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Grimethorphe Colliery Band, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - review

Theatre & Comedy | Published:

The Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band treated Wolverhampton crowds to a variety of songs from their repertoire last night when they came to the Grand Theatre

Grimethorpe Colliery Band

On Tuesday, October 13, 1992, the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, announced the closure of more than thirty collieries in the UK, including the one in the Yorkshire village of Grimethorpe.

The Colliery Brass Band, which had already made a name for itself, was due to appear in the national brass band championships that weekend and they were determined that nothing would stop them. They went to the Albert Hall in London to give a stunning performance of A New Jerusalem by Philip Welby and become the National Championship Band of Great Britain.

That story triggered the idea of a film based on those events and the band provided the musical tracks for the film, and went on to establish its position as one of the country’s best brass bands. The village fared less well.

When the mine closed some months later some 6000 people were to lose their jobs and the local unemployment rate rose to over 50 per cent. The village was designated as the poorest community in Great Britain in a 1994 European Union report.

The band was determined to maintain its position as one of the country’s leading brass bands and was fortunate to secure enough funding to achieve that goal.

Saturday’s programme at the Grand Theatre included some favourites from the brass band repertoire including a lively account of Berlioz’s Le Corsaire which demonstrated some very bewitching talent, followed by a beautifully played solo by principal horn player Helen Varley of Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend.

There were also medleys of tunes from John Williams’ Star Wars and songs associated with Fred Astaire.

However, some of the best pieces of the night were the delightful arrangements of traditional folk tunes. The Irish folk tune Carrickfergus was splendidly played by baritone soloist Mike Cavanagh, while The Water of Tyne was a wistfully atmospheric version of this North Eastern folk song arranged by Philip Harper who certainly knows how to produce a exquisite tone from a brass ensemble.

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Chris Robertson, on the euphonium, impressed with his increasingly complicated performance of The Carnival of Venice.

There were, as you might expect, some references to the film Brassed Off. The march Death or Glory provided the backing for the film’s opening sequence, but played here as an encore.

Rodrigo’s Concierto d’Aranjuez, referred to in the film as Concerto de Orange Juice, which provided the romantic sub-plot in the story, was brilliantly played by flugel-horn soloist Mark Walters.

Conductor Sandy Smith provided a thrilling finale in a compelling account of Respighi’s The Pines of the Appian Way –the final movement of a tone poem which traces the life of a Roman man who in this section returns to Rome as part of a victorious army. The control of the pianissimo horn calls was most impressive and the insistent beat as the troops came closer provided a most stirring finale.

An excellent concert in many respects, but a shame that there were so few aspiring young brass players to experience the high standards of musicianship on display.

By Jerald Smith

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