Boarshurst date glorious venture for Golding and Co in smashing concert
In my last six years of making my Sunday Brass Nights a regular habit, the most surprising concerts I have found have come from lower to middle section bands. I have seen some concerts where Third and Fourth Section bands have delivered more exciting programmes than those in the Championship and First Section.
As well as contesting and keeping children out of trouble, brass bands concerts are as much a part of our entertainment industry as Ed Sheeran and Half Man Half Biscuit. They provide great joy to our communities, help people to learn new skills, and inspire people to join their local band. Like the pub or local tennis club, a great place to meet new people and make friends. As well as British Open and National Championship wins, success can also be reflected in their community value.
Whitworth Vale and Healey Band’s success is in both its community ethos and contesting traditions. Of late it has done well in the Bolsover Entertainment Contest and the Butlin’s Mineworkers’ Contest, clearly a band on the up.
A concrete example of their rise could be seen in Whitworth Vale and Healey Band’s Sunday Brass Night. With Musical Director Mike Golding, we were treated to a concert programme that a First Section or high ranking Second Section band would be proud of. For a dark and miserable Sunday night in Greenfield, Mike’s patter and Whitworth Vale and Healey Band’s performance lit up the skies. At Boarshurst Band Club, its accessible programme was well received, especially its mix of familiar tunes and underplayed classics.
In the last two years, the band has come up in leaps and bounds, as proven in our latest review.
- March: Famous British Marches (Various, arr. Gordon Langford);
- Overture: Overture from The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. William Rimmer);
- Cornet Solo (performed by Oliver Tattersall): First Light (Ben Hollings);
- Light Concert Music: Cossack Ride and Slavonic Dance (Brunon Barron, arr. Ray Woodfield);
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Rachel Dyson): Misty (Erroll Garner, arr. Darrol Barry);
- Hymn: In Perfect Peace (Kenneth Downie);
- Light Concert Music: Birdland (Joe Zawinul, arr. Philip Sparke);
- Film Music (from Rocky): Gonna Fly Now (Bill Conti).
- Concert Opener: Prelude for an Occasion (Edward Gregson);
- Baritone Solo (performed by Gillian Mastyla): Donegal Bay (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
- Light Concert Music: Vivat Regina, Suite for Brass Band Op.75 (William Mathias);
- Major Work Movement: Elegy from Entertainments (Gilbert Vinter);
- Euphonium Solo (performed by Ian Peters): Glorious Ventures (Peter Graham);
- Classical Piece: Blue Rondo A La Turk (Dave Brubeck, arr. Edwards);
- Popular Music: Music (John Miles, arr. Philip Sparke).
- March: Finale from William Tell (Rossini)
Play Misty for me, Rachel…
Our first piece was Famous British Marches, a march medley delightfully curated by the late great Gordon Langford. This piece opened Diggle Band’s most recent concert and his arrangement does what it says on the tin before closing with Rule Britannia. For any Remembrance Day or Night of the Proms concerts, Langford’s arrangement is a must-have in any programme. Probably a shoo-in for Whitworth Vale and Healey Band’s Remembrance Concert programme, and a well played start to the proceedings.
In traditional style, it was overture time. This time with a piece of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the Overture from The Magic Flute. The opera, written in 1791, sees the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina. She is held hostage by the High Priest, Sarastro. Sunday’s performance was proof you couldn’t keep an old classic down, and this was seen in the band’s musical abilities.
We saw a change of tone in our third piece with our first soloist of the night. Enter on cornet Oliver Tattersall with a modern classic in Ben Hollings’ First Light. The piece, as you would guess, depicts the first light of the day as darkness follows daylight. An appropriate piece given that we turned the clocks back earlier on Sunday. As the in-house composer for Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band, Mr Hollings wrote the piece especially for its then principal cornetist Kirsty Abbotts. Oliver’s performance was an impressive one, following in the footsteps of his father who plays principal cornet.
From a modern day classic to a forgotten classic, we moved on to Brunon Barron’s Cossack Ride and Slavonic Dance. As with Gordon Langford’s arrangement earlier, another piece that does exactly what it says on the tin. On recorded works, it appears on Decca’s Sounds of Brass series of LPs for James Shepherd’s Versatile Brass (1978) and Fairey Engineering Works Band (1980). Another great performance.
This was followed by the second soloist of the night, a song that was Johnny Mathis’ signature tune. Enter on flugelhorn Rachel Dyson, with the piece she chosen or had chosen for her (it is always the latter in brass banding circles). That of Erroll Garner’s Misty. The song is the subject of a 1971 Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty for Me where the director plays a radio DJ. It has been covered by numerous artistes including Ray Stevens (the Ray Stevens of The Streak fame, a UK Number One single in 1974). Once again, Rachel impressed us all with another great solo performance. Brilliant.
Next came the first hymn of the night. A classic, much underplayed hymn in Kenneth Downie’s In Perfect Peace. It is based on the words of Isaiah 26 and is one of more than fifty compositions by Kenneth Downie. He is noted in Salvationist circles for his work. Another one we enjoyed.
