Brassing Around’s Elise Hale remarked “months of build up, ticket sales, advertising, all long awaited to this afternoon- and well wasn’t it worth the wait!” and she was not wrong. An organising committee of four current GUS players as well as their Musical Director Christopher Bond toiled for months to bring The GUS Band, a reunion band of over 50 former GUS players, four guest soloists and three former conductors together in a sparkling display of musical virtuosity that placed the heritage and history of the band right at the heart of the day, and reassured everyone present that the future of this famous band is in good hands.The current GUS band opened their set with Edward Gregson’s “Fanfare for GUS” and followed this up with a classy performance of a staple of the GUS repertoire in Jubilee Overture by Philip Sparke, written for the band for its 50th Anniversary.More recently, the Fountain name has become synonymous with the GUS Band, with Gary Fountain a former soprano cornet player with the band, and brothers Thomas and James both having both occupied the principal cornet seat as recently as 2022. Expectations were understandably high when James Fountain took to the stage to give his account of Charivari by John Iveson, and the audience were not disappointed. The Principal Trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra performed with such virtuosity and searing technique that it is easy to understand how he has reached the pinnacle of professional trumpet playing. His brother Thomas, recently announced as the new Principal Trumpet of the BBC Philharmonic gave a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Christopher Bond’s Song of the Night Sky. The quality on display left you in no doubt that between them the brass band world, and GUS, has nurtured two greats. Amazingly, they are both still in their 20s! What an exciting future these men have.The whimsical Celebration by Gordon Langford (another piece written for the band’s 50th Anniversary) was followed by the band’s professional conductor Dr David Thornton taking to the stage with current Principal Euphonium George Bruce. Reset as a duet, both players gave a remarkable show of lyrical and technical authority in Endearing Young Charms. Fittingly, GUS and Euphonium Legend Trevor Groom was sat a few rows back in the audience, taking it all in.BBC Young Musician of the Year Jordan Ashman was next up, and Jordan later remarked to Brassing Around that he “loved being back with GUS; playing with the band that started my musical life off!”. And what a life it’s been so far, with Jordan showcasing “Strawberry Therapy” on the vibraphone. Arranged for brass band by his dad Darren (another GUS alumni), he gave an “effortless performance” played with “confidence and style”. It went down very well with those watching in the audience.Christopher Bond’s aptly titled “Journey to the Past” gave way to the return of Thomas and James to perform Martin Cordner’s Synergy. A nod to their salvationist background, they both gave an “electric” performance that gripped the audience from start to finish.GUS closed the first half with the finale from Sand and Stars, fresh from their recent win at the Dr Martin’s Contest in early September. Set in the same decade as the band’s inception, it left nobody in any doubt of the band’s ambitions for the future- a return to the pinnacle of elite banding, the British Open.A short interval gave the audience chance to explore the exhibition of GUS history that had been curated by current Principal Cornet player James Screaton. It featured an array of pictures, trophies (including the Open shield and Nationals trophy kindly loaned to the band by Foden’s), banners and other memorabilia that contributed to the sense that everyone present was experiencing something special.The second half, expertly compered by Dr David Thornton, saw the 50-plus reunion band take to the stage. Boasting seven basses, five trombones, three soprano cornets as well as an army of cornets and horns, baritones and euphoniums, it was immediately obvious that the audience were in for a treat. Earlier in the day, it was remarked upon that the top three cornet players on the front row (James Fountain, Thomas Fountain, and Ben Godfrey) were all fighting over who sat on the end chair as none of them wanted to!Melvin White (conductor of the band in the late 90s) led the band through Strike up the Band and Little Lisa (written by Stanley Boddington for his daughter, Lisa), and was followed by Chris Jeans (conductor of the band 2018-2022), who began his set with Here’s That Rainy Day, a Mark Freeh arrangement from the band’s iconic album Freeh-way. Following this, the band’s Chairperson David Elliott-Smith presented Chris with a gift in recognition of his years of service to the band, both as a player and conductor. Chris closed his short set with another Mark Freeh arrangement of Surrey with the Fringe on Top, featuring the current and reunion band’s Euphoniums and Baritones. Chris Jeans gave way to the