Category Archives: News

In Memoriam: Ron Grice

Ron GriceWaratah Brass is extremely sad to convey the news of the passing of Ron Grice.  Ron passed away on 23rd February 2012, aged 71 years.  Our deepest sympathy goes out to Elizabeth, Paul, Stephen and the rest of Ron’s family.

Many band members past and present gathered at the Memorial Service to celebrate Ron’s life on Monday 5th March 2012.  The band also contributed to the service by playing some of Ron’s favourite music.

Amongst the speakers was Waratah Brass member Therese Curry who wrote and gave a heartfelt speech about Ron’s extraordinary dedication and service to, and influence on Waratah Brass:

Inspirational……talented……influential…..visionary….meticulous….. dedicated….mentor and friend….  Some words to describe Ron Grice.

It is my honour to share with you some thoughts about Ron’s time with, and profound impact on Waratah Brass…. No single person has had a greater influence on the band and its players, than Ron Grice.

Ron came to Waratah from the Salvation Army in the mid-1980s and bought with him his passion, knowledge and love of Brass Bands. Together with Ron came his wife Elizabeth and his two sons, Paul and Stephen…. And so began a wonderful partnership.

Ron took the band from a solid C Grade community band to the pinnacle of banding in Australasia, on both the contesting stage and in the entertainment arena. Whether it was free Sunday concerts in King Edward Park or the prestigious Ern Keller Band of the Year, with Ron as Musical Director, the musical product was special.

The band rapidly improved under Ron’s direction and players were drawn to the band, looking to be part of what was a special band under the leadership of a tremendous band trainer. Under Ron the band cleaned up at their first attempt in B Grade at the Australian titles in 1992. Quickly promoted to A Grade, the only A grade band outside of the Sydney area, the band continued to improve and success was forthcoming.

Ron’s desire to continuously improve the band, and in particular the band’s warm, rich sound, known in banding circles as the “Waratah”  sound,  was a trademark of his band training. Ron sought guidance and advice from the best of the best in the UK. Making frequent overseas trips (at his own expense) to hone his skills and listen to what the best bands in the world were doing; always returning to Waratah Brass with a renewed enthusiasm, fresh ideas and repertoire for the band.

Through these overseas trips Ron forged lifelong friendships with the best brass musicians in the world and some of these people, John Clough, Philip McCann, Geoffrey Brand, Russell Gray, and of course David King, were frequent guests in Ron and Elizabeth’s home and in turn, to our band room and concert stage. This is indicative of Ron’s humility, he never felt threatened to have other musicians in front of the band and he was never afraid to learn from others. This was a key element to the band’s success at that time. It was indeed an honour for all players in the band to be exposed to these musicians, and thanks to Ron we have been blessed with opportunities that we would not have thought possible.

I recall an occasion when Phillip McCann made an unscheduled visit to Australia for Ron’s birthday. Phillip stood on Ron and Elizabeth’s front veranda at Speers Point playing Happy Birthday on his cornet….. Ron was indeed surprised and thrilled to have his dear friend visit.

Under Ron, Waratah Brass became a cohesive unit that was the envy of all bands. Every seat was filled at rehearsals…. In fact, you had better have a very good reason for not attending each and every rehearsal!

If you played in Waratah you were welcomed into Ron and Elizabeth’s home… they shared their lives with us. The support and sacrifices made by Elizabeth, Paul, Michele and Stephen can never be underestimated. For Ron, band was everything. It consumed his days and nights…..Listening to CDs of the great English bands, seeking guidance from his colleagues’ overseas, preparing concert and contest scores, practicing his conducting in the lounge room and giving free lessons.
Truly inspirational… not always smooth sailing, sometimes rocky, but always with the ultimate goal of achieving musically.

Ron was awarded Life Membership of Waratah Brass in 2010, just a small acknowledgement of his role within our band. Our connection does not end here…. Ron will be a part of Waratah Brass for evermore and his musical influence will be for there for all to hear and enjoy.

