Holmfirth Arts Festival 2012


As just one of many events in a packed programme that made up the Holmfirth Arts Festival, the Skelmanthorpe Band was invited to throw off its traditional brass band persona and provide an evening of swing and big band music.

“Everybody dug that beat, everybody stamped their feet.Everybody digs the bop, and they’ll never stop.”

These words taken from the jazz standard ‘Birdland’, which formed part of the band’s ‘Swinging Brass’ programme the other night, were certainly true as the capacity crowd at Holmfirth Picturedrome were stamping their feet, dancing the night away and shouting for encore after encore!

The band was joined in the Picturedrome by a local dance troupe specialising in 1940’s and ’50’s dance styles. They were dressed in nostalgic period costume lending a real post war feeling to the evening. They danced along to a programme of music chosen by the band’s musical director John Roberts, which included many favourites from the Glenn Millar Orchestra including String of Pearls, Mood Indigo, Moonlight Serenade, and the St. Louis Blues. These were mixed with lots of jazz standards such as Caravan, Birdland, and Sing, Sing, Sing, and just to add a more contemporary twist there was also music from Robbie Williams and Michael Buble.

Adding to the relaxed atmosphere of the night, the band were seated in a ‘big band’ formation rather than the more restrictive traditional brass band line up, and cast aside the usual purple and gold formal stage jackets in favour of more timeless and stylish black shirts.

From the very outset of the evening, the audience were encouraged to get up and dance, and aided by the ‘cabaret’ style arrangement of the audience seating (and possibly due to the fact that the bar at the back of the hall was open throughout the night!), it wasn’t long before the whole room was up on its feet dancing, jiving and bopping to the big band sound.

The talents in the band extend further than just playing instruments although the audience were treated to some captivating music making from the two soloists of the evening: firstly from David Hirst, guest principal cornet for the evening, who gave a flawless performance of Hogey Carmichael’s ‘Georgia On My Mind’, and then by Bass Trombonist Steve Godson, who played the ever popular ‘Killing Me Softly’ made popular by Roberta Flack in 1973. The arranging talents of some of the band members were also on display with percussionist Richard Hartnell’s versions of Someone Like You, and the Family Guy Theme , as well as Soprano and piccolo trumpet player extraordinaire Mike Kilmartin’s arrangement of Gonna Entertain, each proving to be a hit with the very appreciative audience.

The band received shouts for encore after encore following a programme of dance music which by the end of the evening had everyone on their feet, and even saw the band singing!!

The quality of the brass playing was first class and was enhanced by a very full and busy percussion section (which included some very nifty washboard playing from the band’s solo horn player Laura Brown who was out of brass playing action following major dental surgery).

In the words of Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, “when the music goes around, everybody comes to town…” so make sure that you don’t miss out on any future big band nights when they come around, and get your tickets booked in advance for what I promise you will be a most enjoyable foot tapping night of nostalgia.

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