Dinner Guests - Alan Jenkins ultimate brass band dinner guest list


In the fourth of a new feature Alan Jenkins tells us who he would like to invite to come to dinner...dead or alive.

JenkinsGiven the opportunity, the wish list, the ability to mess about with the Space-Time Continuam like Doctor Who, and the skill to cook like Heston Blumenthal, who would you like to invite around to your place to enjoy a meal and chin wag with? 

We've been fairly generous with our criteria too: The 10 people can come from any time in history, but must have some link, in however tenuous a form, to the brass band movement. 

The budget for the meal and drinks comes out of their own pockets though...

4BR started it all off a few days before Christmas with our 10 dinner guests, so we thought we had better ask a few more brass band personalities who would be on their all time dinner list too...

This time its Alan Jenkins, doyen of brass band critics, conductor, writer, arranger, composer, tuba player and general man of letters…

1. Ken Smith. When I was about 16 I was invited to the Mulholland household for tea one Sunday afternoon. At that time Robert Mulholland, the father of Bob Mulholland, was bandmaster of Fairey Aviation and he also had as his guests, Norman Ashcroft, Wilf Mountain and Ken Smith.

They had their instruments with them and I spent a glorious hour accompanying them on the piano. It made a lasting impression and I was privileged to be able to get to know Ken much better when he visited England to be the adjudicator at the British Open when the Test Piece was Philip Wilby’s . . . Dove Descending.

Obviously, if you are going to host a dinner party with only men in attendance then you might as well join the Lions, Masons or Rotary. I don’t belong to any of those illustrious organisations because I prefer any social occasion to be leavened by a fair smattering of ladies. Naturally, I would have invited my wife of 51 years to be present but she has generously offered to cook the dinner – thank God! – thus she will there anyway, albeit mostly in the kitchen.

2. Amanda Roocroft grew up in the North West and when she was seven she was playing soprano in the Rivington & Adlington Band. She also sings like an angel in the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. So when the conversation becomes too heated I intend asking her to sing a few stanzas for us thereby temporarily transporting us well beyond the dining room.

3. Alison Balsom also possesses angelic qualities and still enjoys playing the cornet with her old band, Royston Town, whenever her busy professional life as a solo trumpet player permits. Naturally, I will ask her to bring her trumpet along with her. A dinner party for musicians without some music-making makes no sense whatsoever.

4. Bram Tovey is a wonderful musician – tuba player, pianist, conductor and composer – who must have enjoyed a great number of ‘memorable experiences’, the telling of which should enliven the party. Furthermore, I’m sure he will be delighted to busk the piano accompaniments for Amanda and Alison?

5. Ray Steaman-Allen has been described as the Salvation Army’s most creative talent, whilst Bram referred to him as a ‘genius’. I know he is a good companion and, furthermore, he will surely be pleased to occasionally relieve Bram in the accompanying duties.

6. Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen’s music can be relied upon to grip the listener. It reflects adventure, which is not altogether surprising since he lives in what is probably the brass band world’s most exciting country. He has a good vision of the future.

7. Hans Gansch is one the biggest and best surprises ever sprung on a European BB Championship audience. We all sat down in Groningen ready to enjoy what we knew would be a particularly enjoyable B section programme and performance from BB Oberösterreich.

Two minutes later most of us were sitting on the edge of our seats marvelling at the wonderful sound, technique and musicality of the band’s principal cornet player who we didn’t recognise. Hans came into banding the ‘wrong’ way, via first being the principal trumpet player of the Vienna Philharmonic.

8. Elgar Howarth has been invited to this 10-dinner-guests shindig already and so I contemplated not inviting him. But that would be ridiculous because I enjoy his company too much. Anyway, we are of a similar age, come from a similar background and region, both support Man U, often played tennis together, both played at Covent Garden and possibly both made our professional debuts with the Hallé.

I can’t swear to the accuracy of this story, but I was told that on the platform of the Free Trade Hall on the occasion of his debut, Sydney King, 3rd trumpet player and a man who had never learned how to whisper and had the broadest Lancashire accent of anyone ever born in Lancashire, asked Garry, ‘Have you got a biro?’ Garry handed over a ball-point pen whereupon Syd started inking his leg through a hole in his trousers so that it couldn’t be seen.

9. Stan Bennett has been my closest friend for more than 60 years. We both played in Stockport Citadel Band. After band practice we would get off the bus at the same stop; the buses would go to bed and, when it was light again, they would start up and soon thereafter we would say ‘goodnight’

10. Robert Mulholland invited me to be part of his BBW experience and wherever we travelled we always had a great time. In Britain he would drive and I was the navigator. I was supremely well equipped to handle this responsible role except for one tiny deficiency – I have no sense of direction, a gift that is matched to an unshakeable optimism.

Making matters worse, he’s no better, thus we have both seen a great deal more of the British Isles than we ever anticipated. I never tire of his company. Bob’s wife Jennifer, who sat further up the cornet section than Bob when they were both in the NYBBGB, will be distracting my wife in the kitchen and sounds of laughter will be heard – frequently! 

Previous dinner guest lists:

1.  Who would 4BR invite?

2. Chris Wormald

3. Peter Meechan


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