Stour Start Seasonal Offering at Wellesbourne Lights Event
WELLESBOURNE CHRISTMAS LIGHT SWITCH-ON - SATURDAY, 25TH NOVEMBER, 2017
The Christmas Season began with the band's annual visit to Wellesbourne for the switching on of their Christmas Lights.
The band played an assortment of carols and Christmas melodies for an hour before the lights were switched. Despite the cold weather there were crowds of people there enjoying the occasion and taking advantage of the vast array of charity stalls.
For Stour Concert Brass
PROCESSION OF WITNESS - STRATFORD, FRIDAY, 20TH MARCH, 2018
Each year Concert Brass opens its outside public events by leading the Procession of Witness on Good Friday in Stratford-upon-Avon, providing the music for the hymns as The Cross moves to various locations in the town.
Commencing at The Swan fountain adjacent to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, then on to the old Corn Market site opposite the Stratford Town Hall where this years event concluded
Once again a fine Good Friday day made for an enjoyable event for members of Stour to attend, the event itself has now become an annual booking for the band and has proved to be popular with both the organisers and members of Stour Concert Brass.
Soloists and Band Shine in Bearley
CONCERT - BEARLEY VILLAGE HALL, NEAR STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, SATURDAY, 14TH APRIL, 2018
After a gap of three years the band revisited Bearley Village Hall for a concert, where the band were delighted to be greeted by a packed hall and the concert gave all the bands soloists a chance to shine.
Enabling the band to air a number of pieces specially programmed for the centenary of the Great War. This included a Cornet Solo by Principal Cornet Luke Barker, ‘Arizona Belle’ played originally by Edwin Firth of the famous Fodens Motor Works Band who was tragically killed while on active service and a new composition ‘In Flanders Fields’ inspired by the poem of the same name by John McCrae which also involved a reading of the poem.
Stour Soars At Chippy With Canadian Complement
COMMEMORATIVE CONCERT - ST. JAMES' CHURCH, CHIPPING CAMPDEN, FRIDAY, 27TH APRIL, 2018
2018 being the centenary of the Royal Air Force gave the band an opportunity to give the Celebration Concert at St. James’ Church, Chipping Campden, an aeronautical theme to a packed audience in this fine Cotswold Church.
The programme included music to reflect the Great War and also World War II, with the ‘Royal Air Force March Past’, ‘633 Squadron’ and ‘The Great Escape’ being included in addition to a programme to commemorate The Great War. A packed church enabled the programme which was in aid of Royal Air Force Association to raise over £900 for their funds.
As if the band weren’t just delighted with the packed audience and the reception they received, a few days later the following arrived by social media:
We want to sincerely thank ALL the members of the Shipston Town Band for giving us, on our holiday to England, the best evening of our trip. We had rented a cottage in Chipping Campden and saw that the RAF Memorial Concert would on that Friday. Since both of our fathers were in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII we decided this was a must-do. Not knowing what to expect, you can imagine that we, as they say, “had our socks blown off” by your amazing band. We can’t thank you enough for such a great evening of music (and, but the way, you played all of our favourites, especially Jerusalem!). The next time we come to England, we are going to check your schedule so that we can come to hear you again. Luke and Grace you are young shining stars backed by a myriad of talent around you. Never give up this incredible gift with which you have been blessed, and thank you all for such a great evening.
Linda and Paul Neville, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada.
Tenth Woolly a’Fayre For Shipston
SHIPSTON WOOL FAYRE - THE SQUARE, SHIPSTON-ON-STOUR, MONDAY, 28TH APRIL, 2018
Spring Bank Holiday Monday saw the centre of Shipston-on-Stour given over to sheep and wool related items to celebrate its heritage as a wool town.
This was the tenth year and the band opened the Wool Fair with a ‘fanfare’ composed by Charlie Cox to herald the arrival of many Mayors, Assistant Mayors and dignitaries with much jingling and glinting of gold chain as the event got of to start, Stour Concert then got the event off to a musical start playing a short programme before members joined in the fun of the fayre.
