Whit Friday 2019

SEEMS to have been the wettest June ever so in the week leading up to the Saddleworth contests, which are all outside, prospects looked pretty ominous.

Poured with rain on the Thursday and also on the Friday morning but miraculously it dried up early in the afternoon and only slightly drizzled at one of the venues.

Rained again on the Saturday. Our chosen contest piece had reverted back to Montreal Citadel of former years but we hadn’t had much chance to rehearse it as all our efforts had gone into getting ourselves ready for the Bridgewater concert the week before. So not over hopeful of much success but hey it’s a great night out and a totally different experience from that of an indoor concert arena.

A prompt get away and start at Lees allowed us to play at seven venues during the evening – Lees, Friezeland, Delph, Denshaw, Diggle, Dobcross and Grotton and we came away with Deportment prizes at Friezeland and Diggle and a very commendable prize for the best bass players at Friezeland.

All cash prizes rather than cups or trophies so the tin of Duraglit can stay unopened this year. As ever the coach firm Moving People provided us with transport and a brilliant driver who never seemed to mind the split second changes of mind as to which road to turn down next. A really enjoyable night out and a very new experience for the youngest band members.

A great night at Bridgewater Hall

BRILLIANT wasn’t it. There we were sandwiched between the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the Wednesday night and the Halle on the Saturday and we put on a concert worthy of any- thing the Bridgewater has seen.

Apparently the largest audience there has ever been at that venue for a brass band concert.

Seemed to have been a long time since Graham first outlined to us his ideas re this concert whilst we were having an evening out at Nila our favourite Bangladeshi restaurant in Rawtenstall.

In fact that’s where I usually find out what’s being planned in respect of con- certs etc. Just like the news- paper hacks on the national dailies used to have their favourite watering holes on Fleet St where they would pick up stories/gossip for their columns, so too my info. usually comes whilst sitting in one of the booths at Nila whilst eating a Chicken Dhansak!

The highlights for me?

Well performance wise the cornet and flugel solos from Brighouse were very special as was the band’s playing of Lamplighter.

I’d deliberately avoided going down to rehearsals on a Wednesday night to listen to it being practiced, so hear- ing it for the first time at the Bridgewater with the mood lighting and the hospice choir was absolutely mind blowing. Then of course we had the Male Voice Choir! Wow – I’m so used to seeing choirs walk on stage and stand there fair- ly rigidly (well perhaps a bit of swaying) with the conductor standing at the front, sing their items and then walk off again, that this performance with movement all over the stage left me spellbound. Never saw that coming at all.

Obviously the huge stage helped – in many venues you have to stand still as there isn’t room to do anything else, but the entry, the constant movement and the conductor leaping around the stage all took this perform- ance to a totally different level. Not sure they’ll be able to replicate it at St.Mary’s when we next join with them for a concert in September but we’ll wait and see. The choir were back in more traditional format for the Finlandia finale, joined by both bands and the hospice choir. Over 100 people on stage and it didn’t seem overcrowded at all. Big stage, big venue, massive performance. So much for the concert programme, but the evening was special in other ways as well. For me the Bridgewater is synonymous with the Halle and being of a certain age the Halle conjures up the image of Sir John Barbirolli. The two were always mentioned in the same breath. He was the principal conductor from 1943 to 1968. There he is still – as a statue just outside the entrance watch- ing over the comings and goings, almost as if saying “Only the best will do when you play here”. Not that he ever conducted here having died in 1970. In his day the Halle’s home was the Free Trade Hall on Peter St. Just looking at his statue for a minute after getting off the coach took me back to a different age – to the 1960s when I was a student in Manchester. Didn’t have much of a musical background – coaxing Radio Luxemburg out of the old family radio was my limit really ( 208m Medium wave – remember that folks?). However Sunday night Halle concerts with Barbirolli conducting became the go-to events for many of us. These were usually followed by a late night Chinese at one of the growing number of Chinese restaurants that were beginning to appear, often in the basements of the numerous Victorian office blocks that were all around central Manchester. Hopefully then it was the last No.42 bus trundling its way down Oxford Rd to the southern studenty suburbs of Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury. Miss that bus and it was an hour wait for the all night bus.

