Stylish show makes for memorable night of music

Consistency runs through Silk Brass like ‘Blackpool’ does with a stick of rock. At each concert, Tony Wyatt and Co give their audience a merry dance, with a lively programme of classics and future classics. Last Sunday’s concert was no exception, as we had a welcome mix of music from 19th to 21st centuries.

Silk Brass’ approach to concert planning is really effective: something for listeners and players in their late teens as well as eighty-somethings. Something for aficionados for popular marches as well as meatier pieces. With Wyatt’s carefully chosen pieces, everyone’s happy. 

What was reassuring was the turnout at Boarshurst: much higher than previous gigs with Silk Brass. Deservedly so, because they have always given their all (and I have ran out of the number of times I have screamed to myself “You don’t know what you’re missing!”).

Also behind the wheel behind the scenes in Marton is Adrian Horn. If Tony Wyatt was Trevor Horn in Buggles, Adrian Horn (no relation to the legendary producer) would be Geoff Downes. Besides being a whizz on soprano cornet, he is also a whizz with the arranger’s pen. (We were treated to some of his arranged pieces too).

For the price of a pint in Central London (or 750g of Lurpak butter) you got a first rate programme and an enjoyable two hours entertainment. Including, as seen on the Four Bars Rest website, The World Famous Raffle and sixteen pieces to boot.

First Half

  1. March: Le Reve Passe (Georges Krier)
  2. Light Concert Music: Water of Tyne (arr. Philip Harper)
  3. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Adrian Horn): Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney, arr. Ray Farr)
  4. Light Concert Music: Hope (Stijn Aertgeerts)
  5. Baritone Solo (performed by Rob Dale): Carrickfergus (Traditional, arr. Stephen Roberts)
  6. Popular Music: Play That Funky Music (Rob Parissi, arr. Adrian Horn)
  7. Original Piece: A Klezmer Karnival (Philip Sparke)

Second Half

  1. Light Concert Piece: Malaguena (Ernesto Lecuona, arr. Mark Freeh)
  2. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Ben Bradley): Solitaire (Neil Sedaka, arr. Stephen Corbett)
  3. Classical Piece: Polovtsian Dances (Alexander Borodin, arr. Eddie Huckridge)
  4. Hymn: Lord of All Hopefulness (Slane) (Jan Struther, arr. Rebecca Lundberg)
  5. Film Music (from The Muppets): Life’s a Happy Song (Amy Adams/Jason Segal/Walter, arr. Adrian Horn)
  6. Eb Bass Solo (performed by Dean Moorhouse): Czardas (Vittorio Monti, arr. Steve Sykes)
  7. Popular Music: The Wellerman (Nathan Evans, arr. Gavin Somerset)
  8. March: Festmarch No.1 (Maximilian Petz)

Encore

  • Popular Music: Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)

“And they were dancing, and singing, and moving to the grooving…”

First up was a classic military march, transcribed for brass bands. Georges Krier’s Le Reve Passe gave us our first rousing piece of the day. It is also known as The Soldier’s Dream, which has also been performed by Josef Locke. A great start to the night, well performed.

At the opposite end of the scale was another classic. That of The Water of Tyne. In the song, a woman sees her paramour being separated by the aforementioned river. The ferry depicted in the song is said to be near Haughton Castle. Today, no ferry exists, and buses are virtually non-existent. Silk Brass gave us all another great performance.

Then again, if the woman had her own powerboat, she wouldn’t have such problems. Nevertheless, powerboats paid off for Roger Moore in Live and Let Die. Playing the title theme of 1973’s Bond theme was Adrian Horn on soprano cornet. Sir Paul McCartney’s work tops many a chart of James Bond film music, and Ray Farr’s arrangement does it proud. This was enhanced by Horn’s playing techniques: clear, beautifully defined and a real joy to listen to as well. Excellent stuff.

Next in the running order was Hope by Stijn Aertgeerts. The song is a message of hope, exactly what it says on tin. According to the programme notes, it is really a cry for help. The piece came second overall in the Cory Band/Kapitol Promotions/RWCMD Composition Prize. Its composer, Stijn Aertgeerts is another one to look out for, having played in the European Youth Brass Band in 2005, and learning to play tuba at the altar of James Gourlay. With Silk Brass giving this piece the shop window it deserves, we hope many more bands across take their lead.

This was followed by the second soloist of the night, and the appearance of a Lesser Spotted Baritone Horn solo. Enter Rob with a rendition of Carrickfergus. The traditional Irish song is a favourite go-to piece for soloists and slow melody programme items. It is a traditional piece of Irish folk music based on a bawdy gentleman, which has been performed by The Dubliners. At previous concerts, we have heard this piece as a euphonium solo. Over a fortnight ago, this was played by Becky Childs for City of Bradford Brass Band on baritone. As for Rob’s performance, another cracker.

Next up was our first Horn Arrangement of the night. This time with Play That Funky Music, originally a hit for Wild Cherry in 1976. This was followed by Vanilla Ice’s cover in 1989 (more DJs preferred its ‘B’ side, Ice Ice Baby). Wild Cherry’s original is a nailed-on disco classic. Once more, Silk Brass’ version had us all “dancing and singing, and moving to the grooving.” Horn’s arrangement deserves to be part of any concert programme. Silk Brass’ performance was convincing enough to sell a few more copies and make Mr Horn a bit richer.

