Wantage Concert Brass
Part of the Wantage Silver Band structure, Wantage Concert Brass is a non-contesting band whose members play for fun, and to entertain.
Many members are parents of children who play, or used to play, in one of the bands in the Wantage organisation. The band contributes to the annual round of local summer fetes and outdoor concerts in more distant locations, together with fund-raising supper concerts and other indoor concerts in aid of charities.
Conductor Alan Sykes
Alan Sykes was brought up in the village of Dobcross in Saddleworth (then Yorkshire), where "… every child, at the age of three, is taught to blow a double-B" but it was not until moving to Wantage that son Chris came home with a euphonium, and the Sykes family joined the Wantage Band. The longest serving player in the Band, Alan has seen the A band progress from its first local contest (where he played ‘The Ploughboy’ on B♭ bass) and move up through the Sections from 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st and now Championship. Favourite instrument nowadays is playing the bass drum on Marches. Musical highlight was winning the Oxford & District senior solo competition (twice). Most useful activity is owning and driving the Band Van. He is the band's Publicity Officer (responsible for the monthly newsletter) and undertakes minor instrument repairs.
In fact Eileen (Alan's wife) often conducts the band as Alan likes playing Bflat bass within the band.
One of our most loyal players, Andrew Barber, a stalwart and valued member of Concert Brass and Academy Brass, shares some memories, having just celebrated over 30 years with the WSB:
(You can see Andrew and his trusty Euphonium standing to the right of conductor, Eileen)
"19 January 1985 My first day in Wantage Silver Band. My music started with a cornet over a monthly period. A trombone followed, before I was given an opportunity to sit on the euphonium section. A lot of instruments to learn before I had reached double figures in age, which included helpful advice to one and all courtesy of Shelley Ealey and Alan Sykes leading Beginners. WSB is very much a family band where players’ children joined.
Ray Cordon led the D Band, a very helpful and patient conductor learning via the Progressive Band Music books. After helping me through Beginners, he invited me to join the D Band, an offer I had much pleasure in accepting. Public performances eventually occurred in Wantage and this influenced my decision to take part in the Inner Band Contest. WSB Founder Doug Brand one of the nicest people in the organisation a role model as an adjudicator. One night he took a photo of me and Gavin in a playing position, and he was very generous buying us both a drink. C Band in 1987 led by Chris Pollard which saw more engagements at fetes including carnival floats. Practice nights were Thursday evening and Saturday morning. My father (Peter) played third cornet and brother Gavin was a solo cornet on the front row. Conductors changed over the years I was at King Alfred’s School, and it included 2 different conductors for each session. John Timms became the Saturday regular and David Richards took Thursday evenings and there were local contests at Cowley Conservative Club and Peers School. When David left, John Timms took for both sessions. During my time in C Band, I was having private tuition with Band Master Eileen Sykes and A Band conductor Don Keene.
October 1992 an award for the most progress in C Band (voted by John Timms and Chris Pollard) announced by compere Henry Gunston. Earlier that night, trombonist David Law said to me “I’ll tell you something, you are good”, and the award proved his point. An honour to accept an award presented by former President Nobby Challis .February 1993, David Taylor had moved in to A Band, which opened up a vacancy in B Band. Under the baton of Tim Crouter, there was extra added pressure to take part in regional contests including Aylesbury, Oxford, and Reading. When Tim left in early 1994, A Band conductor John Winterflood stepped in for the Watford contest having to lead 2 bands. John Timms took the baton for B Band taking other players from C Band, and carried on until December 1999. Roger McKenzie helped improve the standard from 2000 to October 2001. At the Annual Concert in 2001, Roger’s last conducting event due to poor health I was named Band Personality of the Year. Jim Moley presented me with the award. Roger passed away in 2004 but his humour and discipline remained with the new improved B Band.
2005, an option sheet went around for all players. Early 2006, it was decided that B Band would be split between B as the Contest Band and for entertainment a Concert Band. Since then I have remained in Concert Brass, as principal euphonium. 2012 the Diamond Jubilee had heavy wet conditions outside Victoria Cross, Wasborough Playing Fields, and Blenheim Palace. Another engagement held at Blenheim was the Olympic Torch making its journey en route for the London Olympics. I eventually had an opportunity holding the Olympic torch at the Uffington White Horse Show. October 2012, the 40th Anniversary Annual Concert, and I was deeply honoured to win the Ken Robey Cup. Honouring a former Vice President, the award included over 25 years loyal service and the main reason attending an outstanding number of engagements. Now I represent Concert Brass at the Player’s Committee and still play. Apart from Concert Brass, I am honoured to be a part of helping Trainer Band and the newly formed Academy Brass."
Wantage Silver Band has been making music in Wantage, Oxfordshire and beyond since 1972.
Our Wantage Band is in the prestigious Championship Section and in October 2016 will compete at the Royal Albert Hall at the Nationals, their second visit in 2 years. Our 'B' Band in March 2015 won promotion to First Section as of January 2016 having been promoted to Second Section in 2014. Academy Brass, formed in 2013, are in Fourth Section. To complete WSB we have a Concert Brass, a Trainer Band, Beginners and the Big Band.
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Saturday, 12th November
Remembrance Parade and Service, East GarstonAcademy Brass
Sunday, 13th November
Remembrance Parade and Service - East Hanney'B' Band
Wantage Remembrance Parade and Service'A' Band