From 1889 to 2004: A potted History of Pillowell Silver Band
1889 Pillowell Band was founded in 1889. After an initial meeting on February 1st 1889, the first practice was held on 16th February and the first performance on Good Friday of that year playing at the Anniversary Concert at Whitecroft Methodist Church. Income for the first year was 19.2d, 6.7d from carol playing.
1890's Pillowell Band had no official uniform until 1891 when their uniforms were bought for .6d a suit which included a 'PillBox' hat. The Band's nickname at the time was "The Snompers", a term used in recent years to advertise the current band performing at Bavarian Evenings.
The Band entered their first contest at Lydney in 1895, coming second playing the test piece 'Pride of England'. Some members of the early band included Horace Jones, Richard Akers, Richard Willetts, William Amos Smith, Sam Jones on cornet, Charles Thomas, Thomas Watts, Thomas Charles on Tenor Horn, George and Thomas Jones on Baritone, Albert Wintle on Euphonium, Thomas Morse on Trombone, Charles Nelmes, James Adams on Eb Bass, Sam Ellway on Drums, Thomas James Conductor, George Jones Secretary and Charles Nelmes Treasurer.
1897 was an outstanding year for the band with another success at Lydney. The Band had engaged Jerry Holdsworth to conduct them at this contest. First prize was six guineas and an instrument worth eight guineas. The Band had more success at Cinderford where they won the largest prize money ever to be given in the Dean, a grand sum of seventeen guineas.
1900's The Band's original practice room was the old chapel which had closed and was later bought by Pillowell & Yorkley Co-op Society. From the Band's success over the years it was decided to build a band room. Estimates were received and William Lane was given the contract for his price of 0.00 and on May 4th 1903 he was authorised to build a band room of timber and corrugated iron on a site at Captains Green, where the band room stands today.
1910's The first world war depleted the Band's ranks but they still performed in ceremonial parades and raised funds for the comforts of the troops.
1920's After the war the Band regained its strength and in 1926 it was decided to purchase new instruments. They were first used at the Berkley Flower Show.
1930's The band performed at the Alexandra Palace Competition in 1938 and other successes in this decade included winners at Cinderford, Walford, Whitecroft and Ruardean. The Cup won at the Daily Herald Contest at the Alexandra Palace was stored at the Stag Inn all through the War for safety.
1940's More success continued through the 1940's, Pillowell were winners at Ruardean (3 times), Cirencester, Reading and competed with success at Chepstow Castle, Lydney Park, Kerne Bridge, Sharpness and Fairford. In 1945 the Band made one of its biggest achievements in its history by winning the area contest in the third section. At the resulting National Finals competition in London the band took the second prize.
1950's The Band had more success in the area competition at Exeter in 1955. The Band won second prize and at the National Finals in London playing "Three English Pictures", secured the runners-up spot once again, this time under the Baton of Tom Powell. Tom had a close association with the Band for 20 years and was affectionately known as the "Welsh Sousa".
1960's The Band had sadly lapsed by 1964. In 1969 the few young people and ex-bandsmen made their intention known that the Band would be reformed. Mr Don Wintle was elected Chairman and George Evans was elected Secretary. The young people made their first public appearance on Christmas and Boxing Day mornings in 1969 playing carols in the area, raising 10s.
At an event at Drybrook, Mr J A Greenwood, the adjudicator, praised the playing of the new revised Pillowell Band, when they won both March, Stage and Selection. Greenwood felt he would like the men who did much work behind the scenes to receive a special award and this was presented to the Bandmaster and Secretary of Pillowell, Mr F Watkins and Mr K Andrews.
1970's The 70's saw the Band involved in the Sunday concerts at the Rising Sun, Moseley Green. A report from a local paper in 1976 read as follows "From Mood Indigo to Deep Harmony was the range of the concert played by Pillowell Silver Band. This was the second Sunday concert running where crowds were able to gather on the bank outside the picturesque pub. There were several visitors on holiday among the crowd. One of them a Londoner and music lover who said, Its almost inconceivable that a pub could have such a setting and concert like this - well its as good as a Prom!. Pillowell would not claim to emulate Prom Bands like Grimethorpe but the playing on this occasion was of a high standard and was indicative of the new found enthusiasm among the members, including a number of very young members, Ken Willetts conducted a well played programme.