Is it only people of a certain age who reminisce? I don’t know but seeing that statue brought back lots of memories that stayed with me all evening. No Chinese meal afterwards of course – just glad to get on the coach out of the rain. A great Bridgewater night. One never to be forgotten.

That was just my personal view. What about others who were there? Here’s what other people involved in the evening in some way had to say.

BEING fans of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, when we learned that they and the Rossendale Male Voice Choir were playing in a concert with the 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band at the Bridgewater Hall, we were determined to be there.

So we travelled up with excitement and anticipation from our homes in the Isle of Wight and the Midlands! Wow! We certainly weren’t disappointed! With such a great venue and enthusiastic supporters, the pouring rain paled ( or perhaps ‘pailed’!) into insignificance. The whole evening was an absolute joy. In particular, we were moved to tears by the Scout Band’s performance of ‘ Lamplighter’. What skill, commitment and emotion the band members demonstrated and what a moving performance they achieved! We’d like to con- vey particular thanks and congratulations to Graham Helm, both as Musical Director of the 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band and also as ‘Master of Ceremonies’ for the whole evening. He shared his personal attachment to the East Lancashire Hospice and enabled each and every one of us in the audience to contribute to such a worthy cause whilst having an amazing evening of music and one which we will never forget.

Well done and thank you to you all.

Two people who had no previous contact with the band

 

THE concert with Brighouse was an experience many of us had not had before.

To have the opportunity to perform in such a prestigious venue on stage with such a high- ly skilled band was brilliant and every single one of our players came off stage proud of what we had done and how well we had done it in front of 1,300 people. To think 18 months ago we had been given the first draft of the special piece, all the hard work from the band, Graham, and Mike had paid off to show fans and players of Brighouse and Rastrick what we could do. I think what the whole thing showed, from rehearsal to performance, is how well we work as a team when we concentrate hard on it. It’s not all about the soloists, and on that Friday night in June, every single player could be proud of what they played and how well they had played it – from Soprano Cornet all the way to the basses.

A member of the Scout band

 

BRASS bands and choral singing, I would say, are both deeply woven into the cultural fabric of the north of England. We know this from our concerts with the 2nd Rossendale Scout Band which have been so well-received. At their patrons’ concert earlier this year, the Scout Band MD, Graham Helm, announced that they were playing a charity concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on June 7th, together with the Brighouse & Rastrick Band and the Rossendale Male Voice Choir. Graham explained that the concert was a fundraiser for East Lancs Hospice which cared for his wife through her last two weeks, five years ago. Having enjoyed the Scouts’ playing so much, we decided to go and listen to them in Manchester. The Bridgewater Hall is an impressive modern venue seating 1800 comfortably. The scouts and the choir had brought 10 coachloads of supporters from Rossendale and the surrounding areas and the hall was pretty much full. Brighouse & Rastrick opened the evening with a superb set, as you might expect from England’s no.1 brass band.

They were still not spared Graham’s sparkling wit when they had finished (like us they were fair game). They were followed on stage by the Rossendale Male Voice Choir who opened their programme by dancing onto the stage! The Scout band opened the 2nd half of the evening with Lamplighter, a work commissioned for the occasion, which included singing from a group of patients, staff and volunteers from the hospice. It was very moving. After another brilliant set from the B&R band all three groups came on stage for the finale which was Finlandia by Sibelius. It was quite a sight watching the younger scouts playing alongside their illustrious guests. After that Graham said we could have an encore if we left all our loose change (preferably folded!) in the buckets at the exits. We got “Floral Dance”!

As we left the hall, dazed by such a high-quality performance, the heavens opened (as they had at Rawtenstall after the patrons’ concert) and we all went home absolutely soaked but happy. The concert raised over £20,000 for the hospice. What a splendid effort that was from such a memorable evening.

A member of the Keighley Vocal Union Choir

 

AN EXCELLENT and highly memorable premiere performance of The Lamplighter.

