Deb Lyons

National Brass Band Championship Finals of Great Britain 2021

by Deb Lyons

Over the weekend of Saturday September 18th and Sunday September 19th, all of us at Eagley Band were really proud to be based at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel down in Cheltenham, having qualified for the 2021 National Brass Band Championship Finals of Great Britain through our excellent North West Area Blackpool result from February 2020 before the Covid pandemic lockdowns of the previous year.

The National Finals weather was scorching for much of the time and a brilliant weekend was enjoyed by all of us, with the opportunity to explore the excellent shops, parks, gardens, eateries and centre of Cheltenham (birthplace of Gustav Holst, composer of The Planets), the opportunity for another excellent band meal together on the Saturday evening, organised to perfection by Janet Walsh, and finally the opportunity to represent the North West in the Second Section of the National Brass Band Championship Finals of 2021 on the Sunday afternoon.

On the day of the contest, Sunday September 19th, everyone in the band was up bright and early and in breakfast by 8.30am. Having checked out of our rooms, we rehearsed in the hotel from 10.30am through to noon, and sounded superb. Our MD Chris was clearly thrilled with the tuning and the standard and the atmosphere within the band was brilliant. After a few, initial early morning nerves, the playing became relaxed and focused and the vibe within the band was electric as we awaited the draw for order of play to take place at 12.30pm.

Our Chair and Band Manager Deb Lyons attended the draw and we were allotted the number 7 for order of play, a really good draw except that it immediately followed the contest favourites who had drawn number 6, and so often this affects the final placings dramatically, as would be the case for us on this occasion regrettably.

We took to the stage at around 4.30pm and at the conclusion of our performance, led brilliantly as always by our Principal Cornet Lynsey Hayes, the audience applauded with considerable enthusiasm. At the half way stage, website Four Bars Rest had Eagley in 2nd place, narrowly behind the predicted winners, and we would remain in 2nd place for the rest of the contest until the very final band of the seventeen able to accept their qualifications and attend. Prior to the announcement of results, the 4BR correspondent had Eagley Band in 3rd Place, predicted to win the £500 prize and 3rd Place trophy. Very sadly for us, and inexplicably in a variety of ways, in the results ceremony at 9pm, Eagley Band wasn’t mentioned or featured in the top 6 placings at all and we were soon to discover that rather than finishing in 3rd place, we were placed third from the bottom, in 15th position. This was clearly a shock to everyone and a very unpleasant and unwelcome one, but that’s contesting! It is doubtful that anyone listening to all seventeen bands in the hall would have placed our performance anywhere near the wrong end of the seventeen or even close to the bottom half, but sadly the only opinions which matter thought so and did exactly that, and our long journey back up the M5 and M6 was a far less enjoyable one than the journey down had been.

Overall, our Cheltenham experience was a really positive and highly enjoyable one, barring the surprise result after the way in which we, and other bands, had played. Due to the imposed national lockdowns, we hadn’t performed together as a full band in public since the Winter Gardens in February 2020 (Blackpool Areas) and after almost twenty months without performing under the pressure of an audience and nerves, everyone gave everything they had on stage. To have achieved such a performance in a matter of weeks from being allowed back to play was a great triumph and a huge thrill for everyone involved to experience.

A Week of Celebration For Our MD’s 60th Birthday!

What a special week it has been for all of us at Eagley Band as we have continued to prepare superbly for the 2021 National Finals in Cheltenham whilst also celebrating the 60th birthday of our MD Chris Wormald!

Before Monday evening’s rehearsal began, the bandroom had been secretly decorated with banners and multi-coloured balloons and Chris was presented with a large bag packed full of presents ranging from hospitality at the 2022 Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone next July to his favourite tea bags, a wide variety of his favourite chocolates and his obligatory Ribena of course! Just before the rehearsal ended we then presented Chris with a surprise cake which we had ordered especially, featuring an all-over icing photo montage from the last five years since Chris returned to conduct, all in Eagley green.

