The future of any band lies within its investment in new players. The award of the lottery grant created the opportunity to launch the City of Chester Training Band. It had been some years since Chester had had a Training Band, and two of our band members; Ian Clowes and Rob Fletcher decided to run a series of open workshops in the local community (Mickle Trafford Scout Hut) to introduce newcomers to the world of brass. The workshops were a great success, with up to 65 participants at a time - requiring the use of scout-hut pots and pans doubling as instruments! This culminated in a 'grand concert' on April 1st 2000 (really), and from that was born the current training band. There are no age or ability limits and no audition requirements, with members ranging from 6 to 80 years old. Several of the training band now play in the main contest band, and others join the main band in concert outings.
The training band was initially conducted by a main band member and teacher, Paula Bell, supported by Ian as Training Band coordinator. In 2003 Paula moved out of the area and the search was on for a new conductor. In the interim Phil Mottershead (then the main band's Musical Director (MD)) stood-in with the Training Band, supported by another former MD, Derek Mitchell. In 2005 the baton was handed over to Ian Clowes, supported by Rob Fletcher as deputy.
With membership of around 35 players, and with tremendous support from key main band members, the band now plays out in its own right throughout the Chester area. In 2005 the band was proud to perform the first full concert at St Luke's Church in Huntington - and 2007 saw the 3rd concert, better than ever playing to a packed church. The band moved there in 2005 having outgrown the scout hut at Mickle Trafford. In 2006 the band successfully stepped-in to hold down an afternoon slot on the bandstand at The Groves by the river in Chester. Always keen to support local events and charities, the band plays at local fetes, retirement and nursing homes and in 2006 performed a major concert for the Halton-based Let's Go charity (for stroke victims). In 2007 the band has played in the Town Hall for the Volunteer Award ceremony, the St Werberg festival in the Cathedral and held a fund raising concert for the Guide Dog Association.
The band even played for the opening of a new athletic track in Ellesmere Port - peforming alongside the famous athlete Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. As well as performing alone, the band joins the main band in key concerts - the largest being the band's 150th celebration concert in the Cathedral in 2003. The band is also a regular sight around town and local shopping centres on the run-up to Xmas - a busy fund-raising period! Looking to the future the band has obtained funding for additional instruments and music and welcomes anyone interested in having fun while learning about group music making and performing.
Funding and external suppport is critical to the success of the training band, and in 2005 the band joined the Cheshire Youth Federation. This has brought tremendous benefits. Not only with funding support but also in advancing the band's approach to child protection. All key supporters are CRB checked, and several have now attended child protection courses run by the federation. In addition support from Chester Lions and local companies has allowed the band to purchase new instruments and to engage local music teachers to teach brass and percussion playing alongside the group rehearsal sessions. This makes a fantastic difference to the progress individuals and the band makes.
The band is really fortunate in having support in-depth. In 2004 Ian Clowes handed over the Training Band coordination role to Tony Blain.
Tony and his wife Paula continue this role today and make a fantastic contribution without which the band would be much weaker. In 2006 Tony was presented with an award for his work with the band at the annual Chester Volunteers Awards - a well-deserved award. In 2007 the band played at that award ceremony! Parents regularily help out, and perform, with the band with several main band members provide ongoing support.
In 2001 the band held the first annual solo/group competition and BBQ at Mickle Trafford Scout Hut. This has proved to be a tremendous showcase for our members, with the overall prize being awarded in memory of Margaret Blythin, a founder member of the band. Although the band rehearses at Huntington Church the annual competition is now held at Aldford Village Hall. There are additional prizes and awards (for example the Vice-president award donated by the late David Else) and it is a great afternoon.
As well as playing, we also organise outings for band members. This has included visits and workshops with Foden's Band. Attending concerts and other events, but also social outings such as ten pin bowling. In 2008 the Training Band completed the first band tour; visiting London and playing at Longleat over a busy weekend in March. To celebrate the 10th anniversary a joint concert with the main band was held in All Saints' Church, Hoole in 2010! In 2011 the Training Band returned to London to perform in Hyde Park. Chris Hardy, a member of the main band's trombone section, currently leads the Training Band.
OK - so you must be interested by now..... instruments, music, equipment are all provided for a modest weekly fee, with subsidised tuition being available if required. Just give Tony a call on 07913 109 951 and arrange a visit.
The Training Band meets at St Luke's Church, Chester Road, Huntington on Mondays from 6 to 7.30pm during term times. Joint rehearsals, led by the main band's MD Ewan Easton MBE, are also held with the main band on a regular basis.