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Bratton Silver Band
The band was formed originally by part-time musicians who played from the gallery for the hymn singing in the church, before the installation of the organ in 1859. It is generally thought that the village band was started as a result of the new organ andthe musicians services no longer being required. At first the band consisted of ten members, with Mr. Arthur Smith as it's first band master.
At the Royal Wedding of Queen Victoria's son Edward (later King Edward VII) in 1863, the band led a procession to the White Horse for a Bonfire and Fireworks celebration and later in 1887 one the most important functions of the band was to perform at the celebrations of Queen Victoria's Jubilee- when the Jubilee Hall was opened in the centre of the village.
In the early days much oil & carbide was used during the long practice sessions, which were taken very seriously. In 1890 each member of the band was asked to buy his own uniform and brass instrument. The band then consisted of four cornets, one tenor horn, one baritone, one euphonium, one trombone, one Eb bass and one drum. With their new uniforms and instruments the band was first asked to play at the Wilts Friendly Society Fete, held on Whit-Monday of that year.
In 1907 new uniforms were purchased and became the property of the band and were worn for the first time in 1910 when the band entered a contest, they came second, which was a great honour. From now on the band the band began to enlarge and progress. It now had seventeen members and in 1912 it was thought necessary to purchase a new set of instruments and through engagements and much practice the band became more proficient and provided the musical entertainment for many functions held in the surrounding towns and villages.
During the First World War many of it's members were called up for service, so the band was unable to continue until 1919 when Mr. Oliver Nash Smith took over as bandmaster on the death of his father Mr. Nash Smith who had held the position from 1890 until 1919. Through much hard work the band was soon in great demand again.
Expansion of the band was such that, in 1927, it was decided to buy some more instruments. This could have been the beginning of the changeover to silver from brass, as 25 silver instruments were bought, some of which continued in use until the 1980's. The new title of "Bratton Silver Band" became official.
The outbreak of World War Two caused another break in proceedings untill 1952 when the band was once again reformed through the efforts of Mr. Phillip Smith. Until 1956 the band consisted of all male members but that was about to change when two girls joined the band, the first of many in later years.
In 1961 Norman Smith was elected Bandmaster, incidentally, since it's formation in 1859 all the Bandmasters have been supplied by the Smith family, even until just recently Normans son Graham held the position, some record ! Vic Beer who has had a long association with the band, was elected Musical Director in 1982 and during the next few years accompanied on three trips to the French town of Soisey-sur-Seine and also to Switzerland. In the 1990's the band was directed by Melvyn Howe, Andrew Hicks, Mike Ward and Dave Bowerman, the year 2000 saw the return of Vic Beer to the position until June 2003 when the baton was taken by Maria Fricker.
The Band was formed originally of part-time musicians who played for the hymn singing in St James Church in Bratton. The village Band was started in 1859 as a result of a new organ being installed which meant that the musicians' services were no longer required.
Records show that, at first, the Band consisted of ten members, with Mr Arthur Smith as its first Bandmaster (the Smith family were to provide all Bandmasters up until 2003).
On the occasion of the Royal Wedding of Queen Victoria's son Edward (later King Edward VII) in 1863, the Band led a procession to the White Horse for a Bonfire and Fireworks celebration and later, in 1887, the Band performed at the celebrations of Queen Victoria's Jubilee - when the Jubilee Hall was opened in the centre of the village.
In 1890 each member of the Band was asked to buy his own uniform and brass instrument. The Band then still consisted of ten players - four cornets, one tenor horn, one baritone, one euphonium, one trombone, one Eb bass and one drummer. With their new uniforms and instruments the Band was asked to play at the Wilts Friendly Society Fete, held on Whit-Monday of that year.
In 1906, band member numbers had risen to fifteen. In 1907 new uniforms were purchased and became the property of the Band. These were worn for the first time in 1910 when the Band entered a contest. They came second, which was a great honour.
By 1912 the Band had seventeen members and purchased a new set of instruments. The Band became more proficient and provided musical entertainment for many functions held in the surrounding towns and villages.
The outbreak of the First World War saw many of its members called up for service. The Band was therefore unable to continue until 1919 when Mr. Oliver Nash Smith took over as Bandmaster on the death of his father Mr. Nash Smith who had held the position from 1890 until 1919.
Expansion of the Band continued and was such that, in 1927, it was decided to buy new instruments. This was the beginning of the changeover to silver from brass, as 25 silver instruments were bought, some of which continued in use until the 1980's (a handful of the current players used these instruments when first joining the Band).
The new title of "Bratton Silver Band" became official.
The Second World War saw another break in proceedings until 1952 when the Band was once again reformed - through the efforts of Mr. Phil Smith. Until 1956 the Band consisted entirely of males but that changed when two females joined the Band, the first of many in later years.
Norman Smith was elected Bandmaster in 1961.
In 1977 the Band took the decision to replace its instruments over a period of years. A marathon 6-hour sponsored blow kicked-off the instrument replacement fund-raising. During this some of the original 1927 instruments were used. A second fund-raising sponsored blow was held in 1979.
A third, very successful, fund-raising venture was the creation of a German-style "oompah Band". The Band played in a number of local clubs over a period of years bringing in plenty of much needed revenue.
