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Reopening of Rochdale Town Hall marked with Black Dyke Band concerts

Not only did the Black Dyke Mills Band fill the air in the celebratory procession at the opening of Rochdale Town Hall in 1871, but its successors, the current champion band of Great Britain 2023, performed at a pair of concerts to celebrate the reopening of the renovated Town Hall.

The last time we heard the glorious Binns organ was an Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside Organists’ Association concert during Covid, played by Paul Carr on Saturday 10 October 2020, so, it was great to see it played again by the celebrated organist Darius Battiwalla.

With the Great Hall ceilings cleaned and gleaming, the angelic buttresses and soaring rafters, the hundreds of people in the capacity audience were under no doubt that with world class brass, Rochdale is open for business.

The massive power of the Black Dyke Band is undeniable. It is a constellation of stars, with an admirable policy to highlight its many excellent soloists contained within.

Professor Nicholas Childs is a legendary figure himself in the international music world, as a performer, teacher, and promoter. He also proved to be a highly skilled conductor and genial, engaging compere.

The band’s interpretations of Walton’s Crown Imperial and von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture were magnificent. As indeed was the mellifluous cornet solo of Richard Marshall followed by the rest of the section in Binge’s Carillon, with meticulous Mantovani-like phrasing.

The solo flugel horn of Stephanie Binns and euphonium of Adam Bokaris in The Armed Man suite by Jenkins again showed first-class individual merits, before the band was joined by organist Darius Battiwalla once more in Boellmann’s Toccata from Suite Gothique.

The second half began with a world premiere, commissioned by the council, of a work by Iain Farrington, (who was present in the audience) entitled The New Pioneers. A bright modern piece that is sure to get more airtime.

More excellent soloists shone forth, including Siobahn Bates on tenor horn, a stunning Air Varie on Rule Britannia by Adam Bokaris, and a dazzling xylophone solo by Gareth Hand.

However, the band proved itself even greater than the sum of its parts with Elgar’s Nimrod - its soaring climaxes and magical dying away that must be the signature sound of a champion band.

The finale was in full Last Night of the Proms tradition, with audience participation complete with flags, in Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No1; rounding off a triumphant night for the musicians, audience, and of course the splendid Town Hall itself.

Dr Joe Dawson

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