2009 All England Masters International - Dedicated Service Award

19-May-2009

4BR Editor Iwan Fox pays tribute to the man who picks up the Masters Dedicated Service Award this year - the one and only Richard Evans.


EvansA few years ago now, I made the mistake of writing a contesting obituary on Richard Evans after he had somewhat prematurely announced that he was taking a step away from the top tier of brass band competition.

Within a few weeks of waxing lyrical about his contribution to the brass band movement, Tricky Dicky had made the type of comeback only bettered by Lazuras and Mark Twain.

Phenomenon

The man is a brass band phenomenon.

That is why there was a wry smile when it was announced that Richard would be the deserved recipient of the All England International Masters Dedicated Service Award this year.

Given that just a few weeks ago he had also been the emotional recipient of a ‘Conductor Emeritus’ title from his old band Leyland, you would have been forgiven into thinking that he was finally about to hang up his baton for good.

Think again.

This is no ‘Lifetime Achievement’ gong, the type given out of misplaced affection as a retirement gift – the banding equivalent of the gold watch and gardening gloves.

Relish

Here is a man who continues to inject his very individual brand of talent, enthusiasm and love of music making into the veins of the banding movement, like a life saving drug.  Here is a musician who continues to relish the challenge of competitiveness at all levels of the contesting tree. He is a brass band man apart – an honour for his dedication is indeed very appropriate and deserved.

The gods never bestow the serendipity of major contesting fortune freely – it is won by those with talent and skill, intuitive musical minds and balls the size of a pawnbrokers sign.

CV

You don’t get to have a CV filled with two British Opens, two Masters, eight Brass in Concert, one Pontins, two Yeovil, ten Area, one Grand Shield, one Norwegian National, a Second Section National and countless other victories at just about every level of contesting imaginable without them either.

The National itself has eluded him – but so what? It has also eluded many others too. He should have perhaps won more majors as well, but racking up the bland statistics of contesting victories has never been his style.

Ruffle feathers

He has come close at both London and the European with the type of swashbuckling performances that delighted the crowds but perhaps just ruffled a few too many feathers in the box, but somehow you sense that a lucky win with a ‘safe’ performance wouldn’t have pleased him anyway.  

From the time he lit the blue touch paper on Wingates 1975 Open victory on ‘Fireworks’ he has never been a man to adhere to the Health & Safety approach to contesting battle. He has lived and sometimes died by the sword.

Deep seated

What he gives to the music he conducts is a real reflection of his personality – effervescent, vibrant and bold, emotionally mature, never cloying in sentimentality despite his own deep seated love for the music he brings to life. 

He paints musical pictures with broad brush strokes of understanding and appreciation – from the yellow edged classics of historical repertoire to the razor sharp cutting edge of the newest breed of banding composer.

Many believe him to be the finest entertainment contest conductor in banding history, and as befitting man born of army stock, the best interpreter of the swagger march too. It is hard to think of any brass band conductor who so immediately brings an instant rapport between performers and audience than he does.

Not to be trifled with

At his very best he of course benefited from being able to direct some of the very best bands in the land, outfits that contained difficult artistic talents, which he marshalled with a steely authority that suffered no fools. Behind the smile and the ready wit, was a man not to be trifled with.

He has given of himself much, much more than he has ever received back from the brass band movement.

Repay debt

From his work with various National youth bands and youth ensembles, to confidence boosting visits to lower section outfits, one off appearances with bands he wished to help and encourage, rather than just add another meaningless victory notch to his banding bedpost, his development and direction of the Accrington & Rossington BA (Hons) Course, his adjudicating,  his strong opinions, and even his foray into autobiography.

All have been done to repay the debt of gratitude brass banding has given him ever since he first took up the cornet with the British Legion Band near Leyland almost 70 years ago.    

All this and there is much, much more to come. The brass band obituary column will have to wait quite a few more years yet…. 

Iwan Fox

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