Review: Waratah Brass Presents ‘Band in Bits’

Band in Bits:  Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay
Waratah Brass (Steven English)
Review by GSM

Entering the Performing Arts Centre one could hear and feel a sense of anticipation for this concert as it was the first offering from Waratah Brass for its 2012 season of performances. Band members eagerly chatting with the audience. Ticket sellers busily assisting a line of those waiting to find seats and the chatter of interest when a “Programme” was first viewed just seeing what was on offering for today’s listening pleasure. It was obvious this was a day some had been waiting for just so that they could once again see the sights, and hear the sounds of this Band. 

David Wilks & Allan HumbleyLooking at the title of this concert one didn’t gain any real insight as to what we could expect as it actually sounded like the band had either broken some instruments or we were only to hear a portion of the band. I soon found a full band splendid in attire entering to the applause of a near full concert hall. Then from the opening work Andross Castle I could see we were not going to be disappointed with the quality of the works chosen for this afternoon.

Professor David King famous throughout the world of Brass was a resident of this region by birth who previously led The YBS Band. Waratah’s opening feature was the 1st Movement of Hymn of the Highland (Philip Sparke) a major composition written for Dr King and that band. Today’s opening rendition was quality- it had light and shade, good intonation and splendid solo work portions. 

Band in Bits, a clever title, was a reference to the fact that just about every section of the band had their BIT to do during this afternoon. We were given an array of solos, duets, ensembles and band works one would need to travel far and wide to hear on any other concert, all presented by this local band “Waratah Brass”.

The Salvation Army music world has produced many fine musicians, composers and published huge numbers of brilliant band works. Colonel Norman Bearcroft a retired Salvation Army Officer composer / conductor was first to be featured with his Open-Air style gospel shot testimony piece Just like John (Bearcroft). This is based on the Negro Spiritual words ‘I wanna be ready to walk in Jerusalem just like John’. Every section of the band gets a go at playing this theme in a jazz idiom ending with the entire ensemble of Cornets in full array. Despite being something like 35 years old this number still stacks up today as one difficult piece this band seemed to enjoy playing.  

Later in this concert we were privileged to have the bands Euphonium players Ossie Jellyman and Steven Grice perform Bearcroft’s Timepiece duet. Loosely based on the old George Doughty solo ‘My Grandfathers Clock’ this 3 movement duet is something only soloists of the highest caliber can muster with the need for a good backing band as well due to the complexity of the accompaniment. Bearcroft’s trademark has been his intentional scoring of extremely high euphonium portions in almost every piece he has ever written and this work is no exception. Movement 2 of Timepiece with its soaring range of notes was a joy to hear and see performed.

Therese Curry has given numerous years of service to the band in various positions and is presently on 1st Baritone and one capable player. Her daughter Bronte is a recent addition to the cornet section and together Mother and Daughter gave a fine rendition of Air by Mozart (Arban) as a baritone and cornet duet which was well received by the audience and nicely played indeed.          

Featuring another of Waratah Brass sections on our trip through a ‘Band in Bits’ the trombone section were augmented with Ossie Jellyman (Euphonium) and David Kimpton (Percussion) joining them playing trombones. Salvationist composer Stephen Bulla wrote this work for himself to play with the Southern Territorial Band USA for a 1990 Tour to England performing at the World International Congress of The Salvation Army. Recorded and played the world over this Trombone Ensemble Peace Like a River (Bulla) is another work based on a Negro Spiritual this one being ‘I’ve got peace like a river in my soul’. A fine rendition greatly received by the audience.

The name Harold Walters is mostly associated with New Zealand and the National Band of that country and his composition Hootenanny was chosen to end the first half of this concert. This was great, the audience loved it, the band seemed to like it, and it was good playing all-round.

Following interval the audience was quickly bought back to their seats with a delightful rendition of Seventy Six Trombones (M. Wilson/ W. Duthoit) that was then followed by a humourous introduction by one of the soloists for the next item. Allan Humbley proceeded to explain to great laughter that he was in fact Ida and the soloist standing next to him Bob Akerman was Dot. Allan even went as far to place a stick on dot to Bob just so that he could remember as well.

