The first brass band in the UK was thought to be formed in 1809 in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester and is still in existence today. The founder’s Thomas Avison and Billy Hall were acquainted from nothing more than both attending music lessons from the same teacher, William Oldham. The band began with 8 members who were not all brass players and each member paid 3d. towards the band costs.
Since this first rehearsal in 1809, The Stalybridge Band has grown and changed from their original 8 members, who were not completely brass, to 2017 where there is now 28 members.
The correlation between this and Cold Ash Brass is again a very similar story. Cold Ash Brass was formed a mere 194 years later by five friends who all knew each other and shared the common interest of playing a brass instrument. Despite the near two century gap between the two bands, they were both formed by people who simply wanted to share their love of playing a brass instrument not only with each other, but with the wider community.
For me personally, playing in a brass band was something I had no doubt I would do from a young age. Not only did both my siblings play in them but so had my grandparents as well as many of my aunts, uncles and cousins from generations before. When I was six years old, I jumped at the opportunity to play the cornet at our local brass band despite not knowing the first valve from the third or understanding what a key signature even was!
From this day, I have both grown and developed as a person and a player but had it not been for the heritage I have gained from being in a brass band, I do not know if I would be where I am today.
In my last 12 years of playing in the brass band community, I have played in three different bands, played two different instruments but have always found one common theme. The brass banding family is something which has never had one fixed set, while often thought to be associated with the mines during the 20th century or full of old men in the 21st century, there was never a defined expectation of you when joining a brass band. In fact, when I joined my first brass band in 2004, I couldn’t even make a noise out of my instrument.
The stereotypes of brass bands have derived from some truth. The rise of colliery bands in the 20th century did happen as well as there being some bands out there full of the same members it had maybe 30 or 40 years ago but despite this, there is a whole other world to brass bands. The UK has more than 100 youth brass bands and often some of the best bands have succeeded due to hosting a wide array of ages and demographic factors. For instance, Grimethorpe Colliery Band (which we all know the beloved story of from Brassed Off) only made it to the nationals after reforming the band.
I have played the trombone now for 10 years and been a member at Cold Ash for around 6 years. To me, Brass Banding hasn't just given me something to do in the Winter Evenings when there's nothing else but it has given me so much more: Confidence, Fun, Challenges and Success but most importantly it has given me a family.
And this is what banding means to me.
Brass bands, more so than any other type of amateur music-making group, have a history of competing against each other, and competitive music-making is a subject guaranteed to create controversy amongst musicians. Many of us in the Brass-Band movement believe that a small amount of competition is very healthy for a Band. It focuses the individual players on improving the standard of their playing and also on the team aspects of listening to and working with the other Band members.
Cold Ash Brass, formed in 2003, is still a very young Band in the scheme of things. Those of us who were there from the beginning always intended that we should enter this competitive world but not be dominated by it – the community aspects of the Band should always remain most important.
You need a full complement of players to enter a competition, so it took 5 years from the formation of the Band before we were ready to compete. Then in March 2008, we set off for Stevenage to play Rodney Newton’s Four Cities Symphony in the lowest section (fourth) of the National Brass Band Regional Championships, under the baton of Mike Clark.
On your first competitive outing in any discipline, it is unwise to expect too much, and we were certainly not prepared for a TOP THREE finish out of 24 bands. That result qualified us for the Fourth Section National Finals in Harrogate in September, where we acquitted ourselves well, although finishing in the lower part of the field.
March 2009 and 2010 saw us gain respectable results of 9th and 8th in the Fourth section, and because promotion from the sections is done on a three-year rolling average, these were sufficient to promote the Band to the Third section.
A mid-way placing of 9th followed by a couple of great years, placing 5th then 4th, saw us riding high in the Third, only to be shot down in 2014 by a totally unexpected 15th out of 16! As they say, that’s contesting!!
In 2015 we went back and proved a point about that miserable placing by finishing SECOND with Philip Sparke’s magnificent piece Evolution. That put us in the Finals again, this time in Cheltenham.