Our penultimate piece of this half couldn’t have been any more different to the previous one. This time with our first foray into jazz music in Joe Zawinul’s Birdland. Zawinul, a member of Weather Report, has performed alongside Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis. The song was written in 1977 as a tribute to the Birdland night club in New York City. The arrangement we enjoyed was Philip Sparke’s, which – like our band’s performance – was another cracker.
The first half finale was our first foray into film music of the night. A piece of film music which is about as well known as Happy Birthday (though a similar claim can be made with the James Bond theme). If you guessed the theme from Rocky, get yourself a gold star. If you referred to Bill Conti’s tune as its proper title, Gonna Fly Now, there’s a platinum star coming your way. It was first heard in the first of five Rocky films that ran from 1976 to 1990. Well after the franchise’s original five films, it has been used for incidental music in TV commercials – most notably the 118 118 telephone enquiry service. A rousing finish to the first half, well performed.
A glorious venture indeed
In a concert that was all Treat instead of Trick, there was a few more goodies in the pipeline. In lieu of a quarter of Haribo Starmix, we got a solo piece by The Mighty PLC and a late-1970s classic by a Jarrow born singer songwriter.
First out of the goody bag was Edward Gregson’s Prelude For An Occasion. As concert openers go, one that seems to be overlooked in favour of Alan Fernie’s Prismatic Light. Born in Sunderland in 1945, Gregson has written several pieces including Of Distant Memories (Music in an Olden Style) (2012), and Rococo Variations (2008). The piece was written in 1968, for a TV advertised Black Dyke Mills Band album called Best of British Brass. Another one we loved, always a pleasure to hear that classic again.
Speaking of classics, we returned to the field of modern classics, and a sumptuous one in Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Donegal Bay. Taking up her position on baritone horn was Gillian Mastyla. The titular bay on the north-eastern side of the Republic of Ireland is a favourite part of the world for its composer. The piece paints a picture of some of the finest scenery in Ireland., noted for fishing, sunsets, and wild swimming. Owing to its serene nature, Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s piece is a test of skill in the slow melody department. This was one that Gillian passed straight away. Fantastic stuff.
Next up was a tribute to the recently departed Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second. William Mathias’ Vivat Regina, Suite for Brass Band Op.75 was written to commemorate The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. It was commissioned by The London Celebrations Committee, in association with the British Federation of Brass Bands and Harry Mortimer. This was Mathias’ only work for brass bands, and a pretty good one at that. Beautiful.
From the least prolific composer of brass band music, we moved over to one of the most prolific composers of major works for brass bands. If you wake up in a cold sweat to the strains of Symphony of Marches or Spectrum, that is all Gilbert Vinter’s doing. On Sunday we heard the elegy from Entertainments (1968), which is the major work’s middle movement. The first and last movements are Caprice and March respectively. In 2006, it was used as the Third Section Test Piece for that year’s National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain Regional Finals. Another great day in the office.
Staying on the subject of prolific writers of major works, we moved on to a Peter Graham piece. Enter the fourth and final soloist of the night, Ian Peters with Glorious Ventures on euphonium. The piece is a variation of Lily of the Valley, and has been recorded by the likes of Steven Mead and Roger Webster. With his eloquent euphonium techniques, Ian made a fantastic job of his solo piece. Bravo, Ian.
If you like works with alternating time signatures, Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk well and truly fits the bill. The piece sounds less complex than it actually is. It has two different time signatures alternating with each other near the start and the finish of the piece (9/8 time with a side melody in the 4/4 time signature, inspired by the Turkish aksak time signatures). As with a previous concert featuring The Lindley Band, the only programme item to have inspired a 1980s band, Blue Rondo a la Turk. With the addition of Polish singer Basia, they would change their name to Matt Bianco in 1983. Lovely.
For the finale, we moved back to the 1970s, to the year of that famous Long Hot Summer. Five years before Blue Rondo a la Turk’s Me and Mister Sanchez made a minor dent in the UK Singles Chart, John Miles released his most famous song of all, Music. We were treated to Philip Sparke’s timeless arrangement of his single that peaked at Number Three in the UK singles chart. Keeping him off the top spot for three weeks was The Brotherhood of Man’s Eurovision Song Contest entry Save Your Kisses For Me, Barry White’s You See The Trouble With Me, and ABBA’s Fernando. As for Whitworth Vale and Healey Band’s performance, a top drawer finish.
Finishing the concert properly was an all time classic. Another piece that is almost as well known as Happy Birthday in the Finale from the William Tell Overture. For fans of Brassed Off, it is at that point in the film when Danny Ormondroyd leaves his hospital bed for the Royal Albert Hall. In electronic form with Moog synthesizers, it is heard in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. With a bit of the old virtuosity, Whitworth Vale and Healey Band signed off in style.
Next Week at Boarshurst…
The next concert is on the 7th November when our next band is Greenalls Band. They have just moved in to new premises at Clock Face Mineworkers’ and Recreation Club, where the band will rehearse on its first floor. That’ll be at 7.30 pm, doors open at 6.30 pm. Please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.
Hourly 350 buses from Ashton-under-Lyne, Mossley, Uppermill, Delph, Dobcross and Oldham call at the former Conservative Club stop.
All buses are operated by First Manchester before 7pm; post-7pm journeys are operated by Stagecoach Manchester. Please note that maximum adult single fares are £2.00 with child fares at £1.00.
Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.
S.V., 01 November 2022.