Inspirational Boarshurst Silver Band wow audiences with sleek Remembrance Sunday concert

Boarshurst Silver Band’s remembrance of the fallen was marked by a busy schedule which included a concert on Armistice Day at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham. Yesterday afternoon, they were on Remembrance Day parade duty at Royton Park with Ryan Ashley playing The Last Post.

Come early evening, Jamie Prophet and Co were back for their Remembrance Sunday concert. As a standard concert, this would make for a solid programme for any Championship Section or high achieving First Section band. For a Remembrance Sunday concert, equally so, albeit with a neat balance of pieces you expect to hear at such concerts and worthy additions to any concert programme such as Finlandia and Folk Festival.

As well as a solid programme, this was marked by superb sound, tonal depth and excellent volume. A band that could spring a surprise in next year’s British Open Spring Festival Senior Cup at Blackpool Winter Gardens next year. All four solos were of an impeccable standard. Perhaps this year’s Best Band in Saddleworth in the Saddleworth Whit Friday Band Contests could be The Best First Section Band in the North West in next year’s Regional Finals.

Under Prophet, Boarshurst Silver Band are making all the right noises towards getting back to the Championship Section. As well as giving the audiences a well bodied sound from soprano to bass, each concert hosted by Jamie Prophet has improved with each performance. His patter is well mannered and informative, the epitome of a true professional.

Needless to say, we cannot wait for this year’s Christmas concert. Thanks to COVID, this would be Boarshurst Silver’s first since 2019 – and the first for Mr Prophet, over a year into his role as Musical Director. For now, this review should whet your appetite for the 18th December’s festivities.

First Half

  1. Light Concert Music: Olympic Spirit (John Williams);
  2. Overture: Finlandia (Sibelius);
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Ryan Ashley): Concert Etude (Alexander Goedicke);
  4. Hymn: A Gaelic Blessing (John Rutter);
  5. Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Billy Reynolds): Let Me Try Again (Francois Cavelli, arr. Simon Kerwin);
  6. TV Theme Music: Theme from Band of Brothers (Michael Kamen, arr. Darrol Barry);
  7. Film Music (from Forrest Gump): Feather Theme (Alan Silvestri, arr. Sandy Smith);
  8. Musical Piece (from Carousel): You’ll Never Walk Alone (Rodgers/Hammerstein, arr. Howard Snell).

Second Half

  1. Classical Piece: Folk Festival (Dimitri Shostakovich);
  2. Major Work Movement (from Little Suite for Brass): Second Movement from The Siciliano (Malcolm Arnold);
  3. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Vicky Ashley): Upon Green Vales (Paul Lovatt-Cooper);
  4. Light Concert Music: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (Don Raye/Hughie Prince, arr. Alan Fernie);
  5. Principal Trombone Solo (performed by Sam Olsen): In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning (Dave Mann/Bob Hilliard, arr. Alan Fernie);
  6. Film Music (from The Mission): Gabriel’s Oboe (Ennio Morricone);
  7. Medley: Keep Smiling Through (Various, arr. Darrol Barry):
    • The Army, the Navy and the Air Force (Herman Darewski/Edward Lockton);
    • Lilli Marlene (Norbert Schultze);
    • (There’ll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover (Walter Kent/Nat Burton);
    • We’ll Meet Again (Rose Parker/Hughie Charles).
  8. Light Concert Music: Highland Cathedral (Michael Korb/Ulrich Roever).

Encore

  • Hymn: Crimond (Jessie Irvine, arr. Goff Richards)

The Olympic Spirit of Gerry Marsden

First up was a cracking concert opener in John Williams’ Olympic Spirit. Now known as Sir John Williams (and one of the last people to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth the Second), he is undoubtedly the best known modern-day classical composer on the cosmos. For many people, it is film music with credits including ET and the Star Wars franchise. Four years after his 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games piece Olympic Fanfare, his follow up was written for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Before you could say Daley Thompson, Boarshurst Silver Band left the starting blocks in great style. (If it’s good enough for South Korea, it’s good enough for Saddleworth).

