St. John’s Band (Mossley): Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 24 November 2019

Another superb concert from Paul Towle and Co.

Was it really thirteen months ago since Paul Towle made his début as Musical Director for St. John’s Band (Mossley)? During his first visit as M.D., the Roughtown band were drafted in at short notice to replace Stalybridge Old Band. Last October’s concert was a cracking one. Could he do it again in late November?

After passing last year’s test, they came, we saw, and once again, they conquered the stage with elan, brio and good humour. The programme was a traditional one, with everything there to satisfy casual concertgoers and hardcore aficionados.

If you wanted good solos, a divine duet and a tremendous trombone trio for a measly price, they were all there to see. One of the soloists made a memorable début as solo performer. We even had some Garry Cutt style stagecraft for one of the pieces – all for the princely sum of four quid.

St. John’s Band (Mossley) have gone from strength to strength since Paul Towle’s appointment as Musical Director. In the last year, they have done more concerts and public engagements; the Micklehurst Christmas Lights switch-on their most recent one. They have also returned to the contesting fold, having participated in this year’s Buxton and Rochdale contests. At Buxton they came third.

At last night’s concert, there was a lot to love: a most engaging programme for one, and an informative yet concise Musical Director.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Standard of St. George (Kenneth J. Alford);
  2. Overture: Tantalusqualen (Franz von Suppe);
  3. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Maisy Saxon): Make You Feel My Love (Robert Zimmerman, arr. Gavin Somerset);
  4. Film Music Medley: James Bond Collection (Various, arr. Goff Richards):
    1. James Bond Theme (John Barry/Monty Norman);
    2. Goldfinger (John Barry/Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley);
    3. Nobody Does It Better (Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager);
    4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry);
    5. From Russia With Love (John Barry);
  5. Light Concert Music: Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller, arr. Christopher Wormald);
  6. Flugelhorn and Tenor Horn Duet (performed by Michelle Oliver and Jamie Gordon): As Long As He Needs Me (Lionel Bart, arr. Alan Fernie);
  7. Trombone Trio (performed by Andy Duncan, Amelia Crompton and Peter Towle): Seventy-Six Trombones (Meredith Willson, arr. W. J. Duthoit);
  8. Light Concert Music: Jamie’s Patrol (Sidney Dacre).

Second Half

  1. March: Aces High (Ron Goodwin, arr. Frank Bryce);
  2. Cornet Solo (performed by India Crompton): Sugar Blues (Clarence Williams, arr. Alan Morrison);
  3. Hymn: Nearer, My God, To Thee (Sarah Flower Adams, arr. Phil Marsland);
  4. Light Concert Music: Alle Fugler Små De Er (arr. Goff Richards);
  5. Original Piece: A Special Place (Goff Richards);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Jake Gordon): Rondo from Horn Concerto No.4 (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. Denis Wright);
  7. Light Concert Music: Amporito Roca (The Sheltered Cliff) (Jaime Teixidor, arr. Audrey Winter).

Encore

  • Light Concert Music: Kalinka (Ivan Larionov arr. Ray Woodfield).

25.333 trombones per soloist

With a traditional programme throughout the concert, we opened with a triumphant march. This time with Kenneth J. Alford’s The Standard of St. George. Written in 1930, it was inspired by a visit to Horse Guards Parade during that year’s Trooping The Colour. The British March King also penned some marches, including this one, under his real name of Frederick Joseph Ricketts. A most buoyant start to proceedings.

This was followed by an overture by Franz von Suppé. Not Light Cavalry or Poet and Peasant, but the under-appreciated Tantalusqualen. Based on Greek mythology, Tantalus was the legendary king of Sipylus, a kingdom that shared its borders with Lydia and Phrygia. After trying to serve his own son at a feast with the gods, Zeus punished him. He did this by making him go hungry and thirsty in Hades – despite being in full view of a fruit tree whilst standing in a pool of water. Suppé’s musical tale of Greek divide and conquer was well expressed by our band’s performance.

Our third programme item – as you would expect in a traditional concert – came from a soloist. Not a cornet soloist as many would expect; a tenor horn soloist making her first ever appearance as a solo performer. Enter on stage Maisy Saxon with her performance of Make You Feel My Love. The Bob Dylan song has been covered by many artistes including Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, the cast of Glee, and – in most recent times – Adele. As for Maisy’s performance, a solo début to be proud of – and hopefully the first of many more to come.

In 2011, Adele Adkins lent her vocals to the theme music from Skyfall. With this connection, our fourth programme item was the James Bond Collection. Which, as you would expect is a medley of songs from the hugely successful film franchise, lovingly curated and arranged by Goff Richards. This includes the classic James Bond theme from Dr. No, plus the themes from Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and From Russia With Love. From Roughtown with love, another good shift.

In last night’s concert, there was another chance to hear Christopher Wormald’s arrangement of Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. This was adopted as his signature tune. Eighty years on from its first pressing, yet another good performance of what is arguably Glenn Miller’s most famous tune. Though Glenn Miller has long since left this world, the Glenn Miller Orchestra (now led by Ray McVay) still tours to this very day.

For last night’s crack duet, our inspiration came from Lionel Bart’s Oliver. One of its most enduring songs is As Long As He Needs Me, which is sung by Nancy in the musical. As Jodie Prenger was otherwise engaged, last night’s very own Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist (Jamie Gordon and Michelle Oliver) stepped in on Tenor Horn and Flugelhorn. Another enjoyable performance.

