Skelmanthorpe Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (08 September 2019)

A concert of two halves with a swinging second half

Was it really two years ago since Skelmanthorpe Band’s previous concert at the Boarshurst Band Club? During the 23-month hiatus since their previous gig at The Mecca of Brass Banding, the Championship Section band of the Skelmanthorpe band community has changed musical directors. They have recently returned to the Championship Section. One thing that hasn’t changed since their previous soiree was entertainment value. With a mix of traditional concert pieces and a swinging second half, they had that by the bucketload.

Individually and as a whole band. they were pretty good as well. We enjoyed some strong performances from the percussion section. Some tremendous trombone work and four fantastic solo performances.

The Skelmanthorpe Band community has four bands. Two of which are contesting bands with last night’s band, conducted by Martin Heartfield, the most senior of the two. The second contesting band is Skelmanthorpe Prospect Band. Previously known as Skelmanthorpe Junior Band and Skelmanthorpe ‘B’ Band, they are a Second Section band conducted by Philip Garlick (James Garlick’s father). The other two bands are the Skelmanthorpe Training Band and Skelmanthorpe Youth Band.

For the best part of two hours, Martin Heartfield’s dry humour and Skelmanthorpe Band’s musicianship make for a most engaging concert.

First Half

  1. Original Piece: Activate (Matt Hall);
  2. March: On the Quarter Deck (Kenneth Alford);
  3. Hymn: The Guardian of My Soul (Darren Shaw);
  4. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Lindsay Abell): Marianne (Martin Bunce, arr. Stephen Brodie);
  5. Light Concert Music: Jubilation! (James Curnow);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by David Shipman) The Holy Well (a movement from On Alderley Edge) (Peter Graham);
  7. Cornet Quartet: Bugler’s Holiday (Leroy Anderson);
  8. Hymn: Prelude on Lavenham (Geoffrey Nobes);
  9. Light Concert Music: Romani Fire Dance (Jonathan Bates);
  10. Light Concert Music: To Boldly Go (last two movements) (Peter Graham).

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Valero (James Swearingen, arr. Sandy Smith);
  2. Jazz Standard: Caravan (Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol, arr. Steve Sykes);
  3. Horn Solo (performed by Laura Brown): Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. G. Garland);
  4. Trombone Solo (performed by Damian Hall): Feeling Good (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  5. Trombone Trio: Frolic For Trombones (Reginald Heath);
  6. Popular Music: Got to Get You Into My Life (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Leigh Baker);
  7. Light Concert Music: Arran Melody (Alan Fernie);
  8. Popular Music: Fat Bottomed Girls (Brian May, arr. Philip Harper).

Encore

  • Popular Music: I’ll Walk With God (Nicholas Brodzsky, arr. Goff Richards).

To boldly go… to Bolsover in a blaze of glory

If Microsoft brought out a brass band lovers version of Windows 10, Matthew Hall’s Activate would be a good startup theme. In just two minutes, it is a vibrant and pithy piece that makes for a good concert opener. It was written for Tredegar Town Band in 2010 and formed part of a 20 minute long concert programme on its initial performance. If you are looking for a dynamic concert opener as part of a support slot or entertainment contest programme, Activate is well worth seeking out. Skelmanthorpe Band’s performance made for a superb sales pitch.

The second piece took us into familiar territory: Kenneth Alford’s On the Quarter Deck. Performed well, Alford’s piece brings life into any deportment march setting. Skelmanthorpe Band demonstrated this at Brighouse Hymn and March Contest in early July. At Boarshurst Band Club, the same energy they showed along Bethel Street was encapsulated in last night’s performance. (That I love On The Quarter Deck as a street march might have influenced my judgement too).

This was followed by Darren Shaw’s The Guardian of My Soul. The hymn is a mash-up of two pieces, one of which was written by Mr. Shaw himself. Those include his own song I Worship You, and another hymn: O Jesus, I Have Promised. A lovely contrast to the previous two rousing pieces.

