A most entertaining night of brass band music from Christopher Wormald and Co.

Last night, Eagley Band made what was their first visit to Boarshurst Band Club since records began. For Christopher Wormald, his previous visit to The Mecca of Brass Banding was with Hoover Bolton band. Apart from a nineteen-year hiatus, he has been part of the furniture with the Bolton band.

Before 1971, Eagley Band were effectively the house band for Eagley Mills, and used part of the premises for rehearsals. Since then, they have rehearsed in schools and has, for several years, been linked with Smithills School. As well as having a brass band, Smithills School is also where Eagley Band hold rehearsals. Some members of the school’s Senior Band may join Eagley Band or other bands in Bolton and surrounding area.

Over the last half decade, stability has returned to Eagley Band. This has been helped in no small part by the return of Christopher Wormald in 2016. Besides being a highly-acclaimed arranger and adjudicator, he is also a teacher at Smithills School. Many of Eagley Band’s members came via the school, and their togetherness was apparent in last night’s concert.

For the best part of two hours, Eagley Band gave us a solid and amiable programme. Many programme items were arranged by Christopher Wormald himself, which was no bad thing if you like Queen and ELO. Lovers of traditional marches were well catered for too. Chris’ patter was well humoured and self-effacing yet informative, which reflected his rapport with the band. This made for a most enjoyable concert.

First Half

  1. March: O.R.B (Charles Anderson);
  2. Light Concert Music: Amazing Grace (Traditional, arr. William Himes);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Lynsey Hayes): Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn);
  4. Jazz Standard: Birdland (Joe Zawinul);
  5. Light Concert Music: Appalachian Mountain Folk Song Suite (James Curnow);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Caitlin Stranks): Portrait Of My Love (Cyril Ornadel/David West);
  7. March: Knight Templar (George Allan);
  8. Light Concert Music: Forty Second Street (Harry Warren/Al Dubin);
  9. Popular Music: Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury).

All pieces arranged by Christopher Wormald except O.R.B., Amazing Grace, Appalachian Mountain Folk Song Suite, and Knight Templar.

Second Half

  1. March: The President (William German);
  2. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Janet Walsh): Saving All My Love For You (Gerry Goffin/Michael Masser);
  3. Light Concert Music: Tom and Jerry (Scott Bradley);
  4. Original Piece: Heart of Courage (Thomas Bergersen/Nick Phoenix);
  5. March: Mr. Blue Sky (Jeff Lynne);
  6. Light Concert Music: Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller);
  7. Classical Piece: Resurrection (Gustav Mahler).


  • Light Concert Music: It Had Better Be Tonight (Henry Mancini).

All pieces arranged by Christopher Wormald except The President.

I see a little silhouetto of a band…

To start off with, our opening piece was O.R.B., Charles Anderson’s march. In modern-day terms, it is a complex contest march which is often heard on Whit Friday. Originally, this was the signature march to the Oldham Rifle Brigade brass band (or Oldham Rifles Band), who were quite a formidable force in the 1920s. With 201 days to go till Whit Friday, our fellows will have plenty of time to practice this number. As a march, O.R.B never fails to please its listeners.

The second piece was the subject of a UK Number Five chart single by Judy Collins, which had reentered the charts eight times between 1970 and 1972. If you guessed Amazing Grace without going to your copy of the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, well done. Written in 1772 by John Newton, it was first published in 1779, covered by many artistes, and the subject of goodness knows how many popular cultural references since 1969. Last night’s band performed William Himes’ arrangement, which made for a more confident performance.

Having overcome the acoustic challenges, we moved on to the first soloist of the night. Uniquely, all three soloists were female, with Lynsey Hayes on Principal Cornet the first of our three. Her piece was Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, written in 1944 by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. It has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Jack Jones. Christopher Wormald’s arrangement was inspired by Linda Ronstadt’s cover from her 1983 album, What’s New. A slick performance.

Our second jazz standard of the night was Joe Zawinul’s Birdland. A member of Weather Report, Joe Zawinul has performed alongside Cannonball Adderley (who also covered Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry) and Miles Davis. The song was written in 1977 as a tribute to the Birdland night club in New York City. Unlike Sandy Smith’s boisterous arrangement, Wormald’s is a more mellow counterpart. As seen with Eagley Band’s performance, it worked very well.

Changing the tone a little was the aural triptych of James Curnow’s Appalachian Mountain Folk Song Suite. In three fun size movements, it features Sourwood Mountain, Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair and Camptown Races. On the 14 February 1988, this was the Third Section Test Piece for the Milton Keynes Brass Band Festival. That was won by Orion Airways Brass, who are now the non-contesting Sir Richard Arkwright Masson Mills Band. An enjoyable romp.

This was followed by our second soloist of the night with Portrait Of My Love. On euphonium, Caitlin Stranks performed the Matt Monro song which peaked at Number Three in both the New Musical Express and Record Retailer singles charts. The song was honoured at the BMI Awards for having two million radio plays. As for the song’s co-writer, David West, David West was a nom de plume for Norman Newell (whose other songwriting credits include Petula Clark’s Sailor). As for Caitlin Stranks’ performance, another cracker.