What may not have been obvious from your vantage point on the stage but was certainly palpable from the perspective of your audience was how powerful and emotive the work and your accomplished performance of it was. The inclusion of the production elements and hospice choir only adding to the sense of poignancy you instinctively achieved. There were very few dry eyes, including mine. For me the standing ovation you received is in itself testament to your hard work and whole- hearted acceptance of the project. I hope that you managed to enjoy the experience of playing in the Bridgewater Hall and it is something you will cherish for a long time.

A professional musician

 

THE day we’d been working towards for the last 18 months finally arrived and the wet weather did nothing to dampen our spirits as we set off at 1:30 on the coach down to Manchester. On arrival we were given green wrist bands and shown to the dressing rooms before our allotted rehearsal time on stage. Many of us have performed at the fabulous Bridgewater Hall before but for some of our newer members I’m sure it must have been an experience to walk onto that stage for the first time and such a pleasure for me to play their lovely Steinway grand piano. Rehearsals went very well once we had sorted out our new entrance piece, John Kanaka. This was a first for us, walking on and singing wearing various items of pirate and sailor attire.

We had a break for tea then back for a rehearsal with the bands for the finale pieces. Of course Brighouse and Rastrick is a top band but the Scout band more than held their own on the stage and what a fantastic sound both bands made when playing together. Rehearsals over and we went back to the dressing rooms to chill before the performance. Brighouse were on first but as we were to finish the 1st half we stayed back stage to warm up and unfortunately couldn’t listen to their performance. Finally the call came and we moved to the wings ready for our entrance. The reception we got was amazing and after each song we got thunderous applause and by the end of our last piece we knew it was a job well done. Many thanks to Matthew our MD for all his hard work and to our soloists Mike, Charles, Chris and Ian.

After the interval we sat in the choir seats to listen to the Scout Band and what a brilliant job they did of the Lamplighter, I’ve nothing but admiration for the band and especially for Graham who I’ve had the pleasure knowing for some 20 years. It was so moving when they were joined by the East Lancashire Hospice Choir secretly formed from patients, family and volunteers under the direction of our MD Matthew Thomas. Well done to you all. After Brighouse and Rastrick played their final pieces everyone came on stage for the finale, Finlandia, followed of course by Brighouse’s signature tune, The Floral Dance, with all the audience clapping along and then a standing ovation. What a fantastic end to the night.

A member of the Rossendale Male Voice Choir

 

WHAT a wonderful concert! It’s very difficult to write a brief account of my experience, but I’ll do my best!

The highlight of the first set by the brilliant Brighouse was the astonishing cornet solo by Kyle Lawson, performing The Paragon. He made it look effortless. A close second was Mike Eccles’s haunting flugelhorn solo Over the Rainbow, which was a very similar arrangement to the one Archie Taylor used to play with 2nd Rossendale, and it gave me a real lump in the throat.

The world premiere of Lamplighter was performed beautifully by our band, who were not at all intimidated by performing after such an iconic band. A repeating bell theme carried Idyll seamlessly from the poem into a lovely performance. Then onto the powerful and note-perfect Goodnight. The final movement was the gentle melancholy of The Gardener, enhanced by the addition of the Hospice Choir. It came together as a wonderful piece and I was massively proud of Alec and the whole band. Another highlight of the second half was the Ah-May-Zing percussion solo by Tom Hall. What a jaw-dropping performance! The finale was a wonderful collaboration between all the participants. Finlandia moved from softly sorrowful to fierce and rousing, and the 2nd Rossendale held their own magnificently. The Floral Dance encore was delightful, and I wish I had room to describe the hilarious tuba soloist!

A parent of a member of the Scout band

 

OUR evening started on a coach from Bacup, Alan’s first go at driving down after his cataract operation, and me with vertigo !!! All good fun. What an impressive stage and theatre it was, although the price of drinks and treats meant that you needed a second mortgage. Our seats were on second row at the side. Good view of the back of bands’ heads on the left. We had seen the Brighouse and Rastrick band before, but not in a venue like that. Amazing. As was The Rossendale Male Voice choir. Wow, that conductor! Rocked. Loved the hats and shades. What a night for our band. No words can describe how proud I am to belong to this scout group. My visits with the band to Germany, Windsor and Cornwall were great but the Bridgewater topped them I think. Watching some of the youngsters I’ve been involved with, from Beavers through the group ,on that stage, made me feel super proud. The new piece of music Lamplighter, sent shivers down the spine. Well done Graham, they played so well for you, and a dedication to a lovely lady.

