1929 - 2013
Ken could frown, but it was often rare and a lasting memory is of his broad Yorkshire smile . . .
It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of one of Shipston Town Band’s longest serving musicians - Ken Roe who served 6o years with the band mainly on principal cornet before retiring from playing due to his advancing years in November 2010. He still maintained an active interest in the bands activities and came to concerts whenever possible.
Ken was born in Winkerbank in Sheffield South Yorkshire and learned to play the cornet with his father’s band St. Margaret’s Church Band in Brightside, Sheffield. The band was based in an old tin hut which backed onto the River Don then England’s most polluted river and normally a dirty reddy brown colour and very smelly.
He moved down to Shipston to find work at the age of 15 and found work on the land at Great Wolford. Ken first played with Moreton British Legion Band but due to the fact that he could not get time off in the summer for the jobs and had difficulty in getting to Moreton for rehearsals meant that he parted company with them. He also played with the nearby Cherington Band who played mainly at village fetes and the like. Ken asked whether there was a band at Shipston and was told that the band was being reformed after the war. Enquiries were made and Ken joined the band. His first instrument was Flugel Horn and he cycled to Shipston from Great Wolford for rehearsals. There was no case for the flugel so Ken found some good strong string and tied it over his shoulders. With the band hall still commandeered by the military, rehearsals took place at the Assembly Rooms next to the White Horse pub with the band sat on benches around the billiard table with music on the table. Ken practised regularly in the coal shed with the light off and it proved so popular with the neighbours that people used to complain when he didn’t practice.
The band conducted by Bert Smith who had reformed it grew in strength and performed locally at fetes, concerts and Ken moved onto solo cornet sitting next to George Print, the band’s long standing principal cornet. The band entered the world of contesting in 1957 when they entered Winchcombe Contest playing J. A. Greenwood’s THE BLACK PRINCE. The organisers had also wanted the band to play in the marching march contest but Bert didn’t fancy it and contrived to arrive late and thus managed to miss it.
The band entered more and more competitions as well as carrying on with their diet of fetes concerts and carnivals. Little contests at Cholsey and Cirencester were entered along with larger contests at Oxford, Reading and the Midland Area at Leicester, indeed the band even had its own contest for two years. The band improved and won more and more trophies and culminated in 1961 with becoming Midland Area Champions and winning 21 cups with Ken leading the way as principal cornet. One contest summed the year up when the band entered the Chepstow contest held as part of a fete in the grounds of the Chepstow Castle. Bert decided to enter Section Three as well and the band won every prize available. On the way out the organiser said to Bert that the fete had lost money due to the bad weather and would he give back some of the prize money to help. Bert politely declined.
October saw the band enter the National Finals. The band left at 5.30 in the morning and rehearsed in a layby on the A40 playing three hymns and a march (probably the MIDDY because it was always the MIDDY). We had a great day although not a successful one. The day had another momentous happening as Ken and Kath got engaged.
The wedding followed on Boxing Day at Idlicote Church and although the band did not play, it filled the upstairs gallery at the church. Snow was on the ground and the reception was held where else but the band hall.
Promotion to Section Three and players leaving meant that success became scarce’er during the later 1960s and Ken was persuaded to stand aside in favour of Billy Bedford, the bands soprano cornet player. Ken did not complain and dutifully played the role of number two to a player who loved trying to play fast and furious solos.
1971 saw the birth of Michelle and the band qualified for London again although a little unexpectedly. Shortly after this Ken started helping out Brailes Band and eventually Dave Clemons from Brailes band joined Shipston’s Solo cornet team. Together Dave and Ken were to form the backbone of the bands cornet section for the next 25 years. It also led to a number of members including Ken, Peter Stevens, Alan and David Birch helping Brailes out on a regular basis and enjoying many happy days banding there. One amusing memory is that during a rehearsal, the band were playing the Village Feast and all the lights went out during a thunderstorm. Everyone stopped playing bar one - Ken. He obviously put all those hours of practice in the coal house to good use.
After Bert Smith’s death, we were lucky to secure Richard Nash’s services. It never ceases to amaze me how a man at his age would travel 100 miles to rehearse a band. Ken probably thought Mr. Nash was always talking to him because at the beginning he seemed to call everyone Ken much to everyone’s amusement. This was a very successful period and one memory of Ken stands out. We qualified for the Final of Radio Birmingham’s Knockout Band Competition and the National Finals and entered both, plus Leamington Contest in a three week period. Ken and Dave were chosen to be the featured soloists in the final and would play a cornet duet EIN SCHNAPPS. However the gentle beer keller tempo seemed to take on more Schapps than usual and I shall never forget the look on Ken and Dave’s faces. Needless to say they played their socks off and it was their best performance of the piece. Did the Band win? No, but that as they say was another story. However, the producer thought we were robbed and offered us a consolation prize. We were to become the band on the Archers and when George Barford was heard playing his cornet, it was of course Ken.
As the 1980s progressed, Kirsty Abbotts was developing as a cornet player and it was obvious to us all that she could become something very special. Kirsty made the move onto principal and with Ken and Dave moving down the line we had probably one of the strongest front rows in the bands history and with Dave Williams as conductor we qualified in two consecutive years, 1989 as champions. I know Ken was proud of the help he was able to give Kirsty as she developed as a player.
After Kirsty moved-on Ken returned to the end chair and it is unusual to have a memory of Ken when he wasn’t even there. We had rehearsed an awful piece for the area MASQUE and had managed to sort it out when Ken was taken ill the day before the contest. Do we withdraw or take the risk of borrowing a player from the band before. We took the risk, struck lucky, the best band in the section Sovereign played before us and Anne Hobbs put in a stunning performance, we finished sixth, our best ever result.
The arrival of Dave Lea saw an improvement in the bands level of performance and Ken was able to help another young cornet player Jo Wightman develop.
1999 saw the formation of Stour Concert Brass and with a band full of youngsters who better to help out but Ken. He carried on with the band right through to his retirement and was very proud as his grandson Johnny progressed through the sections and showed great potential on solo cornet. He was at the helm again as the band built up again in the early part of the 2000s playing for conductors Glenn Coleman and Dennis Grant before completing his playing career as a part of the current run of success under Howard Gibbs.
a fine man,
a life well spent'
50 years not out . . . Ken accepts an award from
David Stanley on behalf of The Association as Ken completes his fiftieth year . . .
The Band Secretary, David Birch’s personal memories of Ken are many. His first and everlasting memory is the gorgeous sound which he produced on his cornet. It is over 55 years since he first sat down in the same band and he was knocked out then by its quality and has never forgotten it as it stayed with Ken right to the end. Ken and David along with Pete Stevens, Dave Clemons and Dave’s brother Alan made numerous trips to the National Finals and the British Open and Ken loved nothing better than to talk about banding both nationally and our experiences with local bands.
The Band made a special presentation to Ken on his sixty years with Shipston Town Band and those who had known him for many years will certainly miss him and the Band’s thoughts and sympathies go to Kath, Michelle, Jonny, Danny and all the extended family.
David Birch 21/10/2013
Charlie Cox looks over as Ken is presented with a certificate to celebrate the 50 years he played the ‘Last Post’ on Shipston’s Remembrance Sundays