Allan and Bob then proceeded to play the cornet duet Ida and Dot (F. H. Losey) with laughter still coming from the audience. This duet gained fame in the late 20’s with the famous BHP Steelworks Band soloists Arthur Stender (Principal Cornet) and Dan Taylor. It is interesting to note that Allan Humbley in his early years of playing actually had cornet lessons from Arthur Stender.

David Kimpton - Russky PercusskyPercussion instruments of all types play a big part in brass compositions now days, especially so in the contest arena. One player that is well versed in such is David Kimpton. I have seen and heard David perform in the past but nothing like today’s solo performance titled Russky Percussky written by the late Dr Goff Richards. This piece requires one not only to be able to read multiple percussion instrument parts and be able to play them, but do so whilst running between the different instruments as well. 

Run yes because this piece is backed by a band arrangement that defies belief as well for its tempo. David’s display was nothing short of a virtuosi display of musicianship of the highest. He is indeed a freak in the nicest musical meaning of that word. The work required him to play timpani, glockenspiel, tubular bells, xylophone, Chinese gong with a series of mallets, hammers, sticks and he did so to the wonderment of the audience who gave prolonged applause at the conclusion.

If having not been blessed with hearing quality soloist already during this concert this half of the afternoon included several more solos of high level. Featured previously in 2011 at a major concert in Newcastle’s Christchurch Cathedral trombone soloist Hannah Gibbons gave an encore performance of the taxing Dance Sequence (Gareth Woods). Once again this soloist showed she is capable of holding her own in probably any band, anywhere. This was class playing from Hannah and good tight backing from the band.

Flugel Horn player Clarence Leung choose to play a Bb Cornet for his solo featuring a melody taken from the Ira and George Gershwin 1926 musical titled ‘Oh, Kay!’. This classic melody Someone to Watch Over Me (B. Broughton) proved to be both well liked and known and was a fine rendition the quality of which Clarence is known for displaying in his solo works.

Another exceptional musical talent of Waratah is the Conductor Steven English. He is three times NSW and Australian National Open Soprano Cornet Champion presently holding both titles. It was a delight to have him render one of the finest works arranged for the Soprano Cornet.

The solo Steven performed comes from the opera ‘Pagliacci’ 1892 by Ruggero Leoncavallo with this arrangement of On with the Motley for brass band composed by Ray Farr. This was exceptional in tone, quality, and presentation with full marks going to the band for such sensitivity with the accompaniment ably conducted by Rowan Taylor.

To end this afternoon the band chose to give The Irish Blessing (Bacak/ S. Bradnum) ‘May the road rise up to meet you…..and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand’.

Following some farewell words from Conductor Steven English thanking all for attending the band gave a snappy rendition of a march that is becoming somewhat of a signature tune for Waratah the circus march of J. J. Richards The Waltonian. With its chromatic runs a plenty this was a pleasing end to a very good afternoon of quality music making. 

Waratah are an ensemble that loves to perform for an audience. If you have not yet attended one of their concerts why not try and come to further performances. You will not be disappointed and may well be very surprised to find that brass bands are not a relic of the past as some think, but are as modern a music making concern as any music of today.

Thank you

Review ‘Band in Bits’  12 February 2012   

Review: The Three Waratah’s: 15th Anniversary Concert Newcastle City Hall

The Three Waratah’s: 15th Anniversary Concert Newcastle City Hall

Featuring: Waratah Brass, Waratah Girls Choir and Waratah Male Voice Choir

In the presence of Lord Mayor Councillor Mr John Tate and Lady Mayoress Mrs Cathy Tate

Nestled 7 Kilometers North West of Newcastle City can be found a parcel of land that in 1871 was Incorporated with its own elected Municipal Council, Mayor and containing several major industrial works. The area was home to a major Colliery that gave this region its name WARATAH.

So what is it about a very small suburban area that makes us come today to celebrate a 15th Anniversary? Simply that this old industrial area has been home to some of the finest music ensembles found anywhere in this Country.

This suburb has been responsible for the formation of three very fine musical combinations which today present the 15th year of a major concert that has become an institution in this region.

