A Choral Interlude

On Saturday 7th and Saturday 28th March two of our cornet players, Helen Walters and Robin Purser, picked up their trumpets and joined forces with an ensemble put together by Mark Aitchison to provide accompaniment to the Tewkesbury Chamber Choir in concert (at St Nicholas Church, Ashchurch and St Lawrence Church, Barnwood). The concerts featured the Tewkesbury Chamber Choir performing a great modern choral piece based on Aesops Fables with difficult chordal harmonies that were brilliantly performed, the St Lawrence Church Choir who performed several lighter pieces (Tears From Heaven, You Raise Me Up, My Fair Lady selection) and Mark Aitchison showcasing his viola playing talent with Telemann's Viola Concerto.

The two trumpeters were called into action in the second half of the concert as the combined choirs and musical ensemble performed Vivaldi's 'Gloria'. Another great piece of music that was excellently performed. I'm looking forward to future concerts.

Tewkesbury Civic Parade and a Trophy
On Sunday 29th March the Band were pleased to lead the annual Civic Parade from Station Road car park to the Baptist Church where the Town Civic Service then took place with the Band providing the music for the hymns. The Band was under-strength due to the Gloucestershire Youth Brass Band's rehearsal for its appearance at the National Youth Championships next week. This meant that several of our younger members and our principal cornet (who works for the music service) were unable to be present. Despite this we mustered 16 members to lead the parade and we were proud to be honoured as the inaugural recipients of the trophy for the best turned out organisation in the parade.

Another Year Older!
On Wednesday 18th March, I reached one of those milestones in life.....40! I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Band and especially my wife, Helen, for the surprise party that was organised at the Queen's Head Pub at Aston Cross in place of the second half of band practice. I had a great night and enjoyed the company of some very special friends!

For your amusement I have added a couple of pictures from my younger days! Life was hard back then, especially the kitchen duties!

Fourth and Promotion
On Friday 13th March we made our annual pilgrimage to the West of England Regional Contest in Torquay. We enjoyed a good social weekend together as a band staying at what has become our regular hotel, The Rainbow, primarily due to its location a stones throw from the Riviera Centre.

This year the Fourth Section was lucky enough to avoid the awful sports hall acoustic of the “Arena” and was to feature in the “Forum” on the Sunday morning/early afternoon prior to the Championship Section. That left us with a Saturday to relax and enjoy the music from the First, Second and Third Sections, the sport on TV or a trip to Paignton Zoo! 

We had a full rehearsal at 4:30pm on the Saturday to blow the cobwebs out and put the final touches to our performance. This was followed by the usual early morning rehearsal on the Sunday. Our ability to gain an early draw continued and drawing to play second meant that we didn’t have time to complete our breakfast!

Much has been written about ‘The Talisman’ and its suitability as a Fourth Section test piece. From our perspective it was a welcome change to have a work for the Area Contest that would challenge, and given the large field of good bands in the West of England Fourth Section assist the adjudicators with their decision, due to the technical challenges involved both for players and conductor alike.

From a musical perspective the piece is not a match for the earlier work by Thomas Keighley based on the same inspirational material ‘The Crusaders’. Keighley’s work follows the thematic material from the book by Sir Walter Scott much more closely and has subtitles to indicate the flow of the story. The book is a fascinating read and perhaps the first novel in English to show Muslims in a positive light.

The story is based during the Third Crusade and centres on the tale of an impoverished Scottish crusader, Sir Kenneth or the Knight of the Leopard, who meets with Saladin on his way to the camp of the ill Richard the Lionheart. After an inconclusive combat he strikes up a respectful friendship in the chivalrous manner of one appointed as a Knight. The love of a relative of the King to whom a humble Knight is not worthy, Edith Plantagenet, endangers his life is introduced through his journey to a holy man at the monastery of Engaddi.

Much trouble within the camp of the Crusaders ensues through the machinations of the various parties in the camp to gain control whilst the King is ill. The Saladin who has now assumed the guise of a physician, gains entry to the camp of the Crusaders with Sir Kenneth and heals the King using the talisman, a rock that instils healing powers in water if it is boiled with it.