Stour Treated To A Perfect Summer Sunday Afternoon
DROITWICH BANDSTAND - DROITWICH LIDO, SUNDAY, 3RD MAY, 2018
Droitwich Lido Park was the bands first bandstand of the season and drew a massive crowd. The band’s varied programme proved extremely popular with the audience and a number made the point of visiting us and saying so.
One was a music professor from the Birmingham Conservatoire who praised the band for their choice of music and the quality of their playing especially the tightness of the ensemble and their sound and tuning. We were he said the best band he had heard in the last four years - praise indeed. ‘The Great Escape’ was included in the programme and proved an appropriate choice as percussionist Roy Flitcroft and his car were locked in due to a fault with the code on the exit padlock and it took some ingenuity from the band’s Escape committee to set him free.
He’s Big, He’s Pink and . . .‘He Was There!’
BURMINGTON FETE - BURMINGTON, SATURDAY, 3RD MAY, 2018
Yes 'Burmington Bertie' once again welcomed fetegoers and Stour Concert Brass at the village’s Annual Fete and Dog Show. Bertie, the big pink 'whatever' waved and got into the swing of things on this fantastic Summers afternoon.
Stour commenced their first garden fete in grand style with their 2018 Bandstand programme, featuring young Alec Banner on Xylophone playing an arrangement by Ken Smith of the old Scottish melody ‘Charlie Is My Darling’, which came through remarkably well considering it was being played outside. It was a first too for talented young Bethan Bown who took the principle cornet chair for the first time and charmed the audience with her solo - so it’s congratulations to Bethan and well done Alec.
Once again a full band, which included no less than three euphoniums entertained folk as they wandered around the recreation ground enjoying the various stalls and attractions. The waft of delicious hot dogs and the sight of locally crafted cream scones and cups of tea proved an immediate draw to the band at half time, many of whom retired to the tea tent.
Stour ‘Breeze In’ To Abbey Park
EVESHAM BAND STAND - SUNDAY, 8TH JULY, 2018.
As the hot, dry spell continued, Stour Concert turned out in force to entertain the large audience who turned out to enjoy the sunshine in Abbey Park and spent a splendid afternoon entertained in the July sunshine.
The band started their performance in traditional style with the march ‘Round Tower’ by H. H. Hutchings that sparkled all the way through. After a glittering start Bethan Bown (15) and her younger brother Kieran (10) stepped up to produce a very capable offering with the brass band arrangement of the Manfred Mann No. 1 hit from 1966 of ‘Pretty Flamingo’, which incidentally saw World Cup success for the England team, this was aptly followed by a 1980’s hit for Mike Berry ‘The Sunshine Of Your Smile’ which was first published in 1913. The Band’s principle cornet, Luke Barker, was next up as he gave an excellent rendition of the William Rimmer composition ‘Arizona Belle’ which was followed by ‘Hallelujah’ which although written by Canadian Singer Leonard Cohen on his 1984 album was performed recently by Alexandra Burke.
This being the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force it was not surprising that one or two suitably chosen pieces found their way into this summer’s programme and the theme from a war time blockbuster made its appearance in ‘The Great Escape’, followed by ‘Lady Stewart’s Air’ a Peter Graham composition commissioned by David King on behalf of the Federation of Australasian Brass Bands as a tribute to Lady Adrienne Stewart. Lady Stewart has been a long-standing supporter, fund-raiser and patron of most arts organizations in New Zealand.
Band Closes its Summer Season with a double . . .
BRAILES FETE AND SHOW - SATURDAY, 11TH AUGUST, 2018
All too soon Stour Concert saw its summer season draw to a close with two excellent local performances.
The 11th of August saw the band giving this years summer programme a penultimate run at Brailes Show admidst all the things that go to make up a country show: Dogs, horses, veteran vehicles, flower tent, barbecue and of course cream teas - the lemon drizzle was well spoken of.
Band members got off to a prompt start ably conducted by Keith Davies, one of the band’s bass players, who stood in for a couple numbers until Nick Smith arrived, who has himself stepped into the breach whilst the regular conductor David Birch is off on sick leave. It is at this point we have to thank Nick and comment what an absolute ‘brick’ he’s been whilst Dave’s been off, as he ably filled the role at both at rehearsal and all the band’s busy summer schedule in Dave’s absence.