Waratah Brass formed in 1884 is a band that has a reputation world wide as one fine band. It has one title that undoubtedly may never be matched or beaten. That being having won the prestigious “Ern Keller Band of The Year” contest 10 times. They have also won numerous State Band Championships over the years as well. Entertain- yes, play- most certainly, delight- yes indeed.

Waratah Girls Choir formed in 1982 by Wynette Horne is considered one of Australia’s and the world’s best female choral groups. This is not simply a group of young ladies that sing but an ensemble that performs at a level rarely heard anywhere. Now led by Artistic Director and Conductor Lindy Connett (daughter of the founder) this group have travelled the world and will in 2012 perform in Rome. Whilst there they will be granted a performance before his Holiness The Pope. What an honour for this group and this City.

Waratah Male Voice Choir started life in 1966 in the back streets of the suburb in a Church and for many years was religious based. Now a non denominational choir they are well known throughout the region as an enthusiastic group of men who truly enjoy singing and show this by their performances.

When you put these groups together in the wonderful surroundings of the acoustically pleasing Newcastle City Hall you have one set of performers that will make any audience amazed by the quality of a concert presented by this combination of ensembles. This concert was the 15th year of the format “The Three Waratah’s” and it certainly did not disappoint.

Waratah Brass commenced the afternoon led by its Musical Director Steven English and from Crown Imperial (Walton/ Wright) it was apparent that this was to be a good musical event. The playing was stately, well balanced and pleasing. A lovely arrangement by Darrol Barry of the theme Somewhere Out There was nothing short of a delight with its rich melodic lines and superb Tenor Horn work of Leonie Wilks. Then versatility showed forth with the sheer forceful sound of jazz work Sing Sing Sing (Woodfield).

The band had vacated the stage and Waratah Girls Choir (WGC) entered with poise and precision with presentation second to none. They proceeded to present several works including for this portion Cantate (John Leavitt) and the popular Leonard Cohen Hallelujah. This was simply wonderful and the audience showed they loved the rendition with great prolonged applause.

Throughout the afternoon several collaborations of groups performing together conducted by one of the groups directors occurred with the first being Waratah Male Voice Choir (WMVC) and WGC. Lindy Connett showed her abilities when she came forward to play the Violin with the 2 groups being led by WMVC leader Peter Brock. Banks of Doon a lovely Scottish air of Robert Burns was pleasing and bought a sound one usually associates with Choirs of the Rhonda Valley, Wales. Gaberiella’s Song (Nillson/ Backman) with several soloists of WGC was splendid and sitting in the audience comments flowed about the wonderful sound and clarity of the number.

As an individual performing ensemble WMVC led by Musical Director Peter Brock looked the part in obvious well presented uniforms. With an average age of 74 years one could say what does this group have in common with performers from the Brass Band and Girls Choir of much younger years. Quite simply they love singing and performing and show this with every rendition they give. They are highly enthusiastic and have many quality singers within their 30 member size. This was apparent in works such as their moving rendition from ‘Les Miserables’ Bring Him Home (Schonberg/ Leavitt) and There is Nothing Like a Dame (Rogers/ Hammerstein).

Following an interval we were granted the pleasure of hearing Waratah Junior Girls Choir (WJGC) led by Jan Mitchell. This Choir consisting of 26 members most much younger then the Senior Choir were a pleasant addition to this major concert. The audience loved them and each item was eagerly applauded with great interest. Their renditions of Firefly (Andy Beck), Keep The Flame Alive (Ian Jefferson) and Shake The Papaya Down (Dwyer/ Walker) were excellent. Keep up the great work!

WGC major contribution to the second half of this afternoon was a presentation of melodies from the musical Hairspray (Sharman/ Huff). This was conducted by Lindy Connett and also featured an ensemble of players from Waratah Brass. The girls had changed into clothes reminiscent of the 1950’s and this made the effect of the music even more life like.

Waratah Brass not to be left out were very busy during the second half accompanying soloists, choirs and also performing individual works. Mention needs to be made of Flugel Horn Soloist Clarence Lung who played the difficult piece Children of Sanchez (Mangione/ Gilge) with consummate ease. This was a first class presentation by both soloist and Band and a true highlight of this concert. The audience simply appreciated every note and there were many to say the least. This was quickly followed by the circus march of Karl King The Melody Shop with the band keeping to the composers intention of starting fast and keep going fast right to the end. A good version indeed well received by all.