Last of all in this half was a nice bit of Jewish style music in A Klezmer Karnival. Written by Philip Sparke, there are three distinct songs in Choson Kale Mazel Tov (a wedding dance), Freylekh (a Jewish Circle Dance) and Sherele (also known as The Little Scissors Dance). As for Klezmer, the word is derived from ‘Kley’ and ‘Zemer’ – which is song and music when translated into English. A fantastic little number, well performed.

Halfway up the stage…

After The World Famous Raffle, we resumed our programme with Ernesto Lecuona’s Malagueña. Composed by Ernesto Lecuona in 1933, it has been transcribed in many forms and began life as the sixth movement of Suite Andalucia. As we found, it is a great piece for opening the second half of any concert. I was also reminded of The Cory Band’s performance of that piece at Stoller Hall in December 2018 which was testament to Silk Brass’ playing abilities. Excellent.

This was followed by the third soloist of the night. On its own at number two (maybe nine if pedantry’s your thing) was Ben Bradley on principal cornet. His piece was Solitaire, a classic 1970s song written by Neil Sedaka, later covered by The Carpenters. This little test of slow melody proved to be a successful for Mr Bradley. Well done, great performance.

Our third piece of this half was a real oldie. That of Polovtsian Dances by Alexander Borodin. This piece features at the end of Act Two of Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. The work was unfinished till Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov completed it in 1890. In brass banding circles. Instead of Howard Snell’s arrangement, we had for a change Eddie Huckridge’s take on the piece. For years, Huckridge’s arrangement has been a staple of Brighouse and Rastrick Band’s concert programme. With Silk Brass, a most exhilarating rendition and joyous addition to Sunday night’s concert.

The fourth piece of this half was Jan Struther’s Lord of All Hopefulness (Slane). The hymn tune is used in the liturgy of weddings and at the start of funeral services. On the 19 May 2018, it was the opening hymn of Meghan Markle’s and Harry’s Windsor’s wedding. Another piece that went down well and rightly so.

Next up was another Horn Arrangement. This time with Adrian’s transcription of Life’s a Happy Song. From The Muppets film of 2011, it is another message of happiness. If you listen to the song in its original form, you can see how it fits in well with the togetherness of the brass banding movement. Whether you have seen the film or not, it is a great, uplifting song, and Horn’s arrangement does the original proud. Needless to say, Silk Brass put in another great shift.

This was followed by our fourth and final solo of the night: an Eb Bass Solo by Dean Moorhouse and a bonafide classic in Czardas. It is an Hungarian style dance piece, which was written in 1904 by an Italian composer. Vittorio Monti, its composer, was born in Naples where he studied violin and composition at the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella. The piece is often played on a trombone and is seen by some players as a real lip-frazzler. Whether his lips took a hit or otherwise, Mr Moorhouse’s performance was superb.

We moved on to something a bit easier. Something modern. Modern as in over a year old modern. The penultimate piece of the night was Wellerman, a sea shanty by Nathan Evans which – to my ears – always reminds me of The Settlers’ theme from Follyfoot (The Lightning Tree). Gavin Somerset’s transcription of Evans’ tune to brass band music is superb, and Silk Brass did us all proud.

Our last piece of the night was Festmarch No.1, an arrangement of Richard Strauss’ piece by Maximilian Petz. The original piece was written in 1876, with Mr Petz’s arrangement dedicated to Silk Brass for all their hard work. Based in Austria, he has arranged numerous pieces with his pet subjects being Strauss and Beethoven. A beautiful arrangement, and – probably because he isn’t heard of outside Mainland Europe – another name to look out for in the future. Another great performance.

After enjoying the craic at Boarshurst Band Club, it would have been amiss of Wyatt and Co. to have left without an encore. What an encore piece we had: Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. His muse was John F. Kennedy’s daughter, who was eleven years old at the time. Peaking at Number Four in the US Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1969, it reached the UK singles charts two years later. In 1971, it peaked at Number Eight. In the last two years, it has been adopted by England fans in last year’s Euros (the European Championships or the European Nations Cup in old money, if you ask). Due to its recent past, this song encourages the concertgoer to sing along and shout “so good, so good…”.

* * *

If brass bands were available on prescription, two hours with Silk Brass should do the trick. One or two might say the same about The World Famous Boarshurst Raffle at the interval. Everybody left the venue or the live stream with smiles on their faces, refreshed and ready to start a new week. Whether Resurgam, Ravenswood or The Floral Dance appears on your playlist, they are well worth seeing.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

Our friends from Harmony Street, Milnrow Band will be in concert at The Mecca of Brass Banding.  That’s at the usual time of 7.30 pm, doors open from 6.30 pm.  Due to great local support, please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

Buses

  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester).

Please alight outside the former Greenfield Conservative Club which is just before (to Oldham) or after (to Ashton) the zebra crossing. All post-6pm journeys of the 350 route are operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

S.V., 06 July 2022.

Macclesfield Heritage Centre image by Mike In Macc, 2013 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike).

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