Next up in our octathlon was a real concert classic. A classical piece that never fails to lift the audience in Sibelius’ overture from Finlandia. It is a song that celebrated the wonders of Finland. Composed in 1899 for the Press Celebrations, it is to all intents a protest piece (don’t tell Putin!) against the country’s censorship from the Russian Empire. As protest pieces go, it never fails to impress. Transcribed to brass band form, it takes on a great sense of vibrancy and depth which was reflected in Ashton-under-Lyne Band’s performance over a year. Recapturing that performance (again with the same Musical Director) Boarshurst Silver Band well and truly impressed us all.

For the third part of our multi-event multi-faceted octahlon came the first of last night’s soloists. Taking his position on principal cornet was Ryan Ashley with Alexander Goedicke’s Concert Etude. It was first written for trumpet in 1936, with the cornet solo arrangement by transcribed by William Broughton. Whether on trumpet or cornet, it is a demanding piece that requires tremendous double tonguing technique. Ryan well and truly passed that test: an immaculate performance.

Next up was the first hymn of the night, and one that your reviewer rehearsed thirty years ago at his school’s Junior Choir! That of John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing, commissioned by the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska in 1978. It is based on a similar format to that of Celtic Christian prayer and offer a nice contemplative counterpoint to the previous three pieces. Fantastic work.

For the fifth piece of the night was the second soloist of the night. Another cornet solo, this time with Billy Reynolds on soprano cornet. His piece was Let Me Try Again, performed by the same soloist five years ago. The song was made popular by Frank Sinatra with lyrics by Paul Anka. Nearly 50 years ago, this was a hit for the crooner. Over 24 hours on from the time of writing this review, another remarkable performance by Billy.

Next on our list was a TV theme, and that point in the concert, our first overtly Remembrance Sunday themed piece of the night. Created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Band of Brothers is a highly acclaimed ten-part mini series by HBO (Home Box Office) which was first aired in September 2001. It is based on the 1992 non-fiction book by Stephen E. Ambrose. The music was done by Michael Kamen, whose other credits include the original score from BBC’s Edge of Darkness (1985). A most enjoyable, fantastic performance of a memorable theme.

Our penultimate piece of this half was the Feather Theme by Alan Silvestri. It is a quiet, gentle number from Forrest Gump. The 1994 film was a box office smash starring Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump himself. The child-like character is noted for his running ability with the film based on Winston Groom’s original novel. Interestingly, this continued the mini Tom Hanks theme of this half’s programme. If life is like a box of chocolates, this wasn’t the forlorn festering Bounty in the bottom of a Celebrations tub; this was the finest that Slattery’s of Whitefield would sell. Beautiful.

The last piece of this half came from the musical Carousel. It’s most famous song, You’ll Never Walk Alone, has overshadowed the musical with many people’s eyes and ears. For many, it is indelibly associated with Liverpool F.C and The Kop. For Gerry and the Pacemakers, their third of three successive UK Number One singles (the other two being How Do You Do What You Do To Me and I Like It). It has also been a UK Number One single for The Crowd in 1985 (a charity ensemble set up to raise money for victims of the Bradford City AFC Fire Disaster) and as a fundraiser with Michael Ball and Captain Tom Moore in 2020.

Howard Snell’s arrangement, lovingly played by The House Band of The Mecca of Brass Banding, had real depth. Enough to scupper any listener’s assumption of it being a direct transcription of the Gerry and the Pacemakers number. A wonderful finale to the first half, even if your stand or terrace of choice is either the Stretford End, Mottram End or the Park End instead of The Kop.

Memory of a Free Folk Festival

First up was Dimitri Shostakovich’s Folk Festival, a piece that I have heard as a main programme item at some concerts. It is part of the well known Gadfly Suite as Folk Feast (National Holiday). A fantastic, breathtaking piece, one that was used by Milnrow Band as part of an encore set in their July concert at Boarshurst Band Club. As a second half concert opener, equally effective – made all the better by the lush sound of Boarshurst Silver Band.

Next up was Malcolm Arnold’s Siciliano. We heard the second part of a three movement suite written in 1963, originally for wind bands. This is prefaced by Prelude with Rondo the third and final movement in the 1963 work published by Novello and Co. As a brass band piece, Siciliano worked very well. Why it hasn’t been played at many Boarshurst concerts amazed me (only once before by Greenalls Band on the 21st January 2018). Another great performance.

