Visitors to Eastbourne on Sunday 25 June were greeted with the sound of the Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band performing in concert on Eastbourne Bandstand under the baton of their conductor Matthew Ruel.
The band had hoped to perform on Eastbourne Bandstand around this time, three years ago in 2020.
Like many organisations, and particularly for musical groups, it has been a difficult journey to return to music making in its fullest following the pandemic.
Many brass bands still struggle to this day, with some sadly having disbanded. With strong leadership from the front, Reading Band has, and is, very fortunate to have survived – but nothing is ever to be taken for granted!
As a band Reading is very fortunate to have the support of friends who continue to support us on our musical journey. Many of these players joined the band on Eastbourne Bandstand – thank you. With their support the band has been very fortunate to have ‘picked up’ where it left off in March 2020.
To mark the band’s very first performance on Eastbourne Bandstand, the band’s concert opener was an entertaining arrangement of the American march ‘National Emblem’ by Edwin Bagley which featured the popular British music hall song ‘I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside’ by John H. Glover-Kind. This new piece of music for brass band was penned by the band’s conductor Matthew Ruel.
This was followed by ‘Light Walk’ composed by Barrie Gott. This piece of music was the first piece of big-band style music to find its way into the Salvation Army’s repertoire.
Next, in a change of tempo, and in-keeping with the Salvation Army tradition, Jack Porter played the cornet solo ‘Don’t doubt him now’ by Leonard Ballantine.
Jack was then joined by the rest of the band’s cornet section who played a Slovenian polka. A polka that is considered to be the most played instrumental tune in the world. Composed by Slavko Avsenik, and arranged by friend of the band Nigel Simmons, the band performed ‘Trompeten Echo’.
Following ‘Trompeten Echo’, the band featured its soprano cornet player for the afternoon, George Boote in Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Penny Lane’. George delivered the iconic piccolo trumpet solo and was a hit with the audience!
The next number the band played just like ‘Penny Lane’ featured an iconic trumpet player. More specifically, the king of jazz. You would perhaps guess who this trumpet player was by their rich, gravelly voice. Nigel Winter the band’s flugelhorn player performed Alan Fernie’s arrangement of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’.
Nigel featured again in the band’s next item which is a favourite in brass band repertoire and was arranged by the late Goff Richards.
Goff in fact completed his teaching diploma at the University of Reading. He is best known in the brass band world for his original compositions. However, the band chose to perform one of his most popular brass band arrangements titled ‘Light as Air’.
This arrangement brings together two well-known pieces of music composed two centuries apart. It first opens with Johann Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’ and closes with ‘A White Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum.
From one English rock group to another, the band next played Freddie Mercury’s ‘Killer Queen’.
The band was so fortunate to have such glorious sunshine for its Sunday afternoon concert in Eastbourne. But just in case, members of the band had brought with them some additional sheet music to a particular song to play had the weather not been so kind. This song would go on to become the signature tune to one of Britain’s most loved comedy duos. Needless to say, the band’s next number needed no introduction as it struck up with Arthur Kent’s ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.
The sixties was a great decade for music with many songs lending themselves well to being transcribed and arranged for brass band. Featuring the band’s trombone section the band next played ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’. This song was written by the American musician and jazz pianist Billy Taylor and was later recorded by the civil rights activist, Nina Simone in 1967.
‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ was also used as the theme tune to Barry Norman’s film review programme that he presented on the BBC and later by Jonathan Ross and others.
One film receiving near-universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike was the 1991 Walt Disney animation ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Still popularised today, more recently with the 2017 film of the same name staring Emma Watson, the band’s Eb Tuba player Clifton Roestoff performed Alan Menken’s main title theme ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
Next saw the band play a light number which was a minor hit in 1970 for the Mike Curb Congregation. It was later covered by numerous artists including Sammy Davis Junior. It was even sung by the Muppet gingerbread men on ‘The Muppet Show’. If that wasn’t a big enough clue as to the title of the band’s next item, it was Eric Bank’s arrangement of ‘Sweet Gingerbread Man’ which opened with the rich open sound of the band’s bass trombone player Nigel Allery.
It was next the turn of the band’s horn section who played the 1968 number one hit ‘Hey Jude’ by the Beatles.
In the film Goldfinger, Sean Connery’s James Bond proudly proclaims that he would never listen to the Beatles without wearing ear muffs to drown out the noise. Fortunately, no ear muffs were seen and the applause the audience extended spoke volumes.
Reading Band shares an affinity for James Bond. Particularly for the film’s defining iconic trumpet fanfare which sounds in homage to Monty Norman’s 007 theme which, in our opinion, is the very definition of what it is to be James Bond. This instantly recognisable trumpet sound is that of a particular trumpet player whose first notes resonated in the Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band.
That sound belonged to legendary trumpet player Derek Watkins. Derek learnt to play in the band under the tutorship of both his father and grandfather who were both at a time longstanding conductors of the band. Derek featured on the very first James Bond soundtrack for the film ‘Dr. No’ in 1964. He was then just 17. He would go on to play on every James Bond soundtrack that would follow through to ‘Skyfall in 2012, when at the age of 68 Derek sadly passed away from a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma.
This is why the band is very proud to support the charity Sarcoma UK. Featuring Mark Hawkin’s on tenor trombone, the band next played the title theme to ‘Skyfall’.
As the band’s concert was nearing its conclusion on Eastbourne Bandstand it was only right that the band in true brass band tradition played a march. The march the band chose to play was ‘Imperial Echoes’ by James Ord Hume.
On that same weekend, communities throughout our United Kingdom celebrated all those who serve and have served in our Armed Forces. It was therefore, a wonderful opportunity to be able to celebrate our own members who were amongst its ranks on Eastbourne Bandstand who have served in our Armed Forces. They included a former Royal Navy communications specialist, and two former military band musicians. One of whom served with The Band of the Irish Guards and the other in the Band of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.
The audience was invited to show its support of our Armed Forces community with their applause following the band’s rendition of the march ‘Imperial Echoes’.
Given that it was a Sunday and the band had just played a march, it was only right and proper that the band should play a hymn tune.
You can’t beat a brass band playing a hymn tune!
It is an art and discipline that is woven into the very fabric of brass banding. Brass bands typically warm-up on a hymn tune at the start and close of each of their rehearsals – Reading Band is no different!
The band played three verses of the hymn tune ‘Saint Clement’, ‘The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended’.
Before the concert closed with Barry Manilow’s ‘One Voice’ featuring Julia Bonewell on Euphonium, the band extended a big thank you to its audience for their generous support and its gratitude to Eastbourne Borough Council for inviting the band to present its concert.
A wonderful afternoon of entertaining brass band music was brought to a close with rapturous applause and a wealth of generous expressions of thanks from our audience following the playing of ‘The National Anthem’.
Thank you to all members of the Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band, particularly our soloists, our friends, supporters and lastly, but by no means least, our conductor Matthew Ruel.