Second to none showing from fledgling band

Fans of a certain football club may argue that Manchester’s second club is their reserve side. They might say that Manchester’s third biggest club opened in May 1982 and closed for good in July 1997.

There are few cities where a similar claim could be made about its brass bands. The city of Bradford is one of them where City of Bradford Brass Band is the city’s top band (some might say Black Dyke, though Queensbury is halfway between Halifax and Bradford). Its second band is BD1. Formed in 2014, its roots lie in Wilsden Band which was formed in 1981.

Like Manchester United’s reserve side, they are the second band to their parent band, the City of Bradford Brass Band. Its players are younger than their peers in the senior band of the two, and some might think they wont put on a good concert or play harder pieces.

If you went to BD1’s concert at Boarshurst Band Club on Sunday, you would have been amazed at their playing abilities. In a short space of time, they have held their own at local and regional contests.  They are a Second Section band that’ll be a First Section band next year.

This is because the band is in good hands; their parent band is in the Championship Section, conducted by Lee Skipsey. BD1’s Musical Director is the excellent Jonathan Bates. He is well known for his arranged works and original pieces. In Boarshurst circles, he composed Janet’s Song, for Boarshurst Silver Band’s 2017 album, Images.

BD1’s success is due to Bates’ way of making brass band music appealing to its players and audiences. This was seen in the programme of Sunday’s concert. At the 2021 Wychavon Entertainment Contest, this paid off as they won the Second Section prize. Their 20 minute programme was based on the life and times of British astronaut Tim Peake.

At Boarshurst, they were rewarded with an appreciative audience – and deservedly so!

The Programme

First Half

  1. Concert Opener: Agincourt Song (Jonathan Bates)
  2. Musical Medley: The World’s Greatest Storyteller (Various, arr. Philip Harper):
    1. Theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Robert B. Sherman/Richard M. Sherman);
    2. (From Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) Pure Imagination (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley);
    3. (From Matilda) When I Grow Up (Tim Minchin);
  3. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Phoebe Mallinson): Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (Andrew Lloyd-Webber, arr. Steven Bulla)
  4. Trombone Solo (performed by Ethan McCabe): Cry Me a River (Arthur Hamilton, arr. Alan Morrison)
  5. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Carole-Ann Turner): Hushabye Mountain (Richard Sherman/Robert Sherman, arr. Christopher Wormald)
  6. Hymn: Manchester: How Sweet the Name (Richard Wainwright, arr. Andi Cook)
  7. Major Work: Tale of the Dragon (Paul Lovatt-Cooper)

Second Half

  1. March: Bramwyn (John Carr)
  2. Euphonium Solo: (performed by Laurence Sheard): Rhapsody for Euphonium (James Curnow)
  3. Light Concert Music: Only In Sleep (Ēriks Ešenvalds, arr. Philip Littemore)
  4. Suite: The Life and Times of Tim Peake: 
    • A Chichester Prelude (Jonathan Bates);
    • The Royal Green Jackets (Jonathan Bates);
    • Ignition Sequence;
    • Earth Song (Frank Ticheli, arr. Jonathan Bates);
    • Elton John Medley:
      1. Rocket Man (Elton John/Bernie Taupin);
      2. Crocodile Rock (Elton John/Bernie Taupin);
      3. Your Song (Elton John/Bernie Taupin);
      4. I’m Still Standing (Elton John/Bernie Taupin).
  5. Popular Music: Old Yellow Bricks (Alex Turner/Jon McClure, arr. Jonathan Bates)

Encore

  • Popular Music: Old Yellow Bricks (Reprise) (Alex Turner/Jon McClure, arr. Jonathan Bates)

A programme of pure innovation

From the off, BD1 Brass were out to entertain and amaze its live audience and streamed audience. We opened the concert with an original piece by our Jonathan. The piece was Agincourt Song, clearly influenced by Henry VIII’s Pastime With Good Company. A fantastic opening piece, and a change from the usual march or concert opening pieces.

Next up was a suite of musical songs arranged by Philip Harper. Entitled The World’s Greatest Storyteller, it encompasses snippets of three pieces inspired by Roald Dahl. The first was the Sherman Brothers’ theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, followed by Pure Imagination (from Mel Stuart’s film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). This was topped by Tim Minchin’s irresistible When I Grow Up from the musical version of Matilda. A fortnight earlier, Mossley Band gave us a most sumptuous performance of Harper’s medley. BD1 Brass’ performance was equally delightful.

This was followed by the first of three solos. Three successive solos in a Soloists’ Showcase a la Nicholas Childs in a Black Dyke Band concert running order style. First to take up their position was Phoebe Mallinson on flugelhorn with a song from The Phantom of the Opera. Her piece was Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. In the original West End production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical, this was sung by Sarah Brightman. As for Phoebe’s performance, superb work.

The second soloist was Ethan McCabe, this time with a trombone solo. An evergreen one in Cry Me a River by Arthur Hamilton. The song has been covered by artistes from Mari Wilson (of 1982’s Just What I Always Wanted fame) to Michael Bublé (whom according to Mr. Bates only seems to appear at Christmas). Ethan’s performance was punchy, vibrant, and most enjoyable.

For the third and final soloist of this half, we turned to the tenor horn. Enter on the aforementioned instrument, Carole-Ann Turner. Her piece was the second reference to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of the night. This time with the Sherman Brothers’ Hushabye Mountain. The song was first sung by Tony Bennett in 1968 – before Dick van Dyke sung it in the film. With Carole’s performance of Christopher Wormald’s arrangement, another cracking solo performance.