Now a small xylophone and boy might not sound ideal at an outdoor event, but Alec Banner’s family turned up with his and he provided a capable alternative to the bands afternoon performance with his rendition of the old Highland melody ‘Charlie is my Darlin’, it’s almost certainly the first time that Stour have carried a xylophonist in its twenty years and what a delightful addition it has proved.
Applause came as a pleasant surprise, well it’s not the sort of thing you expect at fetes or shows, the band usual supplied what is normally described as ‘wallpaper music’ - a pleasant musical accompaniment to an event that drifts in the air as folk go about the venue - but there was something a little different this year as large numbers of folk installed their portable chairs or sat and stood where they could and the band were treated to a small appreciative audience during the afternoon - we even got one or two ‘where are you performing next, we may come along’ - praise indeed for Stour Concert Brass.
TYSOE FETE AND SHOW - SATURDAY, 18TH AUGUST, 2018
Stour’s next engagement was on the Recreation Ground in Tysoe at Tysoe’s Annual Fete and Show, on the 18th of August and at this point we have to comment on the superb layout and facilities provided by the organising committee.
The band were situated in a marquee that comfortably accommodated a full band, unfortunately less our percussionist, Roy Flitwick, who was spending a little time in Warwick Hospital with a bout of ill health. Never-the-less the summer programme’s final outing went down well and yes a small audience gathered as they put up their chairs and settled in for an afternoon’s concert.
As with all Stour Concerts performances we aim to please and treated the audience to an afternoon of all those well played pieces audiences so love, a little from the shows, films and a miscellany of well loved and played melodies. Alec Banner and his xylophone once again got an airing as did several finally played solos and features, which were rewarded by lots of well deserved applause by the gathered throng of audience and now growing support group.
Stour then swept along with a lively medley of well known tunes from the shows in the form of ‘Breezin’ Down Broadway’ which includes ‘Another Opening, Another Show’, ‘There's No Business-Like Show Business’, ‘Get Me To the Church on Time’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘That's Entertainment’ and ‘76 Trombones’. After this glittering show-stopper, flugel horn player Mike Butler stepped up to play ‘Send In The Clowns’ and the first half closed with Eb Bass player Ken Smith’s arrangement of ‘Everything Stops For Tea’, originally composed composed by the New York born Maurice Sigler in 1935, It was firstly featured in the musical Come Out Of The Pantry, which was set in New York and performed then by Jack Buchanan, who in spite of his impeccable English accent was actually a Scotsman. ‘Everything Stops For Tea" was also featured in the 1940 exhibition by the Ministry of Food, at which time tea was rationed, and it was also recorded decades later by Long John Baldry - having concluded their first half the band literally did just that.Suitably refreshed the Stour commenced their second half and got off to a ‘flying start’ with a piece originally written in 1969 for the film The Battle of Britain
by Ron Goodwin with the stirring march ‘Aces High’. Next came something rather unusual and yet quite enjoyable as young cornet player Alec Banner gave us a delightful and competent xylophone solo in the form of ‘Charlie Is My Darlin’. Next came a lively number featured in the film ‘Brassed Off’ released in 1996 which came oddly from rock group Violinsky, written by John Marcangelo, simply entitled ‘Clog Dance’. After this lively and enthusiastic piece Stour’s principle euphonium player Eugene Gratwohl stepped up and gave a fine rendition of the late Nat King Cole 1950’s hit ‘When I Fall In Love’. One fine melody was followed by another from the pen of Andrew Lloyd Webber from his musical Cats as the band played ‘Memory’. Back in RAF mode the band now opened the throttle with ‘633 Squadron’ by Ron Goodwin and the wartime theme continued with memories of Dame Vera Lynn who celebrated her 101st birthday this March, with the piece she’s best remembered for ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’.
‘Bring Me Sunshine’ was the band’s next offering with all its memories and associations with the comedians Morcame and Wise. This light-hearted piece was followed by something from the pen of Claude-Michel Schöneberg, Fantine brings us this sad and powerful song in the first act in Les Misérables and Stour did it with true reverence and made this their penultimate piece which concluded their performance with ‘The Waltonian’ by J. J. Richards, a rousing quick march reminiscent of all those spirited American Circus Marches, to round-off a thoroughly enjoyable day for the band and audience which was today conducted by Mr. Nick Smith who is standing in as the band’s conductor whilst David Birch is convalescing.
