Stockport Silver Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 08 March 2020

Joyous Boarshurst return for Jim Hunter and Co. makes for another captivating programme

With the live and streamed audience marked safe from stultifying Sunday night entertainment and rolling news, Stockport Silver Band returned to Boarshurst Band Club with another fantastic concert. A year into their tenure at Kimberley Street Day Centre, Shaw Heath, last night’s concert showed a band whose stance and performance was solid. One with improved confidence and bounce.

Steadying the ship over the band’s previous turbulent two years is Musical Director and Lifetime Member Jim Hunter. If anyone in the brass banding movement should be publish their memoirs, his 60+ years experience could make for excellent reading.

With the community being central to Stockport Silver Band’s raison d’etre, they have performed at community events including Stockport Pride. They perform at private functions and provide a good training ground for wannabe Jim Shepherds.

Some players come from a contesting background, though have had enough of countless trips to Blackpool in February and wish to play for the love of brass band music. Others wish to start out in a non-invasive, supportive environment, as a stepping stone to the trappings of Regional Finals, local contests and – possibly – the British Open.

As a non-contesting band, Stockport Silver Band is able to allow prospective players to unleash their potential, not least how brass banding works wonders for mental health. If you were present among the live audience last night, a ticket to their concert would have offered better value for the taxpayer than a Prozac prescription. With Jim’s concise and humorous delivery, a real tonic alongside a most accessible programme.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Contest March: Star Lake (Eric Ball);
  2. Overture: The Impresario (Cimarosa, arr. Denis Wright);
  3. Musical Suite (from Cats): Memory/Skimbleshanks (The Railway Cat) (Andrew Lloyd-Webber, arr. Goff Richards);
  4. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Katie Pepper): Annie’s Song (John Denver, arr. Derek Broadbent);
  5. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Kat Tomlinson): Adagio from Concierto De Aranjuez (Joaquin Rodrigo, arr. Kevin Bolton);
  6. Film Music Medley: The Best of Bond (Various including John Barry, arr. Darrol Barry);
  7. Hymn: Deep Harmony (Handel Parker, arr. John Golland);
  8. Concert Opener: Prismatic Light (Alan Fernie).

Second Half

  1. Signature Tune: Mersey Viaduct (Mike Caveney);
  2. Light Concert Music: Lady Stewart’s Air (Peter Graham);
  3. Light Concert Music: St. Andrew’s Variations (Alan Fernie);
  4. Popular Music: (Everything I Do) I Do It For You (Bryan Adams/Michael Kamen, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Euphonium Solo (performed by Martin Drabble): Myfanwy (Joseph Parry, arr. Denzil Stephens);
  6. Contest March: Barnard Castle (Goff Richards) – conducted by Matthew Pilcher (Linthwaite Band).

Encore

  • Novelty Piece: Bavarian Bierfest (C. Riley)

The 2001 express from Star Lake to Prismatic Light will be calling at Aranjuez…

First off the starting blocks was an Eric Ball classic. A jaunty little march in Star Lake. It is a popular piece among Fourth Section bands on Whit Friday. Plus, it is inspired by the Salvation Army camp and conference centre in Bloomingdale, New Jersey. If you only thought Eric Ball wrote some of the greatest test pieces, this nugget will prove you wrong. A good start.

In traditional fashion we continued with an overture, a nailed-on classic in Cimarosa’ The Impresario. from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s comic opera. It is set to libretto and described by the composer himself as “a comedy with music”. If you are familiar with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a snatch of the overture is played prior to entry into Oompa Loompa Land (in the 1971 film version). Another tasty treat, which you would expect from a band whose base was close to the Squirrel factory.

If you made the great mistake of seeing the film version of Cats, you might have been spooked out by the anthropomorphic feline characters in your local Cineworld (other cinemas are available). Inspired by Old Possums Book of Practical Cats, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Cats has captivated and be-mews-ed [sic] audiences from Aberdeen to Zanzibar.

First of the two was Memory, by far the musical’s best-known number. It is sung by the former glamour cat, Grizabella in the stage production. As well as Elaine Paige’s version, it has also been sung by Celine Dion and Barbra Streisland. In the UK singles chart, Ms. Paige’s version peaked at Number Six in July 1981.

Next was Skimbleshanks (The Railway Cat). An appropriate one, given that Stockport’s Third Best Known Band (after 10cc and Blossoms) (“Erm, Fourth” – Garry Cutt) has rehearsed in the shadows of Stockport’s iconic viaduct and the West Coast Main Line. With their present base nearly Edgeley junction, even more so. A fantastic, little selection which was well played.

From Stockport Edgeley station, you could also pay top whack for some floor space on a TPE train to Sheffield, a city where the Blades adapted a John Denver song. Without a greasy chip butty in sight, we had Katie Pepper’s Principal Cornet solo of Annie’s Song. On the 09 October 1974, it reached the top spot before being knocked off by Sad Sweet Dreamer the following week. A lovely performance by Katie.