For our fourth piece of the night was Stephen Brodie’s arrangement of Marianne. This time, performed by our first soloist of the night, Lindsay Abell on flugelhorn. Composed by Martin Bunce, Marianne features on his own 4CD set, entitled The Very Best of NYJO. The composer is also a trumpeter who has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Led Zeppelin and Bryan Adams. As for Lindsay’s performance on flugelhorn, smooth and superb with precise notation.

Next up was a piece inspired by spiritual music. Enter from stage left, James Curnow’s Jubilation!. For its main melody, it uses My Lord, What A Morning for transitions and modulations throughout. It also takes in three further spirituals: I’m Gonna Sing, Steal Away and Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit. A neat addition to the programme.

From America we moved to Alderley Edge. Or more precisely, The Holy Well from Peter Graham’s test piece On Alderley Edge. This was the subject of David Shipman’s euphonium solo. Peter Graham’s On Alderley Edge was commissioned for the 1997 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain as the Championship Section test piece. David’s solo was the fourth of six movements in the suite of tone pictures. As with Lindsay’s solo earlier on, another tight, well defined performance.

Our seventh piece of this half was a sneak preview of the lighter second half. Offering an antidote to the cooler weather outside Boarshurst Band Club was Bugler’s Holiday by Leroy Anderson. This lightweight yet jazzy piece was performed with perfection by last night’s cornet quartet. A neat novelty item.

A nice counterpoint to the previous item was a Salvationist hymn arranged by Geoffrey Nobes. Prelude on Lavenham is based on Reverend Nick Fawcett’s hymn. The former Bandmaster of Portsmouth Citadel Band remains an active composer today with his recorded works published by Kevin Mayhew Productions. Skelmanthorpe Band’s performance of this piece has been well received at various hymn and march contests. At Boarshurst Band Club, another good day in the office.

The penultimate piece of this half was the first of two pieces chosen for this year’s Bolsover Entertainment Contest. First off the blocks was Jonathan Bates’ Romani Fire Dance. The light concert piece is inspired by Balkan music and a vibrant addition to any concert programme. This piece was the winning entry of Flowers Band’s 2012 composition contest. A sneak preview of this work was premiered at the Butlins Mineworkers’ Contest in January that year. For this testing piece, Skelmanthorpe Band were on fire. We think the live audience would love this number next month.

To close the first half was another work by Peter Graham. This time, the last two movements of To Boldly Go. Despite its Star Trek connotations, this was commissioned by the Bandmaster of Melbourne Staff Band, Ken Waterworth, marking the Victorian band’s 125th anniversary. There is a nod to two Salvationist songs: I’ll Go In The Strength of the Lord (Edward Turney/Ivor Bosanko) and I’ll Not Turn Back (John Gowans/John Larsson). As for Skelmanthorpe Band’s performance, there was nothing illogical about it whatsoever: another consistent one.

“Get on your bikes and ride…”

Whereas the first half had traditional concert leanings, the second half took on a livelier character. If swing and jazz is your thing, this half would have suited you down to a tee. If not, a fantastic journey nonetheless.

With the live audience strapped in for the second half we opened with a lively number. James Swearingen’s Valero. As jazz standards go, this is the sound of a secret agent on a mission. On a mission to save one corner of Saddleworth from mediocre televised entertainment. Or a family from running out of milk by nipping to the Premier shop via Greenfield’s new zebra crossing. A fantastic return to the stage.

Instead of Shank’s pony, our international person of mystery could have used a Hymer motorhome. Or an Airstream Colorado which, if it was a jazz standard, would have been Duke Ellington’s and Juan Tizol’s Caravan. Steve Sykes’ arrangement never fails to lift the audience, whether at the start, end, or halfway point of a concert. Skelmanthorpe Band’s performance was vibrant with superb volume and enough oomph to have you on the edge of your seat. Peerless.

