Besses Boys Band’s sparkling concert ends season on a buoyant note

For many people, the 14 July 2019 will go down as one of the finest dates in sporting history. At Centre Court, Roger Federer lost his Mens Singles title to Novak Djokovic. The Cricket World Cup went to England after a tense super over separated England from New Zealand. 194 miles north of the Lords Cricket Ground, there was another party style atmosphere in a band club in deepest Saddleworth.

The party atmosphere came from Besses Boys Band’s concert at the Boarshurst Band Club. With a tight programme and the machine gun style delivery of its Musical Director James Holt, there was a lot to like about last night’s concert. There was some pieces from the world of stage and screen, three fantastic solos, and a video game theme tune.

Two players from Besses O’Th’ Barn Band formed Besses Boys Band in 1943. Last night’s concert took place some 75 years after the band’s first public performance. Shortly after the Second World War they dominated the British Youth Championships winning five out of six titles. After winning the trophy three times in a row they were barred from the competition’s fourth year. After winning their fifth title the competition was wound up.

Their 76-year history is a noteworthy one, which saw the band dominating youth competitions well into the 1980s. They have appeared on Thames Television’s Opportunity Knocks twice, performed in front of Roy Castle, and Margaret Thatcher. The then Prime Minister praised the band’s performance back in 1988. In 1989, when she said “we are a grandmother”, the 03 November saw Besses Boys Band voting to accept female brass band players.

In the last 30 years, Besses Boys Band have gone from strength to strength as an open age brass band. Stability and continued progress have cemented the band’s place in the community whilst holding their own in regional contests. Since James Holt’s appointment in 2005 they have risen from the Fourth Section to the Second Section.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Cossack (William Rimmer);
  2. Original Piece: Alloway Tales (Peter Graham);
  3. Trombone Solo (performed by Joel Rongong): Londonderry Air (Traditional, arr. Bill Geldard);
  4. Film Music (from Casino Royale): You Know My Name (Chris Cornell/David Arnold, arr. A.D.J Taylor);
  5. Euphonium Solo (performed by Oliver Marshall): Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair (Stephen Taylor, arr. Elgar Howarth);
  6. Hymn: Nearer, My God, To Thee (Sarah Flower Adams, arr. Gavin Somerset);
  7. Film Music: Theme from Batman (Danny Elfman, arr. Alan Catherall).

Second Half

  1. Original Piece: Night Flight to Madrid (Kermit Leslie, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  2. Musical Piece (from Blood Brothers): Tell Me It’s Not True (Willy Russell, arr. A.D.J Taylor);
  3. Eb Bass Solo (performed by Josh Panter): Friend Like Me (Alan Menken, arr. Karl Whelan);
  4. Popular music: Gøta (Peder Karlsson, arr. Tina Kvamme);
  5. Musical Piece (from Annie Get Your Gun): There’s No Business Like Show Business (Irving Berlin, arr. Goff Richards);
  6. Light Concert Music: Ashokan Farewell (Jay Unger, arr. Alan Fernie);
  7. Musical Medley: Les Miserables Concert Suite (Claude Michel Schoenberg/Alain Boublil, arr. Gavin Somerset):
    1. Prologue;
    2. On My Own;
    3. Bring Him Home;
    4. Master of the House;
    5. One Day More;
    6. Can You Hear The People Sing?.


  • Folk Music: Korobeiniki (Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov).

From Moscow to Gotham City

We opened the concert with a Russian sounding march by one of Southport’s finest composers. No prizes for guessing The Cossack by William Rimmer. If you saw Besses Boys Band at any of Tameside’s Whit Friday Band Contests, this was their contest march of choice. A good start to last night’s concert.

From Moscow (or Woodvale aerodrome) we could have chartered a light aircraft to Prestwick for our next piece: a Peter Graham number inspired by Robert Burns. The piece in question, Alloway Tales. In three movements, the first part of the piece is a portrait of Duncan Gray, who tries to woo Maggie. The second part focuses on Mary Campbell who lies asleep by Afton Water. The third and final piece being The De’ils Awa wi the Exciseman. Jolly good stuff.

For the third piece we moved from Alloway to Cairnryan for a Belfast ferry prior to taking a train for Londonderry. Next up was Londonderry Air, which many listeners recognise from Brassed Off. Instead of the usual arrangements we are accustomed to we had Bill Geldard’s arrangement, written for trombones. This made for a sleek, stylish performance by Joel Rongong.

Here’s a pub quiz question for you: which James Bond theme does not mention the film title? The answer to that was the fourth piece of the night: You Know My Name. Written by David Arnold and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, it featured in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale. A Bond Theme, though not quite as we know one? The 2006 version of Casino Royale is a prequel to Eon Productions’ James Bond films. A previous version was released in 1967 with David Niven as the ‘original’ Bond. Good work.

Our fifth programme item came from last night’s second soloist. This time with Oliver Marshall on euphonium. His piece (chosen for him, not chosen by him as our eloquent MD said) was Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair. Published in 1854, it was written by Stephen Foster as a Parlor [sic] song and alludes to a divorce. Oliver’s performance was a delightful one. Did I tell you he was only seventeen years old? Obviously not till now.

Filed under “Confused? You Will Be” in a previous Besses Boys Band film music concert was the sixth item in the programme. A hymn that was used in James Cameron’s Titanic. Most infamously during the sinking of RMS Titanic (portrayed in the 1997 film), Nearer My God To Thee was the last piece to be performed by the ship’s violin ensemble. Another good show.