This was followed by a trombone trio starring Andy Duncan, Amelia Crompton and (Paul’s dad) Peter Towle. Offering us a refreshing change from Frolic For Trombones was Seventy-Six Trombones. This tune was used in the 1957 musical play, The Music Man. Aficionados of The Collected Works of Goff Richards would have come across this piece in his medley Breezin’ Over Broadway. The song and its creator is remembered on Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa. Fantastic work.

To finish off the first half, we had some Garry Cutt style stagecraft in Sidney Dacre’s light concert piece, Jamie’s Patrol. This medley of Scottish tunes saw the band gradually leaving the stage prior to the interval. The piece has also been arranged for use with bagpipes as well as euphoniums. If St. John Band (Mossley) could invite the Oldham Scottish Pipe Band over to a cèilidh at Mossley Community Centre, this could make for a wonderful finale. Still, with last night’s guests alone, a lovely way to finish the first half.

From Spain to Russia in ten minutes

After opening the first half with a piece from the British March King, we opened the second half with a German style piece by Ron Goodwin. This time with Aces High, the theme music from Battle of Britain. It is also known as The Luftwaffe March. Ron Goodwin’s other musical credits include the themes from Where Eagles Dare and 633 Squadron. Also Yorkshire March, Yorkshire Television’s startup routine music from 1968 to 1982 – before its replacement by Christopher Gunning’s Calendar theme. Another good rousing start.

Offering a real contrast to this was our second solo performance of the night. Something less bombastic in the form of Clarence Williams’ Sugar Blues. This time with India Crompton on muted principal cornet. Written in 1919, its popularity rose in 1936 when trumpeter Clyde McCoy made it his own theme song. As for India’s performance, superb and note perfect.

This was followed by Nearer, My God, To Thee, composed by Sarah Flower Adams. Our version was arranged by St. John’s Band (Mossley’s) very own Phil Marsland. If you are familiar with James Cameron’s Titanic film from 1997, this was the last piece to be performed by the ship’s violin ensemble. The verse is often set to Horbury, another hymn tune which was written by John Bacchus Dykes in 1861. Good stuff.

From a place in the outskirts of Dewsbury (or a sinking ship in the Atlantic Ocean), we moved to Sweden for our post-raffle piece. This time with Alle Fugler Små De Er. Arranged by Goff Richards, this is a traditional Swedish children’s song which translates into All Birds, As Small As They All. This chirpy number makes for a good concert march, and this was seen with St. John’s Band (Mossley), in their sublime performance.

This neatly led us to another Goff Richards piece – a Goff Richards original in the form of A Special Place. This was written in 2007 for The Children’s Hospice South West and dedicated to them. On publication, sales of the sheet music went towards the hospice which looks after children with life threatening conditions. A fortnight ago, this was performed by Boarshurst Silver Band in their Remembrance Sunday concert. Whatever setting this piece is used in, it will never get old. Once again, another fine performance.

From a fairly modern piece, we moved to a golden oldie for our final soloist of the night. This time, the ever-versatile Jake Gordon on euphonium with Mozart’s Rondo from Horn Concerto No.4. It is the third and final movement of a well known piece from Mr Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composed in 1786. In its entirety, the concerto is sixteen to eighteen minutes long. As for Jake’s performance, superb stuff.

To finish our concert, we took a trip to Spain with Jaime Teixidor’s Amporito Roca (The Sheltered Cliff). Written by Jaime Teixidor in 1925. It is a Spanish paso doble which was named after one of his piano students. As to whether Teixidor composed the piece is open to debate. Some sources suggest that Reginald Ridewood (well, he’s as Spanish as a stick of liquorice) was the real composer and that he failed to apply for the copyright. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic closing piece that was beautifully performed.

As for the real finale, we moved from Spain to Russia in the space of ten minutes. This time with Ray Woodfield’s arrangement of Ivan Larionov’s Kalinka. Written in 1860, it was first performed in Saratov and is considered to be one of the most famous Russian folk songs. Less famous is the fact that Saratov is 16 hours and 35 minutes on train 137Ж for Moscow Paveletskiy Vokzal. The city is also the birthplace of Chelsea FC supremo Roman Abramovich, which is partly why they’ve ran out to that tune at Stamford Bridge. A great piece to finish off a smashing concert.

*                  *                  *

Thirteen months on, we have seen how Paul has blossomed as a Musical Director. There is a good dynamic between the MD and the band, and this was expressed in a most accessible and entertaining concert. Their success in this year’s Whit Friday contests and Third Place finish in the Buxton Contest is living proof of their upward trajectory.

Wherever they may be performing, St. John’s Band (Mossley) are worthy your attention. Between now and the 22 December will be their Christmas engagements. As well as performing a selection of carols in local supermarkets, there will also be a Christmas concert at St. James’ Church, Ashton-under-Lyne. This will take place on the 13 December, starting at 7.30pm. It is situated on the corner of Union Street and Cowhill Lane, a modest walk from Ashton-under-Lyne town centre.

Next Week at Boarshurst Band Club…

Strata Brass will be heading over the Mecca of Brass Banding. The Championship Section band, situated in Hoyland village near Barnsley, was at one time Wards Brewery Band. They have also been known as Hoyland Town Silver Band, Hoyland Rechabites and a variety of other names.

Their Musical Director, Jonathan Bates, is a highly regarded composer and arranger of brass band pieces. For Boarshurst Silver Band’s 2017 album, Images, he wrote Janet’s Song – in memoriam of Janet Payne.

Admission is £10.00 (or £8.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club). Doors are open from 7pm for the usual 8pm start.

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.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 25 November 2019.

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