Watching the reaction of the people around us, amazing, Luke’s little sister, sat in front us enthralled. What more can I say. We could have done with a boat not a coach on the way home, but a great night nevertheless.

A patron of the band

Back to school for joint band and choir performance

JUST as we did last year, we joined up with Whitworth Community High School Choir and the school wind band for a Wednesday night concert in Whitworth. There was a last minute change of venue this year as a leak had soaked the floor of the school hall and made it unusable so the concert was moved to The Riverside public hall just down the road. It was a really nice venue with a good sized stage for the choir, plenty of room on the floor of the hall for the bands even when playing jointly and lots of space for café style seating round the tables for the audience. For our band it was a reprise of the already tried and test- ed items in this current season’s programme. For the choir a chance to perform their Hearts and Voices items in front of parents, friends and a ‘home’ audience and for the wind band a chance to demonstrate what they had been practicing in this year’s rehearsals – and they did it well. It is never easy to get a band playing and a choir singing at a high standard for an 11-16 school. They only have five years and then the pupils are off elsewhere So there is a continual and unavoidable through- put every year. With this in mind, both the choir and the band put up very creditable performances. Thanks are due to the Riverside staff who co-operated with the school staff to ensure concert went ahead despite the problems with the school hall.

Thank you to our patrons

WELL, it didn’t snow did it? Instead it just poured with rain in that critical hour before the Patrons’ Concert started when most people were trying to park their cars and walk to the church knowing that if they arrived much after 7pm there might not be a seat downstairs. With the Senior, Junior and Silver bands all there, plus a 40-strong choir and their supporters from over the Pennines, it was always going to be full – and so it turned out. Keighley Vocal Union Choir was in fine form and really went down a treat. We hope the link that has been established results in more joint concerts in the future.

It was good to see how the Silver Band has progressed over the years – they don’t perform in public often and it’s always good to hear them. What about the Junior Band? Well they put in a great performance.

They get a sizeable audience once a month at the church Saturday coffee mornings, but it’s good to see them stepping out of their comfort zone to play in a much bigger venue in front of a much larger audience – a bit like an away game if you like. There’s been a steady stream of players moving on from this band up to the Senior band and this is a very healthy sign. ‘growing your own’ is something we’ve always been good at and a big thank you must go to everyone involved in the work and rehearsals that the Junior band puts in week in week out. Early Saturday mornings after a long week at school must take a bit of will power and dedication so congratulations to all the players. From the band’s perspective the patrons’ concert was the fourth concert in a month and time to take a break – have a bit of a breather and then concentrate on preparing for, what for us is going to be, the undoubted highlight of the season – the Bridgewater Hall concert. We’re all looking forward to that.

 

Archie Taylor

WE ARE very sad to report the following news about our good friend Archie Taylor who played his saxophone solos with the band for over 10 years and featured in all our recent concerts this year.

Archie was a keen sailor and kept his dinghy at Gwbert boat club in west Wales.

He took his boat out on Easter Saturday morning for a day’s sailing but when he had not returned by 5.30pm the alarm was raised and a full air and sea search was put into operation using helicopters and lifeboats.

His empty boat was found but Archie was missing. The search continued on the Sunday but there was no sign of Archie and by evening the search was scaled down as it was felt that there was no longer any chance of finding him alive.

Since then the police and coastguard have done coastline searches at low tide, but Archie is still missing. Understandably everyone in the band is shocked and stunned by this as I’m sure are all those who have heard him play with us at the various concert venues. He had become part of our wider band family.

After a number of weeks Archie’s body was washed ashore further north along the coast. His funeral service was held at Accrington Crematorium on Friday June 16.

An ensemble of past and present band members took part in this service and this contribution included ‘Autumn Leaves’ which Archie had regularly played on his more recent concert appearances.

A sad time for all having to say goodbye to such a talented musician, great friend of the band and an altogether really nice guy.

