The History of the Cornwall Youth Brass Band
The fact that The Cornwall Youth Brass Band exists today to celebrate its Golden Jubilee is a tribute, not only to those far sighted musicians and administrators of 1955, but to the dozens who have helped to guide it since, to say nothing of the hundreds of young players who have found friendship, challenge and satisfaction through being a member. It is their enthusiasm, commitment and talent that have carried the Band through the years and inspired those responsible for its management to devote so much of their time to ensuring that the Band fulfils its objectives of "providing facilities by means of regular rehearsals and courses, for the playing together under highly regarded conductors and musicians and for the study by members of music in all its branches".
It is these Objectives that are more important than Public Concerts, though these have always been held at the end of each course, providing useful income and giving the young players an opportunity to show off their talents to their relations and supporters. As most of the members also play with a Parent Band it is their co-operation and support which has always been essential to the success of the Band. After all this is where they started to learn and to play in an ensemble and where they receive ongoing teaching and support from all the dedicated Conductors and teachers of our local bands, many of whom have been members of the Cornwall Youth Brass Band in the past.
It was 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. 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 and the first Soprano Rodney Richards. Other early players included David Rickard and David Lightfoot and the young Goff Richards, who remembers being taken by his father to the rehearsals which were held in different towns around the County. Several Public Concerts where given including an appearance at The Royal Cornwall Show at Launceston.
Despite this early success the main aim of building up a large group of young players was not achieved and 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. Accordingly a meeting was held at The Red Lion Hotel in Truro, when officials from the Band, Association and Music Service gathered, including the current President, W A Hunt. Also present was Dr Denis Wright, 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 continue and Dr Wright obviously harnessed and guided their enthusiasm as it was decided to progress by holding a Residential Course for the first time the following year, 1959, with Dr Wright as Guest Conductor.
This meant a lot more work and so a Youth Band Committee was formed as part of the CBBA with A R Trudgian as the Chairman, F E Moore as Secretary and with such well known names, amongst others, as E J Williams, W D Lawton, Edgar Floyd and Cecil Brewer acting as both Committee Members and Instructors. The Course was held the following August, when 62 young players from 15 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 at the end of the Course. Dr Wright expressed himself well satisfied with the musical aspects of the Course but not with the facilities. In a letter to The Chairman, Reg Trudgian he said, "I am not convinced that an outdoor camp and serious music making go well together". His remarks obviously made an impact as this was the first and only time that the Band camped out. By the time Dr Wright returned the following August the Course had been transferred indoors to The St Austell Grammar School.
In 1963 the Band moved their Annual Course to Fowey County Secondary School,
where by the invitation of Mr K Eglin, the Headmaster, they remained until 1980. This was a period of great progress as news of its high standards spread and during which several 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 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. The Band played the piece, which had five movements, from manuscript, but later when the music was published, Eric Ball had reduced it to only four movements, due to time constraints apparently imposed by the Publishers.
Eric Ball was elected the first President of The Cornwall Youth Brass Band in 1967, an Office he held until his death in 1989. In replying to the letter of invitation from the Chairman, Reg Trudgian, he said, " I am honoured and indeed flattered that your Committee should ask me to be the first President of The Cornwall Youth Brass Band. Of course I accept and shall look forward to again being with the Band. I think I shall have to write another (and, one hopes better) work for the Band. Can you think of a Cornish title for, say, an overture ? ".
By the time Eric Ball returned to take the Band for their Easter 1969 Course, they found he that he had indeed written another piece of music inspired by Cornwall for them. This was the Overture St Michael's Mount, the first performance of which was given by the Band under the Composer's Baton.
When the Band came to hold its 20th Annual Course at Easter in 1978, he was the unanimous choice to lead it once again, the last occasion on which he did so. Though there was no new Cornish piece for the Band to play, he entrusted it with the First performance of his "Fantasia on a German Chorale" and also included his double trio, Quid Pro Pro. This featured six Cornet Players, D J Tonkin, D Whear and N Cock from Camborne, Claire Trethewey from St Dennis, G Champion from St Stythians and Francis Mills from Carharrack. They were answered by five Trombones, J C Gribben from Camborne, A Sibley, C Stevens and R Phillips from St Ives and D Marriot from St Dennis.
It was also during the nineteen sixties that 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 impressed with and involved in amateur music making in the County. In 1966 the Band, that year under Guest Conductor Geoffrey Brand, invited Malcolm Arnold to hear them play his Little Suite For Brass and write a foreword in the Concert Programme.
