Christmas with Saints!

It has been another successful Christmas season for Saints, with concerts and carols being performed both locally and live via satellite to as far as Australia!

On 27th November 2018, the band again led the Christmas parade around the town at the Wokingham Winter Carnival. The town centre was packed with people as the procession weaved its way around the town before concluding in the centre. This year we were also extremely excited to support the young musicians of the Berkshire Maestros Bracknell and Wokingham Music Centre, who led the crowds in the lead up to the turning-on of the town’s Christmas lights. The musical future of the town is very much in safe hands!

On 1st December 2018, the band performed as Day 1 of the Wokingham Living Advent Calendar at Wokingham Town Hall. Supporting the Thames Valley Hospice, the advent calendar showcases local artists each day leading up to Christmas. This year our performance was broadcast live via Facebook to a number of viewers down under, making it a truly international event!

Finally, in-between numerous carolling appearances at local supermarkets, housing estates and shopping centres, we performed our own Christmas concert on 14th December 2018 at Wokingham Town Hall. Playing to another packed house, the band performed a varied concert of carols (as selected by followers of the band’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the lead-up to the concert), well-known Christmas numbers, as well as some non-Christmas music also.

The highlight for many was the band’s performance of Philip Harper’s The Greatest Storyteller, a piece of work arranged for the Cory Band’s Brass in Concert entertainment programme in 2017 to commemorate the life of Roald Dahl. The piece comprises three tunes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, and gave a number of soloists from the band a chance to shine. Soprano Cornet Llewellyn Wells featured in the title number from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, while our euphonium duo of Rosie Saxton and Mark Lowe performed together during Pure Imagination. Finally, Principle Cornet George Sandford led the finale of When I Grow Up.

Finally, our Christmas concert gave us the chance to reward particular members of the band for their hard work and contribution to Saints over the course of the previous year. This year, 2nd Baritone player and Contest Secretary Leighton Cornelius was voted Bandsman of the Year by the rest of the band, while Bb Bass Josh Moorhouse was awarded the MD’s Musician of the Year award, with both being richly deserved.

Remembrance Sunday 2018

Like hundreds of other bands up and down the country, Saints once again were proud to do our bit for Remembrance Sunday, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

This year, in addition to supporting Remembrance Sunday itself, Saints performed a Remembrance-inspired concert at the Market in Wokingham town centre on 27 October 2018. On an extremely cold Saturday morning, the band performed a number of pieces to a large number of appreciative shoppers, comprising a number of band classics as well as more poignant military marches and hymns.

On Remembrance Sunday itself, Saints first led the march at Wargrave before returning to Wokingham town centre to lead the procession to the All Saints Church. It was amazing to see the streets of the town packed with people paying their respects and we were again immensely privileged to be able to play our part in this.

Second Section National Brass Band Championship Finals 2018

Following our successful second-place finish at the Regional Finals in March, on 16 September 2018 Saints made the relatively short trip up the M4 to Cheltenham to join 17 other bands at the National Finals at the Racecourse. This was the second time in three years we had made it to the Second Section Finals.

This year, bands in the Second Section had been set Stephen Bulla’s Firestorm as the test piece. The piece was composed for the tenth anniversary of the United States Army Brass Band and had its first performance at the Gala Concert of the North-American Brass Band Championships on 27th April 1991. The inspiration for the piece was the war in the Persian Gulf and its continuous presentation to the world through the medium of television. Bulla wanted to capture the emotion and colour of the events of war as they were played out on the television screen. Comprising the sounds of airborne bombing raids, flashback sequences, a Baghdad market and the unspoiled beauty of the Iraqi countryside before the siege, the final page of the score bears the poignant inscription: Completed February 26 1991, Kuwait liberated today.

Unfortunately for us, this was an occasion where we very much ‘left our best in the bandroom’, and it is fair to say that the performance we gave on the day was not of the standard we had achieved in the run-up to the finals. Once the dust had settled we found ourselves ranked seventeenth. While obviously a disappointing result after all the work we had put in, it was a privilege just to be able to take part in the finals and compete with the very best bands in our section from across the country. Getting to grips with such a difficult piece was certainly an experience which benefited the band greatly.

A special thank you must also go to the Pontardulais Town Band, also competing in our section, for lending us a Bb Bass at the very last moment before we were due to take to the stage. In the final rehearsal in the warmup room before our performance, a valve guide on one of our own basses decided to pick that moment to snap in two, and the Bb Bass player of Pontardulais did not flinch in lending us their instrument. This very much summed up the spirit of the weekend.

Malta Day 2018

On 8 September 2018, Malta Day was once again celebrated in London. This event, in its 14th year, has become the leading feature in the calendar of Maltese communities and individuals in the UK. Saints have now been privileged to provide musical entertainment to the large number of Maltese and their families and friends who have travelled from all over the UK to attend the national festival for the last few years.

The day began with a Maltese Fair held in the Westminster Cathedral Hall, at which Saints provided music of all genres, including a number of very traditional Maltese marches and folk songs. After having the opportunity to sample some of the various Maltese food and drink on offer at the Fair, we were privileged to accompany the Gaulitanus Choir with psalms and hymns during the celebration of Solemn Mass inside Westminster Cathedral itself.

The event marked another great success for Malta Day and the Maltese community within the UK. It is an event which we are proud to support and look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.

A Conquest of Paradise

On 16 June 2018, Saints performed our ‘Conquest of Paradise’ concert to a packed Wokingham Town Hall. The concert provided a great opportunity for the band to perform its American-themed entertainment programme, originally conceived for the SCABA Entertainment contest but the same being very well received during the ‘Reading Festival of Brass’, together with some newer items which had been prepared by the band specifically for the concert.