‘Down By The Riverside’
AVONBANK BRASS BAND 70th BIRTHDAY BASH - HAMPTON FERRY, EVESHAM, 5th SEPTEMBER, 2017
This was an invitation Stour Concert were delighted to have received, as Avonbank Brass of Evesham celebrated its 70th year.
Events like this are so like family gatherings a ‘bit of a do’ where you get to meet new folk and renew friendships with those you may not have seen for some time. The venue could not have been more perfect, just into September by one day the weather blessed us with a fantastic, warm, late summers evening and things got underway promptly at 5 p.m.
Avonbank had had a large marquee erected to the front of the Hampton Ferry between the restaurant and the river, so attendees could enjoy the evening outside the marquee if they wished and still hear the performing band inside. Refreshments were laid-on so folk could partake as they sat about the site as ‘the band played on’. Eleven bands presented short concerts, most of which would have been some of the entertaining bits from their respective programmes featured on bandstands during the past summer, the organisers had ensured there were no repeated sets, so the audience got approximately five house continuous brass playing of a very high standard. Whilst Avonbank with neew conductor Dave Lea gave a suitably top notch performance to conclude the event, Arrow Valley, Stour Concert, Alcester, Bretforton and two training bands gave an equally entertaining bill of fayre.
Compliments abounded at the general standard, particular for Stour for whom one former player (now resident with Avonbank), remarked how ‘he sat up’ as the band got into their set and remarked what a delightful surprise he had at the high standard of their performance. Some time later one conductor commented, when asked what he had thought to the event, remarked what a great day it had been with such a lovely spread of entertainment by bands of varying abilities.
Naturally Stour ‘wheeled out’ Grace Coates who charmed us all with ‘First Light’, Mike Butler with his ‘Bring On The Clowns’ and Luke Barker who dazzled everyone with the Edwin Firth classic ‘Arizona Belle’. The band gave its well played popular extracts from this years summer programme which commenced with J. Hutchings march ‘Round Tower’, flying through ‘633 Squadron’, ‘Clog Dance’ featured in the film Brass Off, gusted through ‘Breezin’ Down Broadway’ to conclude their set.
Once again Nick Smith, with customary humour, led the band during Dave Birch’s absence and both Dave and the band once again thank Nick for his excellent service and support during Dave’s convalescence.
Finally the band has to thank Avonbank for this opportunity to enjoy both their and other local bands company at a brilliant birthday bash - well done and thanks Avonbank.
Two Bands And A 'Little Barbershop' . . .
TRACY SOLLIS CHARITY CONCERT - EVESHAM ARTS CENTRE, PRINCE HENRY SCHOOL, EVESHAM, FRIDAY, 22ND SEPTEBER, 2018
What started out as a simple brass band concert, culminating in a massed band event at an Evesham Church to raise funds for The Tracy Sollis Leukaemia Trust which has proved a popular annual event for Avonbank Brass Band, Stour Concert Brass and a specially invited local choral groups.
Once again The Evesham Arts Centre was the venue and this year’s invited group was Vale Harmony - a barbershop, close-harmony group which provided an alternative to the sound of brass.
Avonbank kicked-off the proceedings in fine style with the Musical Director of the Coventry-based Jaguar Land-Rover Band Dave Lea conducting Avonbank as they showed their metal with some fine pieces including a lovely offering from Mike Pawsey the band’s soprano cornet player and a brand new piece written and conducted by an Avonbank member who conducted the maiden performance of a piece dedicated to Sue’s daughter and former horn player simply entitled ‘Tracy’, a piece that whilst holding a special place for members of Avonbank, was played on the very Eb horn Tracy used whilst she was alive and an enthusiastic band member herself. Compere Dr. Val Trim introduced the pieces at the conclusion of which saw Vale Harmony take to the stage and presented a selection of close-harmony pieces.
