A Biography - By E. W. Kimber (1975)

When I first joined the Tadley Band in the year 1911, I could not of course, foresee that I would still be a playing member sixty-four years later and be asked to compile these notes on the occasion of the Band's Centenary. It is so, however, and I look back on a satisfying recreation that has lasted a lifetime.

In my young days, brass bands were not regarded as serious musical combinations as they are today. The music available to them was restricted to arrangements of selections from the operas and simple original compositions, and their appeal was very limited. Thanks to the contribution of works by the foremost composers of the day and the participation by eminent conductors in band festivals and other important performances, and also to the means of reaching a far wider audience through radio and recordings, the brass band is now accepted as playing an important role in the world of contemporary music. This was confirmed recently when two of our leading bands made their successful debut at one of the world-famous London Promenade Concerts.

Whilst the Tadley Band cannot hope to aspire to such eminence it has provided its members with a worthwhile recreation and the public with entertainment and service for one hundred years: a notable achievement by any standards.

A band existed in Tadley for some years before the present one was formed. The leaders of that organisation were the Saunders family, and it is interesting to note that one of that family, Mr. Gordon Saunders, A.C.R.M. Is our present Musical Director.

Like many other brass bands, the Tadley Band came into being in connection with the mission work of the Non-conformist churches in the latter half of the last century. It had been the practice in many churches and chapels for the singing to be led by a fiddle or clarinet and sometimes a small combination of stringed and reed instruments. Such was the case at the Old Meeting House at Tadley where the musicians used to perform in the gallery.

There is no written evidence relating to the formation of the Band but from research I carried out some years ago and from questioning older residents. 1 was able to fix the year 1875 as when a brass band was formed from the musicians of the Old Meeting House at the nearby Methodist Chapel.

For many years, activities were strictly confined to religious work. On Sundays, open-air services were led by the Band in the same way as the Salvation Army do today. The Band would then parade to a point at Tadley Hill where they dispersed and the members would proceed to services at their respective places of worship.

The earliest record 1 have of the personnel of the Band is dated 1886 when the membership was as follows: Cornets - Thomas Lambden. Bert Rampton and Albert Jacobs: Horn - Ted Giles: Euphonium - G. Saunders: Bass - Waiter Saunders: Side Drum - G Appleton: and Bass Drum - George Giles.

Conditions in those days were very different from today and many facilities we now take for granted did not exist. After a six-day working week, those founder members of the Band walked miles to attend parades and often marched the dusty gravel roads all day to assist the funds of local hospitals. They had to be within walking distance of the band-room as they had no cars, there was no public transport and few of them could even afford bicycles.

So, we pay tribute to their memory. We are grateful for the example they set and, although we may have improved on their musical standard their spirit of dedication remains unsurpassed.

Around the turn of the century the Band had become attached to The Main Road Methodist Church, and this continued until the late thirties when accommodation for practice was found at Tadley Old Meeting House. Later, a converted barn at Knapp Lane was used as a band room and when this was demolished in the course of new housing development the officials of the Methodist Church again placed their schooiroom at our disposal, and this remains the headquarters. It is an invaluable asset and its free availability is much appreciated.

Just before the 1914-18 War, steps were taken towards the attainment of a more efficient musical standard and under the leadership of Mr. David Norris, the Band attended its first contest at Shaw, Newbury on the 3rd August, 1914, They did not reach the prizes but the adjudicator, Mr. James Brier, said in his remarks: "Here is a band of promise" and just how well that promise has been fulfilled can be seen in the long list of prizes won since. incidentally, this was the first contest the writer attended as a player, and 1 was very pleased to return with the Band to a contest at Shaw fifty-nine years later when we won first prize for a thirty-minute programme. it was also the first occasion on which they travelled by motor vehicle-Mr. W. Kent's first bus. We still use Kent's coaches for engagements involving long journeys, and Mr. Kent's sons Messes. Arthur and John Kent, are keen supporters and Vice Presidents of the Band.

War was to be declared on the day after that first contest at Shaw and whilst it was remote and did not interfere with social life as did the last one, a number of bandsmen were called to the Forces and further progress was delayed.

Following the dislocation caused by the war, a complete reorganisation was carried out in 1920 and from then the normal scope of engagements was undertaken, in that year a contest was promoted at Basingstoke. Tadley entered but were beaten by the newly- formed Silchester Band and this started a local rivalry that was to do much to improve the standard of both bands.

Mr John Lambden was now Bandmaster, and it was my pleasure to serve as Secretary with him over the next twenty-five years.

In 1922, Mr. Theodore Johnson--who for some years had toured the music halls with a family band act known as "The Bramusas"-- offered to give the Band lessons and his offer was accepted. He was an accomplished musician and conductor and soon effected an improvement in the Band's playing, the result of which started the prize- winning trend which has been maintained ever since. Mr. Johnson's untimely death in 1926 at the age of 36 was, indeed, a bitter blow.

