CD review: Scarborough Fayre

Hammonds Band
Conductor: Morgan Griffiths
Soloists: Kirsty Abbotts, Zoe Wright, Alan Morrison, Michael Walsh
Much Loved Productions
KMJ Recordings: HB0005

There was a time when the brass band movement in the UK inhabited an Arcadian land of cultural popularity; an era when the railways disgorged bandsman and their supporters by their thousands to enjoy the earthly Edwardian delights of London’s Crystal Palace.

Nowadays the reality is that bands must work harder than ever to maintain not only success, but relevance and profile.

Hammonds has certainly done that more than most.  

Solid slabs

Over the last 15 years Morgan Griffiths has dug deep foundations on which to build his band’s future - dropping down to the First Section before patiently making incremental steps to return to the British Open, and most recently to the National Finals for a second successive year.

This neatly produced promotional CD, linked to their regular appearance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, certainly reflects that; the easy listening music aimed at a specific entertainment demographic that appreciates talent as solid as slabs of Yorkshire limestone. 

What is performed is delivered very well. 

There is also a surprise or two amid the familiarity - notably the subdued colourings of  ‘Sunset Serenade’  by Thomas Doss, whilst Sandy Smith’s cracking arrangement of ‘Escorregando’  is a vibrant taste of Copacabana brought to shoreline of Scarborough Bay.

The quartet of high-class soloists are on prime form; Kirsty Abbotts on the delicate ‘Alaw’  by Tom Davoren and Zoe Wright with the tender ‘The Rowan Tree’.  Alan Morrison enjoys himself with a belting ‘Memory’  from ‘Cats’,  as does Michael Walsh with a dram or three of musical malt on the ‘Wee Cooper of Fife’.

Vibrant taste

There is also a surprise or two amid the familiarity - notably the subdued colourings of  ‘Sunset Serenade’  by Thomas Doss, whilst Sandy Smith’s cracking arrangement of ‘Escorregando’  is a vibrant taste of Copacabana brought to shoreline of Scarborough Bay.

Elsewhere we head on well-trodden pathways to Hollywood and Broadway, march in both quick and measured step with Strauss and Respighi, and detour for some Russian romance. 

There is also a reminder of 1950s BBC Light Programme optimism with Ronald Binge’s ‘Elizabethan Serenade’  and Gordon’s Langford’s alchemist’s touch on the title track. 

It’s a pity though there are no sleeve notes to remind the listener about the aptness of Lionel Monkton’s musical accompaniment to ‘The Arcadians’.

Even today it’s an accurate reflection of the realities of brass band life.

Iwan Fox

To purchase: https://www.hammondsband.org.uk/online-shop/scarborough-fayre

Play list:

1. That's Entertainment (Dietz/Schartz arr. M. Bennett)
2. The Arcadians Overture (L. Monkton arr. Wood)
3. Alaw (T. Davoren)
Soloist: Kirtsy Abbotts

4. Astaire! (Berlin/Kern etc arr. S. Smith)
5. The Rowan Tree (Scots trad arr. S. Smith
Soloist: Zoe Wright

6. Dark Eyes (Russian trad arr. S. Smith)
7. Scarborough Fair (trad arr. G. Langford)
8. Mame (J. Herman arr. A. Morrison)
9. Where Our Flag Waves (J. Strauss II)
10. Memory from ‘Cats' (Lloyd Webber arr. A. Catherall
Soloist: Alan Morrison

11. Wee Cooper O Fife (Scots trad arr. A. Drover
Soloist: Michael Walsh

12. Sunset Serenade (T. Doss)
13. Escorregando (Tango Brasileiro) (E. Nazareth arr. S. Smith)
14. Elizabethan Serenade (R. Binge)
15. March from 'The Pines of Rome' (O. Respighi arr. H. Snell)

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