And with respectable, if not outstanding, scores of 9th (A Cambrian Suite) and 7th (Darkwood) in 2016 and 2017 the three-year aggregation of points rule gave us promotion to the SECOND SECTION.
So back to Stevenage next March under inspirational conductor Jemma Evans with our feet firmly planted half-way up the competitive ladder. And who knows what that will bring??
SAs we approach the Regional Contest in March we step up our rehearsal schedule. Here are all the dates for all of our rehearsals, please let me or Jemma know if there are any dates that you can't make!
Note to section leaders- If you want to organise an extra sectional rehearsal, please speak to Jemma!
12th - Thursday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
19th - Thursday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
26th - Thursday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
2nd - Thursday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
5th - Sunday - ODBBA Test Piece Workshop 11am to 1pm
9th - Thursday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
16th - Thursday - Euphs and Baris Sectional 6.30 to 7.30 followed by Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
19th - Sunday - Basses and Trombones Sectional 2.00 to 4.00 followed by Cornets Sectional4.00 to 6.00
23rd - Thursday - Horns Sectional 6.30 to 7.30 followed by Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
2nd - Thursday - Full band rehearsal at Hermitage Village Hall 7.30 to 9.30
6th - Monday- Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
9th - Thursday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
13th - Monday- Open Rehearsal 7.30 to 9.30
16th - Thursday - Full band rehearsal at Hermitage Village Hall 7.30 to 9.30
17th - Friday - Full band rehearsal 7.30 to 9.00
18th - Saturday - REGIONALS
January has arrived and that means only one thing to Banders, Contest Season!
The panel have selected Darkwood by Dan Price for our section this year. It is a depiction Blackley in Manchester and is a dark and strange piece depicting the Boggart (wasn't that a creature in Harry Potter?!),
the church overlooking the town and the history of the town from Medieval times to the present day.
We'll have to wait and see what challenges the piece throws at us, but for now here is a short extract (borrowed from JustMusicUK)
Oh yes, decorations are starting to pop up, John Lewis' animated dog is pulling at heartstrings, and brass band rehearsal halls are ringing out to the sound of sleigh bells (attached to drum pedals!)
The question everyone is asking though, is where can we see Cold Ash Brass this christmas?
2nd December, 6pm: Thatcham Christmas Lights switch on in the Broadway, Thatcham
3rd December, afternoon: Speenhamland School Christmas Fayre (Community Band)
10th December, 6pm: RSMS Christmas Ball, Hermitage Barracks (Private event)
11th December, 1pm: Parkway Shopping Centre, Newbury
16th December, evening: Cold Ash Mummers visiting The Fox, The White Horse and The Bunk
18th December, evening: Carols at the Castle Pub, Cold Ash
22nd December, 7pm: Cold Ash Brass Christmas Concert, St Marks Church, Cold Ash
23rd December, evening: Cold Ash Mummers visiting The Sun In The Wood, The Spotted Dog and The Castle
Merry Christmas from all of us at Cold Ash Brass
As we head into the Christmas season with the area contest just around the corner, I'd like to say how fantastic it is to see the band going from strength to strength. We've had a bit of musical chairs - Jess is now our principal cornet player, Charlotte and Adam have stepped up into front row cornet positions, and Karen has embarked upon the challenge of a new instrument to fill the much needed 1st baritone seat. I'd also like to take the opportunity to welcome new members and also to welcome back some familiar faces - Derek has joined us on front row, Robbie has joined us on 2nd cornet and Anna has moved up from the Community Band to be our 3rd cornet. We hope you have felt a warm welcome to the band and hope you find it fun!
"Let's have a BBQ" they said, "it will be fun" they said.....and it was, so much so we all forgot to take any pictures. Thanks go to Andy and Paul who back in August put in all the leg work to provide us with hot BBQs to cook on. We are planning to turn this into an annual end of summer BBQ and we'd love to hear any new ideas or feedback you have!