Reminding us of the fact that Whit Friday was only 201 days away came our second march. Enter George Allan’s Knight Templar. Away from the brass banding world, George Allan was a wagon painter at the Shildon Works. As well as this one, other notable marches include The Wizard. For many listeners, Knight Templar is associated with Black Dyke Band’s performances. If it is good enough for a Yorkshire band with textile roots, why not a band with similar origins in the red rose county? Good stuff.

Our penultimate piece of this half was inspired by stage and screen: this time, the theme music from 42nd Street (Forty Second Street). Making its Broadway début in 1980, the musical is based on the 1936 book by Bradford Ropes. It made its West End début in 1984, with a teenage Catherine Zeta-Jones treading the boards at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. A nice, strident piece.

For last night’s first half finale, we moved on to a song that was championed by Kenny Everett before being a UK Number One single for nine weeks (or as Chris said, 123 weeks). Before release, its running time was seen as too long for radio. Queen’s record company at the time suggested cutting it for air play, but Freddie said something that may have ended with “…off”. In the end, they didn’t cut it down to size, which made Bohemian Rhapsody the all time rock classic we know and love today. One that has been Christmas Number One twice (in 1975 and 1991). Needless to say, we loved it: Queen’s original, and Eagley Band’s performance last night.

“…I’ll remember you thisI’ll remember you this way…”

After playing a piece associated with Black Dyke Band, Eagley Band’s hat trick of popular contest marches was marked by William German’s The President. For many years, this contest march was adopted by The Fairey Band on Whit Friday. This year, it is the march of choice for Boarshurst Silver Band. Another good shift.

Continuing our sub-theme of popular music chartbusters was the third and final soloist of the night. This time with Janet Walsh on flugelhorn performing Saving All My Love For You. The song was originally recorded by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. (of You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be In My Show) fame) in 1978. Whitney Houston’s version topped the Billboard Charts in October 1985. Soon, it repeated this feat in the UK singles chart in December (missing out on the Christmas Number One spot thanks to Shakin’ Stevens). Janet’s performance on flugelhorn was another good ‘un.

This was followed by something even more light-hearted, also a chance to give the percussion section a starring role. Enter a fresh arrangement of Scott Bradley’s theme tune for Tom and Jerry. Lasting almost as long as a typical episode, we saw Eagley Band going overboard with the Swanee Whistles, whoopers and bird scarers. A fantastic arrangement.

Next in the programme was a piece by Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix, Heart of Courage. It is the second track on Two Steps From Hell’s 2010 album Invincible. As for the Los Angeles based group, Two Steps From Hell, they create music for films and television. Library music, like Alan Hawkshaw and Keith Mansfield have done for the KPM label. Last night’s piece was used on The Elder Scrolls video game. As for Eagley Band’s performance, good work.

After the raffle, we moved from 2010 to 1978 – a year when Breakout and Space Invaders were the hottest video games. Early in 1978, the Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue album saw ELO in its imperial phase. Spawning four hit singles, its most famous one is Mr. Blue Sky, the fourth and final part of Concerto For A Rainy Day. Christopher Wormald’s arrangement of Mr. Blue Sky does Jeff Lynne’s original justice, and this was reflected in last night’s performance. Fantastic work.

Next, Chris’ musical time machine took us back to the 1940s – to the era of big band music. If your knowledge of popular music is at Key Stage 2 level, you would associate Big Band Music with Glenn Miller. This time with Moonlight Serenade. Released in 1939, it was adopted by Glenn Miller as his signature tune. Its original UK pressing has the equally memorable American Patrol on the ‘B’ side. Interestingly, Moonlight Serenade peaked at Number 13 in the UK singles chart back in 1976. Good stuff.

Eagley Band saved their best piece till the end of last night’s concert: Gustav Mahler’s Resurrection. For Chris, this arrangement is a labour of love as Mahler is his favourite composer. Also known as Symphony No. 2, it was written between 1888 and 1894 and in five movements. Last night, we heard the finale which made for a barnstorming finish to the concert. A fine performance of what was their most complex piece of the night.

Taking us towards the midnight hour was a piece written by Henry Mancini: It Had Better Be Tonight. Published in 1963, it was performed by Fran Jefferies in The Pink Panther film. Thanks to Michael Bublé and its use in a Marks and Spencer advertisement, Mancini’s piece has seen renewed popularity. A splendid closing piece.

* * *

After a shaky start, Eagley Band took the concert in their stride. Overall, it was a most enjoyable one with a good programme. It is clear that Christopher wants to push the band towards staying in the Second Section for a short while before pushing for First Section status.

We wish Eagley Band the very best in the future. With a solid base to work from, they have the potential to give the likes of Wingates a run for their money. If you give them another two or three years, this could be likely.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

On the 24 November, a more local band will be heading to The Mecca of Brass Banding: St. John’s Band Mossley. Our friends from Roughtown are near the church building and community centre off Stockport Road. Formed in 1933, their first uniforms came from… Eagley Band.

Doors are open at 7pm for the usual 8pm start. Admission is £5.00 or £4.00 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., 18 November 2019.

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