Black Dyke Band


Conductor: Dr. Nicholas Childs

Champion Brass – Phil Beck Promotions
Uppermill Civic Hall
Friday 31st October

The name of Phil Beck is well known in the Saddleworth area. For a good number of years, Phil has promoted practically anything to do with brass bands, mainly through concerts. One of the keys to Phil's success is that fact he brings the best bands in the world to concert halls with a simple directive – ‘Go out and entertain'. When Black Dyke decided to return to the Whit-Friday March contests earlier in the year, there was only man they would ask to guide them efficiently round the various contests - Phil Beck. As a thank you for Phil's efforts, Black Dyke played to a full house at Uppermill Civic Hall and produced a Halloween night concert that is best described as, no tricks, but plenty of treats!

There was only going to be one ‘opener' and it was the march that brought success in June, "Knight Templar" - and what a start it was. Bang on the button from the opening notes, clean, crisp, great tempo, and a great sound all round the band. Black Dyke put in some memorable performances on Whit Friday, and it was captured for prosperity at Delph contest on CD, and is available from the shopping area of the 4BR site, along with other marches from the contest. The overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" came next, and as with some Rossini later, you could not help but think that if some of these composers could hear modern day interpretations of their compositions, they would be stunned at the standard to which they are performed. This performance was flawless, and not that it was needed, confirmed that it was going to be a night of truly great music making.

As everybody now knows, Roger Webster prior to the National Finals left Black Dyke on tenterhooks after he somersaulted down the stairs at his home, leaving him with a couple of broken ribs and a few cuts and bruises. Roger played superbly in London, and showed no obvious side effects two weeks on, as he took centre stage to play the cornet solo written by Stanley Boddington for James Scott, ‘Silver Threads Amongst The Gold'. From there, the other nine members of the cornet section joined Mr Webster to give a slick rendition of "Trumpet Blues and Cantable".

The most intriguing piece of the whole night was a World Premiere by baritone player, Robert Richardson. Solos for baritone are extremely rare, but ‘Concertino' was commissioned from the pen of Roger Thorne for Robert. Lasting around nine minutes, it is in two movements (although continuos). The first nice and lyrical, delightful on the ear, whilst the second part is up-tempo and fast. Without question, Robert displayed what a great player he is, with fine full bloooded tone and congratulations should be given to Roger Thorne for the composition.

Robert then went to the back of the hall. Accompanying him were Morvern Gilchrist, John Doyle and John French for the opening bars of Adrian Hirst's solo, ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot'. What a brilliant sound from these four players. Very precise, and together and how a quartet should sound, before Adrian took the limelight with his Bass Trombone.

Black Dyke concluded the first half with an outstanding performance of the tone poem, "Shine as the Light". Anyone good at anything always make it look (or in this case, sound) easy, and this is exactly what the Queensbury-based band did. The music intends to paint a picture of going from darkness to light utilising the theme of a song by Joy Webb, ‘Candle of the Lord'. The amount of detail from within the score that was brought out was breathtaking, and the band just let the music speak for itself, particularly in the final section where the Salvation Army song, ‘The Light has Come' appears. What a sound, not over-blown by any means, controlled, and milking every bit from the players.

The year 1966 in the UK will always be remembered for England's victory in the World Cup. Not long after that event, The Beatles went to number one with the hit ‘Yellow Submarine', staying in pole position for thirteen weeks. It is of course, one of many people's favourites, and Dyke commenced the second half with their own version of the classic hit, before giving the audience the Barry Forgie arrangement of "Lady Madonna".

David Thornton was the first soloist of the second half with "Variations on a Theme by Rossini". It is a lyrical piece that requires an awful lot of control and understanding by the soloist, and David delivered this rendition, as though he was warming up at home - this man just gets better and better.

The Flugel Horn players union in the North of England certainly likes "Children of Sanchez". Anyone present in the hall three weeks earlier, would have heard Neil Hewson (Faireys) perform the same solo, as John Doyle did in his solo slot. This lovely voice of the flugel made it sound so easy (and of course, if you know the piece, it isn't), but it has to be said, it would be nice to hear something different every now and again, please.

Bass player, Joseph Cook was the final soloist of the evening, with ex-Grimethorpe player, Steve Sykes' arrangement of "Carnival Cocktail" – theme and variations on Carnival of Venice – magical stuff, leaving everyone wondering how any bass player can get that low on the instrument.

The Swedish Folk Song is perhaps better known as ‘How Great Thou Art'. It was arranged for Dyke by Peter Graham for a BBC ‘Songs of Praise' programme. Once again, Black Dyke showed why their band sound is legendary with an absorbing rendition that started with some magnificent player by flugel player, John Doyle.

Including this event, Black Dyke was starting a schedule of ten concerts in thirty-one days. Followed by five Christmas concerts in December. (who said banding was a hobby?) These concerts include a mini-tour with the Russian Army Band, in Leeds, Leicester, Sheffield and Stoke, not forgetting a joint concert with Longridge Band, and a recording session is in the pipeline before the end of the year. If you get the chance to listen to Black Dyke at the moment, do so. They are in great form. The contesting prizes might have gone elsewhere in 2003, but when it comes to putting on a performance, and ‘entertaining', this band is up there with the best of them.

According to the locals, it's a good number of years since the 1812 overture was heard inside Uppermill Civic Hall. Black Dyke put that right, as their finale. On a personal note, I have heard this three times now, and whilst it might be an abridged version of the original band arrangement, it really is mightily impressive. The narration by Matthew Routley gives background information on this classic piece, (professionally narrated as well, giving the impression that this man is no stranger to speaking in public). The opportunity is definitely there to forget all principals on controlled playing, not paying to attention to dynamics, but Nicholas Childs, did not let this happen, as the huge Dyke sound just left people astounded.

A number of players within top class bands also conduct bands as well. One such player is Phil Goodwin. The legendary bass player, loves every minute of his time with Delph Band, and with this concert having a number of people present connected with Delph, Phil got the spotlight in the band's encore, "Lucerne Song", by W Hogarth Lear. A brilliant way to finish any concert, as it allows the players individually to say farewell to the audience, and leaves the bass player on his own, to play anything he wants, until the other members come back on and quite literally shut him up with the final notes.

This was a concert that lived up to Phil Beck's philosophy of putting on a brass band concert where entertainment is the key. If you see anything with ‘Champion Brass – Phil Beck Entertainment's' attached to it, you know that is what you get, top class entertainment.

Malcolm Wood