Marvellous Meltham Mills makes magical music matters in Sunday spectacular

It has been quite a long time since Meltham and Meltham Mills Band had a Sunday Brass Night at Boarshurst. It may be fair, if a little impolite even, to say our last review was chiselled onto stone tablets.

With the likeable Tom Haslam as Musical Director, there’s every chance last Sunday’s concert would be a corker. As always he delivered. For the best of two hours, we found why they are Yorkshire’s second highest ranked Second Section band.

Where does one begin?  Entertaining and engaging MD? Check. MD jokes on a par with Dad Jokes or Christmas Cracker Jokes? Check. Great solos? Of course, including one by the MD himself (Check). A neat range of popular pieces? Check. A fiver or so at the door? Cash only.

Throughout the concert, there was an enjoyable mix of traditional hymns and marches alongside modern film music, and the meeting of two musical legends in their respective fields in one piece.

Meltham and Meltham Mills gave us all a night to remember.  Musical serotonin for the masses, whether live on location or live streamed from Diggle or Dusseldorf.

First Half

  1. March: Death or Glory (R.B. Hall)
  2. Overture: Overture from Star Wars (John Williams, arr. Ray Farr)
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Paula): Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Alan Morrison)
  4. Popular Music: Ticket to Ride (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Alan Fernie)
  5. Film Music (from Shrek): Fairytale (John Powell, arr. Alan Fernie)
  6. Light Concert Music: The Elephant (Camille Saint Saens, arr. Gordon Langford)
  7. Light Concert Music: Pastime With Good Company (Henry VIII)

Second Half

  1. Welsh Anthem: Men of Harlech (Traditional)
  2. Film Music Medley: The James Bond Collection (John Barry, arr. Goff Richards)
  3. Hymn: Amazing Grace (Traditional, arr. William Himes)
  4. Light Concert Music: African Waltz (Galt McDermot, arr. Derek Broadbent)
  5. Popular Music: Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury, arr. Darrol Barry)
  6. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Tom): Solitaire (Neil Sedaka, arr. Stephen Corbett)
  7. Classical Piece: Toccata in D Minor (J.S. Bach, arr. Ray Farr)


  • Original Piece: West Nab (Ian Shepherd).

Yoda on my mind

First up was R.B Hall’s Death or Glory. It is one of many contest marches you often hear on Whit Walks and on the deportment march. Some bands use it as their contest march. It opens Brassed Off with the glow of miners’ helmets on the way out of Grimley Colliery. A great start from Meltham and Meltham Mills Band.

Next up was our overture. A modern overture in John Williams’ Overture from Star Wars. Depending on how you have watched the Star Wars films, it is either the most famous piece from George Lucas’ first film or the most famous piece from the fourth film in the series (also known as Star Wars: A New Hope, following on from the third of its prequels Revenge of the Sith). With Williams’ iconic musical score and the power of brass instruments, they really did feel the force.

Piece number three was our first soloist of the night: a traditional solo concert item in Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia On My Mind. Enter on principal cornet Paula with her performance of Alan Morrison’s arrangement of the said piece. As well as being a concert favourite, Hoagy Carmichael’s song has been covered by the likes of Annie Lennox. Paula’s performance was superb. Brilliant work.

Next up was a brace of arrangements by Alan Fernie. First up was the atmospheric Ticket To Ride. Fernie’s arrangement of The Beatles’ song always has me reaching for the handkerchief, wiping a bit of soot from my eye. It was released in 1965, which on a sad note was the final closure date of the Meltham to Lockwood branch line. A most efficient and well mannered performance.

The second Fernie arrangement of the night involved a different kind of horsepower: donkeys, as in the donkey seen in Shrek. The piece we heard was Fairytale, the first piece on the Shrek soundtrack album. It is a most serene piece which, in brass band terms, is a neat test in the slow melody. Fantastic work.

Our penultimate piece of this half saw the band let their hair down with a piece called Elephant. Instead of being John Ord-Hume’s march, we were treated to Camille Saint Saens’ piece. It is part of a wider body of work called The Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnaval des animaux) which is 25 minutes long (two minutes longer than Genesis’ legendary Supper’s Ready). From the band, we had a supporting role on duck call. A lovely, welcome novelty item to the programme.

We closed the first half with our oldest piece to date. A most enjoyable one by Henry VIII in Pastime With Good Company. It is also known as The King’s Ballad and is reputed to have been written for Catherine of Aragon. Whereas Rick Wakeman made an entire LP on Henry VIII’s wives, Pastime With Good Company was covered by Jethro Tull and Gryphon. Fantastic, fantastic first half finale.

