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2023 Brass In Concert Championships
The Glasshouse, Gateshead
Saturday 18 November

Comments: James McLeod
Images: tynesight.co.uk
Media: Iwan Fox

  • Saturday 18, 21:15:12


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    Adjudicators: (in order)
    Quality of Performance: Howard Evans/Margie Antrobus
    Content: David Thornton
    Entertainment & Presentation: Simone Rebello/Jo Towler

    1. Foden's (Michael Fowles): 57/57/34/20/18 = 186
    2. Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag (Reid Gilje): 54/54/40/17/19 = 184
    3. Flowers (Paul Holland): 45/60/38/18/17 = 178
    4. Brighouse & Rastrick (Garry Cutt): 51/51 /36/19/16 = 173
    5. Fountain City (Joe Parisi): 60/42/26/16/14 = 158
    6. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse): 48/45/30/15/12 = 150
    7. Grimethorpe Colliery (Steve Phillips): 39/48/28/11/10 = 131*
    8. Aldbourne (Glyn Williams): 42/36/22/12/13 = 125
    9. Carlton Main Frickley (Allan Withington): 30/39/32/10/11 = 122
    10. Friary Brass (Nigel Taken): 33/30/24/14/20 = 121
    11. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths): 36/33/20/13/15 = 117

    *5 point time penalty

    Quality of Performance Award: Foden's
    Entertainment & Presentation Award: Foden's
    Programme Content Award: Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag
    Audience Entertainment Award: Foden's

    Best New Composition /Arrangement: Time for Tea (Lucy Pankhurst)

    Best Soloist: Emily Evans (horn) — Flowers
    Best Soprano: Richard Poole (Foden's)
    Best Principal Cornet: Dewi Griffiths (Tredegar)
    Best Flugel Horn: Gyda Matland (Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag)
    Best Tenor Horn: Hilde Oian (Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag)
    Best Baritone: Erland Oian (Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag)
    Best Euphonium: Gary Curtin (Foden's)
    Best Trombone: Ryan Richards (Tredegar)
    Best Bass Section: Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag
    Best Percussion Section: Eikanger Bjorsvik Musikklag
    Youngest Player: Jake Bartlett (aged 16) — Aldbourne

  • Saturday 18, 20:14:45

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    James McLeod's opinion and prediction...

    What a day! 11 programmes that spanned the musical landscape, and 11 performances of merit. 4 stood out for me today, with one dark horse that can throw the cat amongst the pigeons.

    Sensational playing from the soloists and well done to all of the conductors and to the composers and arrangers of the staggering 47 new pieces premiered here today.

    My favourite of the new works was Lucy Pankhurst's absolutely bonkers 'Time for Tea' with Flowers. My prediction, based on absolutely no scoring criteria, and just what I enjoyed!

    1. Fodens
    2. Brighouse
    3. Flowers
    4. Tredegar
    5. Eikanger
    6. Friary

  • Saturday 18, 19:38:50

    11. Fountain City (Joe Parisi)

    Both Sides Now

    Nature Boy — Salt of the Earth (Eden Ahbez & Andy Scott arr. Lee Harrelson)
    The Debutante (Herbert L. Clarke arr. D Bandman & Lee Harrelson)
    Soloist: Lee Harrelson
    Turning of the Tide (Tom Davoren)
    Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell arr. Andrew Wainwright)
    Come Sunday (Omar Thomas arr. Helen & Lee Harrelson)

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    What an opening number from Fountain City!

    The crying melody of Nature Boy, with screaming soprano and great solo contributions from cornet and trombone leads into Andy Scott's Salt of the Earth in an arrangement featuring the almost every principal with a solo interjection to play. The playing is full of life, and the quality of the drumkit playing unfortunately shows some small cracks in the tightness of the band ensemble.

    The reimagining of 'The Debutante' into a jazz standard is both impressive, and almost jarring to those who love the original. The solo part reimagined to showcase the soloist (and arranger) Lee Harrelson's fantastic range and technique — but it's not just Lee, the band parts show case fiendish technique also — there are some moments untidy ensemble in the band, but the soloist is leading the charge from the front, all the way to the finish.

    This is a very different kind of programme, but the band are enjoying playing it and the audience are enjoying listening to it.

    Tom Davoren's 'Turning of the Tide' features 'Abide with Me' as the thematic material. The opening simple hearing of the tune is a welcome contrast to the big band, jazz and funk influences we've heard so far. Tom Davoren's music still rings as contemporary, yet is so accessible.

