On the Sunday before the North West Regional Championships at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, there was two preview events in Oldham and Saddleworth. Early evening saw Waterhead Academy’s showcase adjudicated by Mark Wilkinson, Brett Baker and David Hirst. In attendance were Stalybridge Old Band, Middleton Band, Oldham Band (Lees), Delph Band and the City of Chester Band.

Later on was Boarshurst Band Club’s event, adjudicated by David W. Ashworth and Kevin Wadsworth. Opening the proceedings was Milnrow Band with the Championship Section test piece, A Tale As Yet Untold (Philip Sparke). Chris Binns, Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s solo trombonist, aims to make the Harmony Street band one of Lancashire’s finest.

A Tale As Yet Untold is a story of triumph over adversity in musical form set to three movements over nineteen minutes. It was commissioned in 2010 by The Cory Band for the European Brass Band Championships in Linz, Austria.

Philip Sparke’s test piece is going to be a most challenging one for the best of Championship Section bands. With plenty there to keep each band (and the audience) on their toes, this epic piece demands your full attention in more ways than one. The third movement could make for a good finale to the first half of concert and leave the audience asking for more.

This was followed by Dobcross Silver Youth Band, with the Fourth Section test piece, Neverland (Christopher Bond). Since Seth Livingstone’s arrival, Dobcross Silver Youth have come up in leaps and bounds. At each concert, they have been a great band to watch.

Christopher Bond’s test piece was the first of our newly commissioned works at this year’s preview evening. It depicts the story of Peter Pan, J.M Barrie’s famed literary work. Like the Philip Sparke piece, this too is in three movements. The first movement, entitled Journey to Neverland takes us to the opening chapter, which is followed by The Windows that Closed. The most exhilarating movement of the three is Aboard The Pirate Ship, the very point where Christopher Bond takes inspiration from Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

If there is one test piece of the five that could be played in its entirety for a concert programme, Neverland fits the bill due to its accessibility. There’s every chance it will be enjoyed by next Sunday’s audience in the Empress Ballroom.

Taking us past the halfway point of Boarshurst Band Club’s preview evening was Sale Brass with Endurance (Andrew Baker). Like their peers from Saddleworth, Sale Brass’ concerts have been a joy to watch. Following last year’s success in the Regionals and a respectable placing in the Nationals, sitting still is the last thing on Matt Hindle’s agenda.

As with A Tale As Yet Untold, we have a similar premise of triumph over adversity. This time with the title being inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, on his epic journey to South Georgia Island. His 1914 expedition ended in November 1915 in the Weddell Sea, where all twenty-seven of his crew were saved from the sinking ship. Shackleton achieved this by reaching the island’s remote whaling station and organised a rescue team.

Baker’s work, the second newly written test piece for this year’s Regionals, captures these events in a way akin to John Williams’ works. It is a test piece that is waiting to be added to any film featuring the famed explorer. Another one that will be enjoyed in Blackpool and at concerts in years to come.

Next up was our second Saddleworth band of the night, one that is literally walking distance from our venue. Representing the night’s Second Section band was Greenfield Brass Band with The Golden Sabre (Kit Turnbull).

Inspired by Denis Davydov, Hussar Poet and Imperial Russian Cabaret Officer, it is billed as “a series of musical portraits” over a single, continuous work. This is fitting as Denis’ poetic works were based upon his personal experience. His works reflected the poet’s hedonism, creating a genre known as ‘Hussar Poetry’.

Turnbill’s test piece focuses on Davydov’s life in 1812, a seminal point in Russian history. That of The Patriotic War of 1812, when Napoleon tried and failed to invade Russia. This led to a rise in national pride: a Russian Romanticism which inspired many creatives. The Golden Sabre is similarly inspirational, with a year’s worth of history in twelve minutes.

Rounding off the night’s proceedings was our First Section band of the night: another band from the Cheshire side of Manchester Ship Canal in Flixton Band. This time with Tom Davoren’s Legacy. Whereas the previous four bands only played the test piece, Flixton Band elected to play a hymn as a warm-up piece. That of Dean Goffin’s Light Of The World, which would have tested several bands.

This year’s choice of test piece couldn’t have been more apt for Flixton Band. Legacy is a celebration of the National Health Service founded by Aneurin Bevin, commissioned by the Tredegar Band. A short bus ride or walk away from Flixton Band’s rehearsal room is Trafford General Hospital. As Davyhulme Park Hospital, it is hailed as being the birthplace of the NHS. The piece opens with a snatch of Ken Freeman’s signature tune from Casualty before exuding a relaxed air.

Halfway through, the nature of the piece changes with a degree of tension. This is where the basses come to the fore with part of the movement symbolising a beating heart. This could represent Bevan’s battle with the opposition benches, or the reorganisations that the National Health Service has had in recent years. The final part is a most uplifting march, breathtaking enough to be considered as a concert finale piece.

Two hours and seven minutes later, the end of another fine preview evening at Boarshurst Band Club. After being tested in front of a live audience and two adjudicators, the hard work begins for that night’s five bands. Likewise with the North West of England’s 73 other brass bands. The moment of truth will come to us come 9pm on the 23 February, either in the Opera House, Empress Ballroom or the Pavilion Theatre.

Next at Boarshurst Band Club

Opening a fresh month of Sunday Brass Nights on the 08 March 2020 will be Stockport Silver Band. After a torrid 2019, this year aims to be a special one for the band, as they are celebrating their 150th Anniversary. With a new base at Kimberley Street, Shaw Heath, it is great to see that normal service has resumed.

Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Admission will be £4.00 (or £3.00 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.

The North West Regional Championships at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens will begin at 9.30 am at the Empress Ballroom. Admission is £12.00 for adults with free entry for under 16s accompanied by a paying adult. Please note that admission covers all three venues in the Winter Gardens and all five sections.

S.V., 17 February 2020.

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