The King regains his strength but Sir Kenneth loses his honour due to his being lured away from guarding the flag for a promised tryst with Edith Plantagenet. He is only saved from execution thanks to an emir who gains the King’s respect and takes him as a slave. Saladin treats Sir Kenneth well and helps him return to the camp of the Crusaders as a mute emissary with a message for the King from him. Whilst on this mission Sir Kenneth saves the King from an assassination attempt. The King sees through his disguise but offers him the opportunity to find the man who hurt his hound and tore down the banner of England.

As the various parties troop past the King and his attendants, Sir Kenneth’s hound attacks the horse of King Richard’s rival, Conrade of Monserrat. To restore Sir Kenneth’s honour a trial by combat is arranged between the two in the camp of the Saracens. Sir Kenneth wins and the whole tale is brought to a bloody conclusion with the beheading of the knight of the templars who was in cahoots with Conrade. Finally, we learn that Sir Kenneth is actually Prince David of Scotland, and thus is of suitably regal blood to pursue his love of Edith Plantagenet.

Frank Hughes has captured some of the themes of the story within his music but only very loosely. The first movement possibly represents the camp of the Crusaders and the various heroic adventures that they had set out on, or it may represent that first unresolved combat between Sir Kenneth and Saladin in the desert on the way to the oasis. It is a tricky movement with plenty of awkward time signatures and regular changes in these to give any conductor and band nightmares; never mind the average Fourth Section band!

We had spent many weeks practising the rhythmic changes required to capture the appropriate pulse to the music. There are plenty of running semiquavers to test all sections of the band and we came through this test fairly well on the day. The main heroic themes are actually in a 4/4 rhythm against the 3-3-2 pulse that is mostly prominent throughout this movement. The Band and our soloists gave an admirable performance of this tricky movement.

The second movement is more of an interlude than an actual movement given its brevity at just 36 bars in length. To my mind it represented the mysterious circumstances of Sir Kenneth’s first glimpse of Edith Plantagenet in the monastery at Engaddi. The opening is several pianissimo bell-like chords which we played well, this leads into a beautiful solo on the cornet that was sonorously played by Helen. Sir Kenneth is introduced through a theme on the euphonium which interweaves with the solo horn and flugel to generate a love theme, all fantastically played by Martin Warner, Clive Miles and Helen Poole respectively. Then as quick as they appear the Royal Party disappear leaving Sir Kenneth alone in the monastery – the piece draws to a quiet conclusion with the same pianissimo bell-chords; one of our best moments on the day.

The third movement appears to represent the concluding section of the novel with all its deceit and machinations leading to the trial by combat. Another tricky fast movement with moving quavers and time changes to keep us on our toes. The movement is entitled Scherzo, which when applied as a title of a movement is generally linked to the sonata form and refers to a fast movement in triple time (an apt description of this movement) with a playful feel; Beethoven used this "playful" element to interplay cross-rhythms in several of his sonatas, a technique that appears to have been used by Frank Hughes in the Talisman to indicate the combat of the final passages of the story. The style and markings on the music imply more of a Beethoven than a Mozart style to the scherzo feel, especially given the background story to the music and the combative nature of the story’s conclusion.

The Band played the third movement well and progressed through the difficult central section well (our confidence in this movement coming from having run through this tricky movement without a conductor several times in the bandroom! Easier said than done, believe me!). The lento passage was well-handled with a “declamatory” trombone soloist; I’m still trying to work out whether that is a compliment or an insult (look up the definitions to declamatory and you will understand why!). All-in-all I thought I played the theme my best and as I had hoped to! The music then returns to the combative theme as the piece draws to a close.

We came off stage feeling that we could have done a little better but also pretty pleased that we had given our all and that we had given a performance that was enjoyed by a good sized audience for the number 2 draw on a Sunday morning. 

All that was left was the obligatory sea-side paddle and crazy golf match. Then it was back to the Riviera Centre to find out whether we had made an impression on the adjudicators or not. We were delighted to find that the impression we had made was a good one and we had been placed 4th out of the 19 bands competing. There was a little disappointment at being so close to going to the National Finals but not quite but this was tempered by the fact that the result means that we are now ranked top of the West of England Fourth Section and should be promoted to the Third Section as of January 2010.

