A great night at Bridgewater Hall

BRILLIANT wasn’t it. There we were sandwiched between the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the Wednesday night and the Halle on the Saturday and we put on a concert worthy of any- thing the Bridgewater has seen.

Apparently the largest audience there has ever been at that venue for a brass band concert.

Seemed to have been a long time since Graham first outlined to us his ideas re this concert whilst we were having an evening out at Nila our favourite Bangladeshi restaurant in Rawtenstall.

In fact that’s where I usually find out what’s being planned in respect of con- certs etc. Just like the news- paper hacks on the national dailies used to have their favourite watering holes on Fleet St where they would pick up stories/gossip for their columns, so too my info. usually comes whilst sitting in one of the booths at Nila whilst eating a Chicken Dhansak!

The highlights for me?

Well performance wise the cornet and flugel solos from Brighouse were very special as was the band’s playing of Lamplighter.

I’d deliberately avoided going down to rehearsals on a Wednesday night to listen to it being practiced, so hear- ing it for the first time at the Bridgewater with the mood lighting and the hospice choir was absolutely mind blowing. Then of course we had the Male Voice Choir! Wow – I’m so used to seeing choirs walk on stage and stand there fair- ly rigidly (well perhaps a bit of swaying) with the conductor standing at the front, sing their items and then walk off again, that this performance with movement all over the stage left me spellbound. Never saw that coming at all.

Obviously the huge stage helped – in many venues you have to stand still as there isn’t room to do anything else, but the entry, the constant movement and the conductor leaping around the stage all took this perform- ance to a totally different level. Not sure they’ll be able to replicate it at St.Mary’s when we next join with them for a concert in September but we’ll wait and see. The choir were back in more traditional format for the Finlandia finale, joined by both bands and the hospice choir. Over 100 people on stage and it didn’t seem overcrowded at all. Big stage, big venue, massive performance. So much for the concert programme, but the evening was special in other ways as well. For me the Bridgewater is synonymous with the Halle and being of a certain age the Halle conjures up the image of Sir John Barbirolli. The two were always mentioned in the same breath. He was the principal conductor from 1943 to 1968. There he is still – as a statue just outside the entrance watch- ing over the comings and goings, almost as if saying “Only the best will do when you play here”. Not that he ever conducted here having died in 1970. In his day the Halle’s home was the Free Trade Hall on Peter St. Just looking at his statue for a minute after getting off the coach took me back to a different age – to the 1960s when I was a student in Manchester. Didn’t have much of a musical background – coaxing Radio Luxemburg out of the old family radio was my limit really ( 208m Medium wave – remember that folks?). However Sunday night Halle concerts with Barbirolli conducting became the go-to events for many of us. These were usually followed by a late night Chinese at one of the growing number of Chinese restaurants that were beginning to appear, often in the basements of the numerous Victorian office blocks that were all around central Manchester. Hopefully then it was the last No.42 bus trundling its way down Oxford Rd to the southern studenty suburbs of Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury. Miss that bus and it was an hour wait for the all night bus.

Is it only people of a certain age who reminisce? I don’t know but seeing that statue brought back lots of memories that stayed with me all evening. No Chinese meal afterwards of course – just glad to get on the coach out of the rain. A great Bridgewater night. One never to be forgotten.

That was just my personal view. What about others who were there? Here’s what other people involved in the evening in some way had to say.

BEING fans of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, when we learned that they and the Rossendale Male Voice Choir were playing in a concert with the 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band at the Bridgewater Hall, we were determined to be there.

