Reading Festival of Brass: Mission Accomplished!

Reading Band

Reading Festival of Brass featured Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band in concert for the first time with special guests Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band on the afternoon of Sunday 20th May in its rehearsal home of Christ Church, Woodley.

Typically, British brass banding is highly competitive and as such both bands in the months preceding had been working hard in rehearsals in preparation for their forthcoming appearances at the 2018 scaba Entertainment Contest at The Hawth in Crawley.

For ‘Reading Band’ this included an opportunity to play under Ian Porthouse in rehearsal on Wednesday 2nd May.  Find out more in our recent article, “Reading prepares with Porthouse”.

It was therefore disappointing to learn that the organisers of the contest had cancelled the event with only three weeks’ notice, on the Sunday ahead of the band’s rehearsal with Ian.  Nonetheless, this did not take away from the enjoyment of the rehearsal and the value of the experience.

However, the band considered it important, having put a lot of time and effort into its preparations to perform its ‘entertainment’ programme.  This view was shared by Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band and as such saw both bands join forces for ‘Reading Festival of Brass’, lending their support to Christ Church and their 2018 charity CBM.

CBM is an overseas Christian disability charity, formerly known as the Christian Blind Mission.  Driven by Christian values, CBM tackles poverty, prevents blindness, improves health, and changes the lives of disabled people.  Last year alone, CBM protected 8.2 million people from blinding diseases; enabled 57,989 children with disabilities to go to school and restored sight to 433,894 people through cataract surgery.

For more information about CBM please visit:

The afternoon also saw Iwan Fox, owner and editor of the popular online brass band magazine provide both bands with feedback on their ‘entertainment’ programmes.

Iwan Fox, owner and editor of the popular online brass band magazine provided both bands with feedback on their ‘entertainment’ programmes.

The first half of the concert featured Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band under the baton of David Ruel, and who’s programme opened in traditional brass band style with ‘The March of the Herald’.

Iwan commented, “what a great start – a real old swagger march with a touch imperial bombast!  Neat style and a formidable bass end… with so much to enjoy”.

Concert Programme – First Half

Arr. Gordon Mackenzie
2SEEKERS OF LIGHTJ. Martin & D. Angerman
Arr. Dean Jones
Soloist: Michael Fowkes
Stephen Foster
Arr. Ron Gardner
Arr. Ron Sebregts
Arr. Ray Woodfield

The concert was an opportunity to feature the band’s Principal Euphonium player, Michael Fowkes who performed Ron Gardner’s arrangement of ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ – as Iwan described “with artistry” !

Super stuff ! An entertaining programme that showed musical contrasts in style and genre.  Congratulations to the soloist and MD in particular – well chosen works and well delivered.

~ Iwan Fox,

Jack Porter - Reading Band
Principal Cornet player, Jack Porter performing the opening cornet solo in ‘Seekers of Light’.

The second half of the concert opened with Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band entering the stage by instrumental section on Vangelis’ ‘Conquest of Paradise’ under their recently appointed musical director, John Watts.

Iwan “didn’t expect that!”

He further commented:

Great stuff – really catching the audiences attention from the first note ’til last.

~ Iwan Fox,

Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band - Cornet Section
Matthew Ruel of Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band and Michael Bird of Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band, who both played soprano cornet for their respective bands, played ‘fourth-man down’ for the others band to complete each band’s line-ups.

Concert Programme – Second Half

Arr. Alan Fernie
Arr. Roy Newsome
3DEEP RIVERTraditional
Arr. Alan Fernie
Soloist: Damon Emes
A. Resnick & K. Young
Arr. Philip Harper

Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band also showcased some “top notch” playing from their Flugelhorn player, Damon Emes on Philip Harper’s solo arrangement of ‘Under the Boardwalk’ which Iwan noted was “neat, witty, and so well played”.

Flugelhorn player, Damon Emes
Russell Brand pictured with a brass ensemble from the Reading Band

What a cracking entertainment set. So well thought out and delivered.  It had wit, musicality, polish and a touch of poise.

~ Iwan Fox,

Immediately following Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band’s performance, Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band joined the band on stage to perform a rousing rendition of the march ‘Imperial Echoes’ under John Watts, who then handed over the baton to David Ruel who closed the concert with both bands performing the ‘Bandsman’s Hymn’ ‘Deep Harmony’  followed by The National Anthem.

Reading Festival of Brass
‘Reading Festival of Brass 2018’ featuring the combined bands of Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band and Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band.

A total of £191 was raised from the retiring collection in support of Christ Church and their 2018 charity CBM – mission accomplished!

Many thanks to Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band for joining with Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band in concert, which was a great success and thoroughly enjoyed by all!

~ Matthew Ruel, Chairman

Photographs with thanks to Andy Scicluna at Easy View Photography Copyright © 2018