My life with the Wind BandWhen we first came to Stratford in 1969 we had two small children, Ian my husband had a job at NVRS Wellesbourne and I was a mum getting by doing a few part-time jobs. However we had at least tried out our first brass instrument, as when we were working in Tanzania a friend had handed us an old cornet, explained how to get the various notes and lent it to us to play. So when I found an ancient silver trumpet in a junk shop, I was glad to snap it up and look around for a chance to get some lessons. Bob Pritchard of the RST was running a Saturdaymorning class at the College at that time and I quickly signed up and started some serious study. Bob’s students were mostly teenagers or even younger and most of them were a lot more talented than me. After getting a better trumpet and getting used to playing it, I went along to see how I would get on in the Wind Band, not long before it left the county music structure and became independent – the early 1970s. I enjoyed playing 3rd trumpet but when our tuba player left to go to college I took up the challenge of the larger instrument and found I loved the noise it made and its contribution to the band sound. Sitting beside the young player John Spiers, I had his help to sort out what valve positions to play to match the intimidating array of notes descending below the leger lines in the bass clef. I got the hang of it before long and started to enjoy playing in concerts, at fetes and in churches, with our conductor Peter Chadwick. An early fund-raiser was the 24 Hour Play-In – I wonder who else remembers that? As well as playing the band pieces I also took part in a piano duet, and accompanied a flute player and later Nigel Braithwaite in an epic struggle to get through Richard Strauss’s Ist Horn Concerto in the piano and solo version – luckily this was in the middle of the night when hardly anyone was awake to hear what a mess I was making of it!
I lost my job in plant science at Wellesbourne in 1986 and had the chance to go to Texas as post-doc, which I was glad to take. As a relief from the intensity of the science labs, it was nice to join a local brass band who were very welcoming and found me a tuba to play – I joined the back row of 6 burly bass players and enjoyed the Sundayafternoon practices and in the summer, our performances in the park. After 8 months I had saved up enough to get my own tuba, a mini B flat version which I have later played with SAWBA, village orchestras, brass ensembles and the Stratford Salvation Army Band, and now, Stour Concert Brass based in Shipston.
I didn’t rejoin SAWBA straight away after getting back to UK in 1987, but played with Marston Brass and other groups for a while, learning the French Horn and keeping up my trumpet playing too. At last I did rejoin the Wind Band with Peter Hopkins in charge, playing F Horn when no-one else was available, then tuba again after our tuba player left to live abroad. Tom and I shared the tuba desk for a while, but lately I have gone back to playing 3rd trumpet once more, enjoying the sound of the instrument as well as the fun we have in the section. I like Wind Band music a lot, it’s more varied and demanding than the average Brass Band repertoire. Some of my favourites are classical overtures such as those by Rossini, Sousa marches, anything by Holst and Vaughan Williams and of course the Blues Brothers selection!
I have had huge fun and learned a lot in my time with the band: the skills I developed here helped me to fit into bands I visited in Texas and in Rockhampton, Australia, and I hope to continue playing with a band or orchestra in our new home, wherever that may be. I wish the Stratford Concert Band all the best for the future and hope you will all get as much fun out of it as I did myself over the past 40 years.
I thought for a bit of fun, I’d ask you all to take photographs of any bandstands you see on your holiday journeys this year.
Occupied or otherwise. There are already a few here to start the ball rolling.
Send your photos to me via email with info as to where they are and I’ll do the rest.