As every conductor and musical director in the world who has been asked by their bands, orchestras, choirs and varied ensembles to write some end of year thoughts for their websites and social media platforms, it is almost impossible to know where to start after a wholly unexpected, surreal and unique year for us all.
That said, for everyone involved with our amazing Eagley Band, the first two and a half months of 2020 were hugely successful, incredibly enjoyable and very nearly the perfect start to what should, and would, have been the band’s glorious 170th anniversary year, as we remain one of the oldest established brass bands in the world, having been formed in the winter of 1850.
January saw the band perform a sensational and near faultless contest performance from No.1 draw in the Second Section at the 2020 Butlins Championships over in Skegness on the east coast, such a superb performance that it continues to bewilder me many months of musical inactivity later as to how Eagley Band was not declared the clear and outright winners of that contest. Only weeks later, towards the end of February, the band played outstandingly well again on a very different type and style of test piece to qualify superbly from the Second Section Area contest at the Blackpool Winter Gardens on the opposite west coast, for the National Brass Band Championship Finals of Great Britain, a performance and result which resulted in our promotion up to the First Section and would be our second such promotion in just three years. 2020 certainly began with a great deal of success, excitement and promise for us all at Eagley.
Early March saw us invited to perform at the Mayor of Bolton’s 2020 Gala Charity Ball in the Town Hall which, very happily, we were able to do on what became another fabulous night for the band and myself, but none of us had any idea that this would be literally our first, last and only public concert performance of the year. Because space was limited at this annual, black tie, civic event, our involvement was limited to only fifteen or so principal players plus myself, so it pains me to say that our much-heralded, Eagley Band 170th anniversary year actually saw the band not perform a single full concert at all, none of our planned Victoria Hall sell-out nights could go ahead, nor the reunion meals and very special concert plans either, and none of the many annual bookings the band enjoys, ranging from numerous Christmas engagements to Remembrance Sunday. Our entire year can really be summed up in two sensational contest performances and one superb Mayor’s Charity Ball, but with the post script that we have not actually played together at all, even in smaller groups, since March 16th.
With a number of vaccines now publicly announced, it goes without saying that we all hope 2021 will afford the wider arts the opportunity to return in whatever capacity is possible and all musicians and singers, whether amateur or professional, the opportunity to make music together again. It feels an awfully long time since last December, when band President Gerry Russell and I presented Cornet player Paul Field with the Eagley Band “Bandsman/Person Of The Year” award in front of our obligatory, wonderful, packed Victoria Hall.
On behalf of everyone at Eagley Band I wish everyone the safest and healthiest possible Christmas and New Year, in whatever restricted form they will undoubtedly take for us all, and here’s to being able to play, conduct, entertain and serve our community as we had previously done with such pride, professionalism and unbroken commitment for the past 169 years.
With very best wishes,