Box office thrills make for exciting movie themed concert (and why not?)

The music of John Williams, John Barry, Ron Goodwin and Hans Zimmer seem to have one thing in common. Apart from being penned by legendary composers, a lot of their music seems to have been written with brass bands in mind. Though we wish that is the case, their music transcribes well for brass bands – hence the popularity of movie themed brass band concerts.

For last night’s concert, Greenalls Band arrived at a similar conclusion. Their research came from a series of concerts they did at care homes across Wigan and St. Helens way. At their people-centred concerts, most of the supported persons’ requested music was film music. For example: Hans Zimmer’s theme from Pirates of the Caribbean or John Williams’ theme from ET.

As movie themed brass band concerts went, there was enough familiar pieces to go round with lesser heard pieces. Greenalls Band got that balance right with a well thought out programme. One that shied away from the usual Movie Brass Type Concerts with Breezing Down Broadway to begin and, somewhere within the second half of the concert programme, the theme from Jurassic Park. It was a programme that spanned eight decades worth of film music and a neat selection of marches.

There was two more nice touches to last night’s concert: a film quiz and free popcorn at each table. The popcorn tub was used for promotional purposes with the band’s details. A novel way to spread the word around.

For less than the price of an ODEON hot dog and a large Coca Cola (other carbonated drinks are available), Greenalls Band took its audience on a joyous feature length journey of fabulous film themes. The only thing we missed was the Pearl and Dean theme, Asteroid by Pete Moore and ushers showing you to your seat. As movie themed concerts go, one that would have been a rave review off Barry Norman or Derek Malcolm.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Intro: 20th Century Fox Theme (Alfred Newman)
  2. Theme from Trading Places: The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arr. Elmer Bernstein)
  3. Theme from Singin’ In The Rain (Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown, arr. Alan Fernie)
  4. Cornet Solo (performed by Howard Bousfield): Cheer Up, Charlie (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley, arr. Gavin Somerset)
  5. Theme from The Eagle Has Landed (Lalo Schifrin)
  6. Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Louise Bousfield): Concerto de Aranjuez (Joaquin Rodrigo)
  7. Theme from Thunderball (John Barry, arr. Christopher Wormald)
  8. Music from Once Upon a Time in America: Deborah’s Theme (Ennio Morricone)
  9. Incidental Music from Pirates of the Caribbean (Klaus Badelt/Hans Zimmer)
  10. March from Battle of Britain (The Aces High March) (Ron Goodwin, arr. Denzil Stephens)

Second Half

  1. Main theme from Rocky: Gonna Fly Now (Bill Conti, arr. Karen Unsworth)
  2. Main theme from The Deer Hunter: Cavatina (Stanley Myers)
  3. Theme from Thunderbirds (Barry Gray)
  4. Bass Feature (performed by Richard Peel, Mike Speakman, Calvin Gover, and Mike Scotson): The Weller Man (David Hunter Rogers/Nathan Evans, arr. Karen Unsworth)
  5. Light Concert Music (as used in Zulu): Men of Harlech (arr. Gordon Langford)
  6. Music from Highlander: Who Wants to Live Forever (Brian May, arr. Philip Harper)
  7. Music from Toy Story: You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Randy Newman)
  8. Main theme from The Dam Busters (Eric Coates)

Encore

  1. Main theme from Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (Ron Goodwin)

Orange juice

For a movie themed concert, it was fitting that we opened with the theme from 20th Century Fox. Almost as much as the Rank gong, Universal Studios fanfare or the Pearl and Dean theme, it is a theme that screams ‘cinema’. As well as composing the signature tunes for 200 films, his 20th Century Fox fanfare is his most famous work by far. In a brass band setting, it doesn’t half sound good.

Next up was Elmer Bernstein’s arrangement of The Magic Flute, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This was used in the film Trading Places where a rich broker and a poor homeless man cross paths subject to a bet they didn’t know about. In this piece we hear the second movement of the Jupiter symphony. Good stuff, well played.

The third item in our programme is quite a bit of a concert standard, not only in movie themed concerts. That of Singin’ in the Rain. Being the title song of the 1929 musical, it has been used in a Morecambe and Wise sketch that parodied the Gene Kelly film. Only a few years before then, a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange. 13 years ago it formed the basis of George Sampson’s UK No.1 single. A most evergreen piece that was well performed. 

This was followed by our first of two soloists of this half, both of which performed by members of the Bousfield family. First up on cornet was Howard with Gavin Somerset’s arrangement of Cheer Up, Charlie from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In the film starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, it is sung by Charlie Bucket’s mother during a bleak time in his family (detailed in Roald Dahl’s book in the tenth chapter, The Family Begins to Starve). As well as being a nice change from The Greatest Storyteller (a great piece arranged by Philip Harper), a brilliant performance by Howard.

