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The Hammonds Saltaire Brass Band At The SJT
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
The band outside The Royal Albert Hall in 2017
The Hammonds Saltaire Brass Band is the current name for the extremely popular, prize-winning outfit, which has been coming to Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, in early January, for the last twenty years.

For much of that time it has gone by the name of the Yorkshire Building Society Band or YBS.

Huddersfield-based now and drawing its musicians not only locally but as far afield Derbyshire and Lancashire, its roots can be traced firmly back to Saltaire, where it was founded in 1854.

Its new name recognises both its original home, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its first major sponsor, the Hammonds Sauce Company.

Under the leadership of Morgan Griffiths - who in his day as a star euphonium player collected more silverware than Sir Alex Ferguson - the band as usual delighted the Saturday night audience. The concert began with J.J. Richards’s rousing Rainbow Pier March, followed by the popular overture from the younger Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, immediately reminding how particularly sonorous and deeply stirring brass instruments sound in this theatre’s round.

The first truly heart-stopping moment came with one of the most elegant pieces in the cornet solo repertory, Willow Echoes, delivered with a noble pitch-perfect plangency by Philip Varley. Not to be outdone, Catherine Owen replied with a most affecting flugelhorn solo on the lovely song popularised by Anne Murray in 1978, You Needed Me.

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A touch of levity to put smiles on faces came in the form of the Sandpaper Ballet, one of those novelty instrumentals by Leroy Anderson (he who gave the world The Typewriter song). The scratching and scraping elements were performed with rare gusto by the four percussionists. All too soon, the first half was drawing to a close, albeit a rowdy one – with a wild cascade of flaming, ‘flying semi-quavers’, as Morgan Griffiths put it, with the finale from Philip Sparke’s The Year of The Dragon, a brass band tour de force.

The second half contained a similarly eclectic mix, with bravura solos from Zoe Wright (tenorhorn), Ashley Higgins (euphonium) and Gareth Davis (bass trombone), Sousa’s magnificent march, King Cotton, and lots of bright sparkling tunes.
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There was something beautifully nostalgic for northerners of a certain age, the hymn for all occasions reminscent of Sunday afternoons in the park and those wet Whit Friday processions, to say nothing of F.A. Cup Finals, festivals and funerals and breaking up from school!

Yes, an Abide With Me to moisten a few eyes - before suddenly the Humming Chorus from Madam Butterfly cast its customary reverential spell upon the audience. The concert drew to a close with that Salvation Army show stopper, Shine As The Light, so often a brass band test piece. It’s safe to say this prize-winning band, runners up in last year’s Yorkshire regional championship, passed with flying colours.

There is always something redolent of civic pride and community spirit about this type of orchestra, an impression enhanced by the sight of these thirty dedicated musicians, some of them very young-looking and all immensely well turned out, the ladies in black evening dresses, the men in scarlet shirts and black waistcoats.

Sir Titus Salt gave the model village he built on the banks of the River Aire in the 1850s much more than his name. He bestowed on it an enduring cultural identity. Conceiving of his mill, built in an Italianate style, as a ‘palace of industry’ where hard work and enterprise would go hand in hand with a love of the arts, he provided his workers with amenities for both their physical and spiritual welfare.

Had Sir Titus been here tonight, behind those bushy whiskers would have been an approving smile.. A hundred and fifty years or more later, his spirit lives on.

The band will give another performance, on Sunday, 7th January, at 3pm and then the SJT closes its doors for two months for refurbishment. Hammonds Saltaire Brass Band has already been booked for next January!

The Hammonds Saltaire Brass Band At The SJT, 7th January 2018, 12:10 PM