Rochdale Music Society’s 40th anniversary season begins with Oldham Band

Date published: 04 November 2019

The Rochdale Music Society has been promoting great music played by great musicians for the last 40 years in venues across the borough. In recent years, the venue has been the Civic Centre in Heywood which provides a welcoming, comfortable and acoustically generous setting for both audience and performers alike.

The society’s 40th anniversary season began on Saturday 26 October with a flourish as the members of the award-winning Oldham Band (Lees) flooded the auditorium with a rich assortment of colourful and expertly served musical delights.

The band’s range of musical genres is wide enough to embrace an Overture by Rossini - that to his opera Tancredi - and a brilliant Gershwin encore piece - Strike up the Band – as well as consorting with one of its members - Matt Corrigan - as richly voiced and finely tuned vocalist in offering several deliciously delivered songs, including Beyond the Sea (some of us remembered the original Charles Trenet version) and Cry Me a River.

The concert began in traditional fashion with a march - Senator by G. Allen - which made an instant impression of the disciplined playing we were to experience throughout. This was followed by the Rossini overture, after which the band’s leading cornet player, seasoned player and conductor Alan Hobbins, responded to the extreme technical challenges of Napoli with great aplomb. The Buglers’ Holiday by Leroy Anderson then featured the band’s buglers in a tantalising display of technical dexterity before the prize-winning flügel player, Toni Heywood, gave an enchanting performance of George Michael’s Faith.

The first half of the concert ended with some beautiful melodic expression in the Prière à Notre Dâme from the Suite Gothique for Organ by Léon Boëllmann and some suitably full-throated deep brass sounds in the Toccata from the same suite.

The second half began with an exemplary account of the March: Le rêve passe by G. Krier.

Chipanecas, which followed, gave the whole band opportunities to show how well they can make breathing sounds and click their fingers in time while accompanying the traditional hand-clapping song tune from Chiapas in Mexico. Matt Corrigan returned to Cry Me a River by A. Hamilton and Feeling Good by A. Newley. It was then with some diffidence that the musical director, John Collins, introduced Keep me Praising, a lively and inventive combination by A. Mackereth of two much loved Salvation Army Songbook tunes. He need not have been diffident - it worked out well in performance, and the audience showed its appreciation of the fact.

The next to last work proved, for me, the least satisfactory musically.

The Benedictus from Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man is very repetitive in its original context, and even though it gave the soloist an opportunity to shine as with ‘a pure, clear light’, it sounded quite monotonous in this wordless arrangement by A. Small.

On the other hand, the Finale to Fraternity by T. Deleruyelle which ended the concert programme is another test piece and gave the band members the chance to show that they can be just as proficient in playing softly as they can in letting things rip.

John Collins is to be congratulated along with every member of the Oldham Band (Lees) for marshalling his forces with understated authority and excellent musical results.

Graham Marshall

Rochdale Music Society’s concerts:

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