The death has been announced of Richard Evans, one the most popular conductors of the modern brass band movement. He passed away on Friday 22nd April, aged 87.
His persona was of the entertainer, yet it never hid the deeply ingrained seriousness of his musicianship — one that saw him bring joy to countless brass band audiences as well lead bands to numerous contest successes.
Born into a regimental family his early playing was forged through what was to be a lifelong association with the Leyland Band.
In 1952 he became a founding member and later, principal cornet, of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain — following, after National Service in the footsteps of his great friend Maurice Murphy whom he also played with at Black Dyke Mills Band.
After graduating from the Royal Northern College of Music he began work as a freelance player, teacher and conductor; an apprenticeship that he later said was of huge benefit to him — from Coppull Subscription Band and Mossley to Brindle and Wigan.
His startling impact on the elite level of banding came in 1975. Whilst conducting Wigan Cecilian Choral Society at a concert he was asked to audition for the role of Musical Director at Wingates Temperance Band.
Three months later they were British Open Champion. It was his first appearance at the contest. He later admitted that he had self-doubts about his ability to conduct the test-piece 'Fireworks' by Elgar Howarth.
No one was in any doubt of his ability thereafter.
The following year he led Wingates to third place at the National Finals — the first of many 'top-six' places at a contest that he was destined never to win.
However, he more than made up for it elsewhere — with bands from Australia to Wales and almost every stop in-between. He had an inexhaustible passion for his work and an unique ability to connect with players and audiences alike.
His persona was of the entertainer, yet it never hid his deeply ingrained seriousness of his musicianship — one that saw him bring joy to countless brass band audiences as well lead bands to numerous contest successes4BR
Following a short spell at Fairey Engineering Band he was recruited to rebuild the Leyland Vehicles Band with the remit of achieving Championship status within three years. What followed was remarkable — the crowning glory, a second British Open success in 1994.
By then he had also established himself as the ultimate brass band entertainer — the 'Dick the Stick' persona honed to perfection for audiences to savour.
However, it hid a steely determination to succeed — one that saw him claim the Brass in Concert title on a record nine occasions, as well as secure a National title in Norway, top-flight Regional Championship victories in the North West, Yorkshire, West of England and Scotland, win the BBC Band of the Year accolade and claim victories at the All England Masters, Grand Shield, Senior Trophy, Pontins and numerous other entertainment events.
His experience helped bands to success at all levels; from Barton Town to Lancashire Constabulary, and from his first win with Coppull Band in the Third Section in 1967 to his last with Dalmellington at the Senior Trophy in 2017.
From 1993 he was the Musical Director of the National Youth Band of Scotland — later becoming a very proud Conductor Emeritus.
In 1986 he was presented with the Iles Medal and published two volumes of his remarkable career in music, and which candidly revealed a life lived in full.