McElligott eloquence and solo excellence behind exceptional Christmas concert

Opening the first of three December concerts featuring Championship Section Bands was Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band. In the last year, they finished fourth in this year’s Brass In Concert – the first one to see a live audience since 2019.

Whenever Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band host a concert, you can be sure of a great night. Their most recent concert at The Mecca of Brass Banding, Boarshurst Band Club was no exception. With the recent departure of Kirsty Abbotts to Hammonds Sauce Works Band, you could be forgiven for thinking there would be a weak link in the cornet section. Instead, we had some great solo performances and a divine duo. Open twice (1922 and 1958) and have been a force to be reckoned with since 1884.

As Christmas concerts go, this was more Waitrose than ASDA Smart Price in its execution, performance and sequencing. Though there was some of the usual Christmas songs, Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band went beyond the hackneyed approach of “hey, let’s play Jingle Bells and The Twelve Days of Christmas – or anything we shall be playing outside TESCO this Wednesday night.” The most modest of pieces were played with such eloquence and clarity, to a point it got audiences thinking “how can you make a simple song sound so good?”

Like your usual Christmas concert programme, there was room for audience participation. There was two carols and a Bavarian Beer Keller classic that got us yearning for Lana Tingay and the Frankfurters’ post-Whit Friday concerts of the early noughties.

Once again, as with the 2019 concert, last night’s conductor was Ian McElligott. Ian’s history is quite a commendable one: he joined the British Army at the age of sixteen and rose to the rank of Major. He was also Director of Music to the Band of Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Christmas Concert Opener: A Festive Intrada (Ben Hollings)
  2. Film Music: Theme from Home Alone (John Williams, arr. Ben Hollings)
  3. Cornet Solo (performed by Seb Williman): Don’t Doubt Him Now (Leonard Ballantine, arr. Craig Woodland)
  4. Christmas Carol: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Felix Mendelssohn)
  5. Christmas Song: It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Pola, arr. Ben Hollings)
  6. Trombone Solo (performed by Joe Heartfield): The Christmas Song (Mel Torme/Robert Wells, arr. Ian McElligott)
  7. Tone Poem: The Kingdom Triumphant (Eric Ball)

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Three King Swing (William Himes)
  2. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Anna Spedding): A Winter’s Tale (Mike Batt/Tim Rice, arr. )
  3. Christmas Carol: O Come, All Ye Faithful (John Francis Wade)
  4. Christmas Song: Still, Still, Still (Willberg, arr. Ian McElligott)
  5. Christmas Carol: Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (Traditional, arr. Rebecca Lundberg)
  6. Euphonium Duo (performed by Toni Durrant and Simon Willis): Mary, Did You Know? (Buddy Greene/Mark Lowry, arr. Ian McElligott)
  7. Light Concert Music: A Christmas Festival (Leroy Anderson)

Encore

  • Light Concert Music: Schneewaltzer (Traditional, arr. Goff Richards).

“Kevin, you’ve spent $967 on sheet music…”

Our first piece of the night was a rip-roaring concert opener in Ben Hollings’ A Festive Intrada. The piece was especially written for Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band and premiered at their 2014 Christmas With Honley concert at Huddersfield Town Hall. As festive concert openers go, a refreshing change from, for example Troika. A majestic start to the night’s proceedings.

This was followed by a bit of film music from John Williams, whose works never fail to transcribe well to brass band form. Getting us ready to don our Christmas jumpers was the theme from Home Alone. In the series of films starring Macauley Culkin as Kevin McAllister, his parents and siblings ‘mistakenly’ leave him in their house. In the first film, the McAllisters (sans Kevin) head for France. In the second film, Kevin is lost in New York City with both films seeing him contending with The Wet Bandits. As for Carlton Main Frickley Colliery’s performance, another cracker.

The third piece, and our first soloist of the night played one of two non-Christmassy pieces. A classic in the form of Don’t Doubt Him Now. On principal cornet, enter Seb Williman. The piece is written by Colonel Leonard Ballantine, a renowned Salvationist composer living in Canada. You may be familiar with Amid All The Traffic which is his best-known work. As for Seb’s performance, superb stuff with great clarity and intonation.

For the fourth piece, we had some audience participation for the first carol of the night. That of Mendelssohn’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, a well-loved carol and staple of any carol concert or church service. The most bizarre version of the carol was sung by the late Mark E. Smith from The Fall. Fantastic stuff, and a class example of a simple song being perfected by a top section band.

