The WFEL Fairey Band (Sunday 30 Jan 3.00pm)


Malcolm Arnold Little Suite No 1

i. Prelude
ii. Siciliana
iii. Rondo

Wilfred Heaton Pilgrim Variations

Wilfred Heaton Safe in the Promised Land

Simon Dobson Penlee

Gustav Holst A Moorside Suite

i. Scherzo
ii. Nocturne
iii. March

Malcolm Arnold Padstow Lifeboat

Adam Cooke conductor



Adam Cooke (conductor)

Adam Cooke has established a reputation for versatility across a diverse range of musical genres and settings. Specialising in wind and brass music, Adam has worked with many of the world’s foremost brass bands, and is in demand internationally as a conductor, music consultant, band trainer, and adjudicator. Adam took up the post of Resident Conductor with Stavanger Brass Band in 2018, relocating to Norway before returning to the U.K. in 2020.  Highlights in this post include helping the band to achieve a podium placing in the European Brass Band Championships in 2018 and the title of Norwegian National Champions in 2020.

Prior to moving to Norway, Adam held the position of Musical Director of the GUS Band. Over this tenure the band achieved an unprecedented five Area championship wins, as well as several other major contest successes, with regular appearances at major venues throughout the U.K. including the Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham, and Sage Gateshead.

As a guest conductor Adam has worked regularly with leading bands including Brighouse & Rastrick and Grimethorpe Colliery, and has conducted bands in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and extensively throughout the U.K. and Ireland.

Since his return to the U.K. Adam had led the Bon Accord Band to qualification at the 2020 National Finals, before taking up the role of Musical Director of the Fairey Band.

The WFEL Fairey Band

The WFEL Fairey Band is one of the most successful contesting brass bands in the world. Founded in 1937 by a group of employees at the Fairey Aviation Works in Stockport, the band has won every elite band event on the contest calendar, including the National Championships of Great Britain on nine occasions and the British Open an incredible 16 times.

Since its formation, the band has worked with an illustrious line-up of conductors including Harry Mortimer, Leonard Lamb, Kenneth Dennison, Richard Evans, Walter Hargreaves, Geoffrey Brand, Major Peter Parkes, Roy Newsome, James Gourlay, Howard Snell, Allan Withington and Russell Gray. Most recently, the band has appointed Adam Cooke as their musical director in their continued drive for musical excellence on both the concert and contest stage.

The band has always welcomed innovation and in recent years has enjoyed further recognition outside the confines of the Brass Band movement, with its involvement in the ‘Acid Brass’ project. Under this banner, the band has been able to display its versatility in adapting to a very different musical concept and consequently, has performed in rock/pop festivals in the UK and overseas, bringing brass bands to a new audience.

The band has always maintained its association with the ‘Fairey’ company, now known simply as WFEL, which provided sponsorship until 2002. After a spell of other sponsors, the band is delighted to once again have the support of its founder company.

Programme notes:

Malcolm Arnold - Little Suite No 1 for Brass

This work needs very little introduction. It was commissioned by the Scottish Amateur Music Association for the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland and was first performed in 1963 under the direction of Brydon Thomson. With the gentle lilt of the Siciliana at its heart, Little Suite  No. 1 has become a classic of the brass band medium.

Wilfred Heaton (arr Paul Hindmarsh) - Pilgrim Variations

In the early 1950s Wilfred Heaton was asked by his sister, Major Hilda Heaton, if he would compose the music for a dramatisation of the first part of Bunyan’s allegorical work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which it is assumed she had devised. The piece was prepared for performance in South Africa, where Hilda was serving at the SA Headquarters in South Africa (Johannesburg). Heaton composed 19 short cues, founded on the hymn tune Monks Gate as harmonised by Vaughan Williams for The English Hymnal. Set to Bunyan’s hymn ‘He who would true valour see’, the tune is an English folk song – Welcome sailor – which RVW had collected from Mrs. Harriet Verrall in the Sussex hamlet of Monk’s Gate, near Horsham.

Pilgrim Variations is a second work to be arranged from the music, the first being Pilgrim’s Song for narrator and band. The miniature movements derived from Monk Gate have been assembled as variations on the theme which in its complete remains unheard. Heaton’s first cue, scored from a piano original, provides an introduction based on the third and fourth phrases.  The second one harmonises the first two lines of Monks Gate as a prayer and acts like a truncated theme. Six further variations follow: (i) a short lilting dance in siciliana style; (ii) a strident bi-tonal march (both composed for piano); (iii) a haunting variant for horn and euphonium based on an inversion of parts of Monks Gate; (iv) an extended scherzo, with its derived theme in the bass; (v) a noble fanfare leading to (vi) a hymn tune variant (the last of four short vocal items). Heaton’s final cue begins in the original ensemble scoring before bringing Pilgrim Variations to a prayerful close on the full band.

Simon Dobson - Penlee

I was brought up in full knowledge of the tragic story of the Penlee lifeboat, the Solomon Browne, having been born just a few weeks before the fateful night itself. Penlee is my musical homage to the bravery of the souls involved in a true story of heroism and sadness, a story that has passed almost into Cornish Legend. I dedicated it to all the souls who lost their lives in Cornwall’s treacherous waters, those on the lifeboat, and the crew and passengers of the Union star, on the night of 19 December, 1981. In order to represent the story faithfully, I have adhered to a timeline of events, describing what happened from around 6.00pm until around 10.00pm the fateful day. [SD]

Gustav Holst - A Moorside Suite

This was the first brass band work which might be described as an undisputed masterpiece. Holst composed it for the 1928 National Brass Band Championships at the Crystal Palace

Holst, like his friend Vaughan William, dedicated much of his time to writing for amateur musicians. His daughter Imogen Holst has recalled that, ‘Propaganda in any form was always distasteful to him, but the one things that would rouse him to indulge in it himself was the need of better music for brass bands. It was difficult enough to persuade bandmasters that selections were things to be avoided. But it was still more difficult to try to persuade composers that brass bands were not things to be avoided’.

In A Moorside Suite Holst presents the brass band in a fresh and individual way. The idiom is light-years away from the familiar brand of romantic indulgence. For the first time the brass band was playing original tunes founded on modality rather than diatonic harmony. His primary concerns were musical, not technical and, unfettered  by the traditional approach to writing a test pieces, he produced a work whose considerable difficulties rise naturally out of the compositional process.