In 1923, a new set of instruments was purchased at a cost of 410 This, of course, had a good effect, for however good the player he (or she, in these days) cannot give of their best with an indifferent instrument. Such a set today would cost over 7,000.

Such progress had been made under the guidance of Mr Johnson that it was evident that, if it was to continue, expert tuition was essential and, accordingly, Mr, Charles Baker, of Swindon, was appointed as professional teacher in 1927. He stayed in that capacity until 1929 and, in 1930, the services of one of the foremost brass band trainers in the country were secured with the appointment of Mr Joseph Dyson. His wide experience as conductor to some of the top line bands in contesting, broadcasting and recording was well known in the band world and it was fortunate that he had lately come to London from Yorkshire to carry on his work as a teacher and so was within easy travelling distance. He was, indeed, a master of technique and with his skilful tuition and the co-operation of John Lambden, the Band were welded into a team and progress was notable and consistent.

War was again to preclude further progress, however, and no fewer than sixteen of those who were members in September, 1939, were called for service in HM. Forces.

This, and the difficult conditions of travel, etc., caused a temporary break in activities. As soon as practicable, those who were left got together to keep the flag flying and to train young players.

A few engagements were carried out and the Band provided the music for Sunday evening services at the U S Air Force Chapel, which is now the Tadley Community Centre.

Two members made the supreme sacrifice They were A/B Stanley Bowman, R.N., who was lost while serving with the Channel patrol service, and Fit.-Sgt. Brian West, who was shot down over enemy territory whist engaged in bombing operations.

After VE Day, members began to trickle back from the Forces and a fresh start was made, but a tragic blow to hopes of regaining the pre- war standard came with Mr. Dyson's death at the end of 1945, and this was followed in April, 1946, by the sudden death of Mr John Lambden. "Johnnie" had lived for the Band, no sacrifice was too great for him and his memory will be treasured by all who knew him. 1 combined the posts as Bandmaster and Secretary until Mr Gideon West was appointed as Bandmaster in 1947, He had been a life-long member and he served as Bandmaster for the next seventeen years with distinction.

Mr George Turner, who had formerly been Deputy Conductor of the famous St, Hilda's Colliery Band, was appointed as professional coach and under his direction the Band regained its prize-winning form. Mr Turner passed away in 1955 and no professional teacher was appointed to succeed him but, under the capable leadership of Gideon West, progress continued to be made and one of their greatest achievements came in 1962 when, under his baton, they won the National Third Section Championship in London. Tadley had qualified to take part in the Championships by winning the Southern Area Championship.

Those competing in the final contest were the first three prize winners in the eight areas of Great Britain, and some 160 bands had taken part.

Mr West retired in 1964 and was succeeded by Mr Jack Clark who served the Band well until the appointment of Mr Gordon Saunders in 1968. A native of Tadley, he is Band Sergeant Major of the Royal Military Academy Staff Band at Sandhurst. Trained at the Kneller Hall School of Music, he is a skilled musician and teacher and under his enthusiastic leadership the Band have reached the area championship class. He is also a skilled arranger and his arrangements of contemporary music in the modern idiom have added much to the scope of the Band's repertoire and public popularity.

As with ail amateur organisations much depends on the keenness of the officers and in Mr. Ron Baker. the present Secretary, the Band are fortunate in having one who is prepared to spend most of his spare time attending to the considerable amount of work involved.

Space will not permit mention of many other members past and present who have rendered sterling service in bringing the Band to its hundredth anniversary, but they can take pride in having played a part m this achievement.

I have said nothing of the numerous engagements fulfilled by the Band. These include indoor and outdoor concerts for municipal and other bodies over a wide area, and it has always been the policy to give free performances for charitable and social causes.

The brass band is an amateur organisation and, in the absence of financial reward, the spur to better performance is in competition. Tadley have been regular contestors for many years and, without question, it has been the competitive spirit and the intensive rehearsals necessary in preparing for contests that has resulted in the present high standard of performance. Fees from engagements do not provide sufficient funds to keep the Band going and we rely very much on public support.

This has always been forthcoming and last year the sum of 2,850 was subscribed through appeals and special efforts to enable us to purchase a number of new instruments to replace some which had been in constant use for over fifty years.

No story of the Tadley Band would be complete without reference to our junior section. it has always been the practice to train young players, and our class of learners now numbers about thirty boys and girls. Members of the Band give tuition free, instruments are provided by the Band, and to help us purchase a number of additional instruments needed we recently received a most welcome grant of 400 from the Four Lanes Trust. This Trust was formed through the generosity of Mr. Christopher Makins of the British Embassy staff in Washington to encourage social and educational activities in this area, and we take this opportunity of expressing our sincere appreciation for the grant.

The Tadley Band has provided its members with a worthwhile recreation and the public with musical entertainment for one hundred years and this, with our efforts in the cause of youth, we feel merits the combined support of our many friends.

E.W. Kimber (1975)

This page was last modified on 28 May 2016