Steven English then conducted all three groups in the Anthem from Chess (Andersson/ Rice/ Ulvaeus) which was a fitting end to an enjoyable afternoon in the wonderful setting of Newcastle City Hall. This was the last listed item on the printed programme but we were soon treated to an encore of the famous André Crouch classic My Tribute arranged by Barrie Gott. What a terrific end to a fine time of music making by what must be one of Newcastle’s Highlight concerts on the Musical Calendar.

Thank you



© GSM: No part may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without prior written permission of the Author/ Reviewer

Review: Waratah Brass Presents ‘In the Groove’

In the Groove:  Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay
Waratah Brass (Steven English)
Guest Performer: Ms Carol Irving, B. Mus. Ed, Clarinetist/ Saxophonist

Brass bands are generally far removed from reed instruments and the likes of saxophones but for this occasion Waratah invited Carol Irving, a musician skilled on such instruments to be guest soloist for the afternoon. Looking through the programme it was an interesting mix of works and one waited just to see how this combination would pan out.

Waratah BrassAs the band entered the concert hall they certainly looked like one group that are out to give a notable performance right from the beginning with their impressive concert attire of black dinner suites for males and formal evening dress for female members. Conductor Steven English looking equally splendid entered to the applause of an almost full auditorium walked to his stand and without delay commenced the concert with the band playing Sir William Walton’s Coronation March “Crown Imperial” arranged for brass band by Frank Wright.

This work has graced the heights of the Monarchy from 1937 when it was first composed for the Coronation of King George VI, to this modern day of April 2011 when it was performed at the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Waratah gave a stately forthright rendition that was well performed, certainly making an interesting start to a concert titled “In the Groove”.

Carol IrvingThen a complete change of tempo mood and atmosphere came with the jazz work “Sing, Sing, Sing” (Louis Prima/ R. Woodfield) with its heavy bass end work and much percussion. This was a good item setting the pace for what was to come throughout this afternoon. The guest soloist Carol Irving then gave her first performance with the big band sound of “Body and Soul” (J. Green/ Joe Cook) on soprano saxophone. This was excellent with the audience showing they truly enjoyed the work very much.

Written back in 1986 for The Salvation Army Star Lake Music Camp band in New Jersey USA “Light-Walk” (Barrie Gott) has more or less become a standard jazz work. This has been recorded on CD by just about every top level band in the UK. Waratah are no exception having also recorded this as well. For this occasion the usual flugel horn jazz portion was rendered by Carol Irving on clarinet who faultlessly played such with ease. 

This concert was full of jazz classics which the band played well, sounding right at home with this genre. Many bands stifle this style of music trying to adapt such to suite the brass band mode rather then let the ensemble play as the item was intended. Waratah with excellent performances in numerous works such as “Birdland” (J. Zawinul/ Philip Sparke), “Blue Rondo a la Turk” (D. Brubeck/ Kevin Edwards), Henry Mancini’s 1963 work “Charade” (Graham Lloyd) and the ever popular “Sir Duke” (S. Wonder/ Goff Richards) proved they can play and play they did.

Hailing from the Mid North Coast area of Port Macquarie Carol teaches music both privately and in the Public School system, performs with jazz ensembles throughout the region and is Concert Master and lead clarinetist for the Port Macquarie Hastings Municipal Concert Band.

Bringing a background such as the like to this afternoon stood her in fine form for a splendid display of real musicianship. Carol was a delight to both watch and listen to as she performed with the band. The audience gave extended applause to several works especially when on clarinet with Acker Bilk’s famous “Stranger on the Shore” (Calvin Custer) and tenor saxophone featuring “Take Five” (P. Desmond/ Cliff Davis) played with sheer ease.      

David WilksWaratah concerts always contain features from soloists within the band and this concert “In the Groove” was no exception. For this occasion we had not only displays of musical ability but acting also with both coming off very well. Soprano Cornet soloist David Wilks proved he is one ‘cool cat’ with his “Sugar Blues” (C. Williams/ Alan Morrison) solo that was a purrrrfect rendition.