Saddleworth Memories

Over the 15 years there’s been lots of incidents that stay in the memory. Too many to record them all but here’s a few for your interest.

One year, not being aware of the usual lengthy queues that are always associated with Delph, we showed up really late in the evening and only just squeezed onto the booking in list before it closed for the night. The result was that way after midnight we were the the last band to play and that band always has the honour of playing the National Anthem to end the proceedings. Of course we didn’t have the music with us – hence a panic dash down to the Delph band club to borrow theirs. The score was slightly different to what we usually played but we managed it and got a great reception from the crowd.

Again at Delph some years later, unbeknown to us the rules had been changed and youth bands could only play if they signed in before 9 o’clock. We turned up much later and permission to play was refused despite our agreement that we would not be assessed and given a score. A heated stand off ensued. Tried to register as a non section adult band but this was refused as well. Determined to have our day in the sun we decided that if we were not allowed to play we would still march down to the contest arena without playing. Hence when the time came at which we should be playing we left all the instruments on the road and marched down the hill in silence. Incredulity on the faces of the large crowd lining the street, consternation on the part of the officials. A major enquiry ensued. The outcome? Banned from further entry to the Delph contests; happily subsequently rescinded a few years later. The incident produced lots of comment and discussion in the banding press, both for and against what we’d done. All friends again now.

Uppermill produced two memorable incidents, one of which saw a pint of beer being poured over one of our players as we made our way back to the coach after playing. The culprit made off but our ‘own in house’ travelling security went after him and restrained him till the police arrived and took him away for a night in the cells.

The second incident nearly caused a riot. The coaches park on the nearby car park in order and then move off to follow their band down the street ready to pick them up at the end. As you can imagine this car park gets pretty full and the coaches were nose to tail with limited manoeuvrability till the one in front moves. Whilst still somewhere in the middle our driver announced that his driving hours were up and he couldn’t move again till he’d had his mandatory break – not even a few yards to get off the car park and out of the way. Deadlock all round, tempers fraying…. let’s just leave it there. Suffice to say he was ‘persuaded’ to move. He’d never done the Saddleworth run before. Probably never done it again. We certainly haven’t used him.

On a lighter note, but still on the subject of buses, we had an almost brand new bus one year but it broke down at Lydgate. Other drivers turned up to offer advice but no joy. We went off to do the contest and came back just in time to see the driver giving the engine a series of hearty thumps with a hammer. That did the trick and off we went. Sadly after the evening’s last contest the problem returned. Same remedy applied but no success. So what do you do at that time of night with a band and instruments with all the other possible replacement coaches for miles around all ferrying their bands back home? Fortunately someone remembered seeing our good friends from Water Band out and about earlier in the evening and we eventually tracked them down before they had started back for home. Somewhat bizarrely for quite a small band they had a doubledecker coach as well. You just couldn’t make it up could you. They did a bit of a detour and picked us up. Home by midnight. Which is more than can be said for our poor coach driver.

And what about that incident at Greenfield when we started playing before the judge indicated that he was ready? At all the venues the judge is secreted away so as not to be able to see which band is playing to avoid any unconscious prejudice in the marking. They indicate when they’re ready for the incoming band to play by blowing a whistle or some other sign. Well, for some reason we started playing before the sign. Several bars into the piece and out comes an agitated red faced judge shouting, ‘ You’ve not been given permission to start’. The band, concentrating on the music, don’t hear him and carry on playing. The audience highly amused. The judge not so. He retreats to his caravan. By now of course he knew which band we were. General consensus was that we’d blown it – probably wouldn’t even be given a score. The outcome? We won first prize at Greenfield.

Finally one that everyone remembers and lives forever in the band’s folklore. The late Brian Chestney and his bag of chips. Brian was one of our more senior members and played bass. He played for the march to the arena but not for the contest piece itself as there are strict age rules re who can and cannot play in the youth section. So whilst the band was doing the contest piece Brian and his wife Doreen joined the queue at the Delph chippy round the corner. Very partial to a bag of chips was Brian. Trouble was, it was a very long queue and Brian was still waiting his turn when the band had played, packed up and were on the bus ready for off. Back went the message, ‘10 more minutes Brian and then we’re off’. 10 minutes later – no Brian or Doreen. So off to the next venue we went. Will we see them again tonight? How will they get home? Shall we go back for them? All solved after we returned to the coach after playing. There sat Brian and Doreen in stony silence munching their way through two large bags of chips. He’d used his wide knowledge of other bands and players to negotiate a lift on another coach and followed us. Nothing was ever said. No-one asked for a chip. None were offered. Never happened again.

