Hebden Bridge Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (20 October 2019)

Brindle’s Boarshurst début marked by a superb concert

With the nights getting longer and the days getting colder, the warmest of receptions were reserved for Hebden Bridge Band at the Boarshurst Band Club. With their first choice Musical Director David Hamilton in Norwich last night, the baton was passed on to Gareth Brindle. For the former Rainford Musical Director, his first ever visit to Boarshurst Band Club was a most memorable one.

Hebden Bridge Band came to one of Saddleworth’s most iconic brass banding venues with a concise yet enjoyable programme. There was no cruft, no padding, no filibustering – just an honest-to-goodness well-rounded concert with real substance. Whether your musical preferences favour The Beatles or an Eric Ball arrangement, you were covered over the best part of two hours.

With his experience at Rainford Band (and on the baritone horn for Black Dyke and Fairey bands), it was clear that Mr Brindle knew a thing or three about concerts. That showed with his delivery being most efficient and informative.

First Half

  1. Concert Opener: Prelude on Tallis (Eric Ball);
  2. Overture: Die Felsenmühle (Carl Gottlieb Reißiger, arr. Drake Rimmer);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Charlie Heaven): Concorde (Roy Newsome);
  4. Jazz Piece: Not To Be Forgotten (Pat Methany);
  5. Popular Music: When I’m Sixty-Four (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Hymn Music Medley: Hymns of Praise (Various, arr. Goff Richards);
  7. Classical Piece: Toccata from Suite Gothique (Leon Boellman, arr. Eric Ball).

Second Half

  1. March: Jubilee (Paul Drury);
  2. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Steve Gardner): The Lark in the Clear Air (Gordon Langford);
  3. Light Concert Music: The Irish Blessing (Joyce Eilers Bacak, arr. Stephen Bradnum);
  4. Trombone Trio (performed by Sarah Tucker, Meghan Horne and Jack Holmes): Frolic For Trombones (Reginald Heath);
  5. Film Music: Theme from Schindler’s List (John Williams, arr. Frank Bernaerts);
  6. Light Concert Music: A Hunting Scene (Procida Bucalossi, arr. William Moore);
  7. Swing Music: Swingin’ That Bugle Call (Jacob Vilhelm Larsen).

Encore

  • Popular Music: Clog Dance (John Marcangelo, arr. Bill Charleston).

1966 And All That

Our first piece of the night set the tone for tonight’s concert. A pithy, accessible yet strident number in Prelude on Tallis by Peter Graham. It began life as an introductory piece for a lecture at the Regent Hall, London on Harrison’s Dream. As concert openers go, this is a nifty alternative to the usual fare (i.e.: a contest march or Prismatic Light). A good start to the proceedings.

This was followed by an overture, which in a traditional concert setting, is the second piece in the programme. Last night’s was Die Felsenmühle, which is one of Carl Gottlieb Reißiger’s best remembered works. The piece translates into English as The Mill on the Cliff. Which at a stretch could be Hebden Bridge (well, only if it was renamed The Mill on Birchcliffe). A lovely overture well performed.

Our third piece came from the first of last night’s soloists. Enter on principal cornet Charlie Heaven. This time with Roy Newsome’s Concorde. Written in 1973, it is a celebration of the supersonic aeroplane operated by Air France and British Airways. With a piece named after an iconic aeroplane capable of breaking the sound barrier, you would have expected a fast piece. It is anything but, being as graceful as the delta-winged aircraft in motion. Equally graceful was Charlie’s performance: such poise, great volume and technique.

From a glorious civil aviation icon we moved to a jazz piece. The first thing you would associate with brass band transcriptions of jazz pieces is bombast. Pat Methany’s Not To Be Forgotten scotches that perception with a quiet piece, transcribed from guitar to euphonium. The results were spectacular, as exemplified by Hebden Bridge Band’s performance.

For our next piece, we turned to The Beatles. This time with Alan Fernie’s arrangement of (“No, not that one with steam engine effects” – Ed) When I’m Sixty-Four. The last track to be added to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP (and the second track on Side ‘B’), it was written by a sixteen-year-old Paul McCartney on the joys of ageing together. As for Alan Fernie’s arrangement, it has a mix of New Orleans jazz leanings, some end-of-the-pier schtick and orchestral incursions. Another joyous arrangement, brought to life by our fellows from Hebden Bridge.

For our penultimate piece of this half, a good one to choose if you are stuck for a suitable hymn or two. Still cannot choose between Crimond and Love Divine? How about Goff Richards’ Hymns of Praise? Goff Richards’ piece is a medley of popular hymns, well executed to make for a nice light concert item. It is also a neat workout for perfecting your slow melody playing techniques. A lovely companion to the previous piece and a real contrast to the next piece that followed.

