Brass band brings joy to Shipston at Christmas concert

A festive magic engulfed the Townsend Hall in Shipston earlier this month when the town’s very own brass band gave its most magical Christmas concert in memory.

The performance proved the ideal kick-off to the festive season for the band, which will be seen in and around South Warwickshire this December with a variety of performances. It’s Townsend Hall concert got off to a rousing start with a rip-roaring rendition of Christmas Joy – a veritable yuletide overture, with references to Joy To The World, Jingle Bells and Joy Come To You composed by Erik Leidzen.

The concert marked a return to Christmas ‘business as usual’ for the band for the first time since the pandemic put paid to a lot of its activities. Last year’s Christmas concert was hampered by a spike in Covid numbers, but there were no such fears this year – with a capacity crowd filling the hall, leaving standing room only.

Conductor Howard Gibbs

The cold weather outside quickly melted away as the audience were further warmed by the popular classic It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, In The Bleak Midwinter and the energetic A Glenn Miller Christmas arranged by Philip Harper.

The talents of principal cornet Paolo Pezzangora and principal trombone Tom Evans were on delightful display with a sparkling Gordon Langford composed duet A Foxtrot Between Friends. Langford, who died in 2017, was a leading brass composer and arranger – and his music continues to fill concert programmes for brass bands and ensembles the world over.

And whilst on the subject of great composers – the man who is known as “Mr Christmas” by some, John Rutter, penned one of the magical highlights of the evening: Candlelight Carol. The theme from The Snowman by Howard Blake proved an audience favourite – whilst the combined talents of flugelhorn Darran Wheeler and the rest of the horn section, Liz Smith and Mary Cox, brought great applause on Still, Still, Still.

The band’s unique place in the community of Shipston was highlighted when the training band – made up of those who are new to playing brass instruments –  took to the stage to perform a selection of Christmas carols. They will no doubt prove to the principal players of this and many other brass bands and orchestras in the future.

But the highlight of the evening was perhaps Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s arrangement of Carol of The Bells, a piece which builds relentlessly into a crescendo of pure festive joy before fading away again – a truly timeless music gift which has its origins in a Ukrainian folk tune. The evening was narrated on stage by the beautifully-voiced Anne Hume, who brought light, pathos and humour to what was possibly the most festive night seen at the Townsend Hall for many years.