Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band, 26 January 2020: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

Accessible programme and four fabulous solos make for another delightful concert

The second concert of Boarshurst Band Club’s 2020 season of Sunday Brass Nights was another joy to behold after Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band’s performance. Throughout each concert, one of the world’s oldest brass bands have never failed to entertain nor captivate the audience. Last night’s soiree at the Brass Banding Home of Legends was no exception.

Compared with last year’s concert, Stig Maersk was otherwise engaged, given the date’s clash with a series of weekend concerts at the Royal Northern College of Music. There was also Brass In The Wire, a notable contest in Warrington which has taken over from Brass At The Guild in Preston. For last night’s concert, in came the ever-dependable Dennis Hadfield.

In the last year since VBS (Poynton) Band’s previous visit, they won the British Open Spring Festival Senior Trophy in Blackpool Winter Gardens. With the concert having four superb solo performances, you could understand why they wowed adjudicators in the Spanish Room last May.

With the band’s principal cornet player being held up in traffic, the concert was delayed for ten minutes. Despite the initial setback, Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band gave us all a most enjoyable concert. The programme was geared towards entertainment though (alas for the purists seeing a Championship Section band) without any meaty test pieces or overtures.

If you wanted to introduce anybody to brass band music, last night’s concert was a good primer for absolute beginners. Cat lovers were also well catered for too.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Cossack (William Rimmer);
  2. Light Concert Music: Borage (from the Three Brass Cats suite) (Chris Hazell);
  3. Euphonium Solo (performed by Sam Noden): Benedictus (Sir Karl Jenkins);
  4. Light Concert Music: Black Sam (from the Three Brass Cats suite) (Chris Hazell);
  5. Trombone Solo (performed by Toby Marshall): Londonderry Air (Traditional, arr. John Iveson);
  6. Light Concert Music: Glow (Eric Whitacre);
  7. Jazz Standard: Blue Rondo A La Turk (Dave Brubeck).

Second Half

  1. Original Piece: The Home of Legends (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  2. Baritone Solo (performed by Natsumi McDonald): Rule Britannia (John Hartmann, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  3. Film Music (from The Greatest Showman): Selections from The Greatest Showman (Benj Pasek/Justin Paul, arr. Paul Murtha);
  4. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Jessica Tredrea): Evergreen (Barbra Streisland, arr. Derek Ashmore);
  5. Light Concert Music: Ol’ Man River (Oscar Hammerstein II, arr. John Howorth);
  6. Popular Music: Gøta (Peder Karlsson, arr. Tina Kvamme);
  7. Popular Music: Music (John Miles, arr. Derek Broadbent).

Encore

  • Film Music (from Star Wars: A New Hope): Theme from Star Wars (John Williams, arr. Frank Bryce).

131 days to go till Whit Friday

First on the programme was William Rimmer’s The Cossack. The march is popular on Whit Friday and is inspired by people from South East Russia. Apart from reminding us of the fact there were 131 days to go till Whit Friday, this was a fantastic rendition of a straightforward march. If you choose to compare Poynton Band’s performance with a lower section band’s performance of the same march, you will notice some subtle differences.

From Vladivostok via Southport we moved over to the front room of Chris Hazell’s house. The Three Brass Cats suite was inspired by the composer’s feline friends with Mr Jums being its best known movement. Last night we heard the other two lesser known movements. First up was Borage, the name taken from a violet flower (also known as a Starflower).

Unlike Monsieur Jums, Borage is a more ballsy piece with jazz and swing leanings. A most entertaining number with a hint of suspense to tease the listener. For the band, another superb performance with excellent work on the basses and tenor horns.

The next piece was a bona fide modern-day classic: Sir Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus. This brooding piece features in a wider body of work known as The Armed Man, often played during Remembrance Day concerts. There’s only one instrument that is best suited to this piece: the euphonium. Especially with Sam Noden at the helm, who played Jenkins’ work without referring to sheet music. His performance was nothing short of sensational and raised the bar for Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band’s next three soloists.

Finishing our feline interlude courtesy of Señor Hazell was Black Sam. Due to the very title sounding non-PC these days, it is an overlooked piece. If you can look beyond the title (nobody complained about The Dandy‘s very own Border Collie for goodness sake), you have a neat piece of light concert music. One that can test the band in the slow melody department. Another fine performance.

From a modern-day classic, we moved on to a traditional piece for our second soloist of the night. Enter on trombone Toby Marshall, with his rendition of Londonderry Air. Or Danny Boy if you prefer its alternative title. Instead of the traditional folky style that many listeners are familiar with, John Iveson’s arrangement, had a more big band feel. Like Sam, Toby played this piece without a manuscript and the results were delightful to say the least. Yet another great solo performance.

For the penultimate piece of this half, we moved on to the wonderful world of Walt Disney. This time with Glow, an Eric Whitacre piece that hasn’t featured in any of their films. How, might you ask, do you work that one out? It is used by Disney’s World of Color light show at the Disney California Adventure theme park. It is often set to a soundtrack of fireworks – somewhat incongruous for a genteel piece. As for Poynton Band’s performance, another treat for the ears.