So we travelled up with excitement and anticipation from our homes in the Isle of Wight and the Midlands! Wow! We certainly weren’t disappointed! With such a great venue and enthusiastic supporters, the pouring rain paled ( or perhaps ‘pailed’!) into insignificance. The whole evening was an absolute joy. In particular, we were moved to tears by the Scout Band’s performance of ‘ Lamplighter’. What skill, commitment and emotion the band members demonstrated and what a moving performance they achieved! We’d like to con- vey particular thanks and congratulations to Graham Helm, both as Musical Director of the 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band and also as ‘Master of Ceremonies’ for the whole evening. He shared his personal attachment to the East Lancashire Hospice and enabled each and every one of us in the audience to contribute to such a worthy cause whilst having an amazing evening of music and one which we will never forget.

Well done and thank you to you all.

Two people who had no previous contact with the band


THE concert with Brighouse was an experience many of us had not had before.

To have the opportunity to perform in such a prestigious venue on stage with such a high- ly skilled band was brilliant and every single one of our players came off stage proud of what we had done and how well we had done it in front of 1,300 people. To think 18 months ago we had been given the first draft of the special piece, all the hard work from the band, Graham, and Mike had paid off to show fans and players of Brighouse and Rastrick what we could do. I think what the whole thing showed, from rehearsal to performance, is how well we work as a team when we concentrate hard on it. It’s not all about the soloists, and on that Friday night in June, every single player could be proud of what they played and how well they had played it – from Soprano Cornet all the way to the basses.

A member of the Scout band


BRASS bands and choral singing, I would say, are both deeply woven into the cultural fabric of the north of England. We know this from our concerts with the 2nd Rossendale Scout Band which have been so well-received. At their patrons’ concert earlier this year, the Scout Band MD, Graham Helm, announced that they were playing a charity concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on June 7th, together with the Brighouse & Rastrick Band and the Rossendale Male Voice Choir. Graham explained that the concert was a fundraiser for East Lancs Hospice which cared for his wife through her last two weeks, five years ago. Having enjoyed the Scouts’ playing so much, we decided to go and listen to them in Manchester. The Bridgewater Hall is an impressive modern venue seating 1800 comfortably. The scouts and the choir had brought 10 coachloads of supporters from Rossendale and the surrounding areas and the hall was pretty much full. Brighouse & Rastrick opened the evening with a superb set, as you might expect from England’s no.1 brass band.

They were still not spared Graham’s sparkling wit when they had finished (like us they were fair game). They were followed on stage by the Rossendale Male Voice Choir who opened their programme by dancing onto the stage! The Scout band opened the 2nd half of the evening with Lamplighter, a work commissioned for the occasion, which included singing from a group of patients, staff and volunteers from the hospice. It was very moving. After another brilliant set from the B&R band all three groups came on stage for the finale which was Finlandia by Sibelius. It was quite a sight watching the younger scouts playing alongside their illustrious guests. After that Graham said we could have an encore if we left all our loose change (preferably folded!) in the buckets at the exits. We got “Floral Dance”!

As we left the hall, dazed by such a high-quality performance, the heavens opened (as they had at Rawtenstall after the patrons’ concert) and we all went home absolutely soaked but happy. The concert raised over £20,000 for the hospice. What a splendid effort that was from such a memorable evening.

A member of the Keighley Vocal Union Choir


AN EXCELLENT and highly memorable premiere performance of The Lamplighter.

What may not have been obvious from your vantage point on the stage but was certainly palpable from the perspective of your audience was how powerful and emotive the work and your accomplished performance of it was. The inclusion of the production elements and hospice choir only adding to the sense of poignancy you instinctively achieved. There were very few dry eyes, including mine. For me the standing ovation you received is in itself testament to your hard work and whole- hearted acceptance of the project. I hope that you managed to enjoy the experience of playing in the Bridgewater Hall and it is something you will cherish for a long time.

A professional musician


THE day we’d been working towards for the last 18 months finally arrived and the wet weather did nothing to dampen our spirits as we set off at 1:30 on the coach down to Manchester. On arrival we were given green wrist bands and shown to the dressing rooms before our allotted rehearsal time on stage. Many of us have performed at the fabulous Bridgewater Hall before but for some of our newer members I’m sure it must have been an experience to walk onto that stage for the first time and such a pleasure for me to play their lovely Steinway grand piano. Rehearsals went very well once we had sorted out our new entrance piece, John Kanaka. This was a first for us, walking on and singing wearing various items of pirate and sailor attire.

