Sterling service from Middleton Band with Jamie Cooper behind the podium

No matter where they are in the national rankings or which section they are, Middleton Band never fail to give a great concert. Since East of the M60 began reviewing concerts, each concert of theirs has had an enjoyable mix of light-hearted pieces and technical works. Their latest one at the start of May 2022 was no exception.

Since Gibbs’ recent departure from the senior band, each concert has had guest conductors. At Glossop, they turned to Simon Wood; at Boarshurst, it was Uppermill Band’s Musical Director Jamie Cooper.

Jamie was a good fit for the audience and Middleton’s upbeat programme. With his patter between the band and the audience, a good advert for getting people Back To Brass after the worst excesses of the pandemic. There was four memorable solos, including a xylophone solo and a most entertaining tuba solo.

As programmes go, a most easy going one with a few advanced pieces thrown in for good measure. Even so, there was enough space for them to let their hair down in some pieces.

The Programme

First Half

  1. March: Viva Birkinshaw (William Rimmer);
  2. Overture: Jubilee Overture (Philip Sparke);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Stephanie Coward): Pater Noster (Rebecca Lundberg);
  4. Light Concert Music: Bessarabianke (Traditional);
  5. Hymn: Prelude on Lavenham (Geoffrey Nobes);
  6. Xylophone Solo (performed by David Barker): Havana (Camila Cabello, arr. Mark Harrison);
  7. Overture: Declaration Overture (Claude T. Smith).

Second Half

  1. Concert Opener: Valiants Arise (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  2. Horn Solo (performed by Emma Davies): Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan);
  3. Light Concert Music: The Crazy Brass Machine (Mark Taylor, arr. Sandy Smith);
  4. Light Concert Music: Ammerland (Jacob de Haan);
  5. Tuba Solo (performed by James Kerr): The Bare Necessities (Terry Gilkyson);
  6. Suite: Lord Tullamore (Carl Whitlock).

Encore

  • Light Concert Piece: Show Me The Way to Go Home (Irving King, arr. Adrian Horn)

Viva Havana, Mr Barker

First off the blocks was a traditional contest march, also your weekly reminder that Whit Friday Is Coming Soon. Their march of choice was Viva Birkinshaw. Written by William Rimmer, it was dedicated to one time Black Dyke Mills Band cornetist George Birkinshaw. As contest marches go, it is one of the most lengthier ones, though absorbing. A brilliant start.

The next piece was a Philip Sparke overture. Taken out of its original context, Jubilee Overture could be apropos of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s Platinum Jubilee. In fact, it was written in 1983 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of The GUS Band. Commissioned by its then Musical Director Keith Wilkinson, it is a rousing overture where parts of the notation spell out ‘G-U-S’. A most polished performance.

At the other end of the scale was a masterclass in slow melody. Enter on principal cornet, Stephanie Coward. This time with Rebecca Lundberg’s Pater Noster. The pithy little piece was especially written for Hammonds Band principal cornet player Kirsty Abbotts. This was a lovely break from the bombastic nature of the first two pieces, with a classy performance by Stephanie.

We moved from Yorkshire to Eastern Europe for the next piece. That of Bessarabianke, a traditional piece of Klezmer music. Originally transcribed for clarinets, violins and pianos, the title is derived from Bessarabia, a north eastern part of Moldova. With the Ukraine-Russia conflict, a rather poignant one given that Bessarabia shares a land border with Ukraine. A joyous excursion.

Next up was a fairly modern day concert staple: Geoffrey Nobes’ Prelude on Lavenham. It is a nice, serene piece based on Reverend Nick Fawcett’s hymn. Geoffrey Nobes, former Bandmaster of Portsmouth Citadel Band arranged the piece and remains an active composer today. His recorded works are published by Kevin Mayhew Productions. Once again, another smashing performance.

This was followed by the second soloist of the night, though not your usual kind of solo. Enter on xylophone, David Barker with Camila Cabello’s Havana. The fast-paced xylophone piece was a real treat – being both the most modern – and unique solo piece of the night. In the UK, the original hit single peaked at Number Two before hitting the top spot in November 2017. Once again, you can rely on Middleton Band’s reputation for choosing great modern pieces. Oh, and great soloists too. Well done, David!

