Accessible programme and a trio of tremendous solos open new season in style

Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Brass Band opened 2023 in style at Boarshurst Band Club with an easy going and likeable concert on Sunday. Throughout each concert, one of the world’s oldest brass bands have never failed to entertain nor captivate the audience.

There was a number of pieces we knew so well, also the odd arrangement of familiar songs that many of us haven’t heard in brass band form. If a brass band did a Greatest Hits Tour across the UK, Poynton Band’s concert would have ticked several boxes.

As for entertainment value, it was a most lively programme suitable for people unfamiliar with brass bands. There was enough pieces to satisfy more regular concertgoers. As well as the classics, you had a piece written for a Walt Disney light show before a song by The Carpenters.

This year’s soiree with one of the world’s oldest brass bands was their first Boarshurst concert with Musical Director Adam Delbridge-Smith. He is no stranger to The Mecca of Brass Banding having been to Boarshurst as a player. More recently, he was seen at last year’s concert with BD1 Brass, Bradford.

The Programme

First Half

  1. Concert Opener: Prelude On An Occasion (Edward Gregson).
  2. Light Concert Music: O Magnum Mysterium (arr. Morten Lauridsen).
  3. Principal Cornet Solo (performed by Frank Needham): Anthem (from Chess) (Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus/Tim Rice, arr. Andrew Duncan).
  4. Classical piece: The Last Spring (Edvard Grieg, arr. James Curnow).
  5. Bass Solo (performed by Jimmy Tew): Bass in the Ballroom (Roy Newsome).
  6. Original Piece: Horizons (Paul Lovatt-Cooper).

Second Half

  1. Original piece: Blenheim Flourishes (James Curnow).
  2. Light Concert Music: Glow (Eric Whitacre, arr. Jacob Vilhelm Larsen).
  3. Tenor Horn Solo (performed by Steve Attwell): Goodbye to Love (Karen Carpenter/Richard Carpenter, arr. Ray Farr).
  4. Piece type: Lake of Tenderness (Ben Hollings).
  5. Film Music (from Saving Private Ryan): Hymn to the Fallen (John Williams, arr. Philip Sparke).
  6. March: The Cossack (William Rimmer).


  • Light Concert Music: The Lost Chord (Arthur Sullivan, arr. Goff Richards).

One night in Boarshurst makes a hard man humble…

First up was Edward Gregson’s Prelude For An Occasion, a gift that keeps on giving as a steadfast concert opener. Today it seems to be overlooked by 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. 55 years on, a lively start to their concert.

Taking a more contemplative mood for the second piece of the night was O Magnum Mysterium, arranged by Morten Lauridsen from a traditional responsorial chant. The piece has had several arrangers over the last 600 years. Lauridsen’s arrangement is among the most recent. He was the Professor of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music till 2019. A neat contrast to our opening piece and a solid performance.

Our third piece of the night was the first soloist. Making many a hard man humble was Frank Needham’s performance on principal cornet. His piece was Anthem from Chess, from the titular musical written by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Sir Tim Rice. The musical’s most famous numbers are I Know Him So Well (a UK Number One single from Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige) and One Night in Bangkok by Murray Head. The musical focuses on a very 1980s subject: the conflict between the US and USSR superpowers before Perestroika and Glasnost on a chess board. The battle between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.

If you remember a BBC Two programme called The Master Game, imagine that set to music with lyrics by one half of ABBA. In a nutshell you have Chess the musical, though the game is based on the 1972 Match of the Century between Fischer and Spassky instead of Nigel Short versus Robert Byrne. Going back to Needham’s performance, some deft fingering and good sound.

Next, we moved from Russia to Norway, the country of Grieg’s birth. Instead of the better known Spring, we had Grieg’s The Last Spring. This is one of two melodies from Two Elegiac Melodies which he composed for string orchestras in 1880. At Boarshurst Band Club, we had James Curnow’s arrangement which was a neat addition to the programme.

This was followed by the second soloist of the night, and a nailed on classic in Roy Newsome’s Bass in the Ballroom. If you’re looking for a good Eb Bass solo piece, this one ticks many a box in the entertainment department. Our second man beside the podium was Jimmy Tew. As for Jimmy’s performance, another solid performance.