Our final piece of this half was a more livelier affair, and a classic to boot: Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo A La Turk. It was recorded in 1959 and featured on Dave Brubeck’s Time Out LP. The choice of rhythm is inspired by Turkish aksak time signatures with one side in a 9/8 time and another side in 4/4 time. Easy listening? To the audience, yes. As for the band, a wee challenge with alternating time signatures. For Poynton Band, a successful mission accomplished.

“In this world of troubles, my music pulls me through…”

Our second half opened with a piece that could have been applicable to Boarshurst Band Club (though the Royal Albert Hall might have had something to say about that). Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Home of Legends was commissioned and written for the Brass Band Summer School. It has been used as a concert opener and written for the BBSS’ 30th anniversary in 2015. A fantastic piece with John Williams-esque leanings and a good way to open the second half.

Just to give us further proof of how VBS Poynton Band was spoiling us with some great soloists, along came another cracking performance. This time with the band’s Player Of The Year for 2019, Natsumi McDonald. On the baritone horn, she played another traditional number in Rule Britannia. The piece is often associated with The Last Night of the Proms and has been a staple item at Last Night of the Proms themed concerts since time immemorial.

With the start of Britain’s exit from the EU only days away, the timing of this piece couldn’t have been more immaculate or coincidental. Even more immaculate was Natsumi’s performance. For my money, this was the strongest solo performance of the night.

Continuing the sub theme of modern classics, the next one under that category was a selection of music from a 2017 film. Selections from The Greatest Showman is a suite of five pieces from the box office smash. This covers the main theme (no prizes for guessing the title), Never Enough, A Million Dreams, This Is Me (which has nothing to do with Mike Yarwood whatsoever), and From Now On (not the penultimate track from Supertramp’s 1977 album Even In The Quietest Moments). A fantastic diversion which got us in a good mood for the raffle.

Following the other cultural high point of the concert, we moved on to our last soloist of the night. This time with Jessica Tredrea’s flugelhorn solo of Evergreen. Written by Barbra Streisland, it is far and away the best known song from her 1977 film A Star Is Born. Superstitiously in radio circles, the late radio boss John Myers used to open his radio stations with that tune, first doing so with Red Rose Radio in 1982. Then with his Century stations in the North East and North West of England in the 1990s. In a sad ironic twist of fate, the closure of Red Rose’s Preston studios had been announced today on North West Tonight.

As for Jessica Tredrea’s performance of Evergreen, up to her usual high standards. Another great performance on the flugelhorn.

Next up was a bit of Oscar Hammerstein: Ol’ Man River. Written in 1927, it featured in the musical Showboat and was famously sung by Paul Robeson. It has also been sung by Bing Crosby. If you thought the title of the second Chris Hazell piece was controversial, you should see the original lyrics of Ol’ Man River. Subsequent versions of the song have been tweaked to avoid offending contemporary audiences. As for Poynton Band’s performance, another great day in the office, thanks to some sterling work in the percussion department.

From the banks of the Mississippi we moved to the Faroe Islands for the next piece. Enter The Real Group’s Gøta, a piece which has established itself as a regular concert item in many a brass band concert. In English, Gøta translates as ‘way’, though the piece refers to three Faroese villages on the island of Eysturoy. The original song was sung in an a cappella style, which in my view, doesn’t have the same gravitas as Tina Kvamme’s brass arrangement. Once again, Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band were in full control with an accomplished performance.

With the concert drawing to a close, VBS Poynton’s last non-encore piece of the night was both a ‘thank you’ to the live audience and a mission statement. That of John Miles’ Music. which peaked at Number 3 in 1976. His other singles include Highfly (UK #16 single, 1975), Slow Down and Remember Yesterday (UK #10 and #32 hit singles in 1976 respectively). Once again, another great – seemingly effortless – performance.

You could say the force was strong in the performance of their last piece. Just to be sure, they expressed this with their choice of encore piece: John Williams’ main theme from Star Wars. Some of a certain age would regard Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) as the first film in Disney’s money-spinning franchise. The theme music from the (now) fourth instalment of the franchise is its best known piece, with last night’s arrangement including a snippet of the Cantina Band’s number.

Did they have the force? For the best part of two hours they did, which flew past in no time at all. Dennis as Stig’s stand-in put in a good shift and was most informative throughout the concert.

*                             *                             *

Once more, Poynton Band’s latest visit to Boarshurst Band Club was another joyous experience. ‘Accessible’ and ‘entertaining’, if you wish to sum it up in two words. We wish them well in the North West Regional Championships on the 23 February.

Next Week…

After welcoming last year’s British Open Spring Festival Senior Trophy Winners, we shall be welcoming this year’s Third Section Champions at yesterday’s Brass In The Wire contest. If you guessed Thornton Cleveleys Band, give yourself a Gold Star. At yesterday’s contest, they also swept the board in their section’s soloist prizes.

Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start on the 02 February. Admission will be £6.00 (or £5.00 for members of Boarshurst Band Club). Arrive in good time to get a good seat.

Public Transport:

  • Trains: Transpennine Express all-stations service from Manchester Piccadilly to Huddersfield call at Greenfield, also serving Mossley, Stalybridge, Marsden, and Slaithwaite stations.
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham.

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 350 bus route is operated by First Greater Manchester and (after 6pm) Stagecoach Greater Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 27 January 2020.

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