Monday night was also our Bass Trombonist Declan Cullen’s birthday and Chris presented Dec with a card and gifts as he arrived at the bandroom – and what a great rehearsal we had with just four weeks to go to the National Finals. Everyone played brilliantly. Then at rehearsal on Thursday evening it was the turn of our longest serving Cornet player Paul Field (over 30 years with Eagley) to have his birthday on a rehearsal night and once again Chris presented him with a card and gifts on his arrival at the bandroom.

The following evening, on Friday night, the band organised a surprise 60th birthday meal for our MD at Ciao Baby Italian restaurant in Egerton, with 40 seats booked up – and what another fantastic night it was for everyone. Three quarters of the band were able to attend, a number of former players were able to be back with us too, the food and stories were as superb as always and our Baritone player Tina Banks had secretly baked an incredible chocolate cake to bring along and present to Chris, complete with indoor fireworks and some questionable singing by the forty attendees!

The meal out was a great opportunity for everyone to dress up and get together socially again after nearly two years since our last band meal had been possible and it was literally the perfect way to round off a really special week of birthday celebrations for not only Chris but Dec and Paul as well. May they all have many more happy birthdays and years with us at Eagley.

Returning To Full Band & No More Committee Zooms!

by Deb Lyons

After almost 16 months of zoom-only committee meetings and no full band rehearsals being possible or allowed, we have finally held our first committee meeting in person on Sunday evening (July 18th, but outside on a stunning Summer evening) and now, Monday July 19th, we are really looking forward to having our first full Eagley Band rehearsal together since March 2020. It has certainly been a long wait.

Like all bands here in Britain, having not been able to rehearse fully since a year last March, it is really exciting to think that from tonight we are once again able to rehearse as a full band. The downside however, as every Summer in every brass band, is that we now have to contend with many players and their families going away on holiday to all parts of the UK over the next six weeks, so when we announce that “Full band is back from tonight!” it really means we are ‘allowed’ to rehearse again in full but will have to allow for a variety of holidays and any players who maybe forced to self-isolate at some point and not leave their homes!

However, tonight is the night, July 19th 2021, and after many weeks of small sectionals, larger sectionals, parts of upper band only, parts of lower band only, rehearsals only for our four percussionists, then various combinations of the above, tonight we hope to start back as a full band again and really look forward to beginning our preparations for the 2021 National Brass Band Finals of Great Britain in just eight weeks at Cheltenham and becoming a First Section band from January!

Eagley Band To Return To Rehearsing…But In A New Bandroom!

by Deb Lyons

After one year, two months and eight days without playing a single note of music together or, put another way, well over 430 days and 110 full rehearsal band nights lost to the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, we at Eagley Band are finally returning to playing together – albeit only in small groups but in our new bandroom!

It is exactly 50 years since the Eagley Mills closed down in 1971 and ever since that time, Eagley Band (formed in 1850 as Eagley Mills Band) has been trying to find a long term, permanent Bolton home in which to rehearse. Starting with a Cornet sectional followed by many small scale, sectional rehearsals for the best part of a month, at last we are looking forward to making music again and starting to prepare for our long anticipated participation in the 2021 National Brass Band Championships Finals to be held in Cheltenham towards the end of September.

Our new bandroom is situated in Bolton town centre along Institute Street, within the huge masonic building. Completely renovated and redecorated throughout and featuring a brand new, modern central heating system, Eagley Band can finally look forward to being based and rehearsing in one place rather than having to share rehearsal space with another organisation.

This means that our extensive and historic library, together with all of our stage and outdoor uniforms, waterproof coats and marching accessories are now all housed in one place, in adjacent rooms to our main rehearsal space.

Exciting and fun times lie ahead for our music making once again and we can’t wait to ease everyone back in to playing as a full band for the first time from the end of June all being well.

 

Summer 2021 – Preparing For Our Return To Playing (Plus A Little Nostalgia!)

by Deb Lyons

After fifteen months without a single rehearsal (sectional or full), concert, broadcast, recording or even playing a single note in our new bandroom in Bolton town centre, now that pandemic restrictions are being lifted we are finally able to look forward to making music as a band once again. We can’t wait! Due to the global pandemic, almost all of 2020 and the first half of 2021 will have been lost to all of the performing arts of course, both amateur and professional, but as we can now start to think about returning to playing, here is a little nostalgia from 30 years ago!

