The First Cornwall Youth Brass Band Residential Course
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“I am not convinced that an outdoor camp and serious music-making go well together”. So wrote Dr Denis Wright to the Chairman of the Cornwall Youth Brass Band, Reg Trudgian, after their first residential course in 1959. He ended his letter by saying, “I appreciated very greatly being invited to conduct this first course of the Band and should be happy to do so again if I am wanted. I hope the Cornish Education Authorities and the Cornish Band Association will ensure that, having made the first step with considerable success, the Cornish Youth Brass Band may be become an established feature in the County's musical life”. The Band has certainly gone on to fulfil Dr Wright's hopes, now a Registered Charity and still going strong fifty years after its musicians camped out on the Cornish cliffs, the Easter Course this year will mark that first pioneering occasion with a specially written Fanfare by one of its members, Christopher Bond, and a get together of many of the original musicians.
It had been in 1955, encouraged by Mr W Pearson, the County Music Advisor, that the idea of a County Youth Brass Band was born, the first in the United Kingdom . The object was to build up a large body of young players into a balanced band, which would encourage musicians throughout the County to come together to enjoy the challenge of music that they might not encounter in their parent bands. Initially there were two Bands, the main one being restricted in numbers to the contest combination of 25 players, which was conducted by Fred Roberts, then Conductor of Camborne Town. He had returned to his native Cornwall in 1951 after some years away as Principal Cornet of Brighouse & Rastrick and Bandmaster of CWS ( Manchester ). The other was a training Band, which was Conducted by Frank Moore of St Agnes and whose members could advance to the main Band as they gained experience.
The first Solo Cornet was John Berryman, now President of the Band, and regular rehearsals were held with several Public Concerts being given as well as an appearance at The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show at Launceston. In 1958 it was decided to place the Band under the umbrella of The Cornwall Brass Band Association, which had also been founded in 1955. A meeting was held at The Red Lion Hotel in Truro , when officials from the Band, Association and Music Service gathered, along with Dr Denis Wright OBE, who had founded The National Youth Brass Band in 1952, and who had been invited to advise on the way forward. All present were very keen to see the Band progress and Dr Wright obviously harnessed and guided their enthusiasm as it was decided to hold a Residential Course for the first time the following year, with Dr Wright as Guest Conductor. The result was that sixty two young players from fifteen Cornish Bands camped at Porthpean near St Austell and worked for four days in a large Marquee, under the Baton of Dr Wright. As well as a Concert, a Drumhead Service was held at The Poltair Recreation Ground in St Austell at the end of the Course.
The players slept six in a tent on the Camp site, which was shared with several other youth organisations. Brian Minear, now Music-cordinator of the Band, shared a tent with a young Trombone player called Godfrey Richards from the St Minver Silver Band. Now known world wide as Goff Richards, one our leading brass band composers and arrangers, he remembers being taken to rehearsals by his Father, who was Conductor of St Minver. Also on the Course was Keith Busby, a thirteen year old Cornet player from Helston Town Band. Keith still plays with Helston, with a career in The Royal Marine Band Service, which he joined at the age of fourteen, in between.
He thought the whole thing was a great adventure. To stay away from home at such an early age in those days was he said, quite unusual, he enjoyed it and had a wonderful time. As well as music there was swimming at the nearby beach and one particularly annoying young player was regularly dumped in a horse trough on the Camp site. Even then, when bands were still predominately male, several young ladies were on the Course, including Monica Orchard, the first female member of Camborne Town Band.
Writing in the Programme, Chairman Reg Trudgian said, “The enthusiasm shown by the young players has been a great encouragement to the Committee. Cornwall is the very first county to organise such a Band and we are making history in the Brass Band World. There should be a great future for our Youth Band”. And indeed there was, with the subsequent list of players including dozens still involved in playing and conducting in Cornish Bands, many others going on to careers as professional musicians in the Forces, symphony orchestras, big bands and as teachers, throughout the Country.
Camping was not repeated, the Band moving the next year to St Austell Grammar School and in 1963 to Fowey County Secondary School . This was a period of great progress as news of its high standards spread and during which many well known names in the world of music became involved with the Band. The first of these was Eric Ball who was invited to be Guest Conductor in 1962. It was an inspired choice and so successful and popular that Eric Ball returned in 1963 as well 1964 and 1965, coming back again to the Band, of which by that time he was President, in 1969 and 1978.
One afternoon during the 1963 Course Chairman, Reg Trudgian, took Eric and his wife Olive for a drive down the valley of the River Fowey along the banks to the mouth of the River. Eric was so inspired by the beauty of the scenery that by the next course in 1964 he had composed The Fowey River Suite, which he dedicated to The Cornwall Youth Brass Band who gave the first performance under his Baton. By the time Eric Ball returned to take the Band for their Easter 1969 Course, they found he that he had written another piece of music inspired by Cornwall for them, which was the overture St Michael's Mount.
Also during the nineteen sixties the Band came into contact with an inspiring and ebullient Conductor and Composer from the world of classical music, Malcolm Arnold. He had moved to Cornwall in 1965 and quickly became involved in amateur music making in the County. So impressed was Malcolm Arnold by The Cornwall Youth Brass Band that he offered to write a work for them for their next Course. The new work, The Little Suite No. 2 for Brass Band, was premiered at Fowey on Easter Sunday that year with the Composer himself conducting. The Suite was received with great acclaim prompting the Composer to write that "The Concert was a great experience which I shall never forget. Every player excelled themselves and made me realise what a wonderful thing music is". Malcolm Arnold refused any fee or expenses for his services and was quoted in The Cornish Guardian as saying "These seventy young people have given me more than I have given them".
The Band continued to attract top musicians as Guest Conductors and it was in 1975 that an invitation to the late Albert Chappell proved to have far reaching consequences. Well known for his interest in teaching young brass musicians in the Midlands he returned to Cornwall by popular request in 1976 and 77 and again in 1979, the year he retired from full time teaching and moved to Cornwall . This proved fortuitous for the Band as he readily accepted an invitation from them to serve as their Senior Tutor, the start of a close relationship which lasted until 1999, when he left Cornwall to live closer to his Family in the Midlands . He dedicated untold hours to teaching, encouraging and leading the Band to greater and greater heights, perhaps most memorably of all winning the Brass Band Section of The 1983 National Festival of Youth with them at The Royal Festival Hall in London.
The policy of the Band from the start has been to invite the best musicians possible to direct the regular Residential Courses. Among those invited, often more than once, have been, Arthur Butterworth, Roy Newsome, Peter Parkes, Richard Evans, Harry Mortimer, Geoffrey Whitham, Derek Broadbent, Elgar Howarth, Stephen Cobb, Garry Cutt and Robert and Nicholas Childs. Since its inception the backbone of the Band has been the team of Senior and Local Tutors, who have prepared the young players for the experience of learning and performing under the baton of those Top Conductors in the brass band world.
Established as it was in association with The Cornwall Brass Band Association and Cornwall Music Service the Band has continued its close connection with them over the years. It has moved around the County, but is now settled happily at Truro College for its monthly rehearsals with the, now twice yearly, residential Courses taking place at The Truro High School for Girls.
Copyright © March 2009 Phillip Hunt