Published on October 22nd, 2017 by gavin

REVIEW: Grimethorpe Centenary Concert

The Grimethorpe Colliery Band took to the stage for their Centenary Celebration concert at the Elsecar Heritage Centre, Barnsley on Saturday 21st October, conducted by Frank Renton

What an absolute privilege it was to be present at this wonderful concert performed by the world famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band conducted by Frank Renton.

Frank is both an excellent conductor and a genial host and the programme commenced with the Overture Le Domino Noir and it was a fine and traditional start to the programme.
This was followed by a cornet solo, Ave Maria, by Roger Webster who remains one of the finest cornet players of his generation and it was warmly appreciated by the packed audience. J.S Bach was next up with a very clever arrangement entitled ‘Little Fugue’ and it provided an excellent contrast.

The next feature was a solo by Baritone player Michael Cavanagh as he performed ‘Peace’ by John Golland. I was lucky to have played in a band conducted by John many years ago and he was a consummate musician.

Michael’s rich tone and musicality would have been appreciated by John and the audience loved it. This was followed by The Lady is a Tramp which showed a different side to the band and whilst brass bands don’t usually swing very well, swing they did.

It was now time to reflect upon the enormous influence of the film ‘Brassed Off’. Written and filmed during difficult times for the band and mining communities it featured a wonderful arrangement of ‘Danny Boy’ or to give it the proper title ‘Irish Tune from County Derry.’

The simple beauty of this piece and the warm sounds of the band provided a poignant moment and memories of the band playing this in the film, as Danny the conductor was ill in his hospital bed and the band played this below his window.

The first half finished with an incredible rendition of Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park. The contrast and dynamics within this great arrangement were handled with aplomb and mastery and it was an awesome climax as we went into the interval.

The band were once again in full flow as they opened the second half with ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ and we knew we were in for a treat. ‘Brassed Off’ featured in our next solo with, probably, the most famous flugel horn solo ever as Jamie Smith reprised the Adagio from Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez, or as it has become more familiarly known “Orange Juice.”

What a fine player this young man is and the ease of his playing and lovely full tone was a pleasure to hear. After a lively rendition of Cole Porter’s ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ the audience was both privileged and very lucky to have been present for our next soloist, the band’s Principal Euphonium player Chris Robertson.

Throughout the night I was aware of his high quality playing within the band however his solo was from another place. His playing of an arrangement of the hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ reached celestial heights and those with and without faith would have thanked God that they were there to hear it.

An original piece entitled ‘Lake of Tenderness’ was sublime and this led into another original piece that was a direct contrast. ‘Hogarth’s Hoedown’ which was composed by Elgar Howarth, a previous conductor of the band, during a time of great success and innovation, and it made a welcome return to the programme.

It’s difficult to put into words the finale as you really had to be there. The band chose to finish the concert with ‘The Hut of Baba Yaga’ and ‘The Great Gates of Kiev’ from Musssorgky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ arranged for the band by Elgar Howarth. The complexity of the music and the demands upon the band, both technically and dynamically are enormous and both were handled with consummate skill and world class musicianship.

The audience clapped and shouted for more and we were then regaled with another ‘Brassed Off’ special, the Finale to the William Tell Overture played at a speed that would be beyond the abilities of most ensembles. All in all, a wonderful and outstanding programme of music played by a much-loved, world class band. Grimethorpe Colliery Band I salute you and here’s the next 100 years.

– Andrew Platts

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