Every year (for the past 8, anyway!) in the borough of Richmond Upon Thames there is a special Christmas event that focusses on local brass talent. ‘Festive Brass’ is a celebration of the vibrant community of brass learners and practitioners which features learner groups and ensembles from the Richmond Music Trust, local schools and full brass bands.

Richmond Brass Band on stage at Festive Brass 2018.

In the past, the event was supported by featuring our friends Regent Brass and Fulham Brass Band, as there was not a brass band in the area. Since Richmond Brass Band reformed in October 2017, the band was also able to entertain and delight the community in Festive Brass 2017 and then claiming the starring role in last year’s brilliant concert (with huge thanks to Fulham and Regent whom the band looks forward to collaborating with on many future events)! Of course, the true stars are really the up and coming youngsters and it was a wonderful opportunity to have 2 young soloists perform with Richmond Brass Band accompanying.

What makes Festive Brass a wonderful annual event in our community is the fact that it raises funds for good causes. Every year the proceeds from ticket sales, food, drink and raffle go towards furthering music education in Richmond and also to the Mayor’s chosen charity or charities. For 2018 the charity is Refuge Richmond who provide a range of services and support to women and children who may experience gender-based violence. 

Present funds to the Mayor of Richmond Upon Thames
Present funds to the Mayor of Richmond Upon Thames

Richmond Brass Band was elated by the response to this most recent Festive Brass, both in terms of feedback from an entertained audience and by the money raised. It was a great pleasure for Richmond Brass Band Musical Director, Victoria van Uden to present a cheque for £600 to Mayor Ben Khosa for Refuge. Another £600 has also been given to the Richmond Music Trust to continue their development of young musicians in the community. Many thanks to Richmond Council for the use of Clarendon Hall and for supporting the development of brass music in the community.

Looking forward to Festive Brass 2019!

One year ago the Richmond Brass Band re-formed after 30 years and has been going from strength to strength. 

Cornet player performing outside
Principal cornet, Giovanni Re delights a Summer audience with his jazz solo.

A year in and the band has a strong regular attendance of 30 players that rehearse every week. Over the past 12 months the band has been extraordinarily busy getting up to all sorts of shenanigans, for example:

  • performed in 3 major concerts
  • supported Remembrance Sunday in Twickenham
  • played out for 7 consecutive weekends over Summer!
  • appeared in a motion picture (can’t tell you much about that… yet)
  • attended Whit Friday marches

 No small feat for an infant community band!

Cornet players chanting in a performance.
Cornet players chanting in a performance of ‘Windows of the World’ at The Landmark Arts Centre

Such a busy and successful year is thanks to the drive from Musical Director, Victoria van Uden, support from the Trustees, Richmond upon Thames Council and, of course, the players. It is this level of activity and energy that shows brass bands are still a popular part of the national identity.

The band continues to plan, and participate in, interesting and ambitious projects that support the local community and advance the reach of brass music.

As a community organisation, Richmond Brass Band relies on donations from the public to remain operational. If you wish to support the band, you can do so securely via PayPal HERE.

The Richmond Brass Band at the 'Made to Measure' concert, May 2018.
The Richmond Brass Band at the ‘Made to Measure’ concert, May 2018.

From an idea to a wonderful reality, the Richmond Brass Band has been re-established and it’s time to reflect on the first month…

From nothing to something

If you read the blog about the band’s first rehearsal you will know about the uncertainty that accompanies the first moments of a new community group. Many people talk about brass bands struggling around the country but since October 1st 2017 The Richmond Brass Band came back following a 35-year hiatus with great success!

Every section full and several somewhat oversubscribed, the natural concern is if people will enjoy it and want to keep coming back. In this case the band has been very lucky and maintained full band numbers week in and week out for the first 5 weeks and counting. Some new faces have appeared along the way, some have offered to help on a project-by-project basis to manage other commitments but the feedback has been positive across the board.

Shaping a band

With a wide range of abilities and tastes in the band Musical Director Victoria van Uden has maintained a variety of music at each rehearsal.

The band’s first outing will be for the Twickenham Royal British Legion Remembrance Sunday Service, so there have been plenty of traditional brass band marches (Army of the Nile, Colonel Bogey, Death or Glory, The New Recruit) and hymn tunes.
As well as this Victoria, or Vickie as she is known, has worked hard across different genres to get a feel for how the band sounds and how to pull the players together as a team that is ready for public performance. Some of the music includes:

  • Don’t Doubt Him Now (Cornet Solo, Leonard Ballantine)
  • Ivory Ghosts (Gavin Higgins)
  • Birdland (Weather Report)
  • Resurgam (Eric Ball)
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson – arranged and gifted by a member of the original Richmond Brass Band, Mark Laurence!)