Next up we turned to the pen of Lalo Schifrin, a prolific writer of many TV and film tunes from Argentina. This time with the theme music from The Eagle Has Landed. Starring Michael Caine and Donald Sutherland, the 1976 film is an adaptation of the 1975 novel by Jack Higgins. It is about a botched plot by the Nazis to kidnap Winston Churchill. In The Grimleys, ITV’s affectionate sitcom set in Dudley in the mid-1970s, it was the subject of a school play at Gordon Grimley’s school. A neat contrast to the previous melancholy piece. Good stuff.

Being the bottom base of the Bousfield Sandwich was flugelhorn soloist Louise. If you said ‘orange juice’, ‘that flugelhorn piece played by Gloria in Brassed Off‘ or ‘Concerto de Aranjuez‘, give yourself a gold star. Apart from being the most famous, and the most played piece from Mark Herman’s 1996 film, it was originally written for guitar. It has also been covered by Manuel and his Music of the Mountains, a front for Todmorden’s second most famous musical export Geoff Love. With your reviewer trying to refrain using Danny Ormondroyd’s quote, it was another good solo performance by Louise.

No Movie Night/Night At The Movies/Movie Magic/Movie Brass/Film Music brass band concert is complete without a James Bond piece. The theme from Skyfall and Goff Richards’ James Bond Collection are often popular choices. Last night we had the little heard theme from Thunderball. Composed by John Barry, the original theme was sung by “a then youthful” (Russell the MD’s words) Tom Jones and still sounds fresh today. The same could be said of the brass band arrangement by Christopher Wormald. With a good full band performance, like Greenalls Band showed us last night, even better.

Jumping two decades ahead, our next piece came from Once Upon a Time in America. Starring Robert de Niro and directed by Sergio Leone, the 1984 film sees a former prohibition-era Jewish gangster coming to terms with his past. Returning to Manhattan, he remembers his girlfriend Deborah, the subject of Deborah’s Theme. It is based on a novel by Harry Grey entitled The Hoods. Composed by Ennio Morricone, it is a brooding theme which gives the band a little test in the slow melody department. Brilliant stuff again.

Our penultimate piece of the first half was the incidental music from Pirates of the Caribbean. Of late, Klaus Badelt’s music from the films starring Johnny Depp have been a popular choice at brass band concerts over the last two decades. This swashbuckling theme was another great musical journey by last night’s band.

Whilst on a high our last piece of this half was The Aces High March, the first piece of the night by Ron Goodwin. Originally known as Luftwaffe March, it was written for Battle of Britain, a 1969 film starring Michael Caine, Harry Andrews and Trevor Howard. The march, reflecting the film’s subject matter, is written in a military style. For brass bands, another winner as we found out last night.

Rising up to the challenge of our rivals

For the opening piece of the second half, we had the final piece of the first half from last week’s concert. That of Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now from 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. The arrangement we heard was the first of two arrangements by Karen Unsworth, a friend of Greenalls Band. Compared with last week’s arrangement, Ms. Unsworth’s version is more melodic though some might say lacking in a bit of oomph. Nevertheless, it was a most agreeable one and a joy to listen to as well.

Staying in the 1970s for our next piece was Cavatina from The Deer Hunter (1978). Composed in 1969 by Stanley Myers, its original use was in a 1970 film called The Walking Stick starring David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar, based on a 1967 Winston Graham novel. As the film didn’t have the same impact of The Deer Hunter, it wasn’t widely known till then, by which time it was covered by John Williams and The Shadows. Instead of Hank Marvin’s guitar, last night’s band didn’t miss a trick with their rendition. Brilliant stuff.

Next, we moved on to a television theme that begat a spin-off movie. A children’s television series by Gerry Anderson based around the Tracy family and International Rescue. If you guessed Thunderbirds, well done for guessing the TV series that used Barry Gray’s theme. It has also spawned three spin-off movies with its most recent iteration released in 2004. Whereas the last one was panned and flopped, the previous two films Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968) despite favourable to mixed reviews, didn’t do too well in the cinemas either. Altogether better was Greenalls Band’s rendition of Gray’s theme, which had me wishing I made that Tracy Island on Blue Peter before putting on the World Famous Boarshurst Raffle as a prize.