Clarence LeungOne unknown player who may have been Mexican and maybe sponsored by Taco Bills arrived to perform a solo. Wearing his sombrero and sarape poncho from under which he produced a Flugel Horn he joined the band to play the taxing “The Children of Sanchez” (C. Mangione/ Reid Gilje) which was simply excellent. Following the solo he tossed his sombrero into the audience revealing that it was indeed Clarence Leung featured in the solo. The audience loved the way this item was presented and showed their appreciation for the effort.

This solo was quickly followed by a piece to remember the movie ‘Brassed Off’ with a stately paced rendition of “Florentine March” (J. Fucik/ R. Barsotti), a nice variation of item contained in this concert. This movie was produced in 1996 and bought brass music and bands onto the screen and into living rooms of many that maybe had never heard or seen such before. Now some 16 years since the movie first appeared it was still very popular with this audience. 

The last listed item on the programme for this concert with a difference was Karl King’s snappy circus march “The Melody Shop” (Peter Smalley) which was performed with ease like ability from the band. This included some brilliant euphonium work amongst a terrific rendition.

After prolonged applause Band President Grahame Scott who had done an excellent job as compere throughout this concert announced guest soloist Carol Irving would join the band with her clarinet to perform as an encore the classic solo “Golden Wedding” (Woody Herman). This was as good a performance as any on this concert with a wonderful rendition by the band and Carol.

Waratah Brass is becoming known for innovative concerts that go beyond the realms of just presenting straight brass music in their concerts. ‘In the Groove’, a concert by a brass band featuring a saxophonist/ clarinetist. Thank you for a different but very interesting and entertaining afternoon. This was thoroughly enjoyable and well worth attending.

Thank you
Review: ‘In the Groove’  6 November 2011


Review: Waratah Brass Presents ‘Enchantment’

ENCHANTMENT:  Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay
Waratah Brass (Steven English) with Vocal Soloist Leslie Andrews (Bass Soloist)
In the presence of Band Patron The Hon. Mr Milton Morris, AO
It’s not often that you are unsure what to expect from a Concert by a Brass Band but on this occasion it was a very interesting wait to see just what was going to happen when you find Waratah Brass have teamed up with an opera singer and a Bass singer at that.

Les AndrewsThis Concert featured Mr Les Andrews, a well credentialed, trained, experienced and previous Opera Australia Chorister who was new to this area and audience. The Band opened with Stephen Bulla’s Concertante For Band (Mov 1) a work that would have been mostly unknown to many. This is top music and was a good opening to the afternoon. It had amongst its full band sound some very nice Bass Trombone work coming through in the earlier portions of the piece.

This was quickly followed by a number that was simply delightful in shape and presentation being Somewhere Out There (Arr. Darrol Barry) from the 1987 movie ‘An American Tail’. A lovely light work still having enough in it to make the band work to give a good performance.

Coming forward dressed in black tails Les Andrews came to the stage along with Band Member Allan Humbley (Piccolo Trumpet) and Pianist David Scrogie. Allan is known throughout the region as a fine musician and joining with a pianist of the caliber of Scrogie this trio presented Handel’s The Trumpet Shall Sound from ‘Messiah’. By the conclusion of this work being Les Andrews first presentation for the afternoon this left us knowing that we were indeed in for a wonderful time of marvelous music making. David Scrogie was also a superb choice as pianist to accompany Les Andrews.

When looking at this band and seeing the quality of the musicians included in it, having someone like Ossie Jellyman to call on to perform would be any bands sheer pleasure. Ossie is a master of the Euphonium and to have him give a solo performance in this concert added greatly to afternoon.  Stanley Boddington wrote his Euphonium solo Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms based on the 1808 Irish poem of Thomas Moore. This is difficult work for both soloist and Band. Since hearing that this item was to be included on this concert I had been eagerly awaiting to hear such and by the conclusion that included a ‘Super Note’ to end, the audience showed indeed how much they truly enjoyed this rendition.

