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CD review: Banding with Ball

The Music of Eric Ball
Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band
Conductor: Robert Oughton
Soloist: Kevin Bolton
Audiocord Recordings: ACD 210


Amberlee Records was a label that specialised in electric and theatre organ recordings from performers such as Doreen Chadwick, Vic Hammett and Ronald Curtis – now, long forgotten entertainers of the 1950’s and 1960s. 

In 1972 they tentatively dipped into brass banding and recorded Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band in South Elmsall under MD Robert Oughton. Sadly it was to be an intriguing ‘one-off’, never followed up, although in 1990 it was re-released on cassette on the Audiocord label. 

Now MSS Studios, a small company based in Dolgellau who hold the recording rights have digitally remastered the original and released it on CD.

Time capsule

It is a remarkable 50-year-old time capsule of a banding culture still very much rooted in its artistic past with works from Eric Ball’s back catalogue, including a passionately shaped ‘Resurgam’  (1950) and dramatically infused ‘Akhnaton’  (1946).   

The recording (splendidly upgraded to give a clean immediacy and vibrancy) showcases an ensemble of bold tonality and rugged confidence, although lacking the stylistics subtitles and broad tonal warmth of the era defining Black Dyke of Geoffrey Brand.  

Oughton (1920-1995) was no stranger to Ball’s music having been a highly regarded cornet player and conductor. Having taken over from Jack Atherton in the early 1970s the band was a respected competitive ensemble, winning the Yorkshire Area in 1971 and coming runner-up the following year at the British Open, although Grimethorpe was still the pre-eminent local mining band rival.

The recording (splendidly upgraded to give a clean immediacy and vibrancy) showcases an ensemble of bold tonality and rugged confidence, although lacking the stylistic subtitles and broad tonal warmth of the era defining Black Dyke of Geoffrey Brand.  

Artisan and robust

This is music making hewn from the coalface – truthful, artisan and robust, the imperfections obvious but accommodated.

‘Country Fair’ from ‘Holiday Suite’ (1952) also harks back to a lost post war land of village greens and brylcreamed cricketers, whilst ‘Prelude to Pageantry’ (1947) has touch of a theatrical grandeur – like a fanfare to a Shakespearean appearance of Laurence Olivier on stage at the Old Vic. 

The 1950 marches ‘Sure & Steadfast’ and ‘Rosslyn’  (named after a house in London Eric Ball lived with his wife Olive – to which it is dedicated) are played with sure footed purpose, whilst the interlude ‘The Passing Years’  from ‘Divertimento’  (1946) has a lovely nostalgic feel of lost youth.

‘Country Fair’  from ‘Holiday Suite’  (1952) also harks back to a lost post war land of village greens and brylcreamed cricketers, whilst ‘Prelude to Pageantry’  (1947) has touch of a theatrical grandeur – like a fanfare to a Shakespearean appearance of Laurence Olivier on stage at the Old Vic. 

Glimpse of history

There is a capricious star turn though from Kevin Bolton on ‘Conchita’  – played with bold elan, while a look at the band line-up reveals plenty of other ‘star’ names, including a very young S. Sykes on ‘third’ BBb tuba.   

And whilst both ‘Akhnaton’  and ‘By the Cool Waters’  from ‘Indian Summer’  (1950) are very much musical stereotypes of their time and place with echoes of film scores by Alfred Newman and Victor Young, the explorative assuredness of ‘Free Fantasia’  (1946) is a startling joy. 

An enjoyable glimpse back in history, it still leaves you wondering just how far brass banding has progressed in the past 50 years.

Iwan Fox


To purchase: 
https://organs.uk/product/banding-with-ball/

Play list:

1. Sure & Stedfast (Eric Ball)
2. The Passing Years – Interlude from ‘Divertimento’ (Eric Ball)

3. Resurgam (Eric Ball)
4. Country Fair – Waltz from ‘Holiday Suite’ (Eric Ball)

5. By the Cool Waters – Interlude from Fantasy ‘An Indian Summer’ (Eric Ball)
6. Prelude to Pageantry – from ‘Four Preludes’ (Eric Ball)

7. Conchita (Eric Ball)
Soloist: Kevin Bolton
8. Akhnaton: An Egyptian Legend (Eric Ball)

9. Rosslyn: A Concert March (Eric Ball)
10. Free Fantasia (Eric Ball)

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