John Annetts put forward many new ideas and drove the Band to follow them through. One such idea was for the Band to visit Soisy-sur-Seine (at that time Westbury's Twin Town).This first overseas trip took place in May 1982 to France and was followed by two return trips over the May Bank Holiday weekends of 1984 and 1992, with a trip to Switzerland sandwiched in between.
Another of John Annetts' ideas was to put on an annual concert with the "Yetties" folk group – one of his favourites. They were a financial success and contributed greatly to the Band's instrument replacement fund-raising.
After a break of about 30 years the Band re-entered the contesting arena in 1985 and came 7th of 31 Bands in the West of England Regional Championships (Fourth Section) at The Victoria Rooms, Clifton, Bristol – playing Philip Sparke's Malvern Suite. This firmly rooted Malvern Suite as a favourite of the Band.
Following on from this encouraging result the Band entered the South West Brass Band Association's Annual Contest in Paignton in 1986 and came first on Denzil Stephens "West Sou' West".
In 1988, the Band had its first formal photograph taken with the new uniforms, but still with the old euphoniums, baritones and basses. These were to be replaced in 1993.
Norman ended his tenure as Bandmaster in 1990. For much of the period from 1961 Norman performed the dual role of Bandmaster and M.D. His son, Graham, then took over the mantle of Bandmaster from that time on. Since the Band's formation in 1859 all its Bandmasters have been supplied by the Smith family - until 2003. Some record!
Mel Howe took over as MD in 1990 and 1991/92 was the most successful contesting period in the Band's history. The Band returned to Paignton on Saturday 2nd November 1991 to compete once more in the SWBBA Contest. It came first once again, playing its favourite "Malvern Suite" by Philip Sparke, with the bass section also picking up the "Best Basses" cup.
Saturday 21st March 1992 is the biggest day in the Band's history to date – the Band wins the West of England Fourth Section Championships at the Colston Hall in Bristol and, with it, a place at the National Finals in October at Wembley Conference Centre.
The Band was to go on to win two more trophies in 1992 – 2nd place at the (then) annual Reading Contest and Best Instrumentalist of the day – awarded to Steve Smith, Principal Cornet.
Highlights of 1996 included a second qualification for the National Finals – this time held at the Cardiff International Arena.
2003 saw the Band's third qualification for the National Finals, this time held at the Caird Hall, Dundee on Saturday 20th September 2003. The chosen Test Piece was "Call of the Sea" by Eric Ball and the Band played under the baton of new MD Maria Fricker.
The Band was back at the National Finals again in 2004 with Maria. This time at the Harrogate International Conference Centre on Saturday 11th September 2004. The Band played "The Four Noble Truths" by Philip Sparke.
Another 'first' for the Band was the recording of its first CD "Immemerie" – recorded at All Saints Church, Westbury on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd April 2005. The following is taken from the booklet enclosed with each CD:
"The title of this CD has a dual meaning to the members of Bratton Silver Band. First, the word Immemerie refers to the ghost village of Imber on the edge of Salisbury Plain, a short distance from the Band's practice room. Second, phonetically it sounds like In Memory and the Band wish to dedicate the track 'Yesterday' in loving memory of Claire Applegate, a member of the Band who tragically passed away at the end of 2004, aged just 32 years."
During the early 1970's a German tractor and agricultural machinery company (Deutz Fahr) had a showroom on the Westbury Trading Estate. A number of German employees spent several months working and living in Westbury. One such person was Reinhardt Veit and, whilst over here, he joined and played with the Band. He used to walk from Westbury to Bratton for each practice playing his baritone as he walked. He and Vic Beer struck up a friendship that has lasted until today. In June 2007, Bratton Silver Band were invited to go for a long weekend to Southern Germany to help Musikverein Volkertshausen celebrate their 150th Anniversary.
On Sunday 18th May 2008, the Band played "Legend in Brass" by James Curnow at the Weston-super-Mare "Own-Choice" contest. Hours later, Band President Steve Smith received the cup for Third Place from adjudicator Derek Broadbent.
The Wychavon Festival of Brass 2008 took place in Pershore in Worcestershire, on Sunday 21st September, and saw 12 bands entered in the Fourth Section. Under the inspired baton of MD Maria Fricker (again) the Band put on a good performance. FIRST!
2009 - Happy 150th Birthday Bratton Silver Band!
During the weekend of Saturday 31st January and Sunday 1st February Bratton Silver Band ventured into the unknown to a place not likely to be visited again! The Band were privileged and proud to perform a concert with the Cory Band at The Wiltshire Music Centre, in Bradford on Avon.
Bratton players first took part in workshops with Cory Band tutors (principal players) and extra rehearsals in preparation for the Sunday concert which saw both bands put on a most remarkable joint venture - recorded onto a CD named 'Sesquicentennial'. This concert also saw the first ever public performance of a newly commissioned march called Bratton Silver, by Rodney Newton. This march was written especially for this concert and the 150th anniversary year, and is also dedicated to Graham Smith.
In June 2009, Bratton Silver Band welcomed a return visit by Musikverein Volkertshausen. The band from Germany stayed with host families and was treated to a weekend of celebrations - from a barn dance, playing at a fete, a visit to Lacock & Longleat, to a joint concert held at All Saints Church, Westbury.