Sitting in the audience unassuming was someone that has the gift of music many would dream of. The arranger for several of the works on this Concert being Mr. Cliff Davis. The band chose to feature firstly Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Lost Chord (Arr. C. Davis) which truly was a highlight of their playing during this afternoon. This was followed by 2 further Davis arrangements which allowed Les Andrews to join the band with Some Enchanted Evening (Rogers/Hammerstein Arr. C. Davis) from the musical ‘South Pacific’ quickly followed by The Wonder of It All (George Beverly Shea Arr. C. Davis) which can only be described as solo singing of the highest order. This was exceptional in presentation, arranging and performance.

The work that ended the first half A Phantom Menace Suite (John Williams Arr. Andrew Duncan) from the Band had to literally be seen as well as heard to be believed. This is a mixture of melodies/ themes from the Star Wars trilogy written in such a way the music would tax any of the worlds best bands. This truly pushed the band to its limits and was a good rendition of a super piece of music.

For me the second half of this concert stands out as something to remember. The band commenced with the march Jubilee by Paul Drury. Coming from Salvation Army Brass Journals, this piece was written to reflect the style of the old time ‘Circus March’ of Karl King or JJ Richards fame of start fast and keep going faster, something very different for a S A March. Waratah Brass gave a fine rendition keeping with the intention of the composer.   

Brenda Anderson sitting Principal Cornet was recognised for her 16 years service to Waratah, after which she presented a lovely solo accompanied by the band playing the work that previous Black Dyke Band Principal Cornet Willie Lang had made famous years before, May H Brahe’s Bless This House. This was given prolonged applause from the audience and was a fine addition to the afternoon.

Waratah Brass and Les AndrewsGuest Vocal Soloist Les Andrews, what a delight to see such a performer truly enjoying what he does. Not only did he sing the words with perfect diction, but he painted pictures with his style of presentation. He had the audience captivated with his soul stirring How Great Thou Art (Attrib. Stuart K. Hine) which I would go as far to say had The X Factor about it. This was an outstanding rendition accompanied by the Band. 

Waratah Brass percussionist David Kimpton is a very versatile musician indeed. He arranged for Band and Vocal Soloist the famous Katie Moss Floral Dance which Les Andrews sang with great gusto delighting the audience greatly. David later performed on Piano with Band the Mexican work of Pablo Beltran Ruiz Sway (Arr. Richard Squibb) which has become rather popular since the 2004 release by Michael Buble. Kimpton is another Waratah Musician that any band would be happy to have in their ranks.

During this concert the Vocal Soloist had been accompanied by Mr David Scrogie on piano. David performs at a level that is world class. Trinity College (London) Classically qualified he has performed in some of the leading Concert Halls and with soloists and groups of the highest level. He truly added to the performances of Les Andrews especially with the work of Hammerstein/ Kern from ‘Show Boat’ Old Man River. This was an emotive rendition enjoyed by all.

For the bands last major item of this concert they performed the Ottorino Respighi classic work The Pines of Rome (Arr. Howard Snell) with its haunting melodic lines building to a majestic forceful climax the band gave a credible performance. One would not easily guess that this music originates back to 1924. This is brilliant brass with composing at its absolute best.

After prolonged applause the Band and Soloist Les Andrews joined for an encore to feature Anthem from the musical ‘Chess’ composed by the men from ABBA Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. What a wonderful item to end an excellent afternoon of great music making.

This concert titled “Enchantment” lived up to its name by being Enchanting, Delightful, Charming and above all Enjoyable. Once again an afternoon of top quality music presented by Waratah Brass.  Thank you to all involved.


Review: ‘Cathedral Artistry’ with Waratah Girl’s Choir

Cathedral Artistry

Featuring: Waratah Brass, Waratah Girls Choir and Waratah Junior Girls Choir

What do you get when you put 50 young ladies and 25 brass players together in a Cathedral before an audience of 250 on a poor weather Sunday? Well, mix this together, call it Cathedral Artistry, and out comes a wonderful afternoon of high level music making.  Having been billed in advertising as “An afternoon to enjoy and raise your spirits” this is exactly what the musicians of Waratah Brass and Waratah’s Senior and Junior Choirs presented on July 24 in the superb acoustic surroundings of Newcastle’s Christchurch Cathedral .