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    A fast section with driving rhythms under the hymn tune follows, before a return to the more traditional hymn setting — the tuba section feature is lovely — before a lift to the finale. A fine piece, showing the bands lyrical playing, and contrasts.

    'Both sides now' is an iconic Joni Mitchell song — arranged with a level of reverence by Andrew Wainwright. Flugel and baritone feature to begin, with more solo contributions from cornet and euphonium. The harmonies are rich and colourful, and band play sympathetically to the heart-wrenching lyrics, shown on the multimedia screen.

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    The Hammond Organ is the hero, and inspiration for 'Come Sunday'. Dr Ryan Sharp on soprano is the star of the opening section — showing great control and 'soul' — before we come to the second section, entitled 'Shout!' encapsulating the American Gospel tradition in churches all over the US. It's fun, energetic, and the band are clearly enjoying playing it!

    Great contributions from the horn section, and further from Dr Sharp as the piece vamps through. Two drumkits playing at the same time, that's a first for today!

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    The basses and percussion continue to drive this forward with energy. There are a few messy entries, but nothing that can stop this runaway train from careening towards its conclusion.

    Fabulous fun from this unique programme. A great reception in the hall from the audience, with some solid solo contributions and stylish band playing.

    James McLeod

  • Saturday 18, 18:28:02

    10. Flowers (Paul Holland)

    Alice in Wonderland

    Down the Rabbit Hole (Daniel Hall)
    Curiouser and curiouser (Lucy Pankhurst)
    Soloist: Emily Evans
    Time for Tea (Lucy Pankhurst)
    Pavan for a Jam Tart (Dan Price)
    O, Frabjous Day, Alice Slays! (Kelly-Marie Murphy)

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    Alice in Wonderland is Flowers' theme, promising us the 'Disney Magic' and 'Tim Burton Darkness'. We open with 'Down the Rabbit Hole' — which sees the title character, played by solo horn player Emily Evans, be drawn toward the band by lush cornet melodies, and individual contributions from cornet and flugel.

    The imagined whackiness, lead by imaginative percussion writing, is also played extremely well. The virtuosic passages are very well executed, with the ticking clock motif returning — and the wildness of the writing leads us down the rabbit hole to a thumping conclusion — great start.

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    'Curiouser and Curiouser' is one of the more technically demanding horn solos I've ever heard at Brass in Concert, handled with ease by solo horn Emily Evans, still in her role as the title character Alice.

    The percussion lead much of the atmospheric accompaniment, but the band in full tutti passages show the breadth of their band sound. This is such evocative music, full of wonder, and cheekiness, and played brilliantly by the band and especially the soloist — superb playing.

    'Time for Tea' is a mad dash through the characters of Alice in Wonderland (though why Frank keeps pronouncing it Wunderlund I'm not sure!) The Mad Hatter, March Hare, Caterpillar, White Rabbit, Doormouse, and Tweedledee and Tweeledum are all illustrated through the various sections of the band, taking their turn at the front of stage by the table set out for tea.

    The band are tackling this chaos with accuracy and commitment, but the star for me is Lucy Pankhurst's evocative writing. We are left with the horns posing the musical question 'Why is a raven like a writing desk?' before Alice (and the rest of the horn section) throw their cups to the ground as the Cheshire Cat grins. It's wild stuff, but it's great fun, and played with aplomb.

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    The them of the Pavan is passed between Euphonium and Flugel, which interjections from cornet and soprano — with the courtly dance being set with a strong sense of rhythm. Playing cards are hurled at the audience, before the basses feature. Soloists throughout the band shine, as the piece slows and dwindles down to its neat finish.

    The ominous and foreboding opening of 'O Frabjous Day, Alice Slays!' is menacing, and gives way some outstanding percussion work — which in turn shares its virtuosic demands with the rest of the band. This is more frantic, frenetic stuff — and the playing throughout is excellent.

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    Great dynamic contrasts, strong ensemble playing with strong links between passages played in unison or passing between sections. The xylophone playing is so good, and has been throughout the programme. The band steams towards the end of the programme, lead by strong basses and trombones.

    A real contender from Flowers — great solo contributions, strong band playing, and an easy-to-follow theme with variety. That was lots of fun.

    James McLeod

  • Saturday 18, 17:43:53

    9. Aldbourne (Glyn Williams)

    Earth to Space — The life and Legacy of James Cook

    James Cook — Circumnavigator (Gilbert Vinter)
    Endeavour (Daniel Hall)
    Ocean Dreams (Philip Sparke)
    Soloist: Danny Jones
    Tangata Whenua (Daniel Hall)
    The Final Voyage (Daniel Hall)
    Finale from Explorers on the Moon (Paul Raphael)

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    In 1969, Gilbert Vinter's James Cook Circumnavigator was published — and I can only imagine the response back then, as Vinter's music doesn't feel out of place at these championships — certainly not the short excerpt we heard here — played by debutants Aldbourne with grandioso style and poise.

