GUS Goes Green

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.

Jordan wins BBC Young Musician 2022!

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

Scholarship Award for Jake

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.

 

Welcome, Rhys!

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.

New Duo at GUS!

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

Jake Joins GUS!

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.

Brass Spectacular coming to the Spinney Theatre

Part of the world famous GUS Band’s mission statement is to promote education and to partner with local arts organisations and our concert on 26th March at the Spinney Theatre, Northampton nicely brings these particular aims together by linking up with the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust.  The Brass Band Spectacular concert will see the band sharing the stage with the County Junior and County Youth Brass Bands and the newly formed County Junior Brass Ensemble.

The County Youth Brass Band is one of NMPATs flagship ensembles, performing regularly and festivals and competitions up and down the country.  They also take part in bi-annual tours and have performed in many prestigious venues across Europe.  The County Junior Brass Band nurtures and develops student to enable them to progress through the ranks of the NMPAT County Group system.  The County Junior Brass Ensemble is newly re-formed this term – so will only have had 10 rehearsals before their first performance at this concert – and provides young brass players with an early experience of ensemble playing.

The GUS Band is really excited to be sharing the stage with the talented youth players from around Northamptonshire especially as there are close ties between the band and NMPAT: Rob Fleming one of the GUS horn players conducts the County Junior Brass Band, Owen Yarrow one the band’s percussionists plays in the County Youth Brass Band and George Bruce, principal Euphonium with GUS is a former County Youth Brass and Concert Band member.

This really will be a spectacular event and tickets are available now from the NMPAT office or at the door on the night.

New Solo Trombone at GUS

We are delighted to announce that we have welcomed Matthew Brown to The GUS Band on Solo Trombone.

Matt joins the band after most recently being a member of the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band, as well as successes conducting the Milnrow band and his appointment as a member of the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators.

You can learn more about Matt on our “Meet the Band” page.

Matt told us “I’m excited to be joining one the country’s most prestigious bands who I have long admired, I’m looking forward to making my debut with the band at the Midlands Regional Championships next month”.

Matt takes over the solo trombone seat from Alan Gifford, who joined the band in 2019 and has made the decision to focus on his conducting, with a new position as MD at Blidworth Welfare Band.

Speaking of his time with GUS, Alan said “I have loved my time at GUS on Solo Trombone, particularly playing under trombone legend Chris Jeans, with the highlight being winning the Midland Area in 2020! It was great to end on a high with a 3rd place at Butlins and I wish the band all the very best!”

We would also like to take this opportunity to announce the departure of 3rd cornet player, Terri Yates, who is leaving the band due to work commitments, and we would like to offer our sincerest thanks to both Alan and Terri for their exceptional performances and dedication during their time with the band.

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.

Della’s Masterly Motivation

One of the many challenges that the GUS Band players and indeed all musicians around the world have faced during the recent lockdowns has been trying to stay motivated with their playing. With no concerts to prepare and no contests to build up to, it was all too easy to leave the instruments in their cases and let practice routines slip. As a band, several highly-successful videos were created with the masterful help of the Band’s Composer in Residence and Associate Music Consultant, Mike Sheppard, which went a long way to keeping morale high but one of the players went the extra mile to stay focused over the long months with no rehearsals. Like the character in the seasonal film, The Snowman, The GUS Band’s superstar Flugel virtuoso, Della Pearce, has been flying high over the past year.

Della took the decision that the best way for her to keep her technique finely tuned was to set herself a goal of participating in as many solo competitions as possible. Some of these were online competitions and in all she entered no less than eight solo competitions! These included the Gloucester Brass Band Association, Southwest Bass Band Association, Yorkshire Open and West Midlands Brass Band Association Solo Contests. Not only that but Della achieved amazing successes and gained a fourth place at the Great Brummie Solo Contest, 2nd at the Foden’s Solo Contest and two first places at the Oxford and District Brass Band Association and Brassfest Solo competitions. An absolutely fantastic achievement Della and a massive well done from all the Band.

What’s more, there is a chance to hear Della’s sublime playing in action at the Band’s forthcoming live performances of the Snowman at the Egerton Hall in Brackley, Northamptonshire. This magical film telling the story of the snowman that comes to life will be accompanied by The GUS Band who will be playing the music from the enchanting score by Howard Blake. There really is no better way to start the Christmas festivities and get you into the Yuletide mood than to sit back and enjoy this wonderful show.

An Evening Ensemble

A group of players from GUS plus some friends of the Band came together to provide an evening of brass entertainment at St Peters, Gaulby in Leicestershire, on 27th October 2021.

The 16th century church isn’t large enough to host a full brass band and the St Peter’s audience are more used to hearing performances by smaller groups including flute, harp and cello.  So this was a unique opportunity to hear brass music played in the church and the ten piece got together to perform a varied programme including several classic pieces by Charpentier, Lerner and Lowe, Premru and Jim Carter arranged for brass ensemble.

Food and drink was provided by ‘The Table’ before the audience sat down to enjoy the evening’s musical feast.  The church, unaccustomed to the sounds of brass, cleared itself of a resident bat and provided a wonderful acoustic for the ten players, James Screaton, Gary Sherlock, Marcus Pain and John Pacey on trumpet, Simon Smith, (horn) Alex Hewins, Savannah Bone, Paul Yarrow and Alex Crutchley on trombones and Jen McCausland on tuba.

The concert also included Beethoven’s Three Equali for four trombones, a lively rendition of Tico Tico given on trumpet by James, (who knew until explained during the concert that a Tico Tico is a sparrow?) and a classy rendition of A Londonderry Air provided by Alex Hewins on trombone.  Finally, the evening was rounded off by a rousing rendition of Chris Hazell’s Kraken.

GUS Continues Link With Youth Brass 2000

On 14th November, a spectacular concert, ”A Brass Explosion” is being given at The Core at Corby Cube by The GUS Band and Youth Brass 2000.

Since the inception of Youth Brass 2000 back in 1989, close links were forged with The GUS Band, and this concert is just the latest in a string of collaborations between the two organisations. Many players in Youth Brass 2000 have risen through the ranks and have gone on to play in The GUS Band,  including current players such as Marcus Pain, who was a founding member and principal cornet of Youth Brass 2000 and whose father helped form the youth band.  Thomas and James Fountain, both co-principal cornets of the band and now professional trumpet players also gained early experience as members of Youth Brass 2000.  In The GUS Band’s percussion section, Tim Jones and Joshua Gilding are both former Youth Br

ass 2000 players and Owen Yarrow, The GUS Band’s most recent signing is still a member.  Then there is the band’s Artistic Director, Chris Jeans, who became the Youth Brass 2000 conductor a week after the youth band started and has been at their helm ever since.  Commenting on the links between the two organisations Chris said “The relationship between GUS and Youth Brass 2000 is a win-win, with youth band players getting invaluable experience playing alongside a championship section band, and The GUS Band benefiting from a steady stream of young talent”.

Both bands have a varied programme to perform at the Corby Cube including a spectacular massed band finish with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.  Tickets available here: https://www.thecorecorby.com/whats-on/youth-brass-2000-gus-band/