IN MAY we played a new venue and some new music at St Wilfrid’s Church, Grappenhall in Warrington.
This was a beautiful old church near the canal and two pubs, and I can’t think of a nicer venue.
The concert started with “When Thunder Calls”, with the band marching in to the church to the drumming, heavy end first. This was the audience’s first encounter with the band, and they were really impressed.
Next up came James Turner’s new cornet solo ‘Lazy Trumpeter’, so relaxed and laid back this piece, a complete contrast to the opener. They loved it.
We were then treated to ‘Water of Tyne’, a lovely slow melody this, and it includes some delicate ensemble work for the middle of the band, with some appropriately placed pedals from the basses along the way, suited as it was to the acoustic of the venue.
A contrast then, with the Bette Midler song ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, from the film Beaches, arranged by Sandy Shore(?). Again some lovely playing and especially noteworthy was some good soprano playing by Jenni Davies, placing some really high notes and sounding great. Jenni has been with our band for several years now, and she is a real stalwart.
Our next soloist is Harry Fonseca, a real showman, who plays bass trombone, not only with us but the National Youth Brass Band and the Black Dyke trombone quartet, no less. His offering was ‘If I were a Rich Man’, from Fiddler on the Roof. This has been “given the treatment”, so to speak, to transform it into a showpiece, where he has both high and low notes, with a final cadenza that can only be described as subterranean! It is a pleasure to listen, and again, the audience were astounded by his talent.
To conclude the first half then, we had our own commissioned piece, ‘Flanders Field’ an evocative nod to the First World War.
During the interval I made it my goal to ask as many as I could about their thoughts on the band, and without embarking on a glorious invective, I can safely say that we will be going there again.
I have to mention here a special guest who was sitting next but one to me, Hilda, a widowed lady who has become a family friend of ours, and who is a regular visitor to my daughter Melanie, one of three I have in that locality.
Hilda has heard a lot about us and has become a Patron of the band. She used to be in films, you know, and has a lot of memories of famous thespians. Another person who deserves a mention is Sam Booth on third cornet, for whom this was his first proper concert, so well done Sam. His mother Tammy was there to see him, so it was Hilda, Tammy and Hilda. That’s enough of that anyway. The second half started with the whole cornet section lined up across the front of the band to play ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’, a nod to the 70 years since the end of the Second World War.
This went down really well, and was followed by contrast by the haunting ‘Schindler’s List’ If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know exactly what to expect, again some good ensemble playing, and a great double pedal A at the end.The bass section is really shaping up now, with the B flat bass partners sorted, all three of them, although we have yet to install an E flat partner for our principal E flat bass, Beth Woodcock. Beth is a great girl, and has really adopted the work ethic of the section, in order to provide a good foundation for the band, and this bodes well for the future. Thanks Beth.
Our next piece was nothing less than a real tour-de-force ‘Children of Sanchez’ featuring our flugel horn soloist Josh Brown.
Josh is another product of our band, and what a player he is. This piece starts very slow and quiet, but developed into a real white knuckle ride, with lots of florid musicality, and having listened to it from the front, for the first time, I was just blown away. He has such facility with what is a technically demanding piece, yet it appears so effortless, it really amazed the listeners. I’ve heard him play for years from the back of the band, but I’m hearing so much more now.
On top of all this is the example he sets for the young players, and he sits in good company with people like Oliver and Luke, both past principals and also George our Principal B flat bass player, and there are others too.
This solo was followed by an upbeat arrangement of the Meghan Trainor pop song ‘All about the Bass’. What can I say? It woke up the bass end and the audience, that’s for sure. I think the percussionists were put through their paces too. Ave Maria, our special arrangement was played next, and this always sounds good, it demands fine and controlled blowing to get the right ensemble effect, and it did go down very well as a tribute to a very special person, who we have talked about before.
Our last solo was ‘Bare Necessities’ from George, previously mentioned, but now sporting the E flat bass, it made him look twice as big. And it sounds great too. George plays any instrument from baritone down and both tenor and bass trombones, but his real niche is on B flat bass, he can really fill it, with a great upper register and pedalling ability too, but then he had a fair teacher!
His solo, from the ‘The Jungle Book’, requires a certain comedic element, and on this night, George excelled himself. He even made me laugh and that wants some doing. It’s true to say that I have not laughed out loud a lot since the time I ordered a DVD entitled ‘How to Handle Disappointment’, and when I got the package it was empty on opening.
Finally, in another nod to the British Spirit as displayed in the Second World War, we had a medley of wartime songs entitled ‘Keep Smiling through’, with only people of a certain age truly appreciating the content. After rapturous applause and shouts for more, more, more, the band duly obliged with an encore of ‘Hokey Cokey’, which we have previously described. The whole evening was a great success, not just musically, but with the way Graham handles the listeners, he really can work the crowd and it is only when you go to other bands’ concerts that you can see what a gem he is.
The way the band deports itself too, is very impressive, and a lot of this is down to Mike Warwick’s guidance and the players’ desire to please. Not a lot more to be said. A great night and enjoyed by all.