CD review: Diadem of Gold

The Oldham Band (Lees)
Conductor: John Collins
WOS CD 144

2018 was certainly a memorable year for the Oldham Band (Lees).  

Five wins from six contests, plus a bonus pay day on the Whit Friday circuit was some achievement, but more so as it also encompassed a ‘Triple Crown’ of North West Regional Championship, Senior Cup and National Final victories.

Triple Crown

This CD is a fine way to commemorate those successes under MD, John Collins; the triptych of test-pieces played at the Area, Spring Festival and Cheltenham added to with Philip Sparke’s ‘Dances & Alleluias’ which rounded off the year with victory at the Rochdale contest, as well as their Whit Friday march, ‘The Wizard’ (repeated as a ‘live’ a bonus track) and the hymn tune ‘Abide with Me’.

As was shown on those contest stages, confidence bubbles through the veins of the ensemble; ‘Brass Metamorphosis’ (the Area set-work) boldly delivered in each of its five variant forms. It’s playing that has a muscular vibrancy.

The classic constraints of ‘Diadem of Gold’ are adhered to without losing passion or drama - helped by the high class solo work in the soprano and cornet and a flowing momentum, but it’s their rendition of ‘King Arthur - Scenes from a Radio Drama’ that impresses most.

A work of considerable complexity, the MDs clarity of musical thought shines through (as it did in Cheltenham) bringing certainty, excitement and a touching core of melancholy to bear. It’s a super performance.

A work of considerable complexity, the MDs clarity of musical thought shines through (as it did in Cheltenham) bringing certainty, excitement and a touching core of melancholy to bear. It’s a super performance.


‘Dances & Alleluias’ may well be something of an ‘off the shelf’ piece of Sparke, but it’s still high quality writing. The familiar tropes are seamlessly joined together as John Collins paces the music with sensibility, allowing his players the chance to shine.

The double helping of ‘The Wizard’ and a tender ‘Abide with Me’ round off a recording that is a worthy musical memento of a year that could well provide the foundation stone on which further impressive success is built.

Iwan Fox


To purchase: http://www.oldhamband.co.uk/

1. Brass Metamorphosis (James Curnow)
2. Diadem of Gold (Guillaume Balay arr. Frank Wright)
3. The Wizard (George Allen)
4. King Arthur - Scenes from a Radio Play (Benjamin Britten arr. Paul Hindmarsh)
5. Abide With Me (William Henry Monk arr. Karl Jenkins)
6. Dances & Alleluias (Philip Sparke)
7. 2018 Whit Friday ‘Live’

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