Another fine concert with Alan Widdop behind the podium

In spite of the spectre of the Coronavirus, Whitworth Vale and Healey Band chose to fulfil their concert at Boarshurst Band Club last night. For the dedicated live audience, and several more that watched the live stream, it was a most enjoyable concert.

Unlike last year’s concert, Alan Widdop took charge of the baton. Originally, Christopher Binns had a prior engagement, which meant he took a back seat. As that engagement fell through, he took his position in the trombonist’s seat.

Whitworth Vale and Healey Band are the product of a merger. They were formed in 1853 when Whitworth Vale and Healey Hall bands got together. In more recent times they have been associated with the Binns family. Christopher, their present Musical Director, is also principal trombonist with Black Dyke Band.

As for the last night’s programme, the emphasis was on entertainment. Given how the Coronavirus is leading those to self-isolate, it was a worthwhile antidote to the doom and gloom. There was a good mix of yellow music, modern tunes, and a classic Tom Jones song.

With Alan Widdop’s delivery, it was humorous as well as factual. In the light of recent events, a generous serving of gallows humour.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Black Knight (William Rimmer);
  2. Overture: The Two Blind Men of Toledo (Mehul, arr. Denis Wright);
  3. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Ian Dyson): He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (The Hollies, arr. B.P. Crookes);
  4. Film Music: Theme from Jurassic Park (John Williams, arr. Alan Catherall);
  5. Euphonium Solo (performed by Max Johnson): Varied Mood (Ray Woodfield);
  6. Light Concert Music: Londonderry Air (Traditional, arr. Gordon Coleman);
  7. Popular Music: One Voice (Barry Manilow, arr. Ray Farr).

Second Half

  1. Test Piece Movement: Music for the Royal Fireworks (Handel, arr. Denis Wright);
  2. Popular Music: Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Barrie Forgie);
  3. Flugelhorn and Baritone Duo (performed by Rachel Dyson and Gillian Mastyla): Meditation (Peter Graham);
  4. Musical Suite: My Fair Lady (Frederick Loewe, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Bass Solo (presented by Ian Peters): Bass in the Ballroom (Roy Newsome);
  6. Popular Music: A Pencil Full of Lead (Paolo Nutini/Ethan Johns, arr. Alan Fernie);
  7. Light Concert Music: The Lost Chord (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Gordon Langford).


  • Popular Music: Delilah (Les Reed/Barry Mason, arr. Alan Fernie).

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Black Knight

First up was William Rimmer’s The Black Knight. This march is a popular one on Whit Friday with lower section bands. The piece refers to the mythical character also known as The Black Prince. It is also a fitting march for a Riding The Black Lad pageant in Ashton-under-Lyne. A neat exuberant start to proceedings.

In traditional style, we had an overture. This time with a piece of music which could have dated from Wat Tyler’s adolescence due to the yellowness. Enter the little-played yet fantastic Étienne Méhul piece The Two Blind Men of Toledo. Know in his native French as Les deux aveugles de Tolède, it is a one-act comic opera which only had limited success. After opening in 1806, there was only 21 performances. Needless to say, the live and not-so-live audience via The Stream Team’s works lapped it up.

The third piece was our first solo performance of the night. This time with the first of two Dysons taking to the stage: Ian Dyson. On the horn, Ian played The Hollies’ classic He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Charting twice in 1969 and 1988, it became a Number One single for The Hollies thanks to a beer advert. There was nothing light about Ian’s performance; it was a solid one with gravitas.

Next on the programme was a piece of music by John Williams, arranged by Alan Catherall. A fairly topical one in the theme from Jurassic Park, thanks to Dippy the Dinosaur’s residency in Rochdale. Opening in Summer 1993, Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur based movie franchise is inspired by the Michael Crichton novel. Make no bones about it: this was another slick performance.

This took us to our next soloist of the night, with a piece that is an anagram of whom it was written for originally. Ray Woodfield’s Varied Mood is an anagram of David Moore, a highly renowned euphonium player, noted for his stint with Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Taking to the stage on euphonium was Max Johnson. His performance was a polished one. Definitely one to watch out for in future years. (Oh, and did I tell you that he had no music?)

Our penultimate piece of this half was a brass band concert standard. A number than many of you would recognise from Brassed Off. If you guessed Danny Boy or Londonderry Air, you are right either way. Gordon Colman’s arrangement differed from the more minimalist treatment with a bombastic take on the traditional song. With Whitworth Vale and Healey Band proved last night, the results were delightful. Splendid work.

