It's home time

Well, it's the final blog of our series, and as always the final say goes to the conductor (sshh Kezza).

I am Dave Bremner, the bands music director, and if you believe past blogs, I am the tyrannical dictator who picks constantly on Mark Davey and Tom Baker (some of this may be true).

The tour has come to an end, but it only feels like yesterday we were getting off the plane in Manchester ready for the challenge of our lives.

10 days later we disperse as a group, feeling very proud and satisfied of the week in the UK and our performance on Saturday.

There is always an unwritten rule about trips abroad 'what goes on tour, stays on tour' but I can tell you a few things about our week over here, as most of the band will be on a plane when this is posted and will have no rebuttal.

Let's start with a few awards...

The Mother Theresa award for most conscientious on tour goes to - Jack Beweley - no brainer really.

The Salvador Dali award for art installation goes to - Callum Mallet for redecorating his bathroom.

The David Di Somma award for best media goes to - Pat Di Somma for his blog - absolutely brilliant!

The Dumb and Dumber award for most forgetful goes to - Toby Pringle - Well done Toby, you pretty much forgot everything on this tour - hope the monkeys got back ok

The Blanket Man award for the person taking only one set of clothing for the whole tour goes to - Mark Davey - God help the person sitting next to him on the flight home...

The Stevie Wonder award for the person thinking they didn't need music on this tour goes to - James Sutherland - forgot his music and was seen still furiously cutting and pasting the night before the Open.

And the The Father Ted award for public speaking - Luke Spence - shocker dude. 

In all seriousness though, for those of you that have never been to the Open, it's hard to put into words the emotion and hype of the day. It really is the most incredible day in banding. From the draw through to getting on stage, and the performance, it's a day I will never forget.

Finally, I would like to address the band directly.

Music is about people, and it's about the experience of making music with those people. You have been wonderful ambassadors for the arts in NZ - humble, hardworking, and proud. I will never forget that performance, for me it was a moment I didn't want to end, being on that stage with my friends and hearing the sound you filled the hall with made me a very proud kiwi and Wellington bandy.

Be proud of the hard work you put in, you are all champions in my book.

We were so lucky to have the most wonderful support from our touring party. Family and friends that came to be part of this tour, and made us feel at home. To see you all at the end of the performance standing with your kiwi flags was a moment that makes us realise how powerful music can be, and how lucky we are to have this opportunity.

Thank you to all that have supported the band over the past year, and thanks to those who have read these blogs. We have loved writing them and hope you have enjoyed them.

It's onwards and upwards for Wellington Brass, we are fizzing to get home and into the next contest... In the words of Pat Di Somma (aka Puggs) "mate, there were some big rig bands over here, but we stepped up. Represent Welly! Wait, was there a bass trombone solo award?"

Thanks for all your support, we had a blast. I took a few selfies for you all.

Regards

Dave

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The Morning After The Night Before

Greetings intrepid followers. Garth Coffey, 1st horn chugger and one of the elder statesmen of the band, here to enliven you on our last full day in Birmingham.

No doubt many of you have checked out the final results of the championship yesterday. Despite our obvious disappointment at our finals placing, the sun still rose this morning and after a night of celebration we firmly stand with our heads held high proud of what we have achieved on this tour. The effervescent (read fizziness) levels have not diminished even though the heads of some of the band members and supporters this morning were about as grey and foggy as a typical English day.

To walk onto the Symphony Hall stage to a full audience and play a piece of music that will forever be engrained in our minds is a dream come true and for some of us never likely to be repeated. Our performance was, from my perspective, the best we had performed and one we were very proud to have our name associated with. The fact the judges did not quite see it the same way is immaterial.

If want to pretend you were sitting in Symphony Hall then click on the following link and enjoy our performance.

We have certainly been well received here by everyone. A couple of us had the privilege of socialising with players from the top placing bands, many who's faces I had only seen on YouTube clips so to meet them was personal highlight. They were very complimentary of our bands performance and were very grateful for us attending and were great company to boot.


