First concert at Boarshurst since March 2020 impresses audience with bona fide classics for all the family

Yesterday’s first concert at Boarshurst Band Club since the first lockdown was most entertaining and cathartic in equal measure. In one respect, it was great to see a return to normality at The Brass Band Mecca of the North. On the other hand, it made us slightly bleary eyed over the friends we have lost in the brass band movement since the pandemic began.

Of particular note to the statisticians, last night’s concert was conducted by the same person who conducted the last one before the lockdown. The ever-so-eloquent Alan Widdop. In March 2020, he stood in for Christopher Binns during Whitworth Vale and Healey Band.

Diggle Band was reformed in 2000, after a 74-year hiatus. For a time, the band club had no brass band. From the Fourth Section in 2000, they moved up to the Championship Section. Previous Musical Directors have included Dave Morris, Alan Wycherley and Jim Shepherd. The prime mover behind Diggle Band’s fourteen-year rise to the top flight was Alan Lawton. Mr Lawton helped to make their revival possible.

Diggle Band’s concert hit the right note for a first concert since the first lockdown began. There was nothing overly taxing, but everything was there to get The Diggle Band and the audience back to brass banding activities. The return of old favourites was reassuring, especially that most with-it of trombone pieces in Frolic For Trombones* and the evergreen Festive Overture.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: The Champions (George Wilcocks);
  2. Overture:  A North Country Fantasy (Gordon Langford);
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Chris North): Someone Cares (Larsson, arr. Ray Steadman);
  4. Film Music:  There’s No Business Like Show Business (Irving Berlin, arr. Goff Richards);
  5. Light Concert Music: Après Un Rêve (Gabriel Faure, arr. David Aitch);
  6. Trombone Trio (performed by Gary Burgess, Jane Clarke, and Trevor Slade): Frolic For Trombones (Gordon Langford);
  7. Popular Music: One Voice (Barry Manilow, arr. Ray Farr).

Second Half

  1. Bass Quartet (performed by Colin Aspinall, Phil Hirst, Duncan Stephenson and Phil Fox): Blazing Basses/Paint Your Wagon (arr. Nigel Lawless);
  2. Film Music Medley: James Bond Collection (Monty Norman, arr. Goff Richards);
  3. Horn Solo (performed by David Woodward): Rondo 4th Horn Concerto (Mozart);
  4. Hymn: Amazing Grace (Traditional, arr. William Himes);
  5. Light Concert Music: Dance of the Tumblers (Rimsky Korsakov, arr. Derek Ashmore);
  6. Euphonium Solo (performed by Phil Kerr): Macushla (Macmurrough, arr. J. Ord Hume);
  7. Overture: Festive Overture (Shostakovich, arr.  Peter Kitson).

Encore

  • Original Piece: Standedge (Derek Broadbent).

Champions of fine entertainment

As with previous Alan Widdop led concerts, the onus was on entertainment.  His patter was no exception to that rule either, being informative and interesting with his dry sense of humour. 

First on the list was George Wilcocks’ The Champions. As opening concert marches, and street marches go, it is a nailed on classic. It is a stirring, vibrant piece that screams ‘Back To Brass’.  A fantastic start from Diggle.

Devotees of Gordon Langford’s back catalogue were well catered for with two classic pieces.  The first of which was A North Country Fantasy. This overture is a medley of North Eastern folk songs including Bobbie Shaftoe and Blaydon Races. Television geeks might also be familiar with some of the tunes due to Three Rivers Fantasy – which was written as the start-up music for Tyne-Tees Television (which has also been transcribed for brass bands).  Langford’s piece was another joyous performance.

Next up was our first solo piece of the night. This time by Diggle Band newcomer Chris North on principal cornet. His piece was Someone Cares, written by Larsson and arranged by Ray Steadman-Allen. For present times, a fitting piece which could apply to our key workers. Chris North’s playing skills in the slow melody department was superb.

No brass band concert is complete without something from the musicals. The work of Irving Berlin is a favourite among musical directors due to its mass appeal across age groups.  Summing this up beautifully is There’s No Business Like Show Business. Featuring in Annie Get Your Gun, it was sung by Ethel Merman and the first Goff Richards arrangement of the night. Well played and energetic.

At the other, quieter end of the scale was a newly arranged piece by David Aitch. This time with Gabriel Fauré’s Après Un Rêve. In English, the song is known as After A Dream and was performed by Barbra Streisand. If any bands are interested, this is a fantastic arrangement well worth seeking out. Diggle Band did well that one too.

Since COVID-19 came about, the boredom of watching slides on a projector in the office has been replaced by Zoom’s Screen Share mode. Giving us an altogether better slide show last night was the trombone section (Gary Burgess, Jane Clarke, and Trevor Slade). This time with that modern (80-year-old!) classic Frolic For Trombones. Another fine day in the office for our trio with a well played novelty piece.

