It cost a lot of brass to be a band member but was a real blowout too
MY earliest recollection of Crich Band was following behind it in the Whitsuntide walks before the Second World War.
But my real interest came after the war, when the band was re-formed.
Around a dozen of "us lads", who had never played instruments before, started going to practice sessions in the village Parish Room on a Sunday morning and then down to Albert Swindell's at Chapel Lane on week nights.
After a while, we were good enough to go on parade and attend engagements.
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The conductor at that time was George Haslam, the village blacksmith, who, when on parade, played the trombone.
We were kept busy with concerts at places like Ripley, Belper, Matlock Bath, Hall Leys Park in Matlock, as well as Derby, Ashbourne and Burton.
Apart from parades at Crich, we also led carnivals and sermons around the district. And we played at the Venetian Nights at Matlock Bath when they started up after the war.
We performed carols around the village on Christmas morning, the proceeds of which were divided up between the bandsmen and collectors – around £1 each. Old Bill Holmes always had an ounce of tobacco – he used to put the stands up for practices and suchlike and came on all our jobs.
I can only remember two young ladies being in the band in those days – Barbara Haslam, and, years later, Colleen McArthur, a pupil at Strutts School, Belper.
On some of our earliest "jobs", I remember we were taken to Ashbourne several times in Des Sellors' lorry. It had a tarpaulin cover and wooden benches for seats. He also used to convey Italian PoWs around the area from Heage. Later, transport was provided by Gervase Taylor's coach.
Some members used to travel quite a distance to practice. Harry Harper used to carry his euphonium (no light weight) to practice from Ridgeway; Arnold Morley biked from Belper with a baritone on his back; and Joe Perry and Ernest Mason came from Whatstandwell.
In later years, four or five came by taxi from Wirksworth.
The next conductor was Griff Martin, who had relatives at Fritchley, I believe. I think Sam Hollingsworth was the next one. He was a champion tenor horn player and a member of the Besses o'th Barn Band, who once went on a tour to Australia.
We went to our first post-war contest under Mr Hollingsworth in March 1953 – the Daily Herald Midland area competition at Nottingham. I think we came about fifth.
A man who influenced my band interest was Jack Else, a solo trombone player. I remember he once took me down to London to watch some finals at the Royal Albert Hall along with Dennis Else (himself not a player), who was a great lover of bands.
He had a very dry wit and had us in stitches with his views about "vice etc" in the big city. This would have been in the early 1950s.
Mr Else also took me to "guest" with other bands in the area.
The president of the band was Percy Taylor, a local butcher, who was later followed by his son, Horace. Alf Leafe was the secretary after the war and then Colin Fantom took over.
The band had an active ladies committee, who raised funds with whist drives, dances and raffles etc. Mr Else told me that before the war the band used to play for its own dances and others and were called the Silver Six.
Around 1951, it was decided we would obtain new uniforms, so fund-raising started. The old uniform was a little bit out of date by now and some members only had remnants, some none at all.
It was a plum colour, with gold trimmings, and had a dog collar which caused sore necks when the weather was warm on parades.
The new uniform was acquired in 1952 and worn on a parade to church and at an evening concert in the Market Place. It was a double-breasted jacket with ties. Very smart at the time. The young lads had blazers and "chip bag" hats.
Jimmy Holmes (solo cornet player) was the next conductor.
I then had a break for the next three years while I did my National Service.
On my return, I remember we had several trips to Bridlington and other resorts and an annual dinner dance.
Around 1958, we were on parade around Whatstandwell and we finished up in an old camping field.
A man and his family were camping and heard us. His name was Bill Maudsley and he came from Derby. He got talking to some of us and the upshot was that he came to the next practice to conduct us.
It transpired that he was a good cornet player with the Bickershaw Colliery Band up until the war and he gave our band a new lease of life. He improved the playing and started talking about entering contests.
He took four of us to quartet contests and also introduced us to new music.
The first contest he took us to was at Leicester in the early 1960s, then followed three more at Edwinstowe, Derby and Blackpool. The last was around April 1962. By this time, some of the older players had finished and younger ones were not coming along.
Armistice Day came and only about 10 players turned up, which was not enough to play, so we ended up walking up to church without playing a note.
Later that year, on Christmas morning, only three or four turned up to play.
I was asked to go to play with Stanton Works Band, near Ilkeston, so I am afraid my ties with Crich Band were broken.
During the next few years I played for Heage, Newhall and Wirksworth bands.
I am not sure when Crich Band finally finished. The old committee – C Fantom, J Perry, D Longdon, D Wetton, D Swindell and myself – met later to officially wind the band up.
Doug Wetton went to Wirksworth and Derek Swindell to City of Stoke Band. Some of us continued to get together occasionally to go to concerts.
In 2001, brass band playing returned to Crich. The idea of setting up a brass group was suggested by Derek Swindell, when he came back to live in the area.
He decided to get former and present day bandsmen together for a "blow".
He sent out letters, which resulted in seven members. Practice nights were held upstairs at the King's Arms.
We played carols round the village Christmas tree and also "by request" in the King's Arms, when numbers were swelled by Derek's daughter, Leslie, on the flugel horn and her husband, Mark, on bass trombone.
Members of Crich Brass at that time were Derek Swindell, Dawson Longdon, Neil Wetton and Kevin Oliver (all cornet); Doug Greensmith (euphonium), Doug Wetton and myself (tenor horn).
Several of us played with Wirksworth Band on their instruments, which were also used for Crich Brass.
Brass-banding is a very expensive hobby. The tenor horn I played was a "cut-price" £1,200 and music is very expensive, not to mention the uniforms.
Crich Brass continues to play today, still practising at the King's Arms and performing at concerts in the area.
I left a couple of years after it was reformed.