After Jim reminded me of my previous review which decried the lack of solo performances, he made amends by adding another one to the first half. Enter on flugelhorn Kat Tomlinson, also the band’s secretary, with a piece from Brassed Off. If you said Mephistopheles, I would like to ask you which version you watched. If you said Concierto de Aranjuez, well done. Apart from Mark Herman’s film, Joaquin Rodrigo’s piece is inspired by the Spanish city of Aranjuez, 42km south from Madrid. It has inspired many cover versions, including one by Todmorden’s second most famous musical star, Geoff Love (as Manuel And His Music of the Mountains).

As for Kat’s performance, that was another good one (and my word on that one is my bond). Speaking of Bond (James Bond that is), have you ever wondered why brass band transcriptions of the film themes sound so well? With the arranging skills of the late Darrol Barry, The Best of Bond is a case in point. As well as the original Bond theme from Dr. No, this medley includes the themes from Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. Another enjoyable romp, where neither member of the band was shaken. As for the audience, they were stirred by Stockport Silver’s Sean Connery-esque suaveness.

For the penultimate piece of the first half we had a hymn. Without a doubt, one of my favourite hymns in a brass band setting. Played well, Deep Harmony is a powerful hymn that could give you goose pimples from the first note. Handel Parker’s hymn, as arranged by Dukinfield’s very own John Golland is one of the finest arrangements. With Stockport Silver Band’s performance, we had living proof of this. Good stuff.

Just to throw a King Charles Spaniel in the works, we finished the first half with a classic concert opener. Yes, Alan Fernie’s Prismatic Light. The piece was written by Alan Fernie for Loanhead Youth Band’s 10th anniversary concert in 2012. With its musical cues from John Williams’ works, it is a piece of Olympian proportions enjoyed by many bands. Stockport Silver Band’s performance was a good way to finish for the interval.

Eleven million bricks in four minutes

With Stockport Silver Band’s proud history, the addition of a signature tune to their music library is long overdue. Filling this void is Mike Caveney’s Mersey Viaduct, which is a eulogy to Stockport’s most famous structure. In about four minutes, Caveney’s composition is a tribute to George Watson Buck’s structure, which is reputed to have 11 million bricks. As Jim said in the concert, this would be the band’s concert opener of choice. Fantastic stuff.

From the new-yet-familiar, we moved over to a familiar piece. The wonderful Lady Stewart’s Air by Peter Graham. It was commissioned by the Federation of Australasian Brass Bands as a tribute to Adrienne Stewart. It also appears on the test piece entitled The Journal of Phileas Fogg. In full, this was used in the 2016 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain’s regional finals. Another good one.

Next up was a sneak preview of their piece for a local contest. That of Alan Fernie’s St. Andrew’s Variations, which Jim had previously added to Dumfries Town Band’s concert programme. In 2017, this was the Fourth Section test piece for the Regional Finals. On the 26 April this year, Stockport Silver Band will be entering the Holme Valley Contest as an Unregistered Band. From the performance of what was their most ambitious piece of the night, some great work.

After the raffle we moved from Blackpool in 2017 to the Cannon Cinema on Wellington Road South in 1991. Playing that year was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Starring Kevin Costner, Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You closed the film in spectacular fashion. As for Stockport Silver Band’s performance, another smash that did justice to Bryan Adams’ best known/adored/notorious single.

The significance of this performance was a family connection, with one of the players on maternity leave. In response to this, her husband (Martin Drabble) performed the last solo piece of the night: Joseph Parry’s Myfanwy on euphonium. The well loved hymn translates from Welsh to English as Beloved. It was clear that Martin’s performance was a labour of love – even without the aid of a manuscript.

We finished the concert with a march, adding credence to the T.S. Eliot quote “In my beginning is my end”. This time with Barnard Castle, inspired by previous brass banding castles (i.e.: Raby by George Allan and Castells Coch, Caerphilly and Cardiff by T.J. Powell). As a march, Barnard Castle is still overlooked. Yet it is a lively good all-round piece, great for concerts, Whit Friday and entertainment contests.

From Stockport Silver’s performance, this was a lovely way to finish a fine concert. Of particular interest, the band’s very own Matthew Pilcher conducted this piece. On Saturday, his other band (Linthwaite, as Musical Director), won the Fourth Section title in the Yorkshire Regional Finals at Huddersfield Town Hall.

Well, not quite. For the encore we ended with C. Riley’s Bavarian Bierfest, which is an assortment of Bier Keller staples, providing minutes of schunkeln fun for all the family. Lovely stuff, without the need to quaff a pint or three of Einhorn in the process.

Once again, Stockport Silver Band delivered the goods with a very good concert programme. One with enough popular music and traditional concert pieces to cater for everyone. Also with a nod to the band’s proud history.

Compared with the previous concert which was still good, you could tell that Jim had succeeded in steadying the M.V. Armoury Dizzy Blonde. Overall, there was a confident performance; more of which we hope to see at the Holme Valley Brass Contest next month.

Next Week…

Whitworth Vale and Healey Band will be heading to The Mecca of Brass Banding on the 15 March. The Third Section band has gained recent success in winning the Third Section prize at the Butlins Mineworkers’ Contest.

Doors are open at 7pm for an 8pm start. Admission will be £5.00 (or £4.00 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., 09 March 2020.

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