Picturesque: Pershore welcomes lots of brass...
Bringing brass bands into the heart of any local community is a difficult enough task - but just think how much preparation, organisation, unpaid time, goodwill and sheer hard graft it takes to put on an event such as the recent Pershore Midsummer Festival of Brass.
Over the years it has become a huge success - and a festival attraction that draws in hundreds of visitors; people that not only enjoy the music on offer, but crucially, pump a great deal of day trip cash into the economy.
For those lucky enough to have enjoyed a day out listening to bands at the various venues in the pretty Worcestershire town, it looks as if it runs like clockwork - and it does - although it takes one heck of an effort from the amazing band of about 14 or so helpers and volunteers who provide its organisational backbone.
Making a connection with commerce
Labour of love
Committee member Val Trim told 4BR that her reward was not just hearing the bands in action (31 this year) - but being able to hear the feedback from players, supporters and the general public who enjoy themselves each year.
“It is something of a labour of love, led by our indefatigable Chairman Shaun Owen - but one that brings so much to the local area,” she said. “We gain wonderful support from the community, especially from local Pershore councillor David Brotheridge who acts as a crucial liaison with local organisations, retailers and businesses.”
Val added: “All that means that we have been able to gain the long term support of the bands, many of who come back year after year to enjoy the atmosphere of a very special day.”
This year, and helped by wonderful weather, the four venues dotted throughout the town certainly attracted large numbers of listeners - from local shoppers passing by in Chapman Court, to serious cognoscenti at the compact old Baptist Church, reflective listeners at Pershore Abbey and the usual mix of families and revellers in the gardens of the Angel Inn public house.
For Val, one of the unique successes of the event is that the different venues bring out the best both in the bands and audiences alike.
“It’s always interesting to see the reactions of people: Young children stopping their mothers to listen to the bands before they go shopping at Chapman Court - transfixed by the colours, and the rhythms of the music.
Then you get the band supporters at the Baptist Church and the serious listeners able to reflect on the music and surroundings of the beautiful Pershore Abbey.
The Angel Inn is simply a great chance to hear brass bands playing as you chat, drink and relax the day away!”
Championship to Youth
The event attracts bands from Championship to Youth level - with the likes of National Finalists Tongwynlais Temperance and recent Midlands Area champion Jaguar Land Rover rubbing shoulders with the brilliant youngsters of Worcester Youth and Lydney Training Bands.
Entertainment is the name of the game - although the bands are encouraged to perform original works and serious repertoire (there was sneak preview of a Nationals test piece by Enderby and world premieres by Tongwynlais and Jaguar Land Rover), which this year saw City of Coventry and principal trombonist Chris Moore perform ‘Razz’, a wonderfully colourful work from the pen of recent Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Clara Catt.
Keeping the shoppers happy...
Bat out of Hell
However, nothing can beat a late evening blast through ‘Bat out of Hell’ by Meatloaf - which even had the local hairy bikers in the audience at the Angel Inn up on their feet in appreciation!
In contrast the event also sees the performance of many ‘personal’ works - with Jaguar Land Rover featuring an emotive composition from the pen of Philip Harper, entitled ‘The Path to Peace’, commissioned in memory of the father of one of the band members.
And although there is no competitive element to the day, there is always a keen sense of ‘friendly competition’ on show, as bands ensure they produce performances that don’t just entertain the casual listener, but also make a mark on the ears of rivals.
“It was great to see players helping other bands out,” Val added. “That’s what makes the event special I think, even if there is a bit of contest spying going on as well!. The bands come to have a good time and so do the players. As a result, everyone - and especially the audiences, leave for home happy!”
A cracking church service....
Buzz of appreciation
Some thing don’t change though and the murmur of appreciation that buzzes around the audience as an impressive soloist struts their stuff (and there were plenty of classy ones on show), or the sight of a few arched eyebrows when a noticeable error filters into the air, wouldn’t be out of place at any band contest.
Not surprisingly, the 12 hours of non-stop brass band music making was packed with many highlights, including a brace of terrific sets by crowd favourites Bilton Silver, a revitalised Phoenix West Midlands Brass, under their new MD Craig Stevens, Langley wowing the crowds at Chapman Court, Tewkesbury giving a rousing early morning performance and newcomers Brackley & District thoroughly enjoying their first outing. The youth bands in particular have become firm favourites with listeners.
Keeping things in close harmony is the secret to success...
All in all then yet another brilliant day of brass banding - superbly organised and presented.
And despite Val and the rest of an amazing organisation now enjoying a well earned rest, plans are already underway for next year’s event which will be held on the 4th July - American Independence Day.
Now that is really something to look forward too once again.