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Grimethorpe Colliery Band

100th Anniversary Concert
Conductor: Frank Renton
Elsecar Heritage Centre
Friday 20th October

100 years of Grimethorpe glory was celebrated in what was to be the first of two excellent weekend concerts held at in the engine shed of the restored 18th century heritage village site in south Yorkshire.

It was an appropriate setting given their rich colliery history - aided by a splendid display of memorabilia that charted the development of a band that for almost half its life lived in the shadow of more successful local rivals. 


However, the arrival of the great George Thompson, readily available job opportunities and rivals with laissez-faire ‘hire and fire ‘em’ attitudes gave Grimethorpe a foothold from which they built for the next half century and more.  

And whilst the contest honours board remains enviable, it has been the reputation for providing outstanding entertainment, in whatever artistic form they have turned to, that has cemented their place in the consciousness of the general public.

There are of course the stories, tales and urban myths that have created a banding identity like no other, but the unique level of affection has primarily been achieved through hard earned artistic respect. It perhaps explains why the BBC (including Listen to the Band) as well as local ITV channels were also on hand to extensively cover the event. 

Expertly led

A neatly put-together programme, led expertly by Frank Renton, touched on the past, present and future (the number of youngsters in the ranks was noted) without becoming too encumbered with nostalgia. Former players were warmly acknowledged and welcomed, as were the contributions of some of the great conductors who have passed though the bandroom doors. 

The music touched all bases, with ‘Le Domino Noir’ followed by a Roger Webster masterclass on ‘Ave Maria’ to open. 

Bach’s ‘Little Fugue’, the excellent baritone Michael Cavanagh on ‘Peace’, ‘The Lady is  a Tramp’, ‘Irish Tune from County Derry’ and ‘MacArthur Park’ closed a first half which also featured a super feature from the brass playing children of Birkwood Primary School led by former euph star Michael Dodd.

Howarth classics

After an extended interval to enable people to catch up with old friends, there was more to follow: ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’, ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ (featuring Jamie Smith), ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, ‘In Christ Alone' (with Chris Robertson on euphonium) and ‘Lake of Tenderness’ paving the way for the Elgar Howarth classics of ‘Hogarth’s Hoe Down’, ‘Baba Yaga’ and ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’.

It had to be ‘William Tell’ to close - played at a tempo that not even Shergar, let alone The Lone Ranger and Tonto could have kept pace with. 

It rounded off a splendid celebratory night in a way that encapsulated Grimethorpe’s appeal in a nutshell. Fast, occasionally furious but forever entertaining. 

Iwan Fox

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