The concert also provided the ideal setting for one final outing of the 2018 Regional Test Piece, Jonathan Bates’ Ex Terra Lucem, following Saints’ second-place performance of the piece at this year’s regional contest, enough to secure a place in the National Finals in Cheltenham later this year.

The concert was a massive success and we thank everyone who came and contributed to what was a great evening for the band. For the band, attention now turns to this year’s National Finals piece, Stephen Bulla’s Firestorm.

Supporting Brass for Africa

At our rehearsal on 4th June 2018, Saints were proud to welcome to our bandroom the Executive Director of Brass for Africa, Jim Trott, who came armed with two new pieces fresh from the pen of Alan Fernie.

The Storyteller’ is a fun, and energetic piece, whilst ‘RAIN!’ is an upbeat, up tempo number. Both pieces were composed for the young musicians involved in the Brass for Africa programmes. And were premiered on the Brass for Africa Bandstand in Kampala in April 2018.

The purpose of Jim’s visit to our bandroom was for Saints to perform both pieces in order to provide recordings of each for the charity’s website, where both pieces will be available to purchase. Most importantly, 100% of the cost of both pieces is donated to the Brass for Africa charity.

Brass for Africa is a wonderful charity and one which Saints are proud to support. It was a privilege to be offered the opportunity to record each of Alan’s pieces and we hope this will not be the last time we can work with the organisation.

Both pieces can be purchased at the links below:

The Storyteller
RAIN!

Reading Festival of Brass 2018

On Sunday 20th May 2018, Saints were proud to join together with the Reading Spring Gardens Band for the first ‘Reading Festival of Brass’ event at Christ Church in Woodley. The band had been working hard in preparation for the annual SCABA Entertainment contest in Crawley, but unfortunately this was cancelled at fairly short notice. Eager not to waste the time spent preparing our American-based entertainment programme, we were delighted to get the opportunity to perform with Spring Gardens, who found themselves in exactly the same situation as ourselves. The event also offered the opportunity to raise some funds for the Christian disability charity ‘CBM’.

After Spring Gardens entertained the crowd with their programme, Saints opened our contribution with Vangelis’ ‘Conquest of Paradise’, which saw the band enter section by section during the piece until the full band was united together onstage. Karl King’s march ‘The Trombone King’ followed, with contrast provided thereafter with Alan Fernie’s arrangement of ‘Deep River’ (the second movement of his ‘Southern Gospel Suite’). The band’s solo item featured Damon Emes on flugel performing ‘Under the Boardwalk’, as arranged by Philip Harper for the Cory Band’s ‘Brass in Concert’ programme 2017. The finale to our programme featured a number of well known American pieces contained within Dan Price’s ‘An American Tale’.

Following the conclusion of our programme, Saints and Spring Gardens joined forces for the conclusion of the concert, performing the march ‘Imperial Echos’, the Bandsman’s Hymn ‘Deep Harmony’ and the National Anthem.

The event was a great success and raised just under £200 for a good charitable cause. We look forward to joining together with Spring Gardens again in the future.

Saints next concert with Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band Sunday the 20th of May

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Saints had their last rehearsal, preparing for Sunday’s concert with Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band.

If you want to know what Saints are up to for this concert, then you’ll have to come along and see what all the photo’s below are about. It poses to be a wonderful afternoon of music and we are excited to be joining the wonderful players of Reading Spring Gardens.

The concert starts at 2.30Pm at Christ Church, Woodley. This is a FREE event, but there is a retiring collection for the Church at the end.

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Start of the year sees Saints gain Second Place at the scaba Spring Contest and a young player’s First Contest

A very proud MD John Watts

Saints have been busy since John Watts came on board in January, preparing for the Area contest that takes place in March. Like many bands, we decided to give the Area test piece, Ex Terra Lucem (by Jonathan Bates), a good run out at scaba’s spring contest at The Hawth theatre in Crawley on Sunday the 25th of February.

Saints worked hard, and with John at the helm, we came away with the Second Place trophy, the March Prize and the Soloist Prize won by our flugel player Damon Emes.

Contest Secretary (Leighton Cornelius) and Chairman (Llewellyn Wells)

Contest Secretary (Leighton Cornelius) and Chairman (Llewellyn Wells)

Not only was this the first contest and event of the year for Saints and with John as MD, but it was also our youngest player, Victoria’s first ever contest. At 12 years old, Victoria Thompson has been doing a brilliant job playing 3rd cornet and will be joining us at the Areas. A very talented young musician, Victoria showed no nerves at all, and did her parents Dawn (our 2nd Horn) and Andy (Bass) proud!

Victoria with her Cornet

Victoria with her Cornet

Mum and Daughter

Mum and Daughter

You can keep up to date with the band’s activities by visiting our social media pages:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wokinghambrassband/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WokinghamBrass

Upcoming Dates in 2018
Sunday 18 March – Area Contest in Stevenage
Sunday 22 April – St George’s Day Parade
Monday 7 May – May Fayre

Saints Offer MD position to John Watts

The band are pleased to announce that with a majority vote, they have offered the MD position to John Watts, who has accepted in principle.

John is an accomplished musician and teaches Brass at both Berkshire Maestros and Henley Music School. He has conduced many bands, including coaching youth orchestras and area ensembles and is the Co-Conductor of the Brass for Africa Band.  He also regularly deputy conducts Pangbourne Brass Band, conducting them at the 2016 area regional championships, as well as Trinity Concert Band and South Berkshire Concert Band.

A skilled Brass player (Tuba and Euphonium), John has played for Friary Guildford, Aldbourne, Bath Spa, and Markham Brass Bands, as well as Orchestral organisations such as Windsor and Maidenhead Symphony Orchestra and Reading University Symphony Orchestra to name a few.

John is due to start on the 4th of January 2018.