 

Looking to the future

As the band moves from strength to strength, all are looking to the future. With the help of wonderful supporters and the hard work of the band’s Trustees and start-up steering group the outlook is bright! The first proper concert outing will be part of the annual ‘Festive Brass‘ concert raising money for the Mayors charities. There will also be some carolling events that the band will support and in the new year there are already plans underway to collaborate with other groups to put on new and exciting performances in the borough. Keep an eye on the Events Calendar on this site. If you wish to support the band and keep brass music in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, make a donation!

If you’re curious as to how the band is sounding after just a few weeks playing together, here’s a short clip of the band playing the popular march ‘Death or Glory’:

After decades of absence, years of discussion and months of work the Richmond Brass Band – originally formed in 1937 – sounded beautiful music across the borough again on Sunday October 1st, 2017.

Playing at the first rehearsal

The build-up

Leading up to the first rehearsal a number of stars were required to align. Of course there had to be people both willing and able to play in the band, this was the first great unknown – ‘would anyone want to come?’, ‘what if there are not enough people?’, ‘what if the abilities of the players is too diverse?’. As it happens after making the initial call for players there was an overwhelming amount of interest. Former band members keen to help piece together the original band’s history, well wishers and many fine brass players. As it became apparent that this project could work, more practical

Music on a timpani in the break

considerations came into play. For example, securing a rehearsal venue that was affordable, accessible and free on a Sunday afternoon. The Richmond Brass band has been very lucky to secure The Mall School auditorium!
Guidance and support from Trustees in terms of applying for grants was also required (let alone securing Trustees in the first place! we will introduce them properly in weeks to come…). Acquiring music, preparing rehearsal copies and collating everything for more than 30 instrumentalists resulted any many incorrect photocopies at the local library. And to ensure that people could relax, speak to each other and be comfortable – arrangements for refreshments had to be in place!

 

First rehearsal

On the day itself, Sunday October 1st, the first test for the band presented itself in the form of an initial rehearsal. After the enthusiasm that had greeted the concept, would people actually arrive with instruments in tow for an afternoon of music making? The answer is ‘yes’, talented musicians turned out in spades! Overcoming some teething issues in the form of access to the auditorium, the energy as more people assembled was a mixture of excitement, nervousness and intrigue – but there was a real energy nonetheless. Excitement for what could be, nervousness as strangers come together to play for each other and intrigue about the new organisation. With a broad cross-section of the community present, everyone had their own story – some that play regularly, some professional musicians, some that were picking up their instrument after a break. As Musical Director, Victoria van Uden welcomed everyone and picked up her baton (well, pencil…) peoples differences dissipated, the energy focused into one of a team brought together to make music and the unmistakable warmth of a brass band sounded through the air.

tenor horns and tubas playing in the first rehearsalPlaying through piece after piece, designed to ‘test’ the ensemble and gain a bearing on the band’s sound, the Richmond Brass Band produced many surprises. Confronted with different genres, styles and technical challenges, a group that had never played together before October 1st was producing sounds of a magnificently high standard! There were mistakes, laughs and the occasional furrowed brow but more than those was beautiful solo playing, musicality and group performance that would rival great bands.

Players drinking cups of tea and chatting during the break

Over a cup of tea in the interval and continued over something

stronger afterwards, new friendships were solidified. Reflecting on how things were going, who knew each other from the past and discussing opportunities for the future, the band members got to know each other a bit better. Reassuringly, many leaving with the phrase “see you next week”!

 

The music

For those who are familiar with brass band repertoire, the first rehearsal of the re-established Richmond Brass Band provided a real spectrum. The first sound from the band was the hymn ‘Richmond’ (yes, 74 in the famous red book) followed by Abide With Me. The programme was as follows:

  • Army of the Nile (Kenneth J. Alford)
  • Resurgam (Eric Ball)
  • Ivory Ghosts (Gavin Higgins)
  • Birdland (Joseph Zawinul, arr. Philip Sparke)
  • The Irish Blessing (Joyce Eilers Bacak, arr. Stephen Bradnum)
  • Don’t Stop Believin’ (Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon & Steve Perry, arr. Mike Kilmartin)
  • Deep Inside The Sacred Temple (Bizet, arr. K. Wilkinson – soloists Robert Fox and David Watkins on euphonium)
  • Procession to the Minster (Wagner, arr. Howard Snell)

 

Long may it continue

After an amazing beginning (again), we hope that this special group will continue from strength-to-strength and bring brass music back to the borough of Richmond upon Thames. Special thanks to the hard work of all those behind the scenes (too many to mention here) and to Victoria van Uden for her musical vision and direction. The Richmond Brass Band is a community band for the public to enjoy – on this ‘note’ please continue and extend your support by spreading the word, attending our events or by getting in touch if you would like the band to play at an event or as part of a project.