4BR has been informed that the London based First City Brass, has been wound up by its founder and Musical Director, Jeremy Wise. In a statement to 4BR, Jeremy explained the reason behind the decision to call it a day.
It is with much regret that I have decided to wind up First City Brass after five years of enjoyable but at times frustrating banding. Frankly, we have limped along for nearly two years and the recent poaching of a number of key players has finished us.
I have a busy career and with less and less administrative help from within the band it has become impossible to sustain. I am weary of some bandspeople who seemingly want to take but rarely give. I have sponsored their hobbies out of my own pocket to the tune of a couple of thousand pounds and enough is enough.
I am now officially a freelance conductor, available for weddings, funerals and barmitzvahs and possibly the odd contest and concert too. I will resume playing as well, when invited.
On a more cheerful note the contest in February which I am organising is virtually oversubscribed with 16 entries in and more in the post. This remains unaffected by the demise of the band.
First City were formed in November 1997 and were immediately graded as a Championship Section Band due to the quality of the players who had decided to join Jeremy Wise on what was seen as perhaps the most exciting brass band project to come out of the capital city. With their distinctive dress sense—they didn’t have uniforms as such but performed in a series of multi coloured fashion shirts, the band quickly made an impression. The demise of the band however had been forecast by many right from the start as it was said at the time of the bands first contest that they were only able to compete due to they themselves “poaching” players from other established bands in the London Area such as the once powerful John Laing (Hendon) Band.
At the Regional Championships of 1998, the band under the direction of Brian Grant could only manage 7th place on Peter Graham’s “Montage”. However, the band gained strength and won the Harrow Contest that year before going onto win the Miton Keynes Contest and the Regional title in 1999 on “Blitz” with Jeremy Wise conducting.
At the Nationals they were drawn 19th and performed well to come home 12th, one place above their rivals Aveley and Newham.
2000 saw them come 2nd at Milton Keynes but they came 16th at the Grand Shield that year and at the Regionals they qualified for the National finals again when they came runners up to Aveley. They also came 10th at the Reading contest that year. At the Finals they were drawn 6th and performed well again to come 9th. However, this was perhaps the high water mark for the band and since that time they failed to qualify for the finals again, coming 5th in 2001 at the Regionals and 6th in 2002.
2001 they came 4th at Yeovil, 14th at the Masters, 4th at Wychavon and 13th at the Grand Shield and there were rumblings that not all was well at the band, even though they were still putting in some decent shows wherever they went. The performance on “Jazz” however was perhaps the most disappointing as they got off to a terrible start and never recovered—the days of the Nationals finals were over.
They were 11th at the Yeovil Entertainment contest in 2002 and didn’t compete at either the Grand Shield contest or the All England Masters. The bands last contest appearance saw them come 4th at the SCABA Autumn contest at Folkestone on October 12th.
With the loss of key players to other bands it seems they could no longer compete at the highest level and Jeremy Wise has taken the decision to wind up the band. It is a sad end to a band that promised so much when it burst onto the scene in 1997, but somehow prophetic that player problems have been a major source of the decision to call it a day.