Also keeping it simple whilst remaining eloquent was their performance of It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. For many people, the most popular cover version was Andy Williams’ number. One that also appeared on Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Once again, this was another class arrangement by Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band’s in-house arranger by Ben Hollings. As for the performance, enough for us to start on our sherry and get merry. Superb.

Our second soloist of the night was a fantastic advert for the band’s youth policy. That of nurturing young, local players and developing their full potential. A beneficiary of this was last night’s trombone soloist Joe Heartfield with his rendition of The Christmas Song. Like many a great Christmas song, Mel Tormé’s classic was written in the summer months. It has been covered by Shawn Mendes and The Temptations, yet the most famous version was Nat King Cole’s – encapsulating the winter chill just as well as an open window in Siberian temperatures. With Joe’s performance, there was nothing chilling about it at all. It was a true virtuoso performance.

The final piece of this half was a classic Eric Ball composition. That of the tone poem The Kingdom Triumphant. Composed in 1962, Ball’s immersive tone poem was premiered at the Festival of Gospel Song at the Royal Albert Hall. Though in one complete movement, the work is in three parts: Vision of Judgement; Remembrance of the First Advent; and Vision of the Second Advent. Though not sounding like an obvious Christmas song, it is every inch an original more technical Christmas piece for brass bands. A sensational way to finish the first half.

“It was only a winter’s tale…”

The second half of the programme was a bit more light-hearted with straightforward pieces. Even so, high standards were upheld throughout the next 45 minutes. First off the blocks was Three Kings Swing by William Himes. This piece gave us a rare chance to hear Lucy Healey on trumpet which was a real highlight of the jazz-flavoured piece. Brilliant stuff.

Next up was our first incursion to popular music and our third soloist of the night. Enter on flugelhorn Anna Spedding. This time with David Essex’s A Winter’s Tale. Written by Mike Batt and Sir Tim Rice, it peaked at Number Two in the UK singles chart on the 15 January 1983 (kept off the top spot by Phil Collins’ You Can’t Hurry Love). As for Anna’s performance of the David Essex tune, nothing short of amazing with great tone.

For the third piece of this half, time for more singing. This time with John Francis Wade’s O, Come All Ye Faithful. Written in Latin as Adeste Fideles, the carol dates from 1744 before being published in 1751. The carol, opening in its original Latin form also features on Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album. Both the audience and the band were in fine voice.

Next up was two more carols – firstly Still, Still, Still – followed by Infant Holy. The two carols were treated as a single piece with two movements. The first one is derived from an Austrian folk song from the district of Salzburg which came to light in 1865. Infant Holy, on the other hand, is a traditional Polish carol known as W Zlobie Lezy, first published in 1920. Once again, another fine day at the office for Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band.

After two carols in a row without interruption, we had our one and only duet of the night. This time with Toni Durrant and Simon Willis on euphonium, and another class arrangement by Ben Hollings. As for the Christmas song, a more recent piece in Mark Lowry’s and Buddy Greene’s Mary, Did You Know? In 1996, it was covered by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd. Also CeeLo Green in 2012. As for Toni’s and Simon’s performance, fantastic work.

Sadly, as with everything, all good things must come to an end, and Carlton Main Frickley Colliery gave us a truly stunning concert. A Christmassy one without having to resort to the TESCOs at 8pm on Wednesday type of running order.

For those who wanted the traditional Christmas concert cheese fest, their prayers were answered with Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival. This has a mixed assortment of Christmas songs including Joy To The World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Deck The Halls. A stunning finale which got everybody in a Christmas mood.

The real finale was a Bier Keller classic in Schneewaltzer, an arrangement by Goff Richards. For the encore, audience participation was encouraged – Schunkeln our way to the end.

Whether they play light-hearted or serious pieces, Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band never fail to impress its audiences. As well as the eloquent delivery of Musical Director Ian McElligott, they can turn the most modest of tunes into something truly special. The mark of a band that has held its own alongside the likes of Cory, Brighouse and Rastrick and Black Dyke.

Next at Boarshurst Band Club…

The second Yorkshire Championship Section of December will be Elland Silver Band. Like Boarshurst Silver Band (the third one using West Riding of Yorkshire boundaries), they have climbed up the sections over the last decade.

Doors are open from 6.30 pm for the usual 7.30 pm start. As always, arrive in good time to be sure of a good seat.

Public transport:

  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham.
  • Hourly trains from Greenfield station to Manchester Piccadilly, Stalybridge, Mossley, Huddersfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite.

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 350 is operated by First Greater Manchester with all post-7pm operated by Stagecoach Manchester. Greenfield trains are operated by Transpennine Express.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

Twitter details @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass

S.V., 06 December 2021.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s