The following article appeared in BASBWE magazine
Since its formation in 1983, Werneth Concert Band, based in and around the Stockport area, has built up a reputation as community band of considerable quality and innovation both on and the concert platform and in competition. In the Boosey & Hawkes National Concert Band Festival the Band has achieved considerable success, including two Gold Awards and three Silver Awards in the National Finals since its first attempt when the Band won through to the finals in the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.
Like any other “working” band which has to generate both money and audiences, it has to keep a careful balance in its programme building. Alongside the usual selections, transcriptions and lighter items the band, and in particular its conductor Allan Jones, has always felt it important to broaden the horizons of player and audience alike with original, more serious works. Examples of works performed and/or rehearsed by the Band include Beowoulf (Macbeth), Choral and Alleluia (Hanson), Chorale & Shaker Dance (Zdechlik), Concerto for Band and Concerto for Timpani and Band (Jacob), Gallimaufrey and S.P.Q.R. (Woolfenden), Incantation and Dance (Chance), Lincolnshire Posy (Grainger), Othello (Reed), Suite of Old American Dances (Bennett), Toccatta Marziale (Vaughan Williams) and, of course, the Holst Suites.
The Band also commissioned Bill Connor to write Waiting Game, his first piece for wind band and was presented with the wind band score of Into the Ark by its composer, the late John Golland.
In addition to its regular concert and festival work the Band has undertaken two foreign tours. The first was to Heilbronn, Stockport’s twin town in Germany, in May 1991. More recently the Band visited Portugal in May 1998, when a party of 45 players and 35 friends and family (the “Klingons”) flew from Manchester to Lisbon for a week-long visit. The spur for this visit was “EXPO ‘98", the international exhibition being held in Lisbon from 22 September 1998.
Using a hotel in nearby Cascais as its base, the Band performed eight times in a range of venues. Both venue and occasion dictated a fairly light tour repertoire. For instance, on the first day of the tour the Band performed at a formal reception held at the residence of the British Ambassador to Portugal, Roger Westbrook, where the Ambassador entertained the Lord Mayor of London, Richard Nichols, who was the official British representative at the opening ceremony of “EXPO ‘98", the Mayor of Lisbon and other guests. The programme reflected the nature of the assembly and included “light” music such as Osser’s Italian and Beguine Festivals, Symphonic Beatles (arranged by John Cacavas), Sinatra in Concert (arranged by Jerry Nowak), ending with the playing of the British and Portuguese National Anthems for the formal toasts.
The following day the Band performed before, during and after a church service held at St. George’s Church, Lisbon, also attended by the official guests. In addition to accompanying the hymns the band performed and appropriate programme including Custer’s arrangement of Suite from the Water Music and Balladair (Erickson). In the evening, at the same venue, the Band gave a full length concert which included Chorale & Shaker Dance (Zdechlik), transcriptions of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances (arranged by Clair Johnson) and Frank Erickson’s arrangement of Ravel’s Bolero. They then played items representative of the four home countries, including Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry, and Ye Banks and Braes and Claude T. Smith’s God of Our Fathers
Other performances during the week included short informal concerts in front of the United Kingdom and European Union Pavilions at EXPO ‘98. Unfortunately the Band’s midnight performance on the main stage had to be cancelled because of rain and problems with the sound and lighting systems. However, the Band was in prime position for the amazing firework and lighting display.
On the Tuesday the Band spent most of the day at St. Julian’s School in Carcavelos, whose head teacher Davis Styan and wife Caroline, both formerly of Stockport, had done so much to make the whole visit a success. An afternoon concert/demonstration for the pupils was followed by an evening public concert in the beautiful courtyard of the school. This concert took the form of a “Last Night of the Proms”, with the usual fodder of Fantasia on British Sea Songs, Jerusalem and Pomp & Circumstance March No 1., accompanied by steamers, balloons, flags and a very enthusiastic audience of British and Portuguese.
The final concert was shared with a local band, the Banda da Sociedade Musical União Paradense at the most impressively finished Teatro Gil Vicente in Cascais, which followed a most enjoyable reception at the hotel. Guests at this reception included many of the people who had helped and supported the Band during its stay. The Band’s second half programme included a repeat performance of Chorale & Shaker Dance, as well as Jay Chattway’s Parade of the Tall Ships and Invicta by James Swearingen.
The band's thanks are due especially to Allan Jones for rehearsing and conducting the many items which were prepared for the concerts and to John Glynn for all his hard work in arranging the trip. Considerable help was also provided by the UK staff of Portugalia Airlines, who even returned a bag of music stands which had been left on the luggage carousel at Manchester Airport and returned to Oporto!
On the financial side, considerable efforts were made to raise money to help to subsidise the trip. Whilst local shops and business were eager to help, the economic climate meant that the income from such sources was fairly small, though very much appreciated. Local authority help was non-existent and events of this nature do not qualify for lottery assistance. In the end, much of the subsidy was funded from Band funds which had accumulated over the seven years since the Band had last been abroad. The trip was such a success, however, that plans are already being made for another in two years time, with a much greater emphasis being placed on fund-raising in the intervening period.
With regard to lottery funding, it is noted that the editorial in the Summer 1998 issue of “Winds” referred to the fact that our colleagues in the brass band movement attracted much more in the way of grants than did the wind band movement. This would appear to be because, on the whole, wind band members have their own instruments, whereas in the brass band area there is a tradition of bands providing instruments for their members. Equally, few wind bands have their own premises, which could be another means of attracting lottery funding. Clearly we are at a disadvantage here, though the solution is not obvious, other than changing the lottery rules!
In addition to the works already mentioned, the Band took with it a tour repertoire which, although on the light side, was appropriate for the tour. Items included Walkabout (Woodfield), Barnard Castle (Richards), Amparita Roca (Jaime Texidor), Sarabande and Polka (Arnold), Lerner and Loewe in Concert and Les Miserables (arranged by Warren Barker), Clair Grundmas’s Little English Suite and Sundance by Frank Ticheli.
In many ways the repertoire hopefully reflects the nature of community bands, that is the need to entertain and educate. Werneth Concert Band feels that it has got the balance about right. The Band moves into its sixteenth season with some titles already in place, such as Incantation and Dance , Cajun Folksongs No. 2 (Ticheli),Forest of Arden (Lloyd).Sunmount (Washburn) and Festivo (Gregson). They will no doubt be joined by new titles from the more popular repertoire.