Andy Scott’s music is filling Sandbach...and reaching farther afield

Andy Scott

Andy Scott - Credit: Archant

‘It’s a little gem in the heart of Cheshire.’ The description is not of a quaint old building, a village, or a landscape, but of something that comes to life only when you listen.

Lauren Scott

Lauren Scott - Credit: Archant

The speaker is Andy Scott – virtuoso saxophone player, composer, educator, resident and general mover-and-shaker in historic Sandbach – and he’s talking about a brass band. But not just any brass band – Foden’s Band, currently ranked in the top three in the world and the highest ranked English band in the Brass Band World Rankings.

Foden’s Band traces its history back to 1900, and owes its status to industrialist Edwin Foden who wanted the best players for his Foden’s Motor Works Band. It’s been based in Sandbach ever since, and Andy is its ‘composer-in-residence’.

But, with the help of Andy Scott, poet Lemn Sissay, harpist Lauren Scott and singer Anna-Clare Monk, it’s going to be making history this year – in Manchester, in London’s Southbank Centre, in Glasgow as part of the Commonwealth Games cultural programme.

Together they will perform a new composition by Andy Scott, with words by Lemn Sissay, called A Child Like You. Its world premiere is at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on Friday 2 May.

The whole thing has been made possible by PRS for Music Foundation as part of the first ‘New Music Biennial’, which aims to reach over 250,000 people this year with 20 specially written works in a range of styles. It’s a ground-breaking and prestigious scheme and involves composers and performers known for ‘pushing the boundaries’.

A Child Like You began with Andy’s vision for bringing together artists he’d worked with separately in the past. Composer and poet collaborated over a dozen years ago, when the Apollo Saxophone Quartet (of which Andy is a member) played their joint work, My Mountain Top – it’s been hugely popular and much recorded.

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‘I wanted to work with all of them again,’ says Andy, ‘and I discussed this with them all. The idea is for these artists, who’ve never all worked together before, to be part of something new.

‘There’s amazing scope for sound colours and combinations when you think of things like the harp, the brass, the operatic voice and the spoken voice.

‘The schedule is actually quite scary. Lemn Sissay has been writing the words in time for me to work on them this month [March]; we’ll rehearse in April and then it’s the premiere. The concert has a full programme which we’re hoping will be repeated in festival contexts elsewhere in Britain and overseas.

‘I think this piece is going to be very powerful. My job is both to express what Lemn is thinking about in his poetry and find music to capture the moods and tension of it, and to challenge the musicians.

‘He’s writing about his own experience of being brought up as a child in care. In the past that’s been a bit of a taboo subject, but it’s something he wants to write about.’

Andy, his wife, Lauren, and their family – there’s Stan, 17, who plays bass in a band called Out Of The Blues, and Ruby, 16, a former British karate champion – moved to Sandbach from Winsford in 2007. Soon after, he wrote a concerto for Foden’s Band tuba player Les Neish (called Salt of the Earth, it premiered at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2008). The invitation to be composer-in-residence with Foden’s Band came the same year.

Andy’s background was in classical music and jazz: he’s taught part-time at the RNCM for 15 years. ‘What I’ve learnt, over the past six years, is that the work of a band such as Foden’s is world-class in terms of technique, musicality and commitment,’ he says. ‘It has an amazing sound … so warm and with a huge dynamic range.

‘And there are probably people in Cheshire who might not know too much about the world of bands but could be interested in this showcase for the county … and could offer real support to a little gem in their midst.’

Foden’s Band has 500 ‘patrons’ who support it with annual donations (the band is self-supportive and non-sponsored), and has forged partnerships with Sandbach council and Cheshire East, Lions Youth Band (based at Sandbach School), and the local Roberts Bakery Band. It has its own youth band – formed to give the best young players a chance of top-level experience and expert mentoring without ‘stealing’ them from existing youth bands – and gives around 35 concerts a year around the country. It performs regularly at Sandbach School and Cranage Hall in Holmes Chapel. It brings out four CDs a year and performs for Radio 2’s Listen to the Band and in other broadcast concerts.