Highly entertaining concert with a wealth of lively pieces
Britain ten years ago was a completely different beast to that of 2023. Back then you could buy a copy of the Radio Times, a packet of crisps and a Dairy Milk, and still have change from a fiver. Back then, you could still get a bus to Saddleworth and depend on the trains on Whit Friday.
It was ten years ago when Hazel Grove Brass Band last did a concert at Boarshurst Band Club. On the 19th March 2023, they made up for lost time with a delightful concert. A concert with nineteen (yes, a bumper nineteen) programme items – an enjoyable mix of classic pieces and new additions to the programme.
The present version of Hazel Grove Brass Band was formed in 1992. It was formed 42 years after the demise of the original Hazel Grove Band with Les Hall its founding Musical Director. Its present-day Musical Director, Nigel Beasley, has conducted the band since 2008 – a fifteen year stint. Under his stewardship, the band has moved from the Fourth Section up to the Second Section.
At the North West Area Second Section finals of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, they finished a creditable fourth place. This was their best placing since 2015. Going off previous form, could Hazel Grove Brass Band be a First Section band in 2025?
- March: Star Lake (Eric Ball)
- Overture: Raymond (Ambroise Thomas)
- Light Concert Music: So Very Close to Me
- Soprano Cornet Solo (performed by Steve Holden): Silver Threads Amongst The Gold (H.P Danks)
- Major Work Movement: March de Bouffant from Deaux Grotesques (A. Picon/Tony Spurgin)
- Horn Solo (performed by Claire Chadborn): If (David Gates)
- Musical Piece (from Barnum): Come Follow The Band (Cy Coleman, arr. Dan Price)
- Opera Music: Prelude to Act One of La Traviata (Giuseppe Verdi, arr. Keith Wilkinson)
- Jazz Standard: That’s a Plenty (Lew Pollack)
- Light Concert Music: American Trilogy (Various, arr. Mickey Newbury, arr. Goff Richards)
- Film Music: Theme from Where Eagles Dare (Ron Goodwin)
- Flugelhorn Solo (performed by Debbie Booth): The Way We Were (Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman)
- Musical Piece: March from Strike Up The Band (George Gershwin)
- Hymn: Make Me A Channel of Your Peace (Sebastian Temple, arr. Steven Hague)
- Cornet Quartet (Christie, Hannah, Dave, Wes): Mr Sandman (Pat Ballard, arr. Alan Fernie)
- Popular Music: Here, There and Everywhere (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Tony Jagger)
- Light Concert Music: Cossack Patrol (Lev Knipper, arr. Gordon Langford)
- Light Concert Music: Mack The Knife (Kurt Weill)
- Light Concert Music: Show Me The Way To Go Home (Irving King, arr. Sandy Smith)
If a concert paints a thousand words…
We opened the piece with a nice, easy march. That of Eric Ball’s Star Lake, a popular one with lower section bands. It is inspired by the Salvation Army camp and conference centre in Bloomingdale, New Jersey. This showed off the other side of Eric Ball’s compositional skills, beyond writing some of the greatest test pieces. A fantastic, easy start to the concert with a straightforward well played.
Next up was an overture, a little played one in the overture from Ambroise Thomas’ opera, Raymond. Under its full title, Raymond ou Les secrets de la Reine, the opera is set in 17th century France, during the reign of Louis XIV and written in 1851. A most enjoyable overture that was well played.
This was followed by another piece called So Very Close to Me. The piece itself is a gentle one with smooth soft rock leanings. Another great performance though we (Musical Director included!) didn’t know who the composer was at all. (Please watch the first half of Hazel Grove Brass Band’s concert).
Next in the programme was our first of three solos of the night. Enter on soprano cornet Steve Holden, with a performance of Silver Threads Amongst The Gold. It has been a popular song in the USA since the late 19th Century and a long standing barbershop quartet standard. The music was written by Hart Pease Danks with lyrics by Eben E. Rexford. Great performance by Steve.
We returned to France with the delightfully named March de Bouffant from Deaux Grotesques. Written by Tony Spurgin, he adopted the nom de plume of Anthony Picon – named after what was supposedly his favourite cocktail. This was due to his proper name lacking the same panache as his alias. Spurgin played tenor horn and piano, and this piece of yellow music was a welcome addition to the programme.
This was followed by our second soloist of the night: enter Claire Chadborn on the horn. This time with a song that was written by David Gates and covered by Telly Savalas. If you guessed If, well guessed. In the US Billboard charts, the original by Bread peaked at Number Four in 1971 and didn’t chart in the UK. Four years on, Telly Savalas’ cover version was a Number One hit in the UK, thanks to the popularity of his TV series, Kojak. As for Ms. Chadborn’s form on the horn, a joy to behold. Fantastic performance all round.
Next was a musical standard, probably the best known piece from the 1980 musical, Barnum. Written by Michael Stewart and Cy Coleman, it charts of life of legendary showman Phineas Taylor Barnum. At Boarshurst, a little nearer to Broadway in Chadderton instead of New York City, we were treated to Dan Price’s arrangement of Come Follow The Band. A nice bouncy number which made for an enjoyable performance.
From musicals we moved to opera. This time with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata and the Prelude to Act One of La Traviata. The opera is in three acts and set to the story of La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas. The piece we heard was a real contrast to the bombast of Coleman’s march and gave the band a test in the slow melody department. One where they succeeded.
