More than a century of amateur music-making is a splendid achievement, particularly for a brass band which has always been self-supporting.
Chalford Brass Band, as it was originally known, was formed in 1885 from a group of local musicians who, according to a Stroud Journal reporter, ‘played in capital style and time’. at a village concert on February 12, 1885. There is conflicting historical evidence about the name of the first bandmaster but the late Percy Stratford, who conducted the band for more than 30 years, wrote that Thomas Davis was the first bandmaster.
The band had acquired new uniforms to lead over a thousand Sunday School children on a parade, on June 21, 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The brass players were making their mark at fetes, parades and concerts. Tom Davis was bandmaster until 1916-17 when his brother Ernie took over, staying in the post until Percy Stratford took over in 1925/26.
Times were hard in the 1930s and the players were glad to have a few shillings as their share out of the modest income earned by the band from engagements. The money was shared out equally and odds left over went into the band kitty. The payouts went on until just after the Second World War, around 1950
A regular engagement was the charabanc trip to Birdlip to march to a service in the woods and back to a high tea of ham and salad at the George. In the evening the band would play music on the lawns of the hotel and people would dance. On the way back the band would stop at the Fostons Ash pub. On the coach Percy would lead the singing, invariably “the smoke goes up the chimney just the same …”
The band’s activities had to be put on hold during the Second World War. After the war as players started coming out of the armed services a meeting at Chalford Church Rooms in 1947 decided to continue. George Wear took over as secretary and was to hold the position for 21 years
Ron Wear came along and brought a young Ken and Maurice with him. George’s son Colin also started playing. Gradually numbers increased and by the time of Elizabeth II’s coronation the band was able to lead the local parade.
Percy gradually tried to hand over the reins as he was getting older. Ron Wear, principal cornet,used to help out if Percy was sick. It was a great loss to the band when Ron died from a road accident at Christmas 1954.
Bill Hayward of France Lynch, a long-serving cornet player, took over the baton and taught some the present players. In the mid 1960s he handed over to Ellis Williams. Under Ellis’ direction and with Ken Wear on the principal cornet desk, Chalford’s name started to appear in the contest lists at Minchinhampton, Stroud, Gloucester and Swindon.
In 1970 the band qualified at Bristol for the National Championships in London. James Scott from Bristol took the band in 1971, then the services of a military band director were called on for a short while.
Ken Wear stepped into the breach, and from then on Chalford never looked back, progressing through the ranks from the fourth to the Championship section.
A key factor was Ken’s decision in 1972 to form a junior band – a group of young boys and girls who went on to become once of the best youth bands in the South West region, winning many prizes. Some are still playing today.
The band’s first overseas trip was to Gloucester’s twin town of Gouda in 1980. It was a great success musically and socially, and there was a memorable weekend in Stroud when a hundred players and majorettes from the Pioneer Band, Gouda, made their return visit.
Two new groups within the band, the Brass Monkeys (left) and The Five Piece Artists made their debut at an Old Tyme Musical Hall in Minchinhampton in October 1983. The Brass Monkeys made their own costumes, learned their own arrangements off by heart and worked out movements to go with the music. They were a hit. So too were The Five Piece Artists, a barber shop quintet whose songs and comedy were given a rousing ovation.
The band was in great form when the Centenary was celebrated in 1985, with special events (including the photo call below), the band’s first cassette recording and new uniforms.
Ken Wear was succeeded as musical director by his deputy, Steve Tubb, in 1997. Under Steve’s direction the band has continued to make good press. The senior band was promoted back to the first section from January 2004 and was promoted the Championship section in 2013, but the status was, alas, short-lived. The training band, later changed to the Academy Band, started competing in the fourth section and was promoted to the third section in 2014.
The re-formed Youth Band has performed well in the Nation Youth Brass Band Championships, winning a silver award in 2003 and the prestigious title of National Junior Champions in 2012 and 2016.
The youngest members are trained by the band’s solo horn player, Bev Godwin, who also conducts a very promising Chalford Junior Band.