FEATURE: Holbeach Town Band is a real brass act

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Holbeach Town Band has two reasons to be be happy: it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and currently has the highest membership for many years.

HOLBEACH has a heritage of having a brass band, records showing that in the early part of the 20th century there was one called Holbeach Victoria Band.

The band as we know it today – Holbeach Town Band – celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, but the original name has been brought back to life in the new training band, known as Holbeach Victoria Training Band, which will allow younger members to become accustomed to ensemble playing and ease their progression into the senior band.

Mel Hopkin, who took over as musical director in 1997, admits it was at a “pretty low ebb” at that stage, but says: “The band is now in a very strong position and currently has the highest membership for many years. We have 34 members of the senior band, 16 members of the training band and 16 members in the learning group.

“I am proud to be associated with the Holbeach Band. It is in very good health and the strength of the learner group and training band makes the future secure.”

It has taken time to build it back up: Mel introduced open days to encourage people to join and, in 2002, the band started its popular Learn to Play weeks where absolute beginners of all ages are taught to play. 

Mel says: “These have proved very successful and currently two-thirds of the band have come through these sessions.”

The band plays three formal concerts each year, in the spring, autumn and at Christmas, but this year members were pleased to be invited to play in Ayscoughfee Gardens in Spalding as part of the series of Sunday afternoon concerts.

The band’s founding member and first conductor was the late Brian Long, who acquired a grant of £50 from the parish council and a bank loan of £250 to buy 12 brass band instruments and some uniforms.

At that stage, the band was called the Holbeach Community Band and changed its name, to Holbeach Town Band, and its uniform, in 2000 as part of the band’s millennium celebrations.

Mel reflects: “When the band was first started many of its young players came through local schools, where instrumental tuition was provided free of charge by the county council. Now the council charges over £30 per hour for instrumental tuition and as a result many schools do not have a school band or orchestra and brass bands like ours have to make other arrangements to train new players.

“We provide all our group learning sessions free of charge. We have a learning group on a Saturday morning for beginners and our new training band on a Wednesday evening for improvers. We also offer individual lessons at £12 per hour and theory lessons at £3 per hour.

“However, many of the instruments played by the younger members are old and past their best, so the committee is seeking funds to replace them.”

Celebrations for the 40th anniversary included a summer barbecue at which band members were presented with a commemoration mug. 

There are still vacancies and the band is particularly keen to hear from trombone and tuba players.

• Further information is available at www.holbeachtownband.org.uk