In 1977 Ivor Adams presented Fred Watkins with a tankard to mark his 60 years association with the Band, ten years later, Fred who had joined the band in 1914 was given the band tribute, an unique distinction of their first life member.
It was in March 1979 the rejuvenated band competed at the Stroud Festival bringing back many prizes, they had won the Olympic Cup, three members were awarded individual prizes, Ian Watts being conductor, Ken Willetts was named best instrumentalist of the festival for his solo in the "Berceuse" from Godards "Jocelyn". The adjudicator Earnest Woodhouse of Grimethorpe Colliery Band praised the performance, not only for its technique but also for its musicianship, with Reg Ellis as runner up on Euphonium. It was lovely too for Tracey Gwynne aged 7 and Mark Screen aged 8, to be awarded special prizes.
1980's In the early eighties the Band went through a hard time, through this period Fred Watkins and Alan Beddis put in great effort. Fred had invited the children from the village who attended the local Pillowell and Yorkley primary schools to borrow the instruments and taught them in his shed, the local children included Rachael Akers, Becky Akers, Rachael Morris, Helen Baggus, Steve Matthews, Tracy Willetts, Vicky Thomas, Hayley Norris, Cheryl Norris. Alan Beddis took over the baton and introduced more youngsters to play in the Band, this included Ellis Evans, Rachael Evans, Richard Howley, Robert Halbult, Tracy Halbult, Paul Stratford, Claire Tremain, Lyn Tremain and Margaret Howard.
In 1984 Clive Lewis became Musical Director of the Band and brought a great improvement in the standard of playing in the Band. Clive took the Band to the big city, Paddington Station, above all places for three days of exhibition in connection with the 150th Anniversary celebrations of the GWR. After playing there, the Band were invited to York Station to play as the trains pulled in. This all stemmed from playing at Norchard Steam Centre when the exhibition train visited there.
Clive Lewis and his wife Rosemarie put tremendous effort into furthering the musicianship of the Band's young members. As a result, two young members, Andrew Morris at 16 and Craig Ward at 14 years became Associate Members of the Victoria School of Music
Up to date uniforms for a modern Band with the badge emblem featuring an acorn signifying the Band's belief in the saying, from little acorns, big oak trees grow, was designed by Don Adams, brother of Ivon, the Bands Chairman. Throughout 1989 celebrations took place to mark the centenary of the Band.
1990's With Clive Lewis at the helm and with his expertise with the younger players, his work with the Band paid off and an active and successful band re-emerged at Pillowell. In the area contest at Bristol in 1990 the Band gained third place and qualified for the National Finals in London in the third section. Along the way the Band competed in the Pontin's National Championships at Prestatyn. These achievements saw the Band rise from the 4th section to the second section where the Band gained first prize at Weston in the Second Section in 1992.
Sadly, life member Fred Watkins, known as 'Tedder' died at the age of 88. He started playing in the Band at the age of nine, down the years he played cornet, bass and many instruments, as well as conducting when the need arose. As mentioned earlier Fred continued to tutor youngsters when the Band was at a very low ebb. He continued to play in the Band until the age of 82.
In 1994 the Band engaged a professional conductor, Nigel Seaman, a professional tuba player with the Welsh National Orchestra and conductor/tutor with many Welsh Bands. This in a way reflects the Band's close association with another Welshman, Tom Powell. The Band earned 6th place in the second section at the West of England Area Finals, held at Plymouth.
The Band started its own fete in 1995 on Captain's Green, this was seen as an opportunity to meet and play to the people of the village. The following year the Band was awarded 000 towards the last phase of an instrument procurement programme. This grant was the culmination of a years hard work by the band, and chairman Graham Ward. 1999 saw the Band enter their last year competing in the second section.
2000's The turn of the millennium saw the band return to the third section. The Band at this time had depleted in size due to many youngsters within the band reaching university age and more experienced members joining other local bands.