So impressed was Malcolm Arnold by The Cornwall Youth Brass Band, led on that course by Principal Cornet Brian Minear, that he offered to write a work for them for their next Course. Naturally the offer was gratefully accepted and on January 19th 1967 the score and parts of The Little Suite No 2 for Brass Band were received by Reg Trudgian, the Chairman of the Band. The new work was premiered at Fowey on Easter Sunday that year at the end of Course Concert with the Composer himself conducting the three movements, Round, Cavatina and Galop.
The Suite was received with great acclaim prompting the Composer to write to Reg Trudgian a few days later 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". The Little Suite was repeated the following year when Malcolm Arnold, to the delight of the Committee and Band directed the whole Course himself, an occasion fondly remembered by one of the Baritone players Terry Sleeman who said that he was "someone you looked up to, he was jovial, but always serious about the music".
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 as they moved into the seventies both Arthur Butterworth and Roy Newsome were frequent visitors. It was in 1975 however 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. During that long period he also became Music Advisor then finally President. He dedicated untold hours to teaching, encouraging and leading the Band to greater and greater heights, perhaps most memorably of all winning the Brass Section of The 1983 National Festival of Youth with them at The Royal Festival Hall in London.
Contesting had not been considered to be part of the Band's normal activities, but to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of their first residential course that year it was decided to enter. Following Regional Auditions the Band was selected to join some four thousand other young musicians in the three day Festival which consisted of ten different musical combinations. Sweeping aside the other ten Youth Bands in the Brass Section the Band won The Outstanding Performance Award with what the Judges said was the best overall performance by a Youth Brass Band that they had heard in the thirteen years of the Festival. This success resulted in an Invitation to perform later that year on 23rd November at The Royal Albert Hall in the annual Schools Prom.
Such was the esteem in which Albert Chappell was held by The Cornwall Youth Brass Band, that on his move from Cornwall he was made Life President of the Band and presented with a Cornish Shield by The Chairman of The Cornwall County Council.
Whilst, as has been noted, Public Concerts have been incidental to the main objectives of the Band there have been several performances over the years outside the annual Course Concerts. Staged with the co-operation of the Parent Bands, these have been enjoyed by players and audiences alike and have enhanced its reputation. Amongst other events they made two appearances, in 1987 and 1990, at the BBC Radio Cornwall Christmas Concerts. They played in aid of The Cornwall Disabled Association in 1983, The National Trust in 1986 and at The Redruth Royal British Legion Rememberance Concerts in the nineties and have also made several radio and television appearances.
A particular highlight for the Band was its ten day tour of Luxembourg and Switzerland in July 1990. Sixty five members of the Band made the trip which included seven Concerts before audiences of up to three thousand people. The Senior Tutor at the time, Leonard Adams, conducted and another eighteen parents and officials went along to ensure everything ran smoothly. In 1993 another successful and enjoyable tour was undertaken, this time to Austria, when the Senior Tutor and Conductor was Derek Greenwood
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, Peter Parkes, Richard Evans, Harry Mortimer, Geoffrey Whitham, Derek Broadbent and Nicholas Childs. During the fifty years though the backbone of the Band has been the team of Senior and Local Tutors who have taken rehearsals month in month out, teaching and preparing the young players for the experience of learning and performing under the baton of those Top Conductors in the brass band world. These local tutors have included all the best known names on the scene in Cornwall, many of whom have returned to teach and conduct the players of the Band in which they themselves played and were inspired by. Senior Tutors have included, Derek Greenwood, Francis Ralph, Chris North, David Dobson and David Pope with David Loukes holding that position at the present time.
Financially self supporting the Band has always been fortunate in attracting a strong and efficient team of Administrators. The first Secretary Frank Moore held that position until his death in 1980 and Cecil Brewer served thirty years as Treasurer. Long serving Chairman Reg Trudgian was succeeded by John Ayerst in 1984. Alan Knight followed in 1986, then he in turn by Reg Bennett and Jeff Richards. The present Chairman, Leonard Adams, began his association with the Band as a young Cornet player in 1963 and has also served as Senior Tutor before assuming his present position in 2002.
Established as it was in association with The Cornwall Music Service the Band has continued its close connection with them over the years and has appreciated the continuing support of the subsequent Heads of the Service. John Harries, the present incumbent, is unstinting in his enthusiasm for the Band to which, with his staff, he gives so much practical help. Over the years the Band 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.
The Cornwall Youth Brass Band celebrates its fiftieth year strong and forward looking. It seeks to continue to offer the young brass players of Cornwall an exciting and challenging way of enjoying music in the company of like minded people. Of course it could not have come this far without the support and enthusiasm of literally hundreds of knowledgeable and voluntary enthusiasts and supporters, some of whom are mentioned in these notes, many of whom, for reasons of space, are not. To them all we must give our grateful and heartfelt thanks