Audience profit from highly enjoyable concert

Boarshurst Band Club’s journey back to brass gave us another enjoyable concert. This time with a brass band that was formed four years before last week’s band. As with last week’s concert, there was a welcome airing of one or two classic pieces. Though with half the number of solos as last week’s concert, a case of ‘quality not quantity’.

With previous Musical Director Phil Chalk, you could always expect a great concert from Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band. A dependable assortment of classical enrichment and first rate entertainment. Under the musical direction of Jamie Prophet, it was more of the same. Though he started off a little quietly, he got into the swing of things after the raffle and felt at home in his surroundings.

Jamie was a joy to listen to throughout the two hours. Though he eschewed punctuating his dialogue with witticisms (we do miss your dad jokes, Phil), he made up for that by being informative and eloquent.

Away from the Musical Director’s podium, Mr. Prophet is a trumpet tutor at the University of Manchester. His brass banding pedigree is second-to-none, having played for The Fairey Band, Black Dyke Band, Foden’s Band, and (at the seat of M.D. Derek Broadbent) Bodmin Town Band. He is also a jazz musician who has played with Johnny Dankworth. He is also involved in the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

For Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band, this was their first Boarshurst gig since 2018. Once again, they never failed to deliver the goods. Let’s hope it’s not another three years and three days till the next one! (Right, that’s them booked in for the 13th October 2024).

The Programme

First Half

  1. Contest March: Ravenswood (William Rimmer);
  2. Overture: Finlandia (Sibelius);
  3. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Rachel Dines): A Time for Peace (Peter Graham);
  4. Hymn: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (Charles Hubert Parry, arr. Cecil Bolton/Eric Banks);
  5. Classical Piece: Slavonic Dance No. 8 (Antonín Dvořák);
  6. Film Music (from Braveheart): For The Love of a Princess (James Horner);
  7. Light Concert Music: Mr Jums (Chris Hazell, arr. Alan Catherall);
  8. Classical Piece: Montagues and Capulets (Sergei Prokofiev).

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Blenheim Flourishes (James Curnow);
  2. Eb Bass Solo (performed by Paul Conchie): Bass in the Ballroom (Roy Newsome);
  3. Popular Music: Hey Jude (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Derek Broadbent);
  4. Classical Piece: Nimrod (Sir Edward Elgar);
  5. Film Music (from Batman): Theme from Batman (Danny Elfman, arr. Alan Catherall);
  6. Film Music (from Out Of Africa): Theme from Out Of Africa (John Barry);
  7. Overture: Festive Overture (Shostakovich).

Encore

  • March: The Radetzky March (Johann Strauss, arr. Pat Ryan).

You can’t stop the classics

For the first piece of the night, we opened with a classic contest march. That of William Rimmer’s Ravenswood. The contest march is popular with most bands from Third Section upwards and never fails to lift the crowds on Whit Friday. Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band’s got us in the mood for The Other Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

The second piece was another classic, a song that celebrated the wonders of Finland. Composed in 1899 for the Press Celebrations, Sibelius’ Finlandia Op. 26 is to all intents a protest piece. A piece against the country’s censorship from the Russian Empire. As protest pieces go, Finlandia never fails to impress. Transcribed to brass band form, it takes on a great sense of vibrancy and depth which was reflected in last night’s performance.

At the opposite end of the scale was Peter Graham’s A Time For Peace. This was the first solo piece of the night, played on flugelhorn by Rachel Dines. The solo piece is based on a quote from Ecclesiastes 3:8 in the Old Testament of The Bible (“a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”). A solid performance from Rachel.

This was followed by the first hymn of the night, and a possible entry for Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band’s Remembrance Concert programme. Enter Hubert Parry’s Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, a favourite piece at many a hymn and march contest. The hymn’s lyrics are taken from a larger body of work known as The Brewing of Soma and set to Charles Hubert Parry’s Repton. Fantastic stuff, beautifully played.

The fifth piece of the night continued our European theme. This time with Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances and its eighth movement, a jaunty Bohemian dance that alternates between 2/4 and 4/4 time signatures (also known as a furiant). Once again, the band showed off their energy with a lively performance.