 

Wonderful Windsor Weekend

Friday: We’re off

The day had finally come! Bags packed – check, instrument – check, music – check and so off to the Scout Hut where the coach awaited.

Many an hour beforehand rehearing in the coldest most exposed areas in Lancashire had lead up to this moment. We hopped on the coach, after a team effort on the loading front, and we were off.

Once on board many entertainment that Steve usually provides, often Cool Runnings, whilst others sat back and relaxed for the busy weekend to come.

A quick pit stop at, ironically, Warwick Services where we filled our boots with a variety of fast food they had to offer, then back on the coach and we were off, Windsor bound.

We arrived and as soon as we walked into the hotel there was a roar of ‘Ooo this is fancy’, that is usually a good sign.

We checked in then made our way to the rooms. After a short while it was a quick run back down the stairs, back on the bus where we travelled to the local Salvation Army HQ where we brushed up on preparation for the following evening’s concert.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we quickly showered and smartened up and made our way the function room where food awaited.

This was lovely, an indoor barbecue. What could be better before a couple of days hard work? Then came the quiz. The teams assembled and the quiz began, the highlight round being “sing when your winning” where the teams had to name as many songs mentioning the word music in the title, or in a lyric. Bonus points if you could perform it with your group.

Saturday Daytime: Final preparations

As the sun rose over the, not yet fully constructed, town of Bracknell, the many tourists awoke from their peaceful slumber with eager anticipation for their day ahead at Legoland.

Well I say peaceful … it would have been had the band not already formed up in their marching lines on the rooftop of a multi-storey car park nearby.

What could make a better accompaniment to your eggs and bacon than a rousing rendition of good ol’ ‘Slaidburn’?

Noisy as it might have been, it was the last opportunity for a quick run through of the programme for tomorrow’s big event, so heads were definitely switched on.

A few laps of the car park,not forgetting the occasional emergency stop and three-point turn, got the band warmed up and it was on with the pieces that the band had lined up to entertain the crowds.

Never before had the people of Bracknell been treated to ‘Toccata in D Minor’ whilst nipping to M&S on their Saturday morning shopping spree.

But, as an avid member of the band’s cornet section, I must mention our Strictly Come Dancing audition.

Standing seven storeys above the bustling Saturday morning shoppers, cornets in hand, we unleashed our inner ‘Andrews Sisters’ as we performed our choreographed routine to ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’.

What a sight for those poor awakened tourists. With a few closing laps of honour, it was instruments away and onto the bus for the band.

A short drive into Windsor, with the coach swerving in and out of the Heathrow bound jets, we arrived at the foot of Windsor Castle.

For those of you who have never visited, Windsor is a bustling town filled with quaint little tearooms and boutique shops.

But the band’s choice of afternoon entertainment … Crazy Golf! Sporting their finest ‘deckchair’ inspired trousers, each player teed off with aspirations of the Ryder Cup at the forefront of their minds.

It is safe to say that the band were less Tiger Woods and little more Happy Gilmore, but all managed to avoid the water feature.

Let’s hope the band is on par tomorrow for Her Majesty.

Saturday Evening: Concert at Holy Trinity Garrison Church in Windsor

What can you do but have great expectations of our band when you know how much practise they have done and you know just how entertaining they can be?

We walked into Holy Trinity Garrison Church with the sun streaming in behind us, and were greeted by an amazingly decorated church with flags hanging from the balcony; an intricate painted pattern on the ceiling; and plaques on all the walls detailing fallen soldiers across many historic battles. The church was full.

A concert like this could only begin with ‘Conquest’. The whole piece is such a strong statement of a confident band that can stand as individuals or as sections and play.

It’s great to see the audi- ence anticipation as they look around and wonder who will be walking to the front next.