For the third concert item of this half, it was solo time again with the third of last night’s four soloists. This time, Vicky Ashley on tenor horn, playing a brand spanking new piece. A Brand Spanking New Piece by Paul Lovatt-Cooper in Upon Green Vales no less, released only a month ago. It is about Castle Hill, the hill with a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Victoria Tower, a Grade II Listed Building, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s reign. As for Vicky’s performance, superb.

Next up was a most light hearted piece, one which conjures up images of The Andrews Singers. The eminently whistleable Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy fitted the bill. It was written on the 02 January 1941, almost a year before the US joined the Second World War. In 1972, it was covered by Bette Midler. A lovely slice of brass banding cheese, sandwiched between two soloists.

The fourth and final soloist was Sam Olsen, taking his position on principal trombone. His piece was In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning – another one from Frank Sinatra’s back catalogue. It opened his 1955 LP, In The Wee Small Hours – an album that is considered to be the first ever concept album (twelve years before The Moody Blues’ Days of Futures Passed and nineteen years before The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis). Another delightful solo performance.

For the last three items of this half, we moved on to the ‘tried and tested’ instead of the experimental stuff. In short, a few crowd pleasers to round off this year’s Remembrance Day concert. First of the last three items was a piece of film music we haven’t heard for yonks. That of Gabriel’s Oboe, as used in The Mission, a 1986 film starring Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons. The film is based on the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in South America. Another solid performance with great sound.

Next up was audience participation time, and your second reminder of the night that we were in the midst of a Remembrance Sunday concert. A most popular medley in Darrol Barry’s Keep Smiling Through. Fusing four Second World War classics, it is a most singable piece with The Army, The Navy, and the Air Force, followed by Lilli Marlene(There Will Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, and We’ll Meet Again. Song lyrics on tables were sorely missed for this piece, but we wouldn’t have got the best of Boarshurst Silver Band’s silky smooth performance.

The final piece of the three was a Scottish style piece penned by a German composer. A favourite of many concerts in the form of Highland Cathedral. It was written for bagpipes, it has also been performed by the likes of Andre Rieu, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and Phil Coulter (co-writer of the melodic parts of The Bay City Rollers’ Shang-a-lang). Like The Great Escape, another piece written overseas which we have made our own in the United Kingdom. A brilliant end to an amazing concert.

Or so we thought.

There was another surprise in store for the encore. Another hymn, a hymn that is a popular choice at most funerals. If you guessed Crimond or The Lord’s My Shepherd either way, you are correct. Named after a village in Aberdeenshire (or more precisely its parish church), Crimond is also the tune for The Lord’s My Shepherd. It is based on Psalm 23, where the presence of God is with us, whether we are scaling Kinder Scout or waiting for a 409 bus to Royal Oldham Hospital.

It is also name checked by Ena Sharples in the first ever episode of Coronation Street (“Well, Andantina or no Andantina, I’m rollin’ away to Crimond). The arrangement we heard was Goff Richards’ effort, and what a powerful, moving transcription of the hymn it is. With a near cinematic feel, it has hints of John Williams, George Martin and Howard Snell (as heard in You’ll Never Walk Alone). Probably the definitive brass band arrangement of Crimond with an equally outstanding performance to boot. A real masterclass in saving the best for last.

* * *

Boarshurst Silver Band is always a joy to listen (and, no, I am saying that because of vested interests). Each concert programme strikes a neat balance between complex pieces and crowd pleasers. Whether you’re sat down at 2pm or 8pm on a dull Sunday, this is what you want and expect from any self-respecting brass banding concert. In the last year, they have raised their game with each concert I have seen. Onwards and upwards.

Next at Boarshurst Band Club…

Our next concert is on the 27th November when our next band is Diggle Community Band.  They are a new non-contesting band that offers a more inclusive environment for people starting out in brass bands. They meet and rehearse at The Diggle Band’s social club. That’ll be at 7.30 pm, doors open at 6.30 pm.  With great local support from our friends in the north eastern corner of Saddleworth (and beyond of course), please arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

Public Transport:

  • Trains: Transpennine Express services from Huddersfield, Manchester Piccadilly and Stalybridge;
  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham (First Greater Manchester/Stagecoach Manchester).

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. Please note that after 6pm all evening 350 journeys are operated by Stagecoach Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.

Website: www.boarshurstband.co.uk.

S.V., 14 November 2022.

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