For the sixth piece of the night we moved to Scotland, giving this concert a more international flavour. This time with our first piece of film music in James Horner’s For The Love of a Princess from Braveheart. The original soundtrack of the Mel Gibson film was performed by The London Symphony Orchestra. With Jamie’s band, another great performance. Maybe telling the audience he could trace his ties to Robert The Bruce helped things a little.

Lovers of dad jokes and pieces of a feline nature were placated by the band’s seventh item on the programme. If you guessed Memory by Elaine Page, it’s good but it’s not right. If you said Mr. Jums, well done. Written by Chris Hazell (also of 1980s children’s television show Let’s Pretend), it is inspired by three of his cats as part of the Three Brass Cats suite (the other two cats are Black Sam and Borage). Though the least complex piece of the night, it was a pleasing addition that was well played.

The final piece of the first half owes its present-day popularity to The Apprentice, Lord Sugar’s long-running business TV show. If you guessed Montagues and Capulets, the first movement of Suite No.2 of Romeo and Juliet, stick a gold star on your exercise book. The piece by Sergei Prokofiev captures the tension of the feuding families in William Shakespeare’s best known play. It is a musical cliché for use as a Tense Musical Score in a Grudge Match. So much that it has been used as a run-out theme for some sports teams. On a more gentle note, it was used to advertise the joys of satellite television on the Astra Direct-To-Home satellite system in the 1990s. If you had a Commodore 64, it was used in Thalamus Software’s shoot-em-up Sanxion as its title music (thanks to Hull’s very own Rob Hubbard).

By the end of the first half, Ashton-under-Lyne Band gave us all a good concert. Twenty minutes or so later, there was more goodies around the corner.

Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel

For the second half, we turned to Sir Winston Churchill’s former residence Blenheim Palace for inspiration. Enter the majestic Blenheim Flourishes by James Curnow. In just under three minutes, this lively piece got the second half off to a great start.

This was followed by another brass band classic, a nailed-on solo classic by Roy Newsome. If you’re looking for a good Eb Bass solo piece, The Bass in the Ballroom ticks many a box in the entertainment department. Enter our second soloist of the night, Paul Conchie on Eb Bass. For some aficionados of brass banding, it is associated with the late-legendary Sun Life Band (Stanshawe). As for Paul’s performance, it was nothing short of extraordinary. His projection techniques (as rare as a 180 bus from Greenfield these days) set it apart from previous renditions of Newsome’s piece. Without question, the high point of last night’s concert.

After Mr. Conchie’s glorious solo performance, we turned to the world of popular music with a Beatles tune. One from the arrangers pen of Derek Broadbent (or Broadband if you rely on the tablet’s predictive text mode). That of Hey Jude, which was a showcase for the band’s horn section. The full song is seven minutes and eleven seconds long, recorded at Trident Studios in London and topped the UK singles charts in 1968. Thanks to an effortless performance from Rachel, Louise, Stuart and Eva, it got the audience in the mood for the raffle.

Also a shoo-in for a future Remembrance Day concert programme was the fourth piece, Nimrod. Sir Edward Elgar’s piece – the ninth and best known movement of Enigma Variations – never fails to well up the listener’s eyes when played properly. The great composer took his musical inspiration from the Malvern Hills which he walked upon. As for Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band’s performance, probably the finest all-band piece of the night. The dynamics were superb, the diction was faultless, and its clarity was polished to the nth degree.

We turned to the cinema for the next two pieces of the night. As the films were released in 1989 and 1985 respectively, a trip to the video library at the local offy may have sufficed. Before we could rewind the tape and return it by 7pm, first up was Danny Elfman’s theme from Batman. According to Jamie Prophet, Elfman’s theme is the definitive Batman theme in his book. It is full-bodied and one that is atmospheric. Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band’s performance was another cracker.

At the other end of the scale, this was followed by John Barry’s theme from Out Of Africa. Starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, the 1985 film is based on the autobiographical book by Isak Dinesen. It won seven Academy Awards despite mixed reviews in the press. There was no need to pan our band’s performance as they gave a great account of Barry’s theme.

