The 150th Year of Edenbridge Town Band

2016 was a special year for the Edenbridge Town Band as we celebrated our 150th year. The year opened with the taking of a new band photograph, the first formal photograph in over six years, with the band smartly turned out in uniform, clutching their polished instruments, or in our case, our drumsticks or beaters.  

The awards evening in March took a different turn: instead of fish and chips in the band room we enjoyed a special dinner at Hever Golf Club. The band rose to the occasion with a rather smarter turn out in mufti than usual, awards were presented by our President, Lord Harris, and a merry time was had by all. There was some consternation at the end of the evening when our esteemed Chairman thought his coat may have been stolen, but it turned out to have been left in his car.  Hmm, yes, a merry time indeed.

In April, the band gathered at Crockham Hill village hall on a lovely, quiet spring Sunday morning to record a Compact Disc. Seven of our favourite concert pieces were performed and recorded.  It was a new experience, and our director, David Pocock had worked us very hard to prepare us for this event.  There were some jitters on the day but the result is a lovely memento of our shared music-making!

The Spring concert in the Edenbridge WI hall featured music from every decade of the Band’s 150 years. The percussion section was limited to a shallow snare drum and a big drum for the earliest decades, increasing to the full kit and accessories as time progressed.  We opened with a brass band arrangement of von Suppe’s ‘Light Cavalry Overture’, written in 1866,  the year we think the band came into existence, and closed with the march, ‘Sesquicentennial’ written especially for the band’s 150th year by Paul Overton.

At the Stangrove Park Fete the Edenbridge Town Band took their place in a line up of musical entertainments. Later the same day the band hosted a ‘come along and play’ open afternoon in the band room. Our drummer left the event severely traumatized because one little poppet, with hands too small to hold the sticks properly, made four taps on each item of the kit in turn, and then said, “this is easy!” Still, we must encourage younger people, even if they are only 5.

Our engagement at Ashdown House Sports Day began with lovely, warm sunshine. This event is always a bit like providing dinner music, while the participants and their families enjoy games and a picnic in the school grounds. In previous years they have in fact given us a nice lunch, but this time we couldn’t stay, as we had to rush back to Rickards Hall in Edenbridge for an outdoor celebration of the Queen’s birthday.  As we rolled into the Market Yard car park, the heavens opened and it poured with rain.  There was a brief respite allowing us to grab waterproofs and walk with our instruments to Rickards Yard, and then once again the rain came down.  The human body is wash and wear, uniforms and instruments can be dried, but pages of music are never quite the same once they’ve become sodden.  What to do?  One of our baritone players had an idea…there was a consultation between our director and the museum officials and then we moved en masse to a small loft workroom above the reception hall, and piped our music down the stairs!

One Monday evening witnessed another ‘come and play’ session, this time a visit from the ‘Brownies’. They did their best, (like the old Cub Scout motto) and have to be commended for their enthusiasm. The drummer left with his ears ringing!

Next up was a return engagement at Dartford Bandstand. The band was augmented by visiting students from Cambridge University Brass and they did us proud. We appreciated the warm response of our audience too.

The event following this began with another lovely sunny day for the Edenbridge Churches Together fete at St Lawrence’s. The band played in an open sided gazebo, and once again, towards the end of the final set, the heavens opened. The band was given permission to stop, but it was a unanimous decision to play on, as after all, we weren’t getting wet as long as we stayed put!  Other stall holders were huddled under their respective gazebos and we provided some appropriate music.  It was great fun, even if the glockenspiel player’s back was getting a little damp. Our music was well received with appreciative applause: one of those times when one really feels part of a community pulling together.

We percussionists are always somewhat preoccupied with the weather.  Our instruments don’t stand up to moisture very well and are certainly not quick and easy to move if a downpour occurs.  At Chiddingstone Causeway we were delighted to be allocated a large marquee, clearly left over from a party or a wedding reception.  Of course the day was bone dry and the marquee was actually a bit close, but the band played well!

An open air concert in Stangrove Park was planned for Wednesday 13th of July.  The weather forecast was, however, so unpromising that this event was postponed.  It didn’t actually rain but the temperature was so cool and the ground so damp that, even though the band might be able to tough it out, we certainly couldn’t expect the audience to sit on damp ground!  Retreat to the bandroom for a rehearsal was the order of the day.

