Silk Brass: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (15 September 2019)

Another warm reception and enjoyable night from Tony Wyatt and Co.

For some brass bands, the middle of September means the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain finals in Cheltenham. Last weekend’s National Finals saw great success for Boarshurst Silver Band (3rd in the First Section final) and the Uppermill Band (Third Section title winners). After six hours and forty minutes on a coach to and from Cheltenham, and seeing several bands at The Centaur, seeing another band would have made you a glutton for punishment.

Whether you took the M5 motorway to Gloucestershire and/or the 350 bus to Greenfield, Silk Brass gave us all a superb concert. A neatly balanced, highly entertaining programme with four memorable solos. After hearing Philip Sparke’s Endeavour up to sixteen times (or Stephen Bulla’s Beecher Variations earlier) there was nothing too heavy going. Light, yet meaty. A perfect concert for anyone who wanted something light-hearted with real substance.

Part of Silk Brass’ programme included a sneak peek of their Bolsover Entertainment Contest programme and a likely candidate for a Remembrance Day concert item. There was room for some 1970s music, a jazz standard by a practising Scientologist, and a beautiful arrangement of a well-loved hymn.

As always, Tony Wyatt was humorous and authoritative. Even after seeing nearly 30 bands on a Saturday, the two hours went pretty fast.

First Half

  1. March: The Waltonian (J.J. Richards, arr. Thomas Wyss);
  2. Light Concert Music: The Shepherd’s Song (Goff Richards);
  3. Popular Music: Play That Funky Music (Rob Parissi, arr. Adrian Horn);
  4. Cornet Solo (performed by Ben Bradley): The Sunshine of Your Smile (Lilian Ray/Leonard Cooke, arr. J. Ord Hume);
  5. Film Music (from Saving Private Ryan): Hymn to the Fallen (John Williams, arr. Klass van der Woude);
  6. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Peter Weaver): Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Alan Morrison);
  7. Light Concert Music: Moon River (Henry Mancini, arr. Alan Fernie);
  8. Classical Piece: Slavonic Rhapsody No. 2 (Carl Friedemann, arr. Denis Wright).

Second Half

  1. Jazz Standard: La Fiesta (Chick Corea, arr. Sandy Smith);
  2. Classical Piece: Hymn from Cavelleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascagni, arr. Denis Wright);
  3. Bass Trombone Solo (performed by Andrew Durber): Minnie the Moocher (Cab Calloway, arr. Bob Casey);
  4. Popular Music: Fanfare for the Common Man (Emerson/Lake/Palmer after Aaron Copland, arr. Matthews);
  5. Euphonium Solo (performed by Andrew Ingleby): Varied Mood (Ray Woodfield);
  6. Hymn: The Day Thou Gavest (Clement Cotteril, arr, Peter Hargreaves);
  7. Musical Piece: Godspell/Jesus Christ Superstar Medley (Stephen Schwartz/Andrew Lloyd-Webber, arr. Kevin Bolton).

Encore

  • Popular Music: Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing!) (Louis Prima, arr. Dan Price).

“And they were dancing, and singing, and moving to the grooving…”

First off was J.J Richards’ The Waltonian, arranged by Thomas Wyss. Written in 1928, it is regarded as a circus march and, as we found, a great concert opener. The arranger, Thomas Wyss, was previously seen at Boarshurst Band Club with Leyland Band. During Boarshurst Silver Band’s previous stint in the Championship Section, he was their Musical Director. A fantastic cobweb blower of a performance.

Next up was The Shepherd’s Song, written by Goff Richards. Based on a traditional French folk song, this was a joyous contrast from the opening march. Since its publication in 1980, it has been a firm favourite among brass band players and audiences. Silk Brass’ performance was no exception to this rule.

The transcription of soul music from the original source to a brass band setting works well. We have seen this with Lionel Richie’s All Night Long. Soul and funk music works even better, and this was seen in Adrian Horn’s arrangement of Play That Funky Music. Originally a hit for Wild Cherry in 1976, a much inferior version was covered by Vanilla Ice in 1989 (more DJs preferred its ‘B’ side, Ice Ice Baby). Wild Cherry’s original is a nailed-on disco classic. Silk Brass’ version got us all “dancing and singing, and moving to the grooving.” Sensational. Did I tell you that it was arranged by Silk Brass’ very own Adrian Horn? No I didn’t (sorry about that). Great work from Adrian too.

From Studio 54 we moved a little closer to 54 Hurdsfield Road (which according to Google Street View is the Nosh and Breks sandwich shop). This time with a traditional solo piece, The Sunshine Of Your Smile by Lilian Ray and Leonard Cooke in 1913. 67 years later it became a Top Ten single for Mike Berry, arranged by the late Chas Hodges (of Chas ‘n’ Dave fame). On cornet was Ben Bradley, whose superb performance was a real alternative to Sunday’s liquid sunshine. Excellent tone and volume.

This was followed by Hymn to the Fallen, a piece of film music that has a double life as a Remembrance Day concert item. Composed by John Williams, it is best remembered for its use in Saving Private Ryan. Last night’s performance of Klass van der Woude’s arrangement was yet another class act.

