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 email@example.com.
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.
Ready to start off the GUS Band’s season is Rhys who joins our ranks on Flugelhorn. Rhys began playing at the age of five and comes from a banding family with his mum, two sisters and brother also players. With a wealth of experience, Rhys spent five years at the Junior Guildhall School of Music first as flugel player and then as principal cornet. He was also principal cornet at the Tilbury Youth Band for over ten years. His other playing experience has been gained as a member of the Tilbury Band, Thundersley Brass and Aveley and Newham Band as well as depping for many others. He rates his proudest moment as qualifying for the Championship Section Finals at the Royal Albert Hall with Thundersley Brass. We hope he will see many more appearances at the Finals with GUS.
Outside of the Bandroom, Rhys is a keen runner and is working on bringing down his 5k time. He’s also a season ticket holder at the ‘mighty’ West Ham, (Rhys’s description and very much up for debate!).
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Della Pearce, the band’s former flugelhorn player for her contributions to the band, both on and off the stage, and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.
The GUS Band are delighted to welcome two new players into its ranks. The percussion section is joined by the young but already vastly experienced Evie Elliott. Having begun playing at the age of ten and purchasing her first drum kit in the first week of picking up her sticks, Evie began her musical experience in orchestras. Coming from a musical family, (her grandfather having played cornet in the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band) she progressed through the Northamptonshire Music Service, (NMPAT) and was introduced to brass bands through her teacher at that time, John Bickerdike. Evie continues to do orchestral work and is now mentored by top drummer Craig Blundel but she still finds time to enjoy her other favourite hobby, baking.
Meanwhile, the GUS Band cornet section greets Sam McCoy, a highly talented player and another person to come through the ranks of the Northamptonshire Music Service. A Salvationist, Sam attends the famous Kettering Citadel Corps and joins the band after a long spell playing for the Kibworth Band. Although a fine cornet player, he harbours a wish to play the Mongolian Nose Flute. The band may well be looking for a nose flute concerto accompanied by brass band for our next concert; watch this space!
We look forward to them both contributing to the band’s continued success
The GUS Band are delighted to announce that Jake Humphrey has joined the band on assistant principal cornet.
Jake is no stranger to the band; from an early age he has regularly attended GUS concerts and in more recent years has deputised on both flugel horn and cornet.
Speaking of the appointment, Artistic Director Chris Jeans said “Jake is a fine young player and a brilliant addition to the GUS cornet section, it’s been a pleasure to see him develop as a musician and I’m looking forward to working with him”.
As well as playing with GUS, Jake is the flugel horn player for National Youth Champions, Youth Brass 2000, principal cornet for the Northamptonshire County Youth Brass Band, and a proud member of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain.
At just 16-years old, Jake becomes one of the youngest members of the GUS Band, but plays with maturity well beyond his years, having had experience at the senior level with the Harborough Band and most recently, the Jaguar Land Rover band.
Jake’s first performance with GUS will be alongside the Northamptonshire County Brass Bands on Saturday 26th March at the Spinney Theatre, Northampton where he will be performing Peter Graham’s “Quicksilver” duet with James Screaton.
You can find out more about Jake in his bio here.