As for the next piece, you cannot fault Eric Ball’s arrangement of Leon Boellman’s Suite Gothique as a pre-interval (or pre-encore) number. Instead of hearing the test piece in full, we heard the toccata – the most famous and bombastic part of Boellman’s work. Four minutes and twenty-eight seconds of truly immersive music. An immense piece that never fails to give the audience goose pimples. What a superb way to break for the interval.

An Irish Blessing for a lark in the clear air

After the joys of Boellman’s Suite Gothique, the opening piece in the second half was a quick march. One in the form of Paul Drury’s Jubilee from 1998. Mr Drury has written and arranged brass band pieces for numerous bands, plus the Scottish Brass Band Association. He is the present Musical Director of Kingdom Brass in Cowdenbeath. As for the march, a jolly number that could be good for lazy Sunday afternoons by the bandstand as well as cold evenings in cosy band clubs. A good start to the second half.

Next up was our second and final soloist of the night: this time with Steve Gardner on tenor horn. His piece was a light concert music classic in Gordon Langford’s The Lark in the Clear Air. It is based on an Irish folk song with the best known version set to lyrics by Sir Samuel Ferguson. It has also been used as a rebel song. As for Steve’s performance, smooth with excellent tone and volume. Great work.

We stayed in Ireland for our third piece of this half with The Irish Blessing. Based on an Irish folk song by Joyce Eilers Bacak, it has so few notes, yet tends to be a lip smasher for the poor brass bander. For the audience, it is a lovely contemplative piece. Hebden Bridge Band’s reading of Stephen Bradnum’s arrangement was a clear one, almost effortless.

To make up for the dearth in solo spots, we had a trombone trio instead. This time with something cheesy in the form of Frolic For Trombones. As trios go, Reginald Heath’s piece is one that you would love to hate. One that appears in many a concert repertoire (Skelmanthorpe Band played this on the 08 September). As well as being a good composer, he also knew his double entry forms from his dotted minims (yes, he was also an accountant). A neat diversion.

After this bit of frippery by Reginald Heath, followed by the raffle, we moved onto a more serious piece. This time, John Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List. If you haven’t seen Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg’s 1994 film is well worth seeing. Filmed only in black and white, it focuses on the story of Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. As you would expect from a John Williams piece, always a joy to listen to – even more so with a good brass band. Game, Set, and Match, Hebden Bridge Band.

For our penultimate piece of the concert was a fun, if slightly borderline non-PC tune. Last night’s audience – whether on the live stream or at Boarshurst Band Club – were treated to a rare performance of A Hunting Scene. Procida Bucalossi’s tune depicts the ‘joys’ of a hunting party – complete with whistling, dogs barking and singing. Even a ‘Tally Ho!’ near the end. With Hebden Bridge Band showing their most light-hearted side, this piece should be a worthwhile addition to any entertainment contest. A fantastic, guilty pleasure well worth digging out from the library.

To close, we had a nice bit of swing music: Jacob Vilhelm Larsen’s Swingin’ That Bugle Call. This is the seventh movement of The Phenomena Suite, commissioned by Russell Gray for The Reg Vardy Band’s 2015 Brass In Concert programme. The swing slant in its seventh movement made for a joyous finale. Well, at least till the encore.

As for the encore, an apt one given the band’s history. Back in the late 1990s, Hebden Bridge Band was sponsored by Walkley Clogs, Hebden Bridge’s foremost manufacturer of clogs. With their background, the band bowed out with Clog Dance – and played most of the piece without the conductor. If you are not familiar with the tune heard in Brassed Off, it was originally a chart hit for Violinski (headed by ex-ELO violinist Mik Kaminski) 40 years ago. The song was inspired by Lancelot Brew clog makers in Whitehaven and has a cult following with the oval racing fraternity.

* * *

Wherever they are, Hebden Bridge Band never fail to put on a good concert that exudes entertainment and brevity in equal measure. If this review was enough to whet your appetite, give them a ‘like’ on their Facebook page. Alternatively, you might like to find out who’s on at Boarshurst Band Club next week – or other concerts via the Boarshurst Silver Band website.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

You know that Christmas is around the corner when you see Tintwistle Band in late October. Seven days after Gareth Brindle’s Boarshurst début will be Andrew Mallon’s maiden concert with Tintwistle Band.

Doors are open at 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £7.00 or £6.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club. As always, please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

Public Transport

  • 350 bus: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester).
  • Trains: Manchester Piccadilly – Stalybridge – Huddersfield (First Transpennine Express) – then walk along Shaw Hall Bank Road and Chew Valley Road till you see Greenbridge Lane on your right hand side. Turn right onto Greenbridge Lane.

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

S.V., 21 October 2019.

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