The Grimethorpe Colliery Band performed music for the soundtrack of the hit film Brassed Off (1996), and may have provided some inspiration for its story as well; the film was about a Colliery Band attached to a local mine attempting to save itself from being forced to disband once the mine is marked for closure. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band itself once faced a similar situation, except that there was no conflict about the decision as to whether keep going or not, as in the film; the Grimethorpe Colliery Band is of such extraordinary quality it would have been criminal to disband it. This disc, simply titled Grimethorpe, was the first made of several for Chandos between 1996 and 1998 in part to capitalize on interest in the band generated by Brassed Off. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band has gone on to win a number of competitions, not mention touring the world several times, an impressive achievement for a group that did not have a professional music director for the first 78 years of its existence!
A good deal of what makes the band so strong is the measure of its star soloists; the solo set pieces for euphonium, cornet, tenor horn, and flügelhorn all stand out here. The program is decidedly on the light side, and Grimethorpe is not afraid to employ a pop backbeat here and there -- this is a band for the people, not a military unit or a symphonic band attached to a university. Grimethorpe Colliery Band is also a comparatively small group -- one counts 14 pairs of legs on the front cover photo -- but it delivers a huge sound; just check out the power of the performance of Salvation Army composer Robert Redhead's Isaiah 40. The group's modest size appears to be a benefit in that the musicicans are able to concentrate on precision playing and are capable of accurately performing at breathtaking tempos that would wither the average symphonic band. Chandos' recording is a little quiet in certain spots, such as during the Rodrigo and especially at the start of the Respighi. Nevertheless, it is clear and natural sounding, and overall Chandos' Grimethorpe should prove highly satisfactory to both band fanciers and even to tastes that are more general -- the Grimethorpe Colliery Band is so proficient it can even make Riverdance sound good.