Our third piece of this half was the third solo of the night. This time with Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust on solo horn, performed by Laura Brown. The original song was set to lyrics by Mitchell Parish on a 1929 78 RPM disc, sometimes referred to as Star Dust. At Freckleton Band’s concert, this was a trombone solo. On the horn, Laura’s performance was smooth and well polished.

From one sublime solo to another, our fourth and final solo performance came from Skelmanthorpe’s answer to Michael Bublé. Enter on the trombone Damian Hall, with his performance of the Nina Simone song Feeling Good. Written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley (also of Pure Imagination fame), it featured in the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. The song has been covered by numerous artistes including the Eels, Traffic, Muse, George Michael, and Traffic. Oh, and Michael Bublé. As for Damian’s performance, sensational.

If you wanted more Damian, then the next piece fulfilled your desire. Enter the combined might of Skelmanthorpe’s trombone section with this classic tune. The piece in question was Frolic For Trombones, a concert staple that many listeners or players love to hate. Prior to composing this piece, Reginald Heath was an accountant. Our fellows’ sublime performance of this piece was never in doubt.

After the raffle, we moved on to a piece by an obscure Merseyside band. If you guessed Got to Get You Into My Life, well done. Written by Lennon/McCartney, it featured on The Beatles’ Revolver LP. The finest cover version was Earth, Wind and Fire’s jazz funk treatment from 1978. Leigh Baker’s arrangement is a seamless transcription of Messrs White and Bailey’s cover. Skelmanthorpe Band’s performance was more than a match for the cover version. The late Maurice White would have loved this.

Our penultimate piece of the night was an original number by Alan Fernie: Arran Melody. This was a calm, slow melodic piece inspired by the Isle of Arran, a CalMac ferry ride away to Brodick from Ardrossan. The island is described by many travellers as “Scotland in miniature”, with highlights including Brodick Castle and Goatfell, its highest point at 2,866 feet above sea level. Brilliant work in the slow melody department.

To finish the concert, we closed with another chart single from 1978. This time with Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, arranged by the record-breaking British Open winning conductor Philip Harper. Fat Bottomed Girls was released on a double A-sided single with Bicycle Race. It peaked at Number 11 in the UK singles chart and was later used in Morgan Spurlock’s fast food documentary film Super Size Me. With the cyclists’ Tour of Britain this Saturday [14 September], a fitting finale. Special mention should be made of last night’s soprano cornet player, who was superb in that number.

In previous concerts, Queen’s song has been used as an encore. Last night’s encore was Nicholas Brodzsky’s I’ll Walk With God. It has famously been sung by Mario Lanza, Placido Domingo and Michael Crawford. In the film, Prince Karl sung the song at the King of Carlsburg’s death bed. Played by Edmund Purdom, his singing was replaced by Mario Lanza’s dubbed voice. As for Skelmanthorpe Band’s performance, sensational work from the percussion section, well and truly at the height of their powers.

* * *

We hope Skelmanthorpe Band’s next concert at Boarshurst will be in 2020 rather than 2021. With a most enjoyable programme and great delivery from Martin Heartfield, it was well worth waiting for.

We wish them well at the Bolsover Entertainment Contest. Going off their choice of pieces and overall performance, I would be surprised if they came away from Derbyshire empty handed.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

Shortly after the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain (First to Fourth Section finals at The Centaur, Cheltenham), Silk Brass will be making their way to Boarshurst Band Club. Previous concerts with our friends from Cheshire have always been enjoyable with a well thought-out programme and excellent delivery from Musical Director Tony Wyatt.

Doors are open at 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £8.00 or £7.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club. As always, please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

Buses

  • 180: Manchester [Piccadilly Gardens] – Hollinwood – Oldham – Lees – Greenfield (First Greater Manchester);
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester).

Please alight outside the former Greenfield Conservative Club which is just before (to Oldham) or after (to Ashton) the new zebra crossing. All post-6pm journeys of the 350 route are operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

S.V., 09 September 2019.

Skelmanthorpe station (Kirklees Light Railway) image by Zath Ras, 2018 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike).

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