4BR Dinner Guests — Allan Withington

One of the most brilliant list of dinner guests you are ever likely to meet — from Joan of Arc to William Halliwell. A great night is guarenteed then...

Allan Withing and wife
The ultimate dinner party hosts...Mr & Mrs Withington

Given the opportunity, the wish list, the ability to mess about with the Space-Time Continuam like Doctor Who, and the skill to cook like Heston Blumenthal, who would you like to invite around to your place to enjoy a meal and chin wag with?

4BR started it all off a few days before Christmas 2007 with our 10 dinner guests, so we thought we had better ask a few more brass band personalities who would be on their all time dinner list too..

Double champion

This time we have asked Allan Withington, MD of 'Double' champions Foden's - and a man who certainly know about life outside of banding...

He told 4BR: "My guests, apart from my wife and myself have all passed away at some time in history. This way I can test out various thoughts and theories.

I think that a Halloween theme would be appropriate.

The guests would mirror our love of France, Britain and Scandinavia and all come equipped with memories and tales from their particular century and able to inform and entertain both Kirsten and myself.

Kirsten would make the food which would consist of a five course fish menu with dishes from all the countries represented. 

She is also a fantastic `talker` in most languages so she could, in the very unlikely event of a lull in the conversation, fill in the gaps."

1. Arthur Riothamus 

He was a mercenary soldier that lived at the beginning of the 5th century and often in the employ of the failing Roman Empire, defending positions in France.

I am, at the moment, writing a musical play about his life and travels so it would be a great chance to ask, how close I am to portraying him in a credible manner.

2. Joan of Arc/Jeanne d'Arc 

She died when she was 19 and had already led French armies to important victories during the 100 Years War, evidently on a mission from God to reclaim large parts of France from English domination.

I would bring her up to speed and explain that actually, in the South West, not much had changed from her day and would show her the increase in the British population of the Dordogne over recent years using the internet.

She would not understand this word especially as I would emphasise the `t` at the end and she would point out that `…in France they simply don`t pronounce the ends of words…’ 

Kirsten would counter with, ‘…in Denmark, we often don’t pronounce half of the word!’

I am sure William Halliwell (see below) would not be able to resist with the quip, ‘… actually, in Wigan, sometimes we simply don’t pronounce any of the word!’

Arthur (see above) would wonder what was going on.

Anyway, what a tough lady she must have been and she would stand no messing around from Cyrano (below). She is also someone Kirsten could practice her French on.

3. Cyrano de Begerac 

Someone who shouldn’t be left out of any dinner party.

A larger than life character who would bring a much needed literary slant to the gathering. He would charm the life from all other guests with his swashbuckling tales and in addition, probably drink us dry.

I would have a backup plan though.

The Black Prince (below) would supply the wine from his plundering during the 100 Years War - all vintage stuff, of course.

Arthur would probably throw in an anecdote that he too had plundered in France. 

I would counter with,  ‘…Yes, but you didn’t steal any wine so it doesn’t really count’.

4. The Black Prince
He was the son of Edward III and owned a house just a couple of streets away from ours in our lovely village in France. 

The village was started in 1297 and we often discuss what life must have like in those early days and how many different people must have lived and died in our house. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to get a firsthand account?

Unfortunately he did have a bad side though.

Burning his victims was one of his favourite past times so I would casually ask if he could explain himself to Joan of Arc and if he still thought his previous acts were big or indeed clever.

The Prince also treated the working classes harshly by levying heavy taxes - a great chance to bring in Andy Warhol (below) here!

I would encourage this debate just before the third course and after a few glasses of the Black Prince’s wine.

Kirsten would be primed and ready to mediate if things should indeed take a downward turn.

5. William Halliwell

A fellow ‘Wiganer’, and conductor with a bigger workload than even mine.

How fascinating this would be to compare experiences with the man who managed the last ‘Double’ with Foden’s, 102 years ago. 

His travelling schedule must have been enormous, but I suppose there were no traffic jams in those days.

The famous banding sentence/excuse of, ‘Sorry ‘am late Allan, got stuck ont’ motorway’ hadn’t been invented then.

I would carefully bring him up to date and would try to inform him that his record 10 wins at the Nationals was now at serious risk of being defeated.

However, any pomposity on my misplaced behalf would be countered I suspect with him updating me on his Open record.

I would have to sheepishly agree.

6. Fred Mortimer 

I would pursue the Foden’s connection, if only to counteract the French one developing further down the table.

Arthur would still be confused as to my last utterance but Jean and Cyrano would be great friends by now: Jean feeling comfortable enough to comment on the size of Cyrano`s nose.

Again, I would love to compare notes. What was it like working with Foden’s at that time? What was it like following William Halliwell into the position?

Did he get paid, in relative terms, more than I did? If so, why? Then I would excuse myself from the party and ring Andy Rolfe at Foden’s, immediately!

On Mr. Mortimer’s return to the `Band in the Sky` I would ask him to convey the same message I gave Mr. Halliwell: Carefully explain to your son Harry that he might soon be demoted to third place in the Nationals merit list.