Then came our second soloist of the night, and what a solo performance we had at that. Enter on flugelhorn, Peter Weaver, with his performance of Georgia On My Mind. Written by Hoagy Carmichael, the song has previously been covered by the likes of Annie Lennox. As for Peter, he performed this piece without the aid of a manuscript and music stand. Yes, by heart. From rote memory. The results were unbelievable: perfect pitch and tone.

How would you follow that? What about a piece from Breakfast at Tiffanys? If you guessed Henry Mancini’s Moon River, award yourself a corned beef sandwich. With lyrics by Johnny Mercer, it was sung by Audrey Hepburn in the film and later covered by Andy Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Chevy Chase and Barry Manilow. A variation of this song was used to advertise the Halifax bank. Silk Brass’ rendition, as you would have expected, smooth as a clear passage along the said river.

To close the first half, we had a more ambitious work: Slavonic Rhapsody No. 2. Carl Friedemann’s piece is also a traditional brass band concert item, with recordings on YouTube featuring Alex Mortimer and Stanley H. Boddington. The German-Swiss composer, Carl Bert Ulrich Friedemann has written 140 marches and last night’s piece was written in 1935. The inclusion of this piece added some extra meaty chunks to last night’s concert and made for a joyous and rumbustious finale.

La Fiesta Cavelleria Rusticana

Our opening piece in the second half was a sneak preview of part of Silk Brass’ Bolsover Entertainment Contest programme. This time La Fiesta by Chick Corea. The full version (23 minutes and 13 seconds), along with Sometime Ago, appears on his 1972 LP Return to Forever. Return to Forever was his band’s début release, considered by many as a seminal title in electric jazz music. Some of his later album sleeve notes include a dedication to L. Ron Hubbard (Corea has been a practising Church of Scientology member since 1968). As for Silk Brass’ performance, truly amazing.

This was followed by a return to more traditional fare: the hymn from Cavelleria Rusticana. Composed by Pietro Mascagni, it is part of a one act opera. The hymn, an easter hymn, is sung by the villagers as “Inneggiamo, il Signor non è morto”. In English, this translates as “We rejoice that our Saviour is living!” Brilliant stuff.

This was followed by our third soloist of the night. Enter on Bass Trombone, Andrew Durber with Cab Calloway’s Minnie The Moocher. Its most famous use was in The Blues Brothers film from 1980. The music is set to Willie the Weeper, a drug song by Frankie ‘Half Pint’ Jaxon. As for Andrew’s performance, a superb one.

From soul funk and electric jazz, we moved on to the world of progressive rock music. For prog rock devotees, Emerson, Lake and Palmer are noted for such works like Tarkus, Brain Salad Surgery, Karn Evil 9 and Pictures At An Exhibition. Their most popular work is Fanfare For The Common Man, a reworking of Aaron Copland’s work that peaked at Number 2 in the UK singles chart. Last night saw the rare airing of a brass band transcription. Did it work? Yes it did, and a neat addition to any concert programme. With the addition of Silk Brass, another cracker.

Speaking of crackers, we had another one in last night’s euphonium solo performance. Enter Andrew Ingleby with his rendition of Varied Mood. Written by Ray Woodfield, it has been performed by Glyn Williams on the Foden’s Band CD release Patrons’ Choice III. If desired, a pianist may complement the euphonium player, but we didn’t have room for a Steinway at the Mecca of Brass Banding. Nevertheless, Andrew’s performance was outstanding and, for my money, the strongest solo performance of the night.

No brass band concert is complete without a hymn. Last night’s choice was The Day Thou Gavest by Clement Cotteril. It was chosen by Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Adding an extra dimension to the hymn was Peter Hargreaves’ arranging skills. This added vibrancy and colour to the hymn, reflected in Silk Brass’ excellent performance.

To finish the concert, we turned to the world of religious musical theatre. This time with a medley from Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. With music by Stephen Schwartz and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, this included Day By Day and I Don’t Know How to Love Him. With a rousing finish, this got everyone in the mood for another piece.

As for the encore, a fantastic number in Louis Prima’s Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing!). Released in February 1936, it has been performed by Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman and has been used in numerous films. In brass band form, it never fails to entertain or lift audiences. Another great performance to finish the night.

* * *

We wish them well at the Bolsover Entertainment Contest. Like Skelmanthorpe Band last week, they will be a tough nut to crack. If they offer a remarkable two hours worth of music like last night, an edifying 20 minute set should be a cinch.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

Another fine Cheshire band will be heading to Boarshurst Band Club. This time it will be the turn of The Fairey Band. Formed in 1937 by a group of employees, the band rose to fame thanks to its one time musical director, Harry Mortimer.

Doors are open at 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £10.00 or £9.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club. As always, please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

This Friday…

Boarshurst Silver Band will be performing at the Oldham Coliseum on the 20 September 2019 (7.30pm). Tickets are priced £15.00 and available via their website or in person from the Box Office.

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., 16 September 2019.

Macclesfield Heritage Centre image by Mike In Macc, 2013 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike).

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