    Endeavour, named after James Cook's famous HMS, is a march by Daniel Hall, who has penned 3 pieces in Aldbourne's programme today.

    Endeavour features some of the British sea songs we have come to expect at the Proms, treated to a more traditional march setting — it's quirky, fun, and well played.

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    'Ocean Dreams' by Philip Sparke is from his Diamond Concerto, written for Steven Mead in 2012 — and Ocean Dreams is an arrangement of the beautiful euphonium solo in Sparke's 'Music for Battle Creek' which was premiered in 2007.

    Danny Jones shows impressive range and sound across the registers here, and is supported by a solid accompaniment by the band.

    Bass impresses to open 'Tangata Whenua' — a piece inspired by James Cook's mapping of New Zealand. Challenging solos for cornet and trombone emerge from the groove, lead expertly by Steve Jones on drum kit.

    This is exciting and intricate, and the dynamic contrasts are impressive — this piece shows off the band's ensemble playing, particularly with the quaver passages — very impressive.

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    The Final Voyage: Welcome to Hawaii — opens with an impressive trombone and flugel duet — the style here is so laid back — with cornet and horn joining the soloists. All of the solos ooze style, and the band accompaniments across all dynamics sound full and balanced.

    A transition into 'The Battle of Kealakekua Bay' expertly narrated leads into this more boisterous section — where tuning suffers at times unfortunately.

    The band are playing with such commitment — and in this more foreboding music, their band sound can be shown off in full. Movement Three is Cook's 'Ceremonial Burial' starting with a fine solo from principal cornet from the choir stalls, and leads to a rousing close. A major work from Daniel Hall.

    Links between James Cook and Star Trek lead us fittingly into the finale from 'Explorers on the Moon' written for the Cory Band in 2019 by Aldbourne's narrator, Paul Raphel.

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    The music is exciting and intricate — but in Paul's inimitable style, is still accessible to any audience. It is rousing music, and though exciting, there are small errors and tiredness showing. The finish is big, and the audience clearly enjoyed this one.

    A great debut performance from Aldbourne, one which should hopefully have them invited back in the future.

    James McLeod

  • Saturday 18, 17:40:55

    8. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

    Byrdland 400

    Early Byrd (William Byrd arr. Andrew Austin)
    Agor Dy Lygaid (John Rutter arr. A. Austin)
    Soloist: Sion Rhys Jones
    Blackbird (Lennon & McCartney arr. A. Austin)
    The Darkest Byrd (Andrew Austin)
    For Whom the Bell Tolls (Byrd arr. A. Austin)
    Soloist: Will Norman
    Byrdland (Byrd/Zawinul arr. A. Austin)

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    Antiphonal cornets opens Tredegar's programme, largely based on the music of William Bryd. It's played with class, and the virtuosic interjections from each section pierce the renaissance style fanfares.

    John Rutter's 'Agor Dy Lygaid' features the band's principal euphonium Siôn Rhys Jones. This melancholy work is played sublimely by Siôn, showing remarkable control, particularly in the higher registers — fantastic, and well accompanied by the band.

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    A tenuous link to the Beatles now — but no complaints as this new arrangement by the band's trombone player Andrew Austin is innovative and interesting. The laid back style is well managed by the band, especially with the front row on flugel horns for some sections too.

    Dewi Griffiths has played features of all styles over the years at brass in concert, here featuring on flugel horn so effortlessly. The basses and percussion lay down such a solid groove, it's playing that is so easy to enjoy.

    Frank Renton implies that the Tredegar front row should all be shot to play in tune? I thought they did very well!

    There is a sinister, foreboding quality to the opening of 'The Darkest Byrd' — driving percussion rhythms and bassline — it's very impressive. Contrasting sections follow, finishing with fine trombone and bass section playing.

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    Will Norman shines as the flugel soloist in 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' — a beautiful chorale like melody. The band accompaniments are quite intricate, and well played by the band in sympathy to the soloist, whose playing is sublime.

    Byrd's Cantiones Sacrae provides half of the inspiration for the finale, with the other half coming from Weather Report's classic 'Birdland' — arranged together. There is a wonderful colour from the middle of the band throughout this piece. Solo trombone features, before we transition into the famous birdland bassline.