I suspect Fred would defend his son’s honour by naming all the things Harry could do that I couldn’t and that he had two other famous sons, at which point I would decide to keep quiet!!

Jean I am sure would chirp up, ‘…what was all this Nationals rubbish anyway?`

Arthur would remind us of his obsession with plundering, but state that he couldn’t remember doing it at the Nationals.

7. Andy Warhol 

Anybody that knocks the snob value out of any form of culture is welcome at my dinner table.

He demolished all barriers between commercial and fine art and provoked the discussion ‘What is Fine Art?’

Anything could be beautiful, and acceptance of this was truly in the eye of the beholder. 

He would go on however, to suggest that maybe, with Cyrano, he was stretching this observation just a little…

8. Iona Brown 

She was a conductor, but also revered for her violin expertise leading the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra for a number of years.

I remember her conducting, in Bergen, a performance of Tchaikovsky`s ‘5th Symphony’. She was an awesome musician, one who just captured my heart.

She walked on the stage for the first rehearsal and stood by the conductor’s stand. There was some shuffling of seats in our section at the back - a not unusual act.

This aging lady looked up and remarked, `Oh,……… am I stood in the wrong place?’

The orchestra fell apart laughing for what was a pretty good opening gambit. 

Needless to say, the concert was a success.

Iona would be ready at all times with a quick quip to silence the unruly French contingent.

9. Goff Richards

He had a huge impact on my early musical life and I am only just starting to realize it.

Goff gave me my first musical ‘bollocking’ as a young student on the inaugural course at Salford.

I didn’t know him then but I sat down to listen a concert of `new music` being performed by another member of staff. 

This was a new and completely weird experience for myself. Being a rebel at that time, I uttered some politically incorrect comments.

Goff came across to me and asked if I had understood what the member of staff was trying to portray. No, answered I - it is just a load of %&¤#.

He advised me, in no uncertain terms, that in future, first I must understand the music before I can come with any critique. From that day on I started to see contemporary music in a completely different light.

I also wish that I had visited him more often during his long illness.

This dinner party would give me chance to make amends. Goff would probably ask the Black Prince did he or anybody else gathered tonight understand why it was necessary that the 100 Years War took so long.

I, having learned from my first encounter with Goff would rush in with a very confident yes and seize my chance…

10. Ina Kaland Nordfonn

She was the mother of my two children who died tragically and very suddenly some years ago. 

So much so, that we never got the chance to say goodbye: Either she to us, or us to her.

Myself, Pia and Philip had to adapt to the new situation very quickly, but it has always bothered me that we could never say that last ‘see ya’.

I would love her to meet Kirsten and it would give me the chance to tell her that both her children are happy and healthy. 

She also loved arguing, so I am sure she would give Joan of Arc and the other guests a run for their money.

She was a bit of a history buff too, so any embellishment of the facts during the inevitable heated discussions would soon be sorted out in a true Scandinavian manner.

Some final thoughts before the taxis arrive....

All in all I think, the dinner party would have been a huge success.

Joan of Arc would return to her resting place and promise to read up on the `Nationals`, Arthur would still be confused but secretly decide that it was time to start his campaign of plundering the said contest, Cyrano would have tired of Jean and left early with Andy, whilst Goff would be checking if I really had understood the reason for the 100 Years War.

The Black Prince would stay in contact with William and Fred and constantly test them on pronunciation and would also subscribe to 4BR so he could follow Arthur’s new `National` campaign at a distance.

Kirsten would be pleased that there was no need to order any taxis and together with Iona and Ina would start the necessary series of coaching sessions with Arthur.

I would be pleased that I at last had had the chance to gather all these people together and almost certainly would have had the feeling that the ideas for a new show were feverishly brewing.

Previous dinner guest lists:

Previous guests have included the 4BR selection; Chris Wormald; David Read; Pete Meechan; Alan Jenkins; Derek Broadbent; Philip Harper; Peter Roberts; Frank Renton; James Shepherd; Dr Roy Newsome; Paul Lovatt-Cooper; Bramwell Tovey; Kevin Crockford; Morvern Gilchrist and Lesley Howie; Richard Evans; Simone Rebello; Ian Porthouse; David Daws; Alan Morrison; Alan Wycherley; Mark Bousie; Steven Haynes; Simon Dobson; Ian Buckley;, John Roberts; Cai Isfryn; James Stretton; Harmen Vanhoorne, Bad Ass Brass, Lewis Musson, Tom Hutchinson, Jeremy Wise, Mark Harrison, Brett Baker, Ian Brownbill, Mark Wilkinson and Craig Patterson.


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Camborne Youth Band

July 16 • Camborne Brass (2nd Section). We are aiming to bolster urgently our cornet section with both front and back row cornets (all positions negotiable). We are also expanding our training section. All ages and abilities are welcome from beginners upwards.

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July 15 • 2 x Cornet Players required. Positions are negotiable, excluding Principal as players are willing to move around. Experience preferred but all ages considered if ability can be demonstrated. Enjoyable rehearsals/great socials!

James McLeod

BMus (hons)
Euphonium Soloist, Teacher and Conductor


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