From Havana, we moved to America for the last piece of this half. That of Declaration Overture. Written by Claude T. Smith, it commemorated the 1976 Bicentenary of the USA’s declaration of independence. Originally written for woodwind instruments, we found it transcribed well to brass band music. A stunning finale to the first half.

All aboard the Crazy Brass Machine

The opening piece of the second half should have had on its disclaimer “May Contain Traces of Prismatic Light“. With one or two bars from Alan Fernie’s work was Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Valiants Arise. This was written for Junction Arts’ 2016 film, JA40: The Junction Arts Story. Directed by Christopher Bevan, it was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The participatory arts charity are based in Chesterfield, “using creativity to inspire people and communities.” As with its previous use in Glossop Old Band’s July 2017 concert, this was a superb opener for the second half.

This was followed by our first soloist of the second half, and a horn soloist in Emma Davies. Her piece was Make You Feel My Love, a Bob Dylan song that has been covered by many artistes including Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, the cast of Glee, and – in most recent times – Adele. As for her performance on the horn, another cracker.

Next was The Crazy Brass Machine, an original piece by Mark Taylor that was arranged by Sandy Smith. It is a piece that could be described as “Rock Music for Brass Bands” – as opposed to existing rock classics transcribed for brass band. The piece itself is taken from Taylor’s 1985 trumpet feature The Scream Machine for the Army Blues Jazz Band. A most lively piece well performed, taking us over to The Crazy Prize Machine.

From The Crazy Prize Machine (a.k.a. the raffle) we slowed the tempo a little with Ammerland. Written by Jacob de Haan, it is a piece about a rural district in Lower Saxony, Germany. Described as a warm and rich work, this was an immersive work – probably Germany’s answer to Country Scene. Another fine performance, taking us to a right corker of a solo piece.

At almost every concert Middleton Band has done, each programme has varied with the exception of one or two pieces. Some are left in subsequent programmes as audiences really enjoyed that piece. A case in point is The Bare Necessities, from the 1967 Walt Disney film adaptation of The Jungle Book. Last night, this was performed by James Kerr on tuba.

As at one previous concert at Boarshurst Band Club (November 2017), the back row cornets went to town with the Jungle Book style scarves and percussion. This made Mr Kerr’s solo spot a real joy to watch, aurally and visually.

Sadly, all great concerts have to come an end. Last night, Middleton Band signed off with a superb suite in Lord Tullamore. Composed by Carl Whittrock, it is a three part suite that celebrates the Irish town of Tullamore, which is the county town of County Offaly. It is famous for Tullamore Dew whiskey and notable landmarks include Charleville Castle and the Grand Canal. As concert finales go, a most memorable one at just the right length to get us all asking for more.

Our encore piece, like the tuba solo, was another unforgettable number. Irving King’s (or rather Jimmy Campbell’s and Reg Connolly’s) Show Me The Way To Go Home. Written in 1925, it was said to have been written on a train from London, and inspired by the two being worse for wear after a few scoops. It has been covered by Julie London, Bono, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Each episode of Granada Television’s The Wheeltappers’ and Shunters’ Social Club finished with ‘Our Bernard’ (Bernard Manning) and Colin Crompton singing the said song. What’s more, the band also fell asleep, reconstructing the few scoops Messrs Campbell and Connolly had on their way home in 1925.

Perhaps they might have had a few too many glasses of Tullamore Dew or WKD Blue, but the back row cornets and horns acted the part as convincing drunks in the encore. A fantastic end to a thrilling concert.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

On the Sunday after World Naked Gardening Day (and The British Open Spring Festival in Blackpool Winter Gardens), Mossley Band will be coming to Boarshurst Band Club. Doors are open from 6.30 pm for a 7.30 pm start. To avoid disappointment, please arrive as early as possible.

Buses:

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

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 350 is operated by First Greater Manchester before 7pm and Stagecoach Manchester after 7pm.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 02 May 2022.

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