“Any way the wind blows…”

We started the second half with Men of Harlech, a traditional march that is inspired by the siege of Harlech Castle in The War of the Roses. At rugby internationals, it never fails to lift the spirits of Welsh supporters at the Millennium Stadium. Part of it was also used as the startup music for HTV Cymru (rude not to as it stood for Harlech Television). Great start to the second half.

Neither shaken nor stirred was Meltham and Meltham Mills Band’s performance of The James Bond Collection. Arranged by Goff Richards, it is a celebration of John Barry’s work for Britain’s most enduring film franchise. It has the themes from Goldfinger, the iconic original theme from Dr. No and the excellent Nobody Does It Better from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. A real concert favourite, well performed.

Our third piece of this half was a hymn: a most famous one in Amazing Grace. It was written in 1772 – 180 years before Queen Elizabeth II succeeded King George VI. In the 1970s, it took on a new life as a song beloved of protest movements. Judy Collins’ version had eight entries into the UK singles chart between 1970 and 1972. In more recent times, it has been played by some bands as a tribute to Her Majesty The Queen. Brilliant stuff.

Filed under We Haven’t Heard This One For Ages was African Waltz by Galt MacDermot. Written in 1960, African Waltz was a Grammy Award winner after the recording of Cannonball Adderley’s version. Arthur Terrance Galt MacDermot’s better known work was for the musical Hair, with songs including Aquarius. A wonderful bit of brass banding cheese, just the sort of thing for an easy going concert.

For the next two pieces, you could say this was Meltham and Meltham Mills’ 1970s Popular Music Legends Suite. First up was a UK Number One single by an iconic British band from 1975, erroneously thought of as a 1979 release by the MD. Rather than Supertramp (who have never had a UK Number One single, as shouted out by one member) it was Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody. Meltham and Meltham Mills’ version was the work of two dearly departed musical legends: arranger Darrol Barry and Freddie Mercury.

On its initial release, Bohemian Rhapsody had a nine-week stay at the top spot from December 1975, being knocked off the top spot by ABBA’s Mamma Mia! in early 1976. It is the only song in the UK singles charts to have been Christmas Number One twice, repeating that feat in 1991. This time, spending four weeks at the top with These Are The Days Of Our Lives on its Double A side. As for Meltham and Meltham Mills Band’s performance, superb.

The penultimate piece was a tribute to someone else dearly departed: arranger Stephen Corbett. Away from the podium, enter Musical Director Tom Haslam on soprano cornet with Solitaire. Arranged by the dearly departed Mr. Corbett, it is a superb transcription of the song written and performed by Neil Sedaka, made famous by The Carpenters. A stunning tribute, well performed.

Our final piece was another concert classic: J.S. Bach’s Toccata in D Minor. If you went to the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain Championship Section Final, the first few notes of this appears on the Peter Graham test piece, Hyperlink. We were treated to Ray Farr’s arrangement which is reminiscent of Sky’s arrangement of 1980 (another appearance for Sir John Williams there – alongside the late Kevin Peek, Francis Monkman and Tristan Fry). Sky’s version, from the Sky 2 LP, peaked at Number 5 in the UK Singles Chart on the 5th May 1980. Another version was covered by Sunderland punk/new wave group The Toy Dolls. As for Meltham and Meltham Mills Band’s version (the one that matters in the confines of this review), a breathtaking and superb performance.

For the encore, we had a house speciality. An exclusive to our fellows at Meltham and Meltham Mills Band in Ian Shepherd’s West Nab. The de facto signature tune is about a mysterious rocky outcrop, likened to the Irish Balluan Stones. It dominates the eastern fringes of Saddleworth Moor, is off Wessenden Head Road and is marked by a triangulation pillar 500m above sea level. (The OS Grid Reference is SE 07644 08792 and it is a bit of a walk from Meltham town centre). As encores go, a real cracker.

* * *

We hope last Sunday’s soiree at Boarshurst Band Club is the first of many for Meltham and Meltham Mills Band. They gave us all a most entertaining concert, helped in no small part by a Musical Director fine with interacting with the audience.

Next week at Boarshurst Band Club…

Our next concert is on the 23rd October when our next band is Milnrow Band.  As always, a pleasure to see our fellows from Harmony Street. That’ll be at 7.30 pm, doors open at 6.30 pm.  Please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

Public Transport

  • 350 bus: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester).
  • Trains: Manchester Piccadilly – Stalybridge – Huddersfield (First Transpennine Express) – then walk along Shaw Hall Bank Road and Chew Valley Road till you see Greenbridge Lane on your right hand side. Turn right onto Greenbridge Lane.

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., 19 October 2022.

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