Graham didn’t use the microphone because it was crackly and about to give up, but obviously he was still able to maintain his rapid flow of humour even without the microphone.

We enjoyed five solo pieces – Oliver Sikora with ‘Georgia on my Mind’; a welcome back to Luke Dempsey who played ‘Over the Rainbow’; Ryan Bolton with ‘Blaydon Races’; Josh Brown performed ‘Children of Sanchez’; and George Hanson playing ‘The Bare Necessities’.

They played such a wide variety of tunes, but they all looked very comfortable and bold performers. We were so proud.

My favourite piece was ‘You are the sunshine of my life’. A small group was standing at the back of the church and played with the whole band. I felt as though I was listening to surround sound.

I could pick out some of the musical parts which I can’t usually do. The band completely filled the whole church with sound. Many of the audience were jogging their shoulders and tapping their feet.

And how can you finish such a fantastic concert? With Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. The standing ovation and long applause at the end said everything – a wonderful end to a wonderful evening.

So many people from the Windsor area commented on how much they had enjoyed the concert. We all thought that the band had played their best ever.

Sunday: Windsor Castle

The day kick started with a full four star hotel breakfast. No time to dwell on what the day would hold as we were whisked back up the five flights of stairs to the top of Bracknell’s multi story for a brisk 9am rehearsal.

A buzz of excitement rose when we were sent to change into our brand new scout uniforms and gather our belongings as we would not be returning. This was it.

As we approached the grandeur of the castle itself, the coach ground to a halt. We continued our short journey on foot the reason for the emer- gency stop came more apparent. Parading towards us came the Scots Guards, their striking red jackets marching towards us. Each step in unison.

The enormity and expectation of the day had finally hit us.

We presented our special red cards that allowed us admittance to the event and set up base in the ground’s vacated stables.

As more and more Scout leaders and offi- cials crowded the courtyard, we got a sudden shout to clear the way. We made a dash to get out of the path.

We couldn’t believe what happened next. Who came past? None other than the Duke of Edinburgh driving his horse and cart. We felt so lucky, but only minutes later he came past again in his fancy BMW.

The band was called to form up as the clocks neared 1. All those hours of preparation came down to this.

Michael brought us to attention. “By the centre quick march” We were off.

Everything was going brilliantly. We had reached the narrow archway where we all squeezed through,

just about, and entered the splendour of the quadrangle of Windsor Castle. What a sight to behold.

No time to gander or gawp, as we were paraded straight onto the luscious, harlequin grass.

It was like standing on a cloud, almost soft enough for you to stop in your tracks just to enjoy the luxury. But the band marched on. ‘Montreal Citadel’, ‘Water of Tyne’, ‘Joy’, ‘Peace and Happiness’. Far too quickly we were marching back through the narrow archway back towards the sta- bles.

Just before the clock struck 2, Michael paraded us back into the quadrangle but this time accompanied by the Scots Guards. On the strike of 2, the National Anthem was played – by the Guards’ band – and out came Prince Michael of Kent with Bear Grylls to speak to all the Queen’s Scouts.

While this was taking place, ourselves and the Scots Guards played alternately. ‘Toccata’, ‘All Night Long’ and a John Williams’ medley fea- tured in the short set.

The whole parade, lead by us, made its way down to St George’s Chapel in the grounds, where we took our seats in the Knights of the Garter.

We all sat there in awe, admiring the magnificent gothic architecture as the service commenced.

A sudden hum of excitement washed through the band as only a few metres away stood Bear and the Prince with their entourage of officials. The Prince kept very official whereas Bear gave us a cheeky thumbs up.

As the final hymn was sung, we reformed outside the impressive chapel.

After a short speech from Mr Grylls, we led the parade back to the stables and it was all over.

Months, weeks, hours of hard work had paid off and we’d done ourselves mighty proud. As we boarded the coach for the final time, everyone agreed on what an amazing weekend that was had and how proud we were to be the 2nd Rossendale Scout Group Band.

Band plays at Durham Miners’ Gala

THIS has become another firm fixture in the band’s end of season programme. No major mining done in Durham these days but the former pit villages continue to keep alive the tradition of marching with their banners that were established in the days that ‘Coal was King’.