The world of stage and screen inspired our last piece of the first half. This time 30 years ago, there was a real buzz around Tim Burton’s Batman film starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. There was plenty of spin-offs including Commodore’s Batman Pack, which included an Amiga 500 computer and Ocean Software’s Batman game. The real icing on the cake is Danny Elfman’s theme from Batman. Among Danny Elfman’s musical credits was another phenomenon from 1989: the signature tune of The Simpsons.

Moody, it depicts in Technicolor® form Batman’s and Robin’s adventures. A sparky performance with tons of Whoosh! Kapow! and Splat! for good measure.

Tell Me It’s Not Tetris…?

Lovers of easy listening music may have come across a certain Kermit Leslie. Born Kermit Levinsky, his orchestra has brought us such novelties like Jalopy and Gilbert The Goose. Opening the second half was Night Flight to Madrid. A nice summery number it has Hispanic overtones without the musical cliches that some expect from Spanish themed music. A nice, energetic piece to get us in the mood.

Some great musicals start off as a school play. Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is one; another is Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. It began as a one-act play where two brothers were switched from birth. By far, its best known song is Tell Me It’s Not True, the subject of Besses Boys’ second piece of this half. The anthemic song is performed by Mrs Johnstone (the two brothers’ mother) and the whole company at the end. Brilliant stuff.

Going from Jeanie to Genie was Alan Menken’s Friend Like Me. In the first version of Walt Disney’s Aladdin, it was sung by Robin Williams who played the Genie. In the remake, it was sung by Will Smith. Last night’s performance came from Josh Panter on Eb Bass. A refreshing, rumbustious solo effort which belied his youthfulness. Like Oliver, also seventeen years of age and destined for greater things.

After the raffle came a song about three Norwegian villages, Gøta. Written by Peder Karlsson it refers to three villages in the island of Eysturoy on the Faroe Islands. It is also the abbreviated form of Norðragøta. In 2005 it was sung by The Real Group, a Swedish a cappella group. Besses Boys’ performance was another cracker.

So far, everything about Besses Boys Band’s concert was appealing: an affable mix of traditional pieces and songs from the musicals. Continuing the trend was Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business. It is one of a few memorable songs from Annie Get Your Gun. Besides its original premise, it is an indispensable part of any musical themed concert/variety show/revue. Years after singing it Annie Get Your Gun, Ethel Merman also inflicted a disco version of this song in 1979. Thankfully, Besses Boys’ performance was a joy to behold.

For our penultimate piece we calmed things down with a Goff Richards arrangement. This time with Jay Ungar’s and Molly Mason’s Ashokan Farewell. Written in 1982, this folk song was used as a farewell waltz at the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps. It has also been covered by various artistes and – for a song published in 1982 – is often regarded as a traditional American Civil War tune.

To finish the concert was a rendition of the Les Miserables Concert Suite. The medley covers six pieces from the hugely popular musical, from Prologue to Can You Hear The People Sing? Filed under “Not-So-Light Light Concert Music”, Gavin Somerset’s arrangement can be a taxing medley. Nevertheless, Besses Boys Band did a fantastic job.

Miserable? None of the audience (live and streamed) were at all. By 10pm, we returned to Russia for our encore piece. If you had a Nintendo Gameboy you may have come across Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov‘s Korobeiniki. Still not sure? Its most famous use was in the Russian puzzle game Tetris. Based on pentomino puzzles, it was released on various computer and console formats from the Amstrad CPC to the ZX Spectrum. The Gameboy version which had Nekrasov’s tune inspired countless imitations.

As for the tune, Korobeiniki translates into English as The Peddler. A poet, Nekrasov was descended from Russian landed gentry, yet showed compassion for Russian peasants in his works. What a fantastic finale.

*                  *                  *

With the cricket and tennis being potential counter attractions, Besses Boys Band were rewarded with a fantastic turnout. The programme was joyous enough to keep its audience engaged. As well as being a consistently good programme, James Holt’s pithy yet informative (and humorous) delivery made for a tightly produced concert. Even with a raffle comprising of nine prizes and a slightly delayed starting time.

If you happen to be knocking around Prestwich, Whitefield or Bury (or know someone who lives in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury), their concerts are well worth seeing. In fact, their next one is at The Longfield Suite in Prestwich. Starting at 2pm on the 21 July, they are supported by the Encore Youth Choir.

The Longfield Suite has excellent off-street parking nearby. It is also accessible by tram (Prestwich station is directly opposite the venue) and bus (we recommend the X41 Red Express and X43 Witch Way services). The hall itself is a fine venue once you’ve found its unassuming ground floor entrance.

Next Week…

With a summer recess for Boarshurst Band Club’s Sunday Brass Nights, the next concert will take place on the 01 September with a Charity Band. Any details of the charity band shall be stated on the blog, and the East of the M60 Facebook page nearer the time.

If your playlist includes the collected works of Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline as well as Jim Shepherd and Harry Mortimer, there will be a country music night. Starting at 8.15pm on Saturday, July 20 2019, Just Good Friends will serenade you with a selection of Country and Western Classics. All for the princely sum of £3.50.


  • 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.


S.V., 15 July 2019.

Lady Wilton Hall image by Impudicus, 2014 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike).

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