributes go, this was a fantastic one: sombre, sensitive and stirring. All in all a fantastic performance.

This was followed by our first soloist of the night with a Colonel Leonard Ballantine piece. Enter on principal cornet Katie Tyson-Phillips with her performance of Don’t Doubt Him Now. Another hymn, it was composed in July 1990 with music by Colonel Leonard Ballantine and lyrics by Frank Reynolds. It appears in The Musical Salvationist series of pieces and, with the Salvation Army’s back catalogue only being recently released, a new work for many listeners. As for Katie’s performance on principal cornet, superb tone and volume.

Taking us back to last Friday was Flixton Band’s contest march of choice The Wizard. Written by George Allan, it is among his most famous works. Besides composing 70 pieces he was also a wagon painter at Shildon works and conducted the New Shildon All Saints Amateur Operatic Society’s orchestra. Another good performance, which also reminded us of the fact there were 355 days till Whit Friday 2020.

Our second soloist would be the sixth item in last night’s programme. Enter on solo horn Jess Wilson. This time with Philip Sparke’s Aria. The piece was commissioned by and written for Sheona White in a CD recording. At the time, Ms White was a member of the all-conquering YBS Band (today’s Hammonds Band). The piece itself, typically for a Philip Sparke composition, was well bodied – though more mellow. For Jess Wilson, her performance was just another day in the office: smooth, clinical and well defined in all areas. Brilliant.

Our seventh item came from the third and final soloist of the night: Danny Lowery on euphonium. His piece was Fantasia on Rule Britannia, J. Hartmann’s take on Sir Edward Elgar’s piece as arranged by Denzil Stephens. With The Proms due to start on the 19 July, this reminded us of The Last Night of the Proms in its full flag-waving glory. This was also a fitting choice being as the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings was only a fortnight ago. The secret sauce in last night’s performance was Danny’s euphonium work. Superb volume and tone: delicious.

With time ticking away, we moved straight to Moon River Cha Cha by Henry Mancini. Arranged by Philip Harper, it formed part of The Cory Band’s award-winning Brass In Concert set for 2016. In 1961, Henry Mancini and his Orchestra’s original tune Moon River was noted for its use in the film Breakfast at Tiffanys. Albeit with Audrey Hepburn on vocals. This made for a fantastic, more uptempo diversion.

The ninth item of the programme was a real joy to behold: a classic test piece by Eric Ball. The mighty Resurgam, which is Latin for I shall rise again. Composed in 1950, it became a test piece for the 1952 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain’s Regional Finals for Championship Section bands. With a bit of aural mysticism and bombast in the middle, it has a calm, measured ending in its fifteen minutes. A real feast for the listener. As for Flixton Band’s performance, breathtakingly beautiful. Breathtaking enough to need a cool, long, refreshing drink in the interval.

For great concerts, Gøta Boarshurst Band Club

We opened the second half with Gøta, a Swedish piece written by Peder Karlsson, arranged by Tine Kvamme. Mr Kvamme’s arrangement covers all bases in a full brass band from repiano cornet to percussion, and does so very well. Gøta is also a village in the Faroe Islands. Furthermore, this piece was the final track on The Real Group’s album In The Middle of Life. A fantastic opener to second half.

From Sweden – or the Faroe Islands village – we segued our way to New York City. More precisely the part of New York City immortalised in West Side Story. The piece in question was Tonight. In the Leonard Bernstein musical, it is sung by Tony and Maria when Tony visits her on the fire escape. Again, another good performance from Flixton Band.

Our third piece of the pithier second half was Balkan Dances by Etienne Crausez. Inspired by Eastern European music, it is an audience pleasing piece which brings out the best in each soloist. It is a great piece for closing concerts where the MD can announce each soloist with some rockier leanings. Fantastic stuff.

This took us to our fourth piece. Another World Premiere: Hear Me by Dale Vail. A recent addition to Mr Vail’s back catalogue, it is a modern day hymn which could be a future concert staple. It is one that has potential for a soloist’s arrangement. Dale is also an accomplished trombonist as well as a composer of original works. So far, his original work has been seen by over 1,200 viewers on Boarshurst Silver Band’s Facebook feed. Another great performance by Flixton Band which, if you missed the live stream or concert the first time around, is worth seeing.

Our penultimate piece of the night was Thomas Bergensen’s and Nick Phoenix’s Heart of Courage. Starting off gently it becomes a brooding piece that packs a punch in less than four minutes. It has been used for various events including the London 2012 Olympic Games athletics final. Its composers Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergensen own Los Angeles based music company Two Steps From Hell. Great work again.

If you thought their performance of the previous tune was a thriller, the second half finale was something special: Peter Graham’s Windows of the World. In just under fifteen minutes (without several visa applications and flights to book) we took in the Amazon rain forest, Japan, the Sahara desert, Britain, and America.

Peter Graham’s work comes in six movements: Amazonia; Rainforest; The Rising Sun; Drums of Thunder; Celtic Dream; and Earth Walk. For the percussion section, a real test with everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us. At point, our concert moved up a few notches from Fantastic to Sensational. Alongside Resurgam, a real high point of the night as captured by this clip.

After a special finale, the last thing that Flixton Band would have done was play something unoriginal or uninspiring. Instead they chose to play Ernesto Lecuona’s Malagūena, arranged by Mark Freeh. With its Hispanic and Cuban leanings, a perfect partner to Peter Graham’s piece. Ambitious, vivacious and inspiring, the right kind of piece to finish off a superb concert.

In the last year, Flixton Band have grown as a band. The concert programme was an accomplished one with the kind of programme that go-ahead First Section bands should aspire to creating. Besides being a test for its members, it worked on two levels. On one side it showed off the band’s full potential up to now. On the other, it impressed the audience with well chosen pieces. On a whole, some newer works alongside traditional concert staples, whilst respecting the pragmatics of a traditional brass band concert.

Besides Matt Ryan’s astute running order, their soloists made last night’s concert a special one with three first rate performances.

If you enjoyed Windows of the World, the performance of this piece inspires Flixton Band’s next concert. Named after the Peter Graham piece, their Windows of the World concert takes on a travel theme. That will take place on Saturday, June 29 2019 at St. Clement’s Church, 1 Manor Avenue, Urmston, M41 9JZ. The 15, 18, 23, 245, and 255 buses stop near the church on Stretford Road and Urmston railway station is 5 – 10 minutes walk away. Tickets are also available from Eventbrite.

Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club…

Mossley Band will be making their way to The Mecca of Brass Banding. In Tameside’s Whit Friday Brass Band Contests, they picked up a few Best Local and Best First Section Band prizes.

Their Musical Director is Duncan Byers. He has been with the band since 2006. Prior to joining Mossley Band he has studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and played principal cornet for Brighouse and Rastrick and Grimethorpe Colliery bands. Doors are open from 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £8.00, or £7.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club.

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 operated by First Greater Manchester. Please note that after 7pm that the 350 service is operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 17 June 2019.

Image of St. Michael’s Church, Flixton, by Parrot of Doom, 2003. Creative Commons License 3.0: Attribution-Share Alike.

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