Same format every year. Each village with its banner and brass band converges on Durham and they form themselves into a long procession that slowly winds it’s way through the streets until the County Hotel is reached. Here, on the front balcony stand the invited guests from the Trade Unions and Labour party. All the bands then play their own selected party piece before moving on, eventually to congregate on a local field where the options seem to be listening to speeches, going for a drink or finding somewhere quiet for a bit of lunch.

There can be anything up to 100,000 people in Durham on the day and things can get pretty raucous as the day goes on. Eventually the bands process back through Durham and return to their villages with all their supporters. ‘Our’ village is Horden a former mining community on the coast and we’ve played for them for a number of years now. We returned to Horden after playing in Durham and ended by playing the miner’s hymn tune Gresford in the middle of the village. Gresford was written by a miner from Hebburn in South Tyneside and commemorates the pit disaster at Gresford near Wrexham in 1934 when 266 men and boys lost their lives in a pit explosion.

Only 11 bodies were recovered. The bands from former pit villages always play it at the Miners Gala. After this it was back on the coach for home.

A long day starting at 6.00am and ending back home at 9.00pm. We’ll be up there again next year. No doubt about that.

Congratulations to all our Award Winners

This year our annual band awards were presented at the patron’s concert and the winners were as follows:

1. Junior Bandsperson of the year. Leo Stemp. This was especially good as Leo, not for the first time either, had, in the morning, played a solo in the Junior Band’s monthly Concert at Central Methodist Church. What a great tone he has, too.

2. Senior Bandsperson of the year. Max Bridge. Max is a quiet lad, very understated in character, yet a great char- acter within the band, and he’s not a bad tenor horn player, either, sitting there week by week, just putting in the right notes.

3. The Low Brass Award. Ryan Bolton. Fast becoming a pillar of the band.

4. The Sheila Wright Trophy for a person who has stood out in their endeavour to serve the band. Alfie Ryder. A word about Alfie. Just over two years ago, he was playing second cornet. He was asked to move onto another instrument, as it suited the needs of the band, so he did move. not one up, or one below, but right down into the basement, and onto the biggest instrument in the band, the B flat bass! Now this is a massive leap, and if you don’t understand this, then try it for yourself. Having a good tone is the target for all musical instrument playing, especially in brass playing where more than one factor influences the tone, and this move of Alfie’s required a whole new approach. There is a lot of resistance when you blow into a cornet, so your breaths last longer.

When you move to a larger instrument, that resistance lessens, and so you have to draw more breath. Also, because of the size of a B flat bass, the matter of pitching the note becomes a bigger issue, because the breath has to be controlled carefully, with no resistance to it, and if not done correctly, the note will be out of tune, and that matters just as much in the basement as it does at the top of the band. So how has Alfie done? I’ll tell you how he’s done. Very well. For a start, he’s still there so what does that tell you without words? He has fit into the bass section well, as part of the team, and down there it’s all teamwork, especially with breathing. He backs up the other two B flat basses. George Hanson and Chris Carter, and those two are a real pairing. Also supporting the E flat basses too, ie Beth and Sam, so all in all, and without many words, he’s just got stuck into it. Thanks Alfie, and it’s not often I compliment another bass player, but I have to take off my hat to him.

D.Walsh

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Hearts and Voices for Rossendale Hospice

A WEEK after the Weavers concert we were in Blackburn at the beautifully restored Cathedral for another joint concert in aid of a very deserving cause – Rossendale Hospice. This concert was organised by Bacup born tenor Sean Ruane and his Chant productions team.
As well as being an internationally acclaimed star in his own right Sean specialises in working with local school and youth choirs. The culmination of this is a public concert. This particular event featured lots of school choirs from the Rossendale Valley together with Sean and our band. A large and magnificent venue for a concert of this kind and when it is full, as it was for this concert, the atmosphere is magical. A really good experience for the choirs, most of whom would never have performed before in such a setting and in front of such a large audience. It was the second year that we have been involved in this Hearts and Voices event and again it was a win-win situation for everyone involved, with the Hospice benefiting from the large four figure sum raised. Another one in 2017?
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