From the late Pete Postlethwaite to Sir David Jason, we moved on to a piece that was ‘sung’ by Del Boy in the 1993 Only Fools and Horses Christmas special entitled Fatal Extraction. Barry Manilow’s One Voice took the band towards ‘waving your lighters in the air’ (and e-cig) territory. The song has also been covered by the late William Tarmey, who many of you would recognise as Jack Duckworth in Coronation Street.

Though the original didn’t make the singles chart, the cover version did (peaking at Number 16 in 1993). It was a lovely way to get us all ready for the interval with a smile on our faces.

The boss in the ballroom

We begun the second half with an excerpt of a test piece which brought good fortune to Whitworth Vale and Healey Band. In 1967, they won the British Open Senior Cup with Music for the Royal Fireworks. Handel’s work was originally composed for woodwind instruments. With Denis Wright’s arrangement skills, a most effective brass band piece. A great start to the second half.

Next up was our first and only Beatles number of the night: the vibrant Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). Barrie Forgie’s arrangement was another good ‘un with the same full bodied nature as Colman’s Londonderry Air. Lennon and McCartney’s song appeared on the 1965 album Rubber Soul and is said to be about an extramarital affair. A lovely diversion.

This was followed by our one and only duo of the night. This time with Rachel Dyson (flugelhorn) and Gillian Mastyla (baritone horn). Their piece was Peter Graham’s Meditation, a movement in The Triumph of Time. The test piece was first used on the 29 November 2015 in the Swiss National Championships. Another slick performance.

We lightened the mood a little with a musical suite of works from My Fair Lady. This medley, arranged by Alan Fernie, includes such numbers like On The Street Where You Live and The Rain in Spain. An evergreen number, worthy of any Songs From The Shows type of concert. As for Whitworth Vale and Healey Band’s performance, lovely.

Following the raffle, we had our third soloist of the night and a stunning one at that. On bass was Ian Peters, with his performance of Bass In The Ballroom. Roy Newsome’s solo work is another cracking piece, as anyone with Boarshurst Silver Band’s Images CD can testify. Like Max, Ian – giving us a masterclass in being a class act – played Newsome’s work without music. His performance was effortless, well disciplined and a real joy to listen to at that.

For our penultimate piece, we had a number that gave us a ‘Matron…’ moment. Paolo Nutini’s A Pencil Full of Lead, was the second most modern piece in Widdop’s programme, dating from 2009. The song peaked at Number 17 in the UK singles chart and has been used to sell Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Barr’s Irn Bru. As a brass band piece, it is almost as cheesy as any of Derek Broadbent’s 1970s arrangements. Another fab Fernie favourite which went down well, and you didn’t have to have an ‘A’ Level knowledge of noughties music to enjoy this number.

The last piece was another concert staple: Arthur Sullivan’s The Lost Chord. It was written at the bedside of his ailing brother Fred in 1877, during his last illness. It has been recorded by Enrico Caruso and, most notably, performed at a benefit concert for the families affected by the Titanic disaster. As with the Paolo Nutini piece, another great performance that left us wanting more.

As for the encore, we had a piece that was sung by a Welshman, covered by a Scottish rock band, and arranged by a Scottish composer and arranger. Yes, Alan Fernie’s arrangement of Tom Jones’ Delilah. Co-written by Barry Mason and Les Reed, Tom Jones’ version peaked at Number Two. Fernie’s arrangement had more of a nod to The Sensational Alex Harvey Band cover version. Perhaps turning to the Biggles Wartime Band version for inspiration could inspire an entertainment contest programme, complete with kazoos and ‘na na na naas’.

All in all, Alan Widdop, Christopher Binns and Co. gave us all a fantastic concert. The programme was accessible enough to appeal to a wide range of audiences with a neat selection of ‘yellow music’. Here’s to their return this time next year.

Next Week…

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, Freckleton Band’s concert – and all subsequent concerts at Boarshurst Band Club have been suspended until further notice. For more details, you can visit the Boarshurst Silver Band website, give them a ‘like’ on their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.

During this period, you can buy any of (or better still, both of) Boarshurst Silver Band’s CDs (Images and Phoenix). These are priced £10.00 each and are available from their Facebook page. If you are suffering from brass band withdrawal symptoms, this could be your prescription.

As there will be no reviews from East of the M60 for the foreseeable future, we shall do our best to add some suitable brass band related articles. For example: suitable features to cheer you up over the darkest of times. Here’s hoping that the Coronavirus hiatus isn’t too long.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.


S.V., 16 March 2020.

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