Superb Silver in party mood with excellent concert
With Christmas drawing near and our brass banding movement’s need to get back to brass with gusto, Elland Silver Band gave us a concert that ticked all these boxes. Apart from having a rich assortment of Christmas pieces, its programme had a nice number of light-hearted popular works and four great solos. All of which played to perfection and lovingly curated by Jonathan Beatty. With their usual Musical Director Daniel Brooks otherwise engaged, they called upon the former Fairey and Dinnington conductor.
To step in Mr. Brooks’ shoes for a single concert (and matching his humour and eloquence) can be a big ask. Luckily, Beatty – even after a single rehearsal with the band – proved to be a brilliant supersub. Some reference was made to the band’s youth policy which has come into its own in the last two years. Even more so as brass bands have seen players come and go since the pandemic began.
With the most part of this two years being a torrid time for brass bands, wooing audiences back to concert venues has been far from easy. COVID concerns and the lack of social distancing or clear policies have put audiences off getting back to theatres or other live performance venues. It could be that more people have warmed to streamed events instead of going to the venue itself.
On the whole, Elland Silver Band gave us a most enjoyable programme. One that pleased concertgoers in a Christmassy mood with a generous serving of light-hearted concert classics for the other 353 or 354 days outside of Christmas.
- March: Washington Grays (Claudio S. Grafulla, arr. James Curnow)
- Original piece: Dr Alpeflug (Mani Matter, arr. Burki Mario)
- Euphonium Solo (performed by Thomas Cobham): Odyssey (Nick Brocklehurst)
- Original piece: Ghost Walk (Nick Brocklehurst)
- Trombone Feature: Frolic For Trombones (Reginald Heath)
- Popular Music: Eleanor Rigby (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie)
- Popular Music Medley: ABBA Goes Brass (Ulvaeus/Andersson, arr. Alan Fernie)
- Original Piece: Shining Star (Peter Graham)
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Samantha Harrison): I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent/Buck Ram)
- Horn Feature: It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Eddie Pola/George Wyle, arr. Rieks van der Velde)
- Cornet Solo (performed by Lewis Barton): Silent Night (Franz Gruber, arr. Philip Wilby)
- Christmas Song: Here Comes Santa Claus (Oakley Haldeman, arr. Mark Freeh)
- Bass Trombone Solo (performed by Emma Barton): You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (Albert Hague, arr. Rick Mizell)
- Christmas Music Medley: Santa Claus-Trophobia (Various, arr. Sandy Smith)
- Light Concert Music: Schneewaltzer (Traditional, arr. Goff Richards)
“Without a song I ask ‘what are we?’”
We began in traditional style with a march, a most entertaining one in Washington Grays. This march was composed for the Eighth Regiment of the New York State Militia. It was first recorded by Arthur Pryor’s band on a gramophone record on the 30 March 1909. If Elland Silver Band’s performance didn’t blow off your cobwebs or dislodge any earwax, what else would have done? A fantastic start.
Filed under Now For Something Completely Different was their second piece of the night. This time for the first of our Central European Tunes of the Night in Dr Alpeflug. Written by Mani Matter, it is about a disastrous alpine flight that is made worse by the pilot’s myopia. Born on the 4th August 1936, Mr Manner was a lawyer by trade before becoming a songwriter. What makes the song somewhat melancholy was fate of Mr. Manner himself. He died on the 24th November 1972 in a car accident before a concert in Rapperswil, Switzerland. A neat little piece and a first rate example of how brass band could introduce us to some little known artistes.
Not so little known in brass banding circles are the works of Nick Brocklehurst. Next to Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Jonathan Bates, and Dan Price, he is one of the greatest composers of brass band music in the 21st Century.
On my 21st birthday, I was most happy about it falling on Whit Friday and having a few pints in Greenfield (Boarshurst Band Club and Conservative Club back then) and Stalybridge Labour Club. For Thomas Cobham’s 21st birthday, his Key At The Door was a bespoke piece of music called Odyssey by Nick Brocklehurst. Commissioned by his father Mark Cobham, it has echoes of Doctor Who and the Marvel Comics superheroes. On Sunday his son played the piece on euphonium and made a superb job of it – saving the Boarshurst audience from mediocre solo performances. Well done, Thomas.
Our fourth piece of the night was another Nick Brocklehurst piece – a Halloween piece called Ghost Walk from 2018. Though billed as a Halloween piece, it stands up well as a piece of light concert music for any time of the year. It is certainly one we would like to hear at more concerts, and you could help by visiting his website. One of my favourite new pieces (new as in post-2016).
From a future classic, we moved onto some yellow music. Or rather, a piece where the manuscript is carved on stone tablets. Giving Elland Silver’s chainsaw brigade a run out on the trombones was Reginald Heath’s Frolic For Trombones. Whether played well by a Fourth Section band or to perfection by a Championship Section, it is a fairly common piece in a concert programme (see also Mr Jums for its ubiquity). Another cheery tune which was played to perfection.
The last two items of the first half were Alan Fernie arrangements of popular musical classics. First off was his arrangement of Eleanor Rigby. Whereas his arrangement of Ticket To Ride almost gives the listener gritty eyes, Eleanor Rigby is reworked in a jazzy style. Though this might upset a few traditionalists, it worked very well – no doubt carried by Elland Silver Band’s tight playing skills.