From International Rescue, we moved on to a New Zealand sea shanty that has gained wider fame thanks to social media. Last year, Nathan Evans’ cover of The Wellerman went viral on TikTok. The song itself is about whaling and the captain’s staff were known as Wellermen. Once again, we turned to the arranger’s pen of Karen Unsworth who crafted last night’s bass feature (take a bow, Messrs Peel, Speakman, Gover, and Scotson). A most enjoyable interlude. As to which film it featured in, an earlier version was heard in the Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins film The Bounty (1984). Which, given the kerfuffle over Britain’s Favourite Shredded Coconut Chocolate Bar this week seems a strange coincidence.

Indirectly, Michael Caine makes a third appearance in last night’s concert, by means of the 1964 film Zulu. Featuring in the said film is Men of Harlech, which shows how the band’s movie themed concert wasn’t afraid to veer from the normal stereotypical Movie Brass concerts. We were treated to Gordon Langford’s arrangement which, outside of Michael Caine’s films, is a nailed-on concert classic. One that can fit in any concert programme quite easily. Needless to say, we lapped this up and loved it.

Next up, we moved from another Celtic nation to another: Scotland this time, courtesy of Brian May. If you guessed Highlander and Who Wants to Live Forever, you should be writing these notes with your trusty reviewer. It is the sixth track on Queen’s A Kind of Magic LP and the song depicts whether immortality is all cracked up to be. In Highlander, Connor MacLeod sees how his wife Heather ages and dies whilst he stays immortal. Forever in our memories was Greenalls Band’s performance of a little played piece of film music. Brilliant with a capital ‘b’.

For our penultimate piece of the night, our one and only Walt Disney themed piece. Besides the Star Wars franchise, Walt Disney’s other significant intellectual property on the big screen is Toy Story. Taking moviegoers to infinity and beyond since 1995, one of its best known songs in You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Written by Randy Newman, it is the most important song across its four films, opening the first, third and fourth films. The song is about a boy’s relationship with a less flashier cowboy toy called Woody, and the super-flash all bells and whistles Buzz Lightyear (which also became a self-fulfilling prophecy as real life toy stores ran out of Buzz Lightyears in Christmas 1996).

The song was also produced by Don Was, previously known as the genius behind Was Not Was (UK one hit wonders with Walk The Dinosaur in 1988). As for the band’s relationship with its audience in last night’s performance, a match made in heaven. Fantastic work.

To finish the concert was Eric Coates’ theme from The Dam Busters. The 1955 film, based on the 1951 book by Paul Brickhill (and Guy Gibson’s 1946 book Enemy Coast Ahead) tells the story of the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dam raids. In popular culture, the film inspired an iconic Carling Black Label advert (1989) where a German goalkeeper saves bouncing bombs. It is also used in Black Lace’s I Am The Music Man shortly before the song finishes. A rousing finish to a brilliant concert.

The final piece proper was another by Ron Goodwin: the theme from Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Almost a year ago, this was performed by Greenfield Band – dubbed The Happiest Band In Saddleworth as seen in our review. they signed off with a Ron Goodwin classic. In the film, Terry Thomas, Sarah Miles and Stuart Whitman aim is to go from London to Paris in a slight Heath Robinson kind of way with biplanes (think Wacky Races or Dastardly and Muttley set in Edwardian times). Through hell or high weather (without the Ant Hill Mob or Peter Perfect in the way) they succeed. As for Greenalls Band, a case of Mission Accomplished – albeit with a much smoother landing and a safe journey on the East Lancashire Road thereafter. Another great night.

*               *               *

For Greenalls Band, plus its live and streamed audience, it was a most memorable night. After COVID, things are starting up again with last night’s band settling into new quarters at Clock Face Recreation Club.

The sad and somewhat ironic twist of last night’s concert was its low live audience at Boarshurst Band Club. Since COVID, our cinemas have suffered with film distributors throwing their lot into streamed services, which worked well during lockdown periods. Of late, the streaming model has affected cinema chains, to a point where Cineworld has entered into administration. 

Without bands, orchestras, higher education opportunities and live venues, there wont be any more John Williams’ or Hans Zimmers from disadvantaged backgrounds from places like Wigan and St. Helens. Our movie soundtracks would be devoid of the colour and diversity we get from today’s composers. With last night being the tail end of Bonfire Weekend, it clashed with several organised displays. To use a very 2020s term “it is what it is”.

Next at the Boarshurst Band Club

It is Remembrance Sunday, which can only mean one thing: The Mighty Boarshurst Silver Band doing their own Remembrance Concert.  That’s at the usual time of 7.30pm, doors open at 6.30pm.  Please arrive early 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. Journeys before 7pm are operated by First Manchester with journeys after that time operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband#SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 07 November 2022.

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