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    The birdland passages are clean and ensemble is tight. Jazz baritone is a must for all new band pieces — and soprano is very impressive to close!

    A very strong programme from Tredegar, played with style and delivering with substance.

    James McLeod

  • Saturday 18, 16:40:16

    7. Carlton Main Frickley (Allan Withington)


    Heavenly Bodies (Allan Withington)
    The Sound of Space and Time (Allan Withington)
    Fly Me to the Moon (Bart Howard arr. Withington)
    Soloist: Joe Heartfield
    The Sound of Light (Allan Withington)
    The Sound of Hope (Allan Withington)

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    Albertrom leads the way in Allan Withington's original works and new arrangements based on Einstein's theory of relativity. The story, with words by Tabby Kerwin and illustrations by Anna Calvert, tells the story of Albertrom, a child genius who wants to play his blue trombone in space.

    'Heavenly Bodies' — what a diverse and interesting opening number. The big countdown leading to a frenetic polyrhythmic section, featuring complex clapping motifs and challenging rhythms for the band.

    A more reflective slower passage, punctuated by soloist contributions before a small build to an abrupt halt … should we clap? I'm not sure.

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    'The Sound of Space and Some Maths' has the band shouting sums during the performance — I can't imagine much worse than having to do sums while I'm at band. This piece is quirky, and full of the Albertrom character of being a child genius, with the frantic flashes of music depicting the genius at work.

    The playing is strong, and the band making a great sound when playing tutti sections.

    A bit of comedy with 'Fly Me to the Moon' — comedy numbers within more serious programmes work when the accompanying playing is of the quality put forth by Joe Heartfield, dressed to match the Albertrom illustrations.

    Excellent, stylish playing from the soloist — though the accompaniment from the band isn't always in tune, particularly in the more simple, less busy passages. Fantastic ending from the soloist, great stuff.

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    'The Sound of Light' begins with great percussion work, with the band adding motifs of 'Fly me to the Moon'. A contrasting slower section, with solid underpinning quavers in the percussion follows.

    The contrasts come fast, as we transition into a more florid quaver passage from the whole band — impressive playing!

    'The Sound of Hope' focuses on Albertrom's successful trip to space, and how his achievement showed him that anything is possible — it's moving music, played with a shimmering sound.

    We transition into some frighteningly difficult solos from cornets. The playing is just on the edge through this section, where ensemble seems to suffer.

    Albertrom slingshots around 'Jupiter' while we hear Holst's timeless Jupiter theme. Some excellent contributions from solo euphonium transition us into the closing finale.

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    A programme with sharp and stark contrasts, and incredible challenges, played very well by Carlton Main, and a strong storyline with excellent multimedia presentation which guided us through it.

    I don't think it captured the audience the same as some of the other performances today though.

    James McLeod

  • Saturday 18, 16:39:49

    James McLeod's mid-point opinion

    A great start to the contest, with some fantastic performances.

    3 performances vying for the top position for this listener so far — how that lines up with the judges' individual criteria scoring, is out of my control!

    An interesting debate on what is expected of a Brass in Concert programme in 2023 and beyond to be had on car rides and coach journeys home tomorrow...

    1. Fodens
    2. Brighouse
    3. Eikanger
    4. Friary
    5. Grimethorpe
    6. Hammonds.

  • Saturday 18, 15:00:43

    6. Foden's (Michael Fowles)

    Prince Ali — From Rags to Riches

    Agrabah Sunrise (Jonathan Bates)
    The Cave of Wonders (Jonathan Bates)
    Featuring: Jonathan Bates & Gary Curtin)
    Friend Like Me (Menken arr. Will Savage)
    Featuring: Jon Probert, Richard Poole, John Barber
    Beneath the Stars (Jonathan Bates)
    Soloists: Mark Wilkinson, Melanie Whyle
    Finale: To a New World (Jonathan Bates)
    Hallelujah, I Love Her So (Ray Charles arr. Bates)

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    We are treated to Aladdin by Fodens, following the story of the famous Disney film.

    The band arrive on stage and turn to face the multimedia presentation — and some singing! An open fifth 'pedal' under our multimedia presentation narrator (Tom Redmond no less!) leads us into some Eastern inspired motifs — with euphonium, horn, cornet and soprano at the front to lead.

    What a thumping opening number, fast technical work from the whole band, with big full band sounds and razor-sharp ensemble.

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    'The Cave of Wonders' features some incredibly virtuosic passages from soloists Gary Curtin and Jonathan Bates. Jonathan has only himself to blame for the frankly ridiculous solo he has to play — he composed it!