The second of our two Fernie arrangements was a musical medley (how can you not love a nice medley?). Closing the first half was ABBA Goes Brass – a piece that does everything that is said on the tin. This fun arrangement has chunks of Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia!, Waterloo, Money Money Money and Thank You For The Music. A fantastic first half finisher; probably the first Elland Silver Band piece we have which would have worked well on the dance floor.
Christmas is coming!
Inevitably at this time of year, Christmas songs are part and parcel of any self-respecting brass band’s programme. Therefore, Elland Silver Band dedicated the whole of the second half to Christmas pieces. All of which were bonafide crackers.
First up was Peter Graham’s Shining Star, which is also the title track of Elland Silver Band’s latest CD album. Written in 1987, it is a Christmas march which has a few popular carols thrown in for good measure. The piece was written for the Miriam timbrel group of Edinburgh Gorgie Corps. As for Elland Silver Band’s performance, another good one.
For the second piece, this was the point where Elland Silver Band and Daniel Brooks must have thought “yeah, we’ve got a Christmas concert coming up but we still need some kick ass solo pieces”. Enter Samantha Harrison on flugelhorn with a Christmas classic that was given a Michael Bublé style of arrangement. That of I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram, it appeared on Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album and makes you want to put the heating on (Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song has a similar effect).
There was nothing cold about Samantha’s performance: it was nothing short of sensational, smooth and eloquent with great tone. Excellent work.
Next up was the Horn Section’s stint in the spotlight with another Christmas classic: Eddie Pola and George Wyle’s 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. Needless to say, the Horn Section got us in a great mood for opening the QC Rich Ruby and finishing off the Quality Street (which is easier to do in 2021 compared with 1981). A sumptuous, happy tune, well played.
This was followed by the ever-impressive Lewis Barton, their prodigy on principal cornet (taking over from Samantha Harrison who was also a fantastic cornetist). His piece on principal cornet solo was Silent Night which might get one or two thinking “that’s an easy one, or words to that effect”. Yet Lewis’ piece wasn’t the classic version of Silent Night. It was Philip Wilby’s more challenging arrangement with additional bells, whistles and embellishments. As for Lewis, he played this piece to perfection – without a sheet of music! Bravo, Mr. Barton.
After the raffle, we had a bit more cheese in Here Comes Santa Claus. As with White Christmas, Mel Torme’s The Christmas Song, and It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, it’s another Christmas song worthy of classic status. It has been recorded by Elvis Presley and Gene Autry, who wrote the song after riding a horse in the 1946 Santa Claus Lane Parade. (Which is why Santa Claus Lane instead of Santa Claus Way – unless it’s a motorway these days – is in the lyrics). Another top tune, well performed by our friends off Dewsbury Road.
With two more pieces to go, there was room for either a piece of film music or another solo piece. Better still, a soloist performing a piece of film music. On Bass Trombone, this was where Emma Barton answered our questions – with a tune from The Grinch. Her piece was You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch which is sung in the film by Tyler, The Creator, a noted US rapper. Brass transcriptions of popular rap tunes aren’t exactly a common currency but Emma’s performance shows it could be done – and done very well. In all honesty, another highlight of the concert.
Sadly, all good things have to come to an end, and Elland Silver Band’s concert was no exception. Even a concert of two halves with a Christmas themed second half. As with the first half, we finished the second half with a medley. A Christmas medley no less in Sandy Smith’s Santa Claus-Trophobia. This suite has six Christmas songs – all the classic tunes in When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney, Here Comes Santa Claus, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and A Rootin’ Tootin’ Santa Claus. Also Giving from 1985’s Santa Claus: The Movie. A fantastic finale that got us all reaching for the tinsel and the Christmas card holders. A great Christmas tune for putting the decorations up to as well we think.
For the encore, Elland Silver Band chose to sign off with Schneewaltzer – the second band in succession to do so at Boarshurst Band Club (Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band did so last week). Once again, audience participation was encouraged, Schunkeln their way to the end.
With a lighter programme than their previous concerts, Elland Silver Band never failed to entertained the audience. All of their soloists were on great form and the lighter pieces were played with the kind of elegance and clarity you would expect from a Championship Section band like Elland Silver’s senior band.
Up until the pandemic, the structure of Elland Silver Band has enabled them to hold their own with the likes of Brighouse and Rastrick Band, Black Dyke Band and The Cory Band. Could their resilience be the key to success in a post-COVID pandemic world? Their concerts have never failed to impress, though the biggest battle is finding audiences willing to turn up at a public hall, social club or theatre at any given afternoon or evening. ABBA Goes Brass would have worked better with a bigger audience willing to tap their toes to a brass arrangement of Mamma Mia!. The cheers, applause or standing ovations would have been more profound for each soloist.
One wonders ‘Where next?’ in our brass banding movement, given recent cases of the Omicron strain of coronavirus. Let’s hope we have a movement to save. Meanwhile, over to the 19th December 2021…
The Boarshurst Silver Band Christmas Concert
Get your Christmas jumpers and silly hats ready for the high point of Boarshurst Band Club’s Christmas calendar! It’s this year’s Christmas concert with Boarshurst Silver Band and we cannot wait to see what Santa has got in store for Jamie Prophet and Co.
As always, doors are open from 6.30 pm for the usual 7.30 pm start. To be sure of a good seat – or to avoid having to stand up – please arrive as early as possible.
- 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham.
- Hourly trains from Greenfield to Manchester Piccadilly, Stalybridge, Mossley, Slaithwaite, Marsden and Huddersfield.
Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 350 is operated by First Greater Manchester before 7pm with Stagecoach Manchester journeys after 7pm.
Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.
S.V., 15 December 2021.