To finish the first half was a bit of Paul Lovatt-Cooper, and a cracking piece in Horizons. No brass band concert of recent years can be without a piece by The Mighty PLC. It has a great fanfare for trombones and cornets which offers the listener an immersive aural experience in four and a half minutes. A neat finale to the first half.

124 days to go till Whit Friday”

For the second half, we turned to Sir Winston Churchill’s former residence Blenheim Palace for inspiration. Enter the majestic Blenheim Flourishes by James Curnow. In just under three minutes, this lively piece got the second half off to a great start. Poynton Band’s performance of Curnow’s piece was an eloquent, well measured one.

For the second piece of this half, we moved on to the wonderful world of Walt Disney. This time with Glow, an Eric Whitacre piece that hasn’t featured in any of their films. How, might you ask, do you work that one out? It is used by Disney’s World of Color light show at the Disney California Adventure theme park. It is often set to a soundtrack of fireworks – somewhat incongruous for a genteel piece. As for Poynton Band’s performance, we loved this one.

Next up was our third and final soloist of the night. This time, a tenor horn solo of a song performed and written by a brother-sister duo. Enter Steve Atwell with his performance of Goodbye To Love. Though Number 7 on the US Billboard Chart, The Carpenters’ song peaked at Number 9 in the UK, with some pressings listing it as a B side to I Wouldn’t Last A Day Without You, As well as being different to anything else heard at The Mecca of Brass Banding in recent times, its transcription to brass band arrangement was a seamless one. Mr Atwell gave us a splendid performance. Of a sad, ironic note, performed six days shy of the 40th anniversary of Karen Carpenter’s death.

From Los Angeles of A&M Records fame, we headed for the Moon via Ben Hollings’ Lake of Tenderness. The piece was commissioned by Dr. Robert Childs for Grimethorpe Colliery Band in 2015 for their Brass In Concert programme. It depicts the basaltic plains of the Earth’s moon. Of late, it has become a concert favourite among bands of all ages and sections. For a First Section band like Vernon Building Society (Poynton) Band, a sound performance on this brooding piece.

The penultimate piece was our only concession to film music, and further proof that anything by John Williams transcribes well for brass bands. Hymn To The Fallen from Saving Private Ryan is another case in point. The brooding theme has become a modern classic, more so through its use on Remembrance Sunday concerts. Whether in November or January, it never fails to amaze anybody in the band room or theatre auditorium. Another fine day in the office for Poynton Band.

To finish, we defied convention by closing with a concert march, and a good one in William Rimmer’s The Cossack. The march is popular on Whit Friday and is inspired by people from South East Russia. Apart from reminding us of the fact there were 124 days to go till Whit Friday, this was a fantastic rendition of a straightforward march.

As for the encore, we had another classic. Perversely, the last piece to have been played on a Sunday Brass Night before the first COVID lockdown. A classic in Arthur Sullivan’s The Lost Chord. It was written at the bedside of his ailing brother Fred in 1877, during his last illness. It has been recorded by Enrico Caruso and, most notably, performed at a benefit concert for the families affected by the Titanic disaster. A lovely piece, and a superb performance at that. 

*                             *                             *

Once more, ‘Accessible’ and ‘entertaining’ is their stock in trade. There was nothing too scary to ward off newcomers or concertgoers who fancy a jolly, light hearted programme for a Sunday night.

Next Week at Boarshurst…

Westoe Band are next week’s band, coming to Boarshurst all the way from County Durham. Since making their first visit to Boarshurst Band Club in 2019, they have enjoyed their trip down south from the outskirts of South Shields. Doors open at 6.30pm for an 7.30pm start on the 5th February. Arrive in good time to get a good seat.


  • 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Greenfield – Uppermill – Dobcross – Delph – Waterhead – Oldham.

Alight at the former Greenfield Conservative Club. The 350 bus route is operated by First Greater Manchester and (after 6pm) Stagecoach Manchester.

Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.


S.V., 01 February 2023.

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