inimitable John Berryman (former principal cornet and conductor) who took the band through Gilbert Vinter’s Lisbon Carnival. The playing of the reunion band was unsurprisingly of the highest order, and there was anair of anticipation following John’s final piece March to the Scaffold as the current band lined up in the wings to join the reunion band for a massed-band finale.The massed band opened with the march Emaneff (a play on the band’s name at the time, Munn and Felton; M and F), and this was conducted by Christopher Bond. David Thornton returned to the stage once again to take the band through Bramwell Tovey’s Remembering Jutland, a poignant piece written in memory of Tovey’s grandfather who took part in the first world war Battle of Jutland. Bramwell Tovey was the inspiration behind the band’s famous win at the 1988 British Open on Contest Music. Remembering Jutland provoked a moment of reflection for Bramwell Tovey and for all those associated with GUS no longer with us.The culmination of the day came when John Berryman returned to the stage to conduct Pines of Rome. According to Elise, “The climax of the piece was fantastic, and there were goosebumps everywhere. Boasting an insanely loud sound, the band had ability to make it sound so classy with an intense sound from the trombones. It was absolutely immense. What a performance”.Breathless from the Pines of Rome, John Berryman gave no introduction to the encore Malaguena, but led an energetic and spritely performance of Mark Freeh’s well known arrangement. By the end of it, the audience were on their feet cheering for more.There are few brass bands with such a rich history surrounding it, and the three guest soloists in James and Thomas Fountain, and Jordan Ashman, exemplify everything great about GUS; its nurturing of youth to create soloists of international renown and its relentless focus on the securing the future of the band for generations to come. Even those former players not featured as guest soloists have all individually contributed to so much to the brass band movement, and each of them will tell you the special place that GUS has in their heart. All in all, it was a great way to celebrate 90 years of GUS.This review features elements of Elise Hale’s review of the concert for Brassing Around, and extracts are included with Elise’s kind permission.
Still Mighty at Ninety
On 2nd January 1933, ninety years ago this year, a press release in the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph announced the formation of a works brass band at the Munn & Felton shoe factory in Kettering. Just two years later the band were Champions of Great Britain, and so the legend began.
Ninety years later and the band has no less than a World Championship title, two British Open titles, six National Champion titles, and no less than eighteen Midland Champion titles to its name. Since their first historic championship win in 1935, the band has gone through several name changes, reflecting its corporate sponsors but whatever the name, the high standard of performance has continued to this day and to celebrate these amazing achievements, a special celebratory anniversary concert is to be held to honour all the players that have been lucky enough to literally play a part in this band’s illustrious history.
This momentous concert will be held in the band’s hometown of Northampton on Sunday 24th September and will feature The GUS Band (currently in the Top 20 brass bands in the world), as well as a reunion band made up of over fifty past players of the band before a grand, massed band finale.
Also eagerly anticipated will be the feature of four soloists during the concert. Three are also former players with The GUS Band, namely James Fountain, now Principal Trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Fountain, now Principal Trumpet of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jordan Ashman, BBC Young Musician of the Year 2022, while Dr David Thornton, Euphonium tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music is the band’s Professional Conductor, but also one of the most respected euphonium soloists in the world, having played for the likes of the Black Dyke Band and Brighouse and Rastrick.
Speaking of the upcoming concert, the band’s Musical Director, Christopher Bond said “To be able to celebrate the band’s 90th anniversary with such a brilliant event is really very special. The calibre of soloists alone is phenomenal, but in combination with the current GUS Band and GUS Reunion Band, it will be a truly phenomenal way to celebrate the 90-year history of this world-famous brass band”.
Tickets for this event are on sale now at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/thegusband.
Saturday 29th April sees two of Northamptonshire’s brass bands join together to celebrate King Charles III’s coronation and the bands’ esteemed histories.
The GUS Band and The Corby Silver Band have over 200 years of music-making history between them; formed in 1933 and 1902, respectively.
