East of the M60’s 2020 Advent Calendar explores the poppier side of brass band music

One of the greatest things about brass band music is its ability to inspire audiences of any age and taste. Whether classical works or popular music, a great brass band arrangement can equal or surpass the original work. That’s in addition to the wealth of original test pieces and concert marches.

For many arrangers, pop music is a popular and (as some purists might say) well-worn subject area for transcription. Before listeners get acquainted with Goff Richards, a bit of Keith Richards might be their gateway drug to see countless concerts. Then they get on to the hard stuff like Eric Ball and Peter Graham test pieces. They start travelling to Skegness, Blackpool, Cheltenham, Birmingham, London or Gateshead to see Britain’s Finest Heavy Metal Export. Which, if you regularly read this blog, is the brass band at its competitive best. From the Butlins Mineworkers’ Contest to Brass In Concert.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a King Charles Spaniel in the works. The contesting season has been suspended; the familiar sight of a brass band at Christmas isn’t a thing this year. For the Saddleworth villages and most of the Tameside area, no payday for the pubs on Whit Friday during the Whit Friday Band Contests.

Foden’s, Cory, Eikanger Bjørsvik, everybody’s talking ’bout Band Music…

Whereas last year’s Brass Band Advent Calendar focused on a traditional concert programme, we have gone for something more light-hearted. As Brass Banding Goes Pop, we have looked at the lighter side of brass band music which in most cases mean pop music. I am just as likely to listen to Leigh Baker’s arrangement of All Night Long as much as Lionel Richie’s original. If you want a good transcription of a Queen song, Philip Harper never puts a foot wrong.

For the first 24 days of December, each window will give you a prime example of popular music set to a brass band style. There may be a few surprises. We might have a brass band in there who has already made the Top Ten of the UK singles chart (why the hell not?). In all, there will be two bonus doors on Christmas Day and Boxing Day which, in effect is the encore set.

So, sit back, relax, put on your best speakers and enjoy a great tune per day. Any comments on the pieces are welcome.

S.V., 30 November 2020.

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