    That was very impressive from the soloists — and the tricky accompaniments are played well too — and the bass sound is monstrous.

    The Fodens Big Band is formatted on stage, with trumpets, mellophones, and keyboard! 'Friend like me' with solo contributions from trumpet, soprano and trombone — the groove established by the basses and percussion — it's all so stylish.

    Anthony Mann once again puts down a claim for being the best kit player in banding as well.

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    'Beneath the Stars' is the love song between Aladdin and Jasmine. Mark Wilkinson and Melanie Whyle lead this slow melody with class, with well balanced accompaniment from the band — and some of the finest tutti quiet playing we've heard today. The full band tutti is rich and sonorous, it's excellent playing throughout.

    'To a New World' opens as the accompaniment to the narrator filling in the rest of the story, to get us to our finale. Horn and Baritone features start this piece on its downhill race to the finish.

    Some motifs similar to those from the film (I hear elements of One Jump Ahead) and now we hear 'A whole new world' as a theme as the piece comes to a triumphant close. The band playing is sensational throughout … the whole programme really.

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    Something a little lighter to finish, with 'Hallelujah I love her so' — with the horns, baritones, horns, and euphs taking the leader — before John Barber puts forth a facemelting trombone solo — Dewey Finn would be proud.

    We finish with almost the entire band stood at the front of the stage, ready to take their well deserved bows.

    That was very impressive — one of the more complete programmes of the day.

    James McLeod

  • Saturday 18, 14:09:58

    5. Hammonds (Morgan Griffiths).

    The Sound of Music

    Prelude and Theme (Rodgers & Hammerstein arr. Robert Russell trans. A. Morrison)
    Song of Farewell (Nigel Hess arr. Andrew Baker)
    Soloist: Kirsty Abbotts
    My Favourite Things (Rodgers & Hammerstein arr. Ray Woodfield)
    Lonely Goatherd (Rodgers & Hammerstein arr. Shari Gleason-Mayrhofer)
    Edelweiss (Rodgers & Hammerstein arr. Miguel Carvalho trans A. Morrison)
    Climb Every Mountain (Rodgers & Hammerstein arr. P. Harper)
    Do — re — mi...

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    The opening choral of the prelude is well presented. As we are taken through the tune of 'Maria' from the famous musical and film which this whole programme is based around.

    There are individual stand out moments from cornet, trombone and euphonium — but there are also some few moments of discomfort from the tutti band.

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    Kirsty Abbots playing a slow melody is a recipe for success, and that was no different here. A classic, and timeless work by Nigel Hess, and played with confidence and lyricism.

    'My favourite things' is a cornet section feature that was originally arranged for James Shepherd Versatile Brass, with almost theme and variation style demands of the whole section, accompanied by the band maintaining the theme. There are some moments of poor ensemble but this is a crowd pleaser!

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    This is followed swiftly by 'Lonely Goatherd' — an excellent transcription, and featured choreography throughout the band. It's fun, but in comparison to what we have heard previously today, it is a little plain.

    'Edelweiss' is a great arrangement and transcription, featuring the quartet of flugel, horn, baritone and euphonium. There is much to admire here, the quartet blend so well, the band accompany sympathetically, and the band make an excellent full band sound in tutti passages.

    We finish with the excellent Philip Harper arrangement of 'Climb Every Mountain' — premiered here at Brass in Concert in 2013. Strong performance from solo horn and euphoniums to begin, and the piece builds and builds. The full band sound of Hammonds is rich and colourful, particularly at louder dynamics.

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    ENCORE ALERT! We have 'Do Re Mi' with lyrics on screen — it's heaps of fun to finish.

    Moments of fun from Hammonds today, and some good playing particularly from their soloists — but the overall execution didn't match up to some of the other performances we've heard today.

    James McLeod

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The GUS Band - Christmas Spectacular

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Audley Brass

December 8 • Audley Brass are seeking a first class Principal Cornet player to lead the band, as we aim for promotion to the First Section. We have a number of exciting engagements in the diary for 2024, including our legendary beer festival nights.

West Somerset Brass Band

December 8 • West Somerset Brass are looking to strengthen the Cornet Section. We are a friendly group and are looking forward to our tour to France next year. Although we are located in Watchet transport can be shared from several areas. See our website

Long Melford Silver Band

December 7 • Long Melford Silver Band has vacancies for Eb and Bb basses. We are a friendly band based in south Suffolk under the leadership of Frankie Ayers undertaking a healthy number of engagements throughout the year.

Stuart Black

BA (Hons) Music
Conductor, Teacher, Flugel soloist


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