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Festival Of Brass Yeadon Town Hall
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
Frank Renton with the Hepworth Band at Yeadon's Festival of Brass concert
The word brass has many connotations in the former textile town of Yeadon in Leeds, where men have been known to have surgery in order to be parted from their wallets, however, when Frank Renton is the medic in question the procedure has always been a resounding success!

The annual brass band concert staged by Aireborough Rotary Club at the town hall is a perennial favourite, and this year’s featured once more the Hepworth Band and conductor Mr Renton, better known to millions as the former voice behind BBC Radio Two’s Listen to the Band which he fronted for 23 years.

As well as being a talented musician he has a wonderful line in patter, which he uses to great effect between numbers, but, without the melodic tones of the Hepworth Band, established in 1882 and widely regarded as one of the finest in the country, he would merely be a man with a good line in banter and a comprehensive knowledge of musical theory! Together they were a joy to watch and listen to.

Brass is not everyone’s cup of tea but, for me, it evokes a powerful range of emotions from sadness to joy, nostalgia to an overbearing sense of finality; the feeling that the music will be there long after we are all gone.

This year’s Festival of Brass concert was, by Renton’s attestation, a largely British theme and I was intrigued to hear how they would tackle the Queen trilogy Fat Bottomed Girls, Who Wants to Live Forever, and the wonderful Bohemian Rhapsody along with McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby and Norwegian Wood.

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But the second Freddie Mercury was remembered and the band struck up with his Bohemian Rhapsody classic, everything inside wanted to weep for a man who died too young……and that is what brass has the ability to do, to touch something within…..but only when it is delivered seamlessly. Hepworth are the crew, Renton the captain and together they represent a symbiotic relationship, mutually dependent for their brilliance.

But, as well as modern classics, we heard the joyous sounds of Peter Graham’s Celebrate Rotary, G. Langford’s arrangement of A Sullivan Fantasy, a homage to one half of the G&S duo, and the evocative tones of good old Danny and the Londonderry Air.

This was an evening of beautiful contrasts and the music washed over the audience better than a bar of melting chocolate with some songs being more suited to brass than others but, clearly, the Renton Hepworth duo are eternally popular and Yeadon folk of a certain age politely bayed for more, and were quite happy that they had gone under the surgeon’s wallet knife!

It is not a town famed for its political correctness. Yeadon is as PC as pork at a Bar Mitzvah which is why it is such a great home for brass bands. The no nonsense sounds are earthy and neither the people or the instruments are any less than honest in their tones. Somehow, even retail tycoon, Sir Philip Green, made a few guest appearances in Renton’s patter and the audience lapped it up! Yeadon Town Hall, home to free speech and great music.

A super night that I enjoyed far more than I could have ever imagined!

Festival Of Brass Yeadon Town Hall, 27th October 2018, 16:54 PM