2002 saw the band compete again in the fourth section. This is where the band started to build its strength once again, local band members rejoined and the youth section started to thrive once again. The band had an encouraging area result and continued to re-build through this year on a mixture of youth and experience.
2003 In 2003 the band took part in many contests, the first being the GBBA Entertainment Contest at Five Acres, where the Band won their section and were placed third overall with all bands competing. Sadly not long after this event, a stalwart of the Band, Bass Trombonist Mr Gordon Ambury passed away.
The Band competed again at the Regional Finals in Torquay under the baton of Mr Brian Howard on the test piece Lydian Pictures and were placed 9th in a field of 27 bands. In May of that year the Band entered the Weston Contest and were awarded first prize on their own-choice test piece Dimensions where Principal Cornet Kate Smith also picked up the Soloist Prize for the Section.
The Band also competed at the Wychavon Entertainments Contest and were placed fifth and the Pontin's Contest at Prestatyn where the band were placed tenth on the test piece The Four Seasons. This year saw the Band make big progress in their contest work by performing Morning Rhapsody by Eric Ball on the contest stage and were awarded with the best March prize at the GBBA Contest.
2004 The Band ended the year as they started (in style) by winning the GBBA Own Choice Contest at Five Acres by 4 points. Dennis Wilby adjudicating congratulated Pillowell on a musical and stylistic performance of Darrol Barry's Divertimento for Brass, in which he commented that the soloists played with style and class. Kate Smith Principal Cornet, won soloist of the section. This contest concluded the Band's finest year of results which started with a second place in the GBBA Entertainments Contest in February closely followed in March with the band being crowned West of England Champions (Fourth Section) on Edward Gregson's Partita. This was followed by a first prize at the Weston Contest in May. In September the Band made the long trip North to Harrogate to perform The Four Noble Truths by Philip Sparke. The Band were placed second, narrowly beaten by one point for the title and promotion to the third section.
Later in the month the band entered the Wychavon Entertainment Contest and were placed fourth. Steve Ruck won soloist in section with what Goff Richards the adjudicator described as an outstanding performance of 'On with the Motley' on his Soprano Cornet.
The band's current Musical Director Ian Whitburn took up the challenge of rebuilding a keen but depleted band in 2011, shown below playing at the Gloucestershire Brass Band Association (GBBA) Centenary Celebrations in 2011.
After a few years of building the band success finally came in 2014 when the won the 4th section or the GBBA Entertainment Contest and then went on to beat local welsh bands to win the 4th section of the Miners welfare Entertainment Contest in Porthcawl. This was followed by a clean sweep of 5 trophies when they won the 4th Section of the GBBA March and Test Piece Contest at Ross on Wye during which the adjudicator Paull Holland wrote "it's time to put my pen down and listen" during their perfomance of Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov and the Barnard Castle March by Goff Richards. The band went to West of England Chamnpionships in Torquay in March of 2015 and were crowned Champions in a very large 4th section for only the 4th time in their history giving an extremely musical performance of An English Pastorale by Dean Jones. A few months later the band were placed secend in the annual contest at Weston Super Mare. Following the success in Torquay the band were invited as West of England Champions to take part in the National Finals at Torquay playing against over 20 bands from towns and cities around the UK finishing in a creditable 8th place. Since then the band has been promoted to the 3rd section nationally where they look to consolidate their position.
Outside of the contest scene the band have grown in popularity and continue to play at venues accross the Forest of Dean including the newly opened Scarr Bandstand and an appearance at the Coleford Music Festival as well as at bandstands in Ross on Wye and Malvern. In 2018 the band was proud to accept an invite to play at the Pershore Midsummer Brass Festival sharing the stage with many top bands from the Midlands and beyond. Also in 2018 the band played on a video celebrating 30 years of BBC Gloucesterhire with celebrities from around the county including the Bishop of Gloucester, Eddie the Eagle and others singing "It Aint Heavy" with the band filmed playing on the train at Dean Forest Railway. The band ended 2018 with three concerts to packed houses in Whitecroft, Sling and Yorkley.