Our Congratulations go to the three finalists: St Breward, Downton & Test Valley.


Young Soloist of the Year
On Sunday 1 March, Hannah Williams competed in the Intermediate Final of the Rotary Clubs of Cheltenham Sunrise & Gloucester Young Musician of the Year. She played 'The Lazy Trumpeter' by Edrich Siebert and wowed the judges into awarding her First Prize. Congratulations Hannah. If you wish to see Hannah performing this piece at our Christmas Concert in the Roses Theatre in 2008 then click on the link from the song title above.


Saturday 14th to
Sunday 15th
West of England Regional Contest, Riviera Centre, Torquay - Test Piece: The Talisman  by Frank Hughes
Sunday 29th Civic Parade, Tewkesbury

AGM News
On Monday 20th April the Band held its AGM at Tewkesbury Town Hall chaired by the Band's President, Town Mayor Barbara Cromwell.

As has become customary, the evening began with a short concert by the Intermediate and Beginner Training Bands. Both of which gave great performances of some of their current repertoire to an appreciative audience of parents, senior band members and supporters. The Beginner band played Au Clair de la Lune, Afternoon Cowboy and Soul Mate. The Intermediate Band entertained with the upbeat march Touchdown, Amazing Grace, Rocktangle and two of the Castles of Scotland [Stirling and Loch Doon].

The business of the AGM saw some positive reports from the Secretary, Treasurer and Musical Director. All noted what a good year the Band has had and that it is great to be able to boast regular attendances at practices of 24 or more. The election of Officers saw the Treasurer (Chris Poole), Secretary (Sue Corrigan), Contest Secretary (Jenny Norman) and several Committee Members re-elected (Dave Dron, Helen Walters, Linda Lee, Robin Purser). It also saw the band elect a new Chairman, Mark Windsor, to fill the post that has been vacant for several months.

We look forward to another good year.

Skittles Evening
Following a hard day's work moving the Band's assets from one room to another we took time to relax and wind down with a skittles evening at a Social Club near Bishop's Cleeve. There was a good turn out of members and their families from all three of the Tewkesbury Town bands. The skittles competition led to some intense rivalry as the experienced and not so experienced threw their balls down the alley in an attempt to knock a skittle or two down.

The Cullwick family took the overall prize for the best score. There was plenty of food and drink to keep everyone happy and we even managed to surprise Linda Lee by presenting her with her Grade Certificate which she had achieved with a distinction!

Bandroom move
After several years of great hospitality from Ashchurch Army Camp, first in an old nissan hut and then in the old rifle range, the band has been offered a new bandroom closer to the heart of Tewkesbury by a good friend and supporter of the Band. So on Saturday 18th April we had the band members out in strength to form a working party to transfer all our instruments, music, filing cabinets, etc. from one location to another.

Everything went smoothly and by mid-afternoon we had everything in place ready for rehearsal the next evening. So from now on the Band and Training Band can be found on the Cotteswold Dairy Industrial Estate. Full details of how to find us are contained on the following page.

Youth Band Successes
On Sunday 5th March several of our young band members took part in the National Youth Brass Band Championships at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with either the Gloucestershire Youth Brass Band or the Worcestershire County Youth Band. They both had to tackle the set test piece, The Pioneers by Philip Sparke and then make up a programme of 20 minutes in length. On the day the Gloucestershire Youth Band caught the imagination of the adjudicators winning their section of the contest and achieving a Gold Award. The Worcestershire County Youth Band played well and achieved a creditable Silver Award. Congratulations to all who took part.

Easter Engagement!
We are pleased to announce that over the Easter weekend, our stunning Flugel player, Helen Poole, got engaged to Steve Edgar. Helen and Steve got together on our hen and stag weekend in London 5 years ago to the day they got engaged! Congratulations to you both and we look forward to playing at the wedding!


Sunday 5th Palm Sunday, Tewkesbury Abbey - unfortunately due to a clash with the National Youth Championships we will not be appearing!
Saturday 18th Band Social, Skittles Evening at Bishop's Cleeve - members, friends and family of all three Tewkesbury bands are welcome!
Monday 20th AGM - including Training Band Concert [7pm]

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Revised: June 06, 2009