For the last piece of the night, we returned to an old friend. One that was played by The Diggle Band last week in Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. Like our friends in the North East corner of Saddleworth, this was the grand finale. As we said last week, this lively piece was commissioned for the Bolshoi Theatre’s 37th anniversary of the October Revolution. Though The Diggle Band made a good job of Festive Overture, there was more eloquence and tonal depth in Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band’s rendition. Sensational.

Before reaching the two hour mark, Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band signed off with Johann Strauss’ The Radetzky March. If you watch (or have been to) the New Year’s Day concerts in Vienna, this is their usual encore piece. Forgetting it in Johann Strauss’ hometown would be sacrilege. (See also Brighouse and Rastrick Band’s concerts without The Floral Dance, like the one I saw at St. George’s Hall, Bradford where they teased the audience into thinking “they’ve forgotten The Floral Dance!”). As for last night’s rendition, superb and in glorious Technicolor like the rest of the concert.

I may have said this before in previous reviews about Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band. They never fail to put out a well-crafted programme of classical works and popular pieces to suit all tastes. I only wish they had more local support, despite being Tameside’s highest ranked brass band over the last decade. Mr. Prophet’s programme was pretty much in the vein of his predecessor, and I hope his successor keeps up the good work.

I could go into the politics over the paucity of venues in my locality or the borough’s brass band lovers being underrepresented outside of Whit Friday. That I shall leave for another time outside of this review.

Wherever Ashton-under-Lyne Brass Band are playing, please support their concerts. You wouldn’t regret it.

*               *               *

Next up at Boarshurst Band Club…

There’s quite a bit of a gap till the next concert at Boarshurst Band Club. A three-week sized gap. Unless we know otherwise, the next concert will be on the 31st October (yes, Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve if you prefer). Driving up to Greenfield will be Tintwistle Band. If you’re complaining about folk putting up their Christmas decorations just now, you could say:

“Well, I’ve seen tinsel in October”.

The conversation may continue along these lines:

“What??? Tinsel in October? Christmas is ages yet.”

“No, silly. It’s a place in Derbyshire… used to be in Cheshire.”

“You mean tint whistle?”

“No, Tintwistle. As in Tinsel.”

(Surprised) “Who lives near tinsel apart from fairies on Christmas trees?”

“Believe me, it’s a lovely place. Superb views of the Longdendale valley reservoirs. There’s a good café by Arnfield Reservoir… And they’ve got a good brass band too.”

“Well, you learn something new every day.”

What’s more it’s all at less than the price of a pint of lager in Central Manchester – even one or two pubs in Saddleworth as well. As per usual, doors open at 6.30pm for an 7.30pm start. Please arrive early to get a good seat.

Bus:

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

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 350 service is operated by First Greater Manchester before 7pm with Stagecoach Manchester buses on evening journeys.

Trains:

  • Transpennine Express trains call at Greenfield station with hourly trains to Stalybridge, Mossley, Manchester Piccadilly, Slaithwaite, Marsden and Huddersfield.

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

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

Postscript: Gloria Phyllis Rogers

Last night’s concert and this review is dedicated to the memory of Gloria Phyllis Rogers. Over the last five years, Ms. Rogers and her daughter Greta Brownridge (Soprano Cornet, Stalybridge Old Band) have been regular attendees at Boarshurst Band Club. On Friday, Gloria passed away at the age of 78, survived by her daughter who says:

“My thanks onto the Boarshurst team for making space to allow my mum to attend the concerts and my personal thanks to you and your Dad for often welcoming us at your table. It made a massive difference to her quality of life being able to see and hear live bands and let me get one of my most memorable later life photos of her with me. Mum died at 11.10pm last night as I held her hand. I was with her for her last breaths just as she was with me for my first breaths.”

On behalf of everyone who subscribes to East of the M60 and reads the concert reviews, and yours truly in a personal capacity, we pass on our condolences to Greta and her family.

S.V., 11 October 2021.

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