Visiting brass players from Cambridge University once again swelled our ranks at Chiddingstone Village Fete, one of our favourite venues.  This event, coming at the end of the summer fete season, generally finds us performing well, having worked our summer repertoire quite a bit, but one can begin to get a bit “ho hum” about things.  The addition of ten extra players who are actually sight-reading really puts us on our mettle.  While we in the back row always enjoy the warm, rich sound of the band, it’s also great fun to be part of a larger ensemble.   

Contrary to the band’s usual custom we had an engagement in August. We played into the dusk and dew for a well attended open air concert in Stangrove Park. We were pleased by the warm reception they gave us, considering that the event had been postponed into a holiday period, and Federicci’s Pizza van on the kerb opposite the park enjoyed record sales!

After the August holidays we played our opening engagement at the Leigh Flower show. It did rain that day, but we got through most of the event in the dry. We have an old car cover, donated by a former band member, that we can put over the percussion equipment if we need to.  It was deployed briefly on this occasion.

The band put in a short appearance at the Edenbridge motor show the following weekend. Although we only played for an hour, it was a great closer to the season, with warm sunshine and a receptive audience.

One practice night in September, the band was invited to ‘drinks and nibbles’ at the Edenbridge Museum. There was a display illustrating 150 years of the Edenbridge Town Band. The band itself is not yet a museum piece, and we are doing our best to keep it that way.

November 5th saw a return of the band to the Bonfire night parade, having missed the previous 3 years. We were again reinforced by visiting students from Cambridge University. This time we joined the Parade at the WI Hall, which shortened the distance appreciably. (Parade is a somewhat loose term for Bonfire night; intermittent shuffle would probably be more accurate.)  There was a very long pause shortly after entering the High Street, as an elderly person in the crowd had collapsed and emergency services were attending him.  The crowd appreciated the two or three marches we played in situ, and we appreciated the chance to have a good blow and warm up while not on the move.

Sunday November 13th, Edenbridge Town Band played in Cowden Church for the Remembrance Sunday service and we also played in the Parish church in Edenbridge for the afternoon Remembrance service, followed by a march to the war memorial and back.  This solemn occasion, enacted on a crisp, sunny autumn day, never fails to touch our hearts:  we are reminded that we have this privileged life because others have fought and died for it.

It seemed that Remembrance Sunday was scarcely behind us when the Christmas season started.   November 26th was the occasion for Carols in the museum yard.  The weather was dry, crisp and cold.   Next it was Carols in the High Street on December 3rd.  It was sunny and colder.   The Chip Shop manager took pity on us and kindly plied us with hot drinks at break time.  Later the same day we gathered under the street lamp at Marsh Green to play yet more Carols.  It was even colder, but Marsh Green is lovely when they turn on all the Christmas lights, and the folk there sing well too!  Mulled wine and mince pies were a warm and fitting end to the evening. 

Wednesday December 7th was the Mencap concert. The audience is always very enthusiastic, and this year was no exception.

Saturday 10th of December was our annual Christmas Concert with Carols in the WI Hall. Our band has a loyal following for this event: they listened, they applauded and they sang enthusiastically when asked to.  What more can you ask for? 

Sunday the 11th, was, for the percussion section, the last event of the year, namely playing for the Masonic Lodge Christmas Lunch in Sevenoaks.  In previous years we have played after dinner, in a very warm and crowded dining room.  The Masons sang with gusto, but the band members were gasping for air.  This year they put us in the upstairs meeting room so we had lots of space and they all trooped up to join us after dinner.  The brass sound was really lovely in that large room!  And the Masons’ singing was just as enthusiastic. 

The last playing engagement of the year was at Four Elms carol service where the band were seated on chairs under two gazebo’s playing Christmas carols to an enthusiastic audience singing the carols.  We were all invited back into the warmth of the village hall for tea and mince pies.

This special year closed with a Christmas party for the band, a meal out in a Pub rather than the more usual homemade entertainment in the band room. By this time we, the percussion section, were in America, but we hear that the band enjoyed themselves very much.

As we have reflected on 150 years of the Edenbridge Town Band this year and heard some tales from the Band’s old minute books about the various personalities, their agreements and differences and the waxing and waning fortune of the group, we are proud to have been a small part of this group’s history.  We value David’s capable and caring leadership and the musicianship, character, friendship and commitment of the other band members.  We hope that this band will go on for many, many years being a part of and bringing a special pleasure to the people of  Edenbridge and the surrounding area.