To finish the first half, lovers of cheese thought they were given bragging rights to the cheese board when Widdop and Co. chose a Barry Manilow classic. Enter Ray Farr’s arrangement of One Voice, arguably one of the singer-songwriter’s best known songs. The song has been covered by numerous artistes including the late William Piddington (or Bill Tarmey), The Military Wives Choir, Jane McDonald and Michael Ball. Some might remember Del Boy’s drunken version in the 1993 Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special entitled Fatal Extraction. Thankfully, Diggle Band’s performance was much easier on the ear and a joy to listen to. One that Barry Manilow would have been proud of as well.

The name’s Band, Brass Band

To kick off the second half was Blazing Basses/Paint Your Wagon. Arranged by Dukinfield’s second most famous brass band arranger Nigel Lawless, it is a mash-up of the music from Paint Your Wagon and the march Blaze Away. What is unique about Lawless’ arrangement is that it was designed for COVID restrictions, particularly the Rule of Six.  Under the rule of six, this meant a Musical Director, the band’s librarian and a quartet of bass players. Starting with the music from Paint Your Wagon (Wanderin’ Star and I Talk To The Trees) Colin Aspinall, Phil Hirst, Duncan Stephenson and Phil Fox put in a solid performance.

Staying on message with recent events, our second piece was James Bond Collection, a medley of themes from the James Bond series of films. The medley, arranged by Goff Richards, has the themes from Goldfinger, the iconic original theme from Dr. No and the excellent Nobody Does It Better from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. As for Diggle’s performance, there was no way on Alphin Pike they were shaken, but the audience were stirred by their virtuosity. Afterwards, Alan Widdop decried the lack of modern day Bond themes in any medleys. (If any top arrangers are reading this, Mr. Widdop has set a nice challenge for you, and this is where we miss Darrol Barry).

This was followed by the second soloist of the night, and a classic piece from the pen of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The piece: Mozart’s Rondo 4th Horn Concerto, with David Woodward on horn. The original piece in Eb major is in three movements with the rondo being its final movement in 6/8 time. Fantastic work from Mr. Woodward.

Next up was a hymn. One that found popularity as a spiritual hymn among American Baptist and Methodist churches. Written in 1779, Amazing Grace the hymn is actually John Newton’s 1772 poem set to music. From 1970 to 1972, Judy Collins’ version spent a total of 75 weeks in the UK singles chart peaking at Number Five. William Himes’ version is a popular one with most brass bands and Diggle Band’s performance was another good one.

After the raffle, Summer 2019’s bass feature piece was revived.  With the whole band having to do the donkey work (after the bass section’s sterling effort with Lawless’ arranged piece), there was a welcome return for Dance of the Tumblers, arranged by Derek Ashmore.  Dance of the Tumblers is seen in Act III of Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden where the scene is set in a forest reserve.  A fantastic feature.

For the penultimate piece of the night was our final solo piece. As well as seeing familiar pieces on the programme, we saw the return of a familiar face to the podium. Enter euphonium player extraordinaire Phil Kerr with Macushla. The song was written by Dermot Macmurrough with lyrics by Josephine V. Rowe. The song, translated into English from Irish means ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’. Another first class solo performance by Phil.

The final piece of the night was an overture, but an all time classic in Shostakovich’s Festive Overture.  This lively piece was commissioned for the Bolshoi Theatre’s 37th anniversary of the October Revolution.  As with the James Bond Collection, Widdop’s immaculate timing struck again.  A fantastic finale that left the audience wanting more.

And more they got!  This time with what is The Diggle Band’s signature tune, Standedge.  Written by Derek Broadbent, the piece is inspired by the north-eastern tip of Diggle close to Diglea. For many people, Standedge (pronounced in the same way as ex-Piccadilly Radio presenter James Stannage) is associated with its railway tunnels and older canal tunnel. Or that expensive part of the railway line which is a dead zone between Transport for Greater Manchester and Metro West Yorkshire covered sections. Needless to say, Diggle Band left on a high, ready to entertain a few more brass band lover far and wide.

For less than the price of a pint of lager in many Saddleworth pubs, Diggle Band gave us two hours of great entertainment. A welcome return to the old routine with our band clubs playing to live bands again, and being able to see our friends. As well as Boarshurst, this is played out at Dobcross, Slaithwaite and Glossop, with the return of their afternoon concerts.

Next week at the Boarshurst Band Club…

Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band will be making their way from the other side of the ancient Lancashire/Yorkshire border. Another entertaining night awaits us all.

Doors are open from 6.30pm for a 7.30pm start. Please note that 7.30pm is the new start time for all concerts at Boarshurst Band Club. As always, please arrive as soon as possible to be sure of a good seat.

Bus:

  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham.

Train:

  • Transpennine Express services from Manchester Piccadilly to Huddersfield call at Greenfield station (also calling at Stalybridge, Mossley, Marsden and Slaithwaite).

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. Both services operated by First Greater Manchester. Please note that the 350 service is operated by Stagecoach Manchester after 6.15pm.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass; #BackToBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 04 October 2021.

Diggle image by Bill Boaden (Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike).

One thought on “The Diggle Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club (03 October 2021)

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