Waratah Junior Girls ChoirRight from the start when the band entered, an air of expectation was noticeable within the audience and as Musical Director Steven English raised the baton I don’t think any person present were disappointed with the bands up-tempo rendition of the familiar Galop from The William tell Overture (Rossini arr. Gregor Grant). This was made even more spectacular by the massive efforts of the percussion section in particular David Kimpton. This player matched any notes of the entire band with his gifted mallet work on xylophone.

Waratah Girls ChoirLooking splendid in full length red dress the members of Waratah Girls Choir were a wonderful sight to both see, and listen to.  This choir have deportment, poise and quality that any similar group could take lessons from !  When joined by the Junior Choir we were dismayed with the quality of such young singers. A highlight from the Girls came with Medley of Australian Songs (arr. Mark Scott) and Irving Berlins Steppin’ Out with my Baby (arr. Kirby Shaw). This group not only sing but show they enjoy what they do as well. The Junior Girls Choir with Keep the Flame Alive (Ian Jefferson) and Firefly (Andy Beck) were a delight, with obvious audience enjoyment received.

Waratah Brass perform at an extremely high standard, which during this Concert was evident especially when they presented William Himes arrangement Amazing Grace . This was not just a series of notes but feeling, emotion and controlled playing. The full sound of the Crescendo (loud) sections were not overdone but well sustained and this gave tremendous emotion to such a well known sacred hymn. For me one of the interesting and unique items came as an unusually seen Euphonium Trio.  Three players Jeff Ma, Stephen Grice and Therese Curry (moving from 1st  Baritone) bought Denzel Stephens arrangement of the welsh melody Myfanwy . This was well received by the audience and a good rendition from all.

Hannah GibbonsMention needs to be made of Trombonist Hannah Gibbons who gave just about a faultless display of Gareth Wood’s Solo Dance Sequence. Not only did this player master the complexity of the work but did so whilst performing without music. Hannah you are indeed a great player and it was a pleasure to listen to you.

Ending what was a wonderful  afternoon of music making, the 2 Choirs and Band joined together in the thought provoking Gaelic Blessing (Rutter arr Darrol Barry). Band Member Allan Humbley prior to the item had spoken on the history of the work, and associated words and this added to what was a fitting end to an afternoon of Cathedral Artistry.

Waratah Brass (Steven English), Waratah Girls (Lindy Connett) and Junior Girls Choir (Jane Mitchell) you are a credit to this region.  Thank you!

Review Cathedral Artistry


Waratah Brass Wins 2011 Festival of Brass

WARATAH BRASS WINS Festival of Brass – Newcastle City Hall June 2011

Waratah BrassWaratah Brass, under the baton of Steven English, provided a scintilating concert at the recent Festival of Brass to become this years winner in the A Grade category. Competing against St Marys Brass from Western Sydney, the concert program wowed the audience with a string of crowd pleasing numbers.

Waratah opened with the Overture to the Opera “Ruslan and Ludmilla” which displayed the excellent technical skill of the band, and followed soon after with the wonderfully presented Soprano cornet and Trombone feature “Duet for Two Cats”. Originally written as a soprano voice duet, the soloists, Hannah Gibbons on Trombone and Dave Wilks on Soprano cornet seemed to enjoy the opportunity to display the versatility of their instruments, and their flair for acting!

This was followed by the Philip Sparkes composition “A Quiet Moment” in which the band showed the beautiful warm tone for which it has become renowned.

The Tuba solo “Fnugg Blue”, played by Rowan Taylor was a superb performance that showed what amazing sounds that can be produced when multiphonics skills are mastered. At times 2 notes were heard in harmony, and at other times 3 notes in harmony, producing an array of effects that kept the audience spellbound through the entire solo. The crowd demonstrated their appreciation for Rowan’s fine playing with extended applause.

Waratah finished the performance with a snappy rendition of the popular Quick March, “The Waltonian”.

Addressing the audience during the presentation ceremony afterwards, adjudicator Ross Griffiths commented on how well Waratah engaged the audience with it’s entertaining style.