Speaking of the collaboration, The GUS Band’s Professional Conductor, Dr David Thornton said “This year marks the 90th anniversary of The GUS Band, so it seems particularly appropriate to celebrate this in the band’s birthplace of Kettering alongside another local band with so much history.”
The concert also falls only a week before the King’s coronation, and so fittingly, the concert will include repertoire performed at the late Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, including Elgar’s Nimrod and Pomp and Circumstance.
Tickets for this historic event are available to purchase now via https://www.priorbooking.com/e/celebration-concert-the-gus-band-and-corby-silver-band or via emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GUS Band were crowned Midlands Regional Champions at the weekend and will go on to represent the region at the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall in October.
The ‘Nationals’, as it is often referred to, has been in existence in its current format since 1945 and is brass banding’s equivalent of the football league – split into five sections: Championship Section, and 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th sections, with eight regional qualifying heats staged up and down the UK involving some 600 bands.
GUS and Dr David Thornton certainly worked in harmony to produce “a stunning performance — so full of character and musicality — it really shone”, according to adjudicator Stephen Roberts.
Leigh Baker summed up his written observations by saying that it was a “most enjoyable” performance, “tight and detailed” and ending with a “glorious close”. It was a victory based on clear thinking, technical adroitness and lightness of musical touch.
The band’s professional conductor, Dr David Thornton commented “I’m thrilled to have started my work with the band with such a fantastic performance. The soloists all played with great authority, the control from the ensemble was never overcooked or forced, and they did exactly what I asked of them”. David also paid tribute to resident conductor Chris Bond who whose preparation work had been “invaluable”.
The band’s victory is particularly poignant as 2023 marks the band’s 90th anniversary; the band was originally formed in 1933 as the Munn and Felton Works Factory in Kettering.
Love will be in the air at the Holy Trinity Church in Rothwell on the evening of 18th February, when The GUS Band take to the stage for what will be a romantic evening of bewitching tunes and passionate melodies.
This concert will not only be in commemoration of St Valentine, with Valentine’s Day happening the same week, but will also mark the first concert in a year of celebration for the GUS Band’s 90th anniversary. The evening will include many well-known popular pieces that have more than a hint of “amour” and will feature several of the stella GUS Band musicians as soloists. In honour of the band’s anniversary, a march, Narworth Castle by J. Ord Hume will be included in the programme, which was the first piece to be played at the Band’s inaugural rehearsal, way back in January, 1933.
With the launch of the GUS Band’s Go Green initiative last year, this concert will also mark a first for the Band, with an online programme as well as the usual paper version being made available to the audience.
As one of the most successful Midlands brass bands, the concert will also include a performance of Red Priest, a concerto for brass band after Vivaldi, by Philip Wilby. This will be the test piece for the forthcoming national qualifying Regional Championships and will provide listeners with a preview of this thrilling music. A virtuoso violinist, the Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi was nicknamed the Red Priest because of his fiery red hair, and his romantic relationship with a singer, although always denied, inspired the film of the same name, which neatly ties together the Valentine theme for this concert. Be prepared to be stunned by the thrilling sound of the band and the virtuosity displayed by its players!
So, if you are feeling in the mood for romance and an evening of seductive and beguiling music, then ‘From Rothwell with Love’ will be the concert of the year to go to.
Tickets available here: https://www.priorbooking.com/e/from-rothwell-with-love-the-gus-band-in-concert-7-30pm
The GUS Band are delighted to announce Christopher Bond as their Resident Conductor and Musical Director.
Christopher’s arrival completes the band’s team of conductors, joining associate conductor, Stephen Bell and Professional Conductor, Dr David Thornton.
Christopher will be fulfilling his new role at GUS alongside his Musical Directorship at the City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Band as well as his continued work as an established composer, arranger, educator, and musical director for professional theatre companies.
Speaking of his appointment, Christopher said “I am very much looking forward to working with GUS; a band that is steeped in history and full of the potential and determination to achieve brilliant things.”
GUS Chairperson, David Elliott-Smith commented on the news: “Christopher brings with him a wealth of experience, not only as a conductor, but also as an adjudicator and a highly talented, creative composer; we are excited to start working with him in this milestone year for the band”
With The GUS Band’s 90th anniversary coming up in 2023, the band have been busy planning their diary for next year to celebrate and mark this momentous occasion.