 

Back in September 1989, Eagley Band appointed a new, young Musical Director, our current MD Chris Wormald. Within months of appointing Chris, Eagley won the 1990 North West Area 3rd Section Contest at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, qualifying for the National Finals to be held in London near to the Championship Section in the Royal Albert Hall, where Chris had already played and conducted by that time. He had also swiftly negotiated sponsorship with Bolton’s VW and Audi dealership too, McMillan’s of Bolton, and so we changed the name of the band for the whole nine years that Chris was our MD. However, in addition to our new contesting successes under the leadership of Chris, he was also very keen to have the band recorded professionally for posterity, and so both 1990 and 1991 (thirty years ago no less!) saw us produce the only professional cassettes in the band’s history!

Cassettes were still very popular as a format throughout the music industry in 1990/1991 although the CD had just been invented. The price of recording on to CD would eventually become realistic and affordable for brass bands, including us at Eagley, but at the time, the challenge for every band was still to record to the best possible standard that it could.

 

The tracks which we recorded at Eagley back in 1990 and 1991 highlight both the changing repertoire which Chris was already bringing to the band as a young, published arranger with Studio Music and others at the time, but also the more traditional too. Some of the tracks recorded in 1990 and 1991 illustrate the changing repertoire; The Champions, A String of Pearls, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Praise My Soul, Mr Jums, Pineapple Poll, Divertimento (1990 Blackpool winning test piece), Deep Harmony, Londonderry Air and Superman were just some on the band’s first cassette.

By 1991, the band’s recorded repertoire included Under The Double Eagle, Die Felsenmuhle, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Prelude 49th Parallel, Someone To Watch Over Me, Fanfare La Peri, Nicaea, Nessun Dorma, Star Trek Next Generation, One Voice, Ruby Tuesday and Toccata In D Minor, plus many more besides.

Comparing these recorded pieces of thirty years ago with those on the band’s subsequent CDs is fascinating and highlights just how far brass band repertoire has come in three decades!

MD’s 2020 Review

by Deb Lyons

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,

Chris Wormald

December 2020

Welcome to the official website of Eagley Band

by Deb Lyons
Eagley Band was established in 1850 and has been performing for audiences in and around Bolton ever since. We are a friendly and social band and always welcome players, whether you’re thinking of coming regularly or just want to come along for a blow.

This website contains comprehensive information about the band – past, present and future – as well as listing all our events and engagements.

Eagley Band is a charity and has been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1181741.

If you would like to book the band please get in touch via our contact page.

SKY ARTS BRASS BAND PROGRAMME FEATURING OUR MD WINS THE BAFTA!

by Deb Lyons

As featured earlier on our website, on June 4th 2020 it had been announced by BAFTA, the British Academy of Film, Television and Arts, that the first programme in the recent Sky Arts “Battle of The Brass Bands” series was nominated for a prestigious 2020 BAFTA award in the ‘Sound-Factual’ category for television craft. The BAFTA Awards are industry leading and, until the pandemic this year, have always been staged in a major London venue such as the Royal Albert Hall, complete with red carpet and hundreds of television stars, presenters, celebrities and magazine photographers, televised every year on BBC1 and with hosts ranging from Stephen Fry and Graham Norton to Joanna Lumley.

The programme has won the BAFTA! In spite of strong competition in the category, it was officially announced on Friday July 17th that the brass band nominated programme featuring our MD Chris Wormald has won. Huge congratulations to all involved! The nominated programme of the Sky Arts brass band series about Whit Friday march contests features Chris not only being interviewed in the television studio retrospectively but also filmed adjudicating on the night of the contests themselves at Greenfield. Chris appears multiple times during the programme, providing insight, comment and context on how the contests work and the specific tasks and requirements of the adjudicators.

For an insight into the making of the Sky Arts BAFTA nominated programme, please click here; https://www.4barsrest.com/news/38289/the-making-of-battle-of-the-brass-bands