We had a break for tea then back for a rehearsal with the bands for the finale pieces. Of course Brighouse and Rastrick is a top band but the Scout band more than held their own on the stage and what a fantastic sound both bands made when playing together. Rehearsals over and we went back to the dressing rooms to chill before the performance. Brighouse were on first but as we were to finish the 1st half we stayed back stage to warm up and unfortunately couldn’t listen to their performance. Finally the call came and we moved to the wings ready for our entrance. The reception we got was amazing and after each song we got thunderous applause and by the end of our last piece we knew it was a job well done. Many thanks to Matthew our MD for all his hard work and to our soloists Mike, Charles, Chris and Ian.

After the interval we sat in the choir seats to listen to the Scout Band and what a brilliant job they did of the Lamplighter, I’ve nothing but admiration for the band and especially for Graham who I’ve had the pleasure knowing for some 20 years. It was so moving when they were joined by the East Lancashire Hospice Choir secretly formed from patients, family and volunteers under the direction of our MD Matthew Thomas. Well done to you all. After Brighouse and Rastrick played their final pieces everyone came on stage for the finale, Finlandia, followed of course by Brighouse’s signature tune, The Floral Dance, with all the audience clapping along and then a standing ovation. What a fantastic end to the night.

A member of the Rossendale Male Voice Choir


WHAT a wonderful concert! It’s very difficult to write a brief account of my experience, but I’ll do my best!

The highlight of the first set by the brilliant Brighouse was the astonishing cornet solo by Kyle Lawson, performing The Paragon. He made it look effortless. A close second was Mike Eccles’s haunting flugelhorn solo Over the Rainbow, which was a very similar arrangement to the one Archie Taylor used to play with 2nd Rossendale, and it gave me a real lump in the throat.

The world premiere of Lamplighter was performed beautifully by our band, who were not at all intimidated by performing after such an iconic band. A repeating bell theme carried Idyll seamlessly from the poem into a lovely performance. Then onto the powerful and note-perfect Goodnight. The final movement was the gentle melancholy of The Gardener, enhanced by the addition of the Hospice Choir. It came together as a wonderful piece and I was massively proud of Alec and the whole band. Another highlight of the second half was the Ah-May-Zing percussion solo by Tom Hall. What a jaw-dropping performance! The finale was a wonderful collaboration between all the participants. Finlandia moved from softly sorrowful to fierce and rousing, and the 2nd Rossendale held their own magnificently. The Floral Dance encore was delightful, and I wish I had room to describe the hilarious tuba soloist!

A parent of a member of the Scout band


OUR evening started on a coach from Bacup, Alan’s first go at driving down after his cataract operation, and me with vertigo !!! All good fun. What an impressive stage and theatre it was, although the price of drinks and treats meant that you needed a second mortgage. Our seats were on second row at the side. Good view of the back of bands’ heads on the left. We had seen the Brighouse and Rastrick band before, but not in a venue like that. Amazing. As was The Rossendale Male Voice choir. Wow, that conductor! Rocked. Loved the hats and shades. What a night for our band. No words can describe how proud I am to belong to this scout group. My visits with the band to Germany, Windsor and Cornwall were great but the Bridgewater topped them I think. Watching some of the youngsters I’ve been involved with, from Beavers through the group ,on that stage, made me feel super proud. The new piece of music Lamplighter, sent shivers down the spine. Well done Graham, they played so well for you, and a dedication to a lovely lady.

Watching the reaction of the people around us, amazing, Luke’s little sister, sat in front us enthralled. What more can I say. We could have done with a boat not a coach on the way home, but a great night nevertheless.

A patron of the band

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