The band has a rich Northamptonshire heritage, and reaching such a milestone is an opportunity to take a step back and look at the wider impact that the band has within both the brass banding movement and the local community. The band want to ensure that both they and the local community evolve in such a way that they are still thriving in another 90 years.
When looking at where an organisation might be in 90 years, it is difficult not to take into consideration what our world will look like from an environmental perspective, with the ever-increasing challenges we see around the globe.
The GUS Band’s Chairperson David Elliot-Smith said…
“In order to sustain as an organisation, we need to consider our environmental impact and what measures we can take to play a small part in global sustainability.”
With this in mind, and with the increasing need for change, The GUS Band will be using their 90th anniversary celebrations to raise awareness about the environment and the small things we can all do, to make a positive impact on Our Planet.
Off to a strong start, the band already have several initiatives in place to reduce their carbon footprint, including holding all meetings online to reduce travel to their Northampton-based rehearsal space. Travel footprint to concerts and contests are also reduced by their members car-sharing, and where possible arranging coach transportation.
The band have big plans for 2023 for their environmental campaign in three main areas. Firstly, looking at what further changes they can make to reduce their own carbon footprint. Secondly, partnering with organisations to help and support the environment. The band have already begun collaborations with the Northants Litter Wombles, who are a fantastic community action group, with a vision of a litter free Northamptonshire. And lastly, the band plan to use their platform to raise awareness about the environment.
Even though a little earlier than their 90th anniversary, The GUS Band are taking the opportunity to kickstart their environmental campaign by spreading the word to an audience of thousands at the upcoming Brass in Concert entertainment festival, where they will feature several works focussing on the earth’s natural beauty and what we can do to protect it.
The GUS Band are absolutely delighted that Jordan Ashman has been crowned BBC Young Musician 2022.
His Grand Final performance of Jennifer Higdon’s ‘Percussion Concerto’ accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth, saw Jury Chairperson Anna Lapwood state: “Jordan’s performance started not with loud, flashy playing, but with exquisite, gentle beauty.
He held the entire room throughout that delicate opening and kept that magic through his whole performance. Jordan combined emotional expression with an easy, assured technique, and moments of brilliance that made all of us catch our breath.”
The band are immensely proud of Jordan and are thrilled for the whole family, many of whom have long-standing connections with the band; GUS Chairperson, Dave Elliott: “There has been a long connection with the Ashman family, with both Dad, Darren, and Aunt, Jo, having been former members. So, when Jordan came along as a young teenager we were thrilled to welcome him. His talent was obvious from the outset, but his musical development has been astonishing and a privilege for all of us at GUS to witness; Jordan is deserving of all the plaudits coming his way”.
Jordan started playing piano from the age of five, but before long, wanted to try something ‘cooler’. Drum kit was his choice, expanding into orchestral percussion after a father-and-son project to create a 3.5 octave xylophone. By the age of 13, he already had two Grade 8s – in orchestral percussion and in drum kit.
As well as playing with GUS, Jordan has played with the National Children’s Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, as well as Youth Brass 2000.
Jordan has recently signed with the Tredegar Band and has commenced his studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and we wish him all the best in what is sure to be the start of an incredible career.
Photo credit: BBC
We are thrilled to announce that our Assistant Principal Cornet, 17-year-old Jake Humphrey, has become the inaugural recipient of the 2022/2023 Conn-Selmer Europe scholarship scheme.
The award seeks to provide professional development opportunities to outstanding and talented young musicians; Jake will receive a £500 bursary credit to spend on a company product or lessons with any Conn-Selmer Artist, as well as the opportunity to use a loan instrument for the period of the scholarship and to potentially become a Conn-Selmer artist. Conn-Selmer will also offer continuous assistance and access to tuition and mentorship from Conn-Selmer artists, to help Jake develop a career as a professional musician.
Outside of GUS, Jake is Principal Cornet of national champions, Youth Brass 2000 , Principal Trumpet of the Northamptonshire County Youth Concert Band and a member of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and the County Youth Orchestra.