A look back on 2021 with GUS

As many bands up and down the country and across the world will report, 2021 has been challenging, frustrating and disappointing but also rewarding, exciting and many more adjectives besides. The year began with gatherings banned and with the GUS Band still unable to meet and rehearse. We already had a busy diary planned and were hopeful that we would be getting back to playing together and honouring our concert and contest commitments. Sadly, this wasn’t to be for many months but that didn’t stop the band from keeping busy.

In January, GUS were preparing for the Cory Online Band Championships. This took an enormous amount of work to put together, including new compositions and arrangements from Mike Shepherd, each band member recording and videoing their performances and the daunting task of putting everything together! The band also entered the Online Whit Friday contest in May and gained a 3rd prize with our performance of the contest march, Ravenswood.

Finally, in June, the band got back to rehearsing. A strict regime of seating and hygiene was observed but it was brilliant to be back as a team. We immediately set to work and put on a set at the local Northampton Music Festival. In October, we were at last able to take part in the National Brass Band Championships at the Royal Albert Hall in London, an honour we gained from winning the Midlands Area Championships back in 2020. An excellent performance with some fine solo playing sadly didn’t see the band gain a podium position but it was great to be back on the contest stage. November saw GUS share the stage at the Corby Cube Theatre with Youth Brass 2000 for a wonderful afternoon of music, coming together for a rousing massed bands finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

We rounded off the year firstly with two fantastic live performances of the Snowman, where adults and children alike were spellbound by the show. Finally, we finished our performances for the year with a combined Christmas concert with the Bel Canto and Masquerade choirs in Kettering. This was an atmospheric concert showcasing three of the finest groups of musicians in Northamptonshire and was a sell-out and a fitting final concert for the year.

The management team have also had a very busy and productive year including working on the design and launch of the band’s new website and updated band logo. Sadly, we have had to say goodbye to Jack Wilson, a stunning Soprano player who has gone on to achieve a fantastic playing career in the RAF and has recently begun a postgraduate course at the Royal College of Music. The band has welcomed on board, Owen Yarrow who has already made a mark in the percussion section with his musicianship and playing skills. We were also extremely proud to hear that our co-principal cornet, Thomas Fountain, has recently gained the position of Principal Trumpet at the Ulster Orchestra, a phenomenal achievement!

And what does 2022 hold? Of course much depends on events outside the band’s control but with all the musical luck that we can muster, our diary for the New Year is already filling up. We kick off the New Year almost immediately with the Butlins Mineworkers Championships in Skegness. This will be a really busy weekend with a set work contest on Saturday and an entertainments contest on Sunday. The band is already hard at work preparing for this so there won’t be much time-off over Christmas. With further contests in February, (Midlands qualifiers) and May, (Grand Shield Spring Festival) and concerts already booked, kicking off in Stroud on February 6th there’s plenty to look forward to and many opportunities to catch up with the band.

Finally, a huge thank you to our committee who work tirelessly to keep the band running smoothly, and to our Artistic Director, Chris Jeans, whose infectious enthusiasm has kept us all going during another roller-coaster of a year.

We wish all our followers and fans a very merry Christmas. Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all in 2022.

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