For the last two pieces of the first half, we were back in the USA. After crimefighting with Theodore Kojak, we settled down to Lew Pollack’s That’s A Plenty. It was first released in 1914 by the Prince’s Band, a year after the original Hazel Grove band played Edward Newton’s Gems of the Old Days at the Bramhall Contest. It was later covered by Benny Goodman (1931), Ray Anthony of the Dragnet theme fame (1956) and, with Ray Gilbert’s lyrics, The Pointer Sisters (1974). A neat treat from our fellows off the A6, well played.
The first half was rounded off by An American Trilogy, made all the more famous by Elvis Presley. Released in 1971, it has three well known 19th Century songs: I Wish I Was In Dixieland, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and All My Trials. After 1971, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll finished his concerts with that number. (Then again, what percentage of our pale blue dot’s 78,000 Elvis Tribute Acts do the same?). Goff Richards’ arrangement is a superb one, enhanced all the more by Hazel Grove Brass Band’s performance.
Here, there, everywhere where eagles dare
For our first piece after the interval, we turned to the world of film. This time with Ron Goodwin’s theme from Where Eagles Dare. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, it has been considered as one of the best war films of all time. Ron Goodwin‘s other musical credits include The Trap – better known for its use during BBC’s coverage of The London Marathon – and the musical score for 633 Squadron. A delightful rousing start to proceedings.
This was followed by the third and final solo of the night. A cracking one that took us back to 15p pints of Robbies Best, rear entrance buses on the 192, and the likes of Shirley Bassey at the Poco a Poco. Yes, The Way We Were, a song made famous by Gladys Knight and the Pips performed on flugelhorn by Debbie Booth. The song was written for, and first performed by Barbra Streisland at the start of 1974. Like That’s A Plenty, it has spawned numerous cover versions. In 2017, Brighouse and Rastrick Band covered it with singer Liza Pulman. There was a lot of love for Ms. Booth’s performance, and deservedly so.
Next was another classic for the third item in this half. How about a bit of George Gershwin? What about a classic concert march in Strike Up The Band. Written in 1927 for the eponymous musical, the title song was more popular than the musical itself. In 1937 it took on a second life as a song for the University College of Los Angeles. Another great cobweb blower, and a neat contrast to the following piece.
The following piece was our one and only hymn of the concert: Sebastian Temple’s Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. Written in 1967, it is a popular hymn at school assemblies and many churches. It is set to The Prayer of St. Francis and an anthem of the Royal British Legion. With Steven Hague’s arrangement, an enjoyable transcription to brass band form, beautifully played.
Next, we took a trip back to a vision of 1950s America (or mid-1980s Stockport if you caught the 192 down to Cannon Cinema on Wellington Road South). Taking on a second life thanks to Back to the Future, is The Chordettes’ Mr Sandman. For Hazel Grove Brass Band, it was used for a Cornet Quartet featuring Christie, Hannah, Dave, Wes. The song was written in 1954 by Pat Ballard, first sung by The Chordettes. Other artistes have included Chet Atkins, Bert Kaemphert, and Emmylou Harris. In the UK, Dickie Valentine had the biggest hit. Hazel Grove Brass Band’s quartet was a real cracker. Great work!
Any light hearted brass band concert programme worth its salt is lost without a song by The Beatles. Instead of the usual pieces, Hazel Grove Brass Band opted for Here, There and Everywhere, one of Lennon and McCartney’s quieter pieces and a test for the slow melody department. It is a love ballad which features on the group’s 1966 LP, Revolver. When writing the song, McCartney was influenced by The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows from the unimpeachable Pet Sounds LP. A lovely piece.
From Merseyside, we moved to Moscow for our penultimate piece of the night. This time with Gordon Langford’s arrangement of Lev Knipper’s Cossack Patrol. The song was written in 1933 and known in its native Russian tongue as Polyushko-polye. Its lyrics are seen from the perspective of a Red Army soldier. Another great performance, and you cannot beat a good Gordon Langford arrangement anyway.
The final piece of the night was Mack The Knife. Kurt Weill’s best known work came from The Threepenny Opera. With lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, it is known in his native German as Die Dreigroschenoper (Mack The Knife aus Deutsche is Die Moritat von Mackie Messer), and the opera is a socialist critique on capitalism. The song has been covered by numerous artistes from Michael Bublé to Ella Fitzgerald and King Kurt. What a great finale for a fantastic concert.
The encore was Irving King’s (or rather Jimmy Campbell’s and Reg Connolly’s) Show Me The Way To Go Home. Written in 1925, it was said to have been written on a train from London, and inspired by the two being worse for wear after a few scoops. It has been covered by Julie London, Bono, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. If you remember The Wheeltappers’ and Shunters’ Social Club finished with ‘Our Bernard’ (Bernard Manning) and Colin Crompton singing the said song.
Hazel Grove Brass Band gave us all a superb concert. We can’t wait to see them again in the near future. Here’s hoping it isn’t 3,650 days on from the 19th March!
Dobcross Youth Band will be making the short trip down to The Mecca of Brass Banding. With a loyal local following, their concerts are highly popular. Just over a week ago, they were one of six bands that wowed us at Mass Brass VI at Uppermill Civic Hall.
The concert begins at 7.30pm and doors are open from 6.30pm onwards. Please arrive early to be sure of a good seat. Better still, introduce a friend to the world of brass bands and an affordable way to spend your Sunday night in a comfortable, air conditioned brass banding venue.
Getting to Boarshurst Band Club:
- 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 7pm) Stagecoach Greater Manchester.
Twitter details: @boarshurstband; #SundayBrass.
S.V., 27 March 2023.