Next up it was the turn of Nick Smith and Stour Concert Brass to present a short programme of seven pieces which include Grace Coates with her enchanting solo ‘First Light’, Luke Barker’s ‘Arizona Belle’ and as Stour’s second half of their set was dedicated to the fallen of World War I including ‘In Flanders Fields’ which includes extracts from the well known poem given by Grace Coats, Bethan Bown and Dave Birch after which Stour presented their finale with ‘The Day Thou Gavest’.
Next came the interval, after which, fully refreshed, everyone took their seats for the highlight of the evening - the massed bands. Old favourites followed in the guise of the march ‘Pendine’ and a lovely arrangement of piece written in 1954 for the musical ‘The Student Prince’ and made famous by the film’s lead Mario Lanza - ‘I’ll Walk With God’, after which Vale Harmony returned to sing their final set.
Sadly this gala evening drew to a close and the two bands joined to give a massed band performance of ‘Trumpets Wild’ and a thrilling conclusion to the concert with the ever-popular ‘Breezin’ Down Broadway’. So to thunderous applause the evenings performers rose for one last time, at which point Sue Sollis gave her thanks to all concerned to conclude a highly successful and entertaining evening.
Occasionally it has been said: ‘If You Want To Get Ahead - Get A Hat’, well Nick Smith took that to heart to protect his head from the surprisingly fierce rays of the sun as Stour gave an afternoon performance at the Annual Autumn Fete for the village of Bourton-on-the-Hill, once again hosted in the gardens of Bourton-on-the-Hill House.
Previously Stour Concert had played in the Tithe Barn itself, but this year a fine, warm sunny day saw the band outside in the centre of the barn lawn. The set-up was as near perfect as possible, entering the stone building filled with craft stalls one side and chairs and tables the opposite, where tea could be taken and then out through adjacent ‘winnowing’ door into the barn garden, where to the left more tables and chairs were set out.
A large crowd of villagers arrived and soon filled up the barn and garden and at 1 p.m. Nick Smith opened the band’s programme with the march ‘Round Tower’ after which continued with many of the pieces that had formed the core of 2018’s summer programme, along with three special treats: Luke Barkers’ ‘Arizona Belle’, Mike Butler’s ‘Send In The Clowns’ and young Alec Banner with his xylophone offering of ‘Charlie Is My Darlin’.
Owing to time constraints ‘Everything Stops For Tea’ was dropped, however, the band did stop for tea and cake which went down rather well, particularly the ploughman’s lunches.
Locals Pete and Sue Rippen have been responsible for the acquisition of this engagement which is now proving a favourite with the band, and with a day like this Saturday should continue to prove popular with band and audience alike. The ‘cherry on the cake’ for this highly successful day was an enquiry for a Cotswold booking at a local country show in 2019, so it proved to be a good day all round and once again we have to thank Nick Smith for standing in for Dave Birch.
September Sunshine Smiles on Stour Concert . . .
'All Is Safely Gathered In' . . .
SUNDAY, 7th OCTOBER - ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, GREAT WALFORD
It was only commented only recently how the year flies by, the summers gone and autumn’s here and with that in mind our thoughts go to harvest festival.
Great Wolford’s Annual Harvest Festival Service has by now become a regular event for Stour Concert Brass and once again proved popular by congregation and band alike. The quaint early Victorian church hosted a large gathering who arrived punctually as the peel of bells from the church town rang out over the Cotswold countryside.
The band played a selection of hymns as the gathered congregation settled in for the Sunday morning service and once the bells concluded the traditional service commenced and the band accompanied the hymns. At the conclusion the band played a short concert: An up-tempo version of ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’ (obviously), a World War One commemoration followed with young Luke Barker playing ‘Arizona Bell’ in tribute to the young cornetist Edwin Firth of the Fodens Motorworks Band who was lost in this war, the arrangement ‘In Flanders Fields’ complete with poetry reading by Dave Birch and concluded with Alec Banner who accompanied by the band played ‘Charlie Is My Darlin’.
This highly social event was once again concluded with a buffet lunch provided by local church-goers which enabled the congregation and band to socialise which concluded another engagement as late summer turned to autumn.