With the concert falling on the fifth anniversary of the Manchester Arena terror attack, the penultimate piece of this half was a tribute to the 22 victims. That was Andi Cook’s arrangement of Richard Wainwright’s hymn Manchester: How Sweet The Name. His 2017 arrangement played a major part in raising funds for victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack upon its initial release. Sunday’s performance was poignant and superb at the same time.

The final piece of this half was loud and long – three words that scream ‘Paul Lovatt-Cooper Test Piece’ to many a brass band listener. Also one that hasn’t had much of an airing in Tale of the Dragon. The piece was written to mark the 50th anniversary of Senshu University Tamana High School Band in Japan. A real cobweb blower to take us into the raffle and the second half.

Peake performance

The opening piece of the second half gave us an idea of BD1 Brass’ Whit Friday contest march. That of John Carr’s Bramwyn. Before COVID scuppered the 2020 and 2021 Whit Friday Contests, this was a popular march with Third Section and Second Section bands. BD1 Brass’ performance was solid enough to get us yearning for The Greatest Free Show on Earth.

This was followed by our fourth and final solo of the night: this time with Laurence Sheard euphonium. His piece was James Curnow’s Rhapsody for Euphonium. This piece was written in 1978 by Curnow as a teaching piece for his own euphonium students. With its variety of chord progressions, it is a good little workout. This is a test that Laurence passed with flying colours.

Next up was a piece written in 2010 by Ēriks Ešenvalds. Entitled Only In Sleep, it is based on a poem by Sara Teasdale which is a nostalgic vision of childhood in a dream state. If you read the poem, it is a heartwarming piece. This came out well in BD1 Brass’ performance.

The final quarter of the concert saw BD1 Brass at its most conceptual whilst being accessible at the same time. For 20 minutes, we were treated to the mini programme from last year’s Wychavon Entertainment Contest, which gave them the Second Section prize.

Their mini concert set was based on the life and times of Tim Peake, the British astronaut. As well as paying tribute to his space walk and referencing his journey from Chichester to outer space, it was a good showcase for Bates’ arrangement skills. First up was A Chichester Prelude, which was based on the astronaut’s formative years and the song Sussex Carol.

Next up was The Royal Green Jackets, another Bates composition. In this chapter, we look at Tim Peake’s military life, which a more bombastic beat. This took us up to the Ignition Sequence and an arrangement of Frank Ticheli’s Earth Song. Not to be confused with Michael Jackson’s song, Ticheli’s song was written in 2014 – 19 years after MJ’s UK Number One single. It is a song that has folk leanings that was originally transcribed for woodwind.

At the Wychavon Entertainment Contest, BD1 Brass had the luxury of video footage. Over at Boarshurst Band Club, an Alexa speaker gave us the narrative sequences between pieces. This worked better in the concert setting, as it enables audience members to use their head and picture Peake’s space walk.

The second half of the suite took us to what Jonathan called Tenuous Link Time. Our next four pieces were bite size versions of Sir Elton John’s works. First up – and filed under ‘rude not to’ – was Rocket Man, the song which inspired Taron Egerton’s excellent biopic. Staying in the 1970s, we continued with Crocodile Rock and Your Song – and the Tenuous Link Thread worked well (just like the tunes you get on Homes Under The Hammer). Finishing on a high, we ‘landed’ in 1983 with I’m Still Standing.

For my money, this was the real highlight of BD1 Brass’ concert. If Messrs John and Taupin are fine with it, Bates’ arrangements of Elton John’s tunes could be a superb standalone medley. As such, Rocket Man may be a suitable title. With another two songs of his (possibly Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting and Philadelphia Freedom) it has great potential to be a much loved medley at any concert. As much loved as any of the Tom Jones or ABBA medleys (and the Roald Dahl one arranged by Philip Harper at the other end of the concert).

The four pieces before Elton’s works made the tribute to Tim Peake complete, and it wasn’t hard to see how BD1 Brass smashed it in the Second Section prizes at Wychavon.

Interestingly, the final piece of the night had a tenuous link, almost into the same territory as a 3-2-1 clue. Instead of Sir Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, we moved on to the Arctic Monkeys’ Old Yellow Bricks. Released in 2007, this punchy tune came from the Sheffield band’s Favourite Worst Nightmare LP. Its transcription from heavy indie rock anthem to brass band music was seamless. What a fantastic finale.

As for the encore, it was a reprise of the previous song. Simple, but effective, leaving us hungry for their next concert.

*                  *                  *

BD1 Brass’ début at Boarshurst Band Club was a fantastic one. This was helped by an excellent musical director who was concise and informative. It is the sound of a brass band on the up, brimming with potential to go past the Second Section and beyond.

To misquote the lyrics of their last piece, they are clearly not a band that sleeps in the city that never wakes up. They aren’t blinded by nostalgia; onwards and upwards is their motto.

Next up at Boarshurst Band Club…

Heading to the Brass Vegas of the North this coming Sunday is Huddersfield and Ripponden Band. As always, doors are open from 6.30 pm for the usual 7.30 pm start. Please arrive in good time to be sure of a good seat.

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. Please note that after 7pm its evening journeys are operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 25 May 2022.

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