This afternoon we had the privilege of sitting back and being entertained by three of the UK's top brass bands (one of which we placed higher at the Open) at the Gala Concert held again at Symphony Hall. The standard of playing was outstanding and we were captivated for over 3 hours of brass banding heaven, complete with a guest appearances by Yoda. It certainly gave an insight into how high the standard of playing in this country is and reinforces the knowledge that we can hold our own in this company.

Finally tonight we concluded our official tour with a band dinner at Jamie's Italian. A request was made some weeks ago to get Jamie Oliver along on the basis that he did not open his restaurant in Wellington so we decided to go to his place in Birmingham. Unfortunately due to the filming of a new TV series along with becoming a new father Jamie was unable to attend. Despite the lack of a celebrity attendance we had a great night with great food.

Tomorrow we say farewell to each other with about two thirds staying on to continue their own private adventure through the UK and Europe. It will be hard to say goodbye to everyone as it will mark the end of this chapter in the bands history. The hard work both in the practice room and in fundraising for this epic journey has been worth every bead of sweat and at times tears. Once again we acknowledge and salute the support of our loved ones, our supporters and friends both old and new (shoutout to our Dobcross followers) who have been a significant part in getting us here, and hopefully, home. There have been so many highlights in the short time we have been here, perhaps ignoring our Rugby tour guide, which reinforces the fact this truly has been the trip of a lifetime. Yes we are still fizzing and yes this has been one of the greatest moments in our collective lives.

On a personal level this trip has taught me many things. Firstly, we are part of a great world wide family who enjoy making and listening to awesome music. It has also widened my appreciation of what a group of musicians can achieve when they work collectively together. We had numerous challenges in getting here but by staying focused we have climbed a very large and steep hill. To paraphrase an iconic New Zealander, we nearly knocked the bastard off. We certainly gave the bastard a fright!

Game On!

Good evening/morning dedicated followers of Wellington Brass. Callum Mallett, Chief Blog Editor and Principal 2nd Horn giving you the usual daily offering of tour gossip, assortment of banter and woeful tales from Mark Davey.

Today of course is game day and its fair to say emotions haven’t dwindled since Jack Bewley's famous words at the beginning, we are “absolutely fizzing mate, revelling in it.” An early start, the 7am alarm sounding the day to Mark’s delight after being incarcerated the evening before in a bleak courthouse session from Brother Byron (Buzz).

Like any contest performance the band ran through some of our most loved hymns, Toby had remembered his music, the anxious wait on the order of playing was lessened with with motivational speeches out of the way- any draw is a good draw. Of course we were very satisfied with our spot as band 18, equally so our supporters back home could catch up on the action at the reasonable hour of 4am! With formalities out of the way, we were left to relax, for some a decision had to be made, listening to the first performances of the day or watch the AB’s. With appetite lost to the sport following Mr. Sweeny’s tiresome account of Rugby, the band ventured off to brass band heaven at Symphony Hall.

4 bands later, and 4 analysis’s of the soprano cornet and bass trombones final note it was time for coffee. Having avoided the UK’s “coffee” establishments as a self professed snob for the drink, the beverage was of a high enough standard to set the day in good stead, the cafe having real hipsters that could have only been imported from Wellington, only left a well meaning thought for our performance later that day.

It was back to the hotel, Mark Davey snug in bed to tired of spinning yarns. We were off again on part II of our adventure this time the British Open stage was in our sights and if there were words to describe our excitement beyond absolutely fizzing I'd use them.

In sheer excitement, revelling after a performance I'll never forget and in anticipation of the night to come, I've written this before the results.

I will say, Beer in hand we were all absolutely chuffed to have this opportunity. Thank you to all our supporters, back in Wellington, within NZ, Australia and around the world.

I'm off to the pub. In the words of Brad "this will be the best day of my life"

Finally a good coffee! 

Finally a good coffee! 

Waiting on the results

Waiting on the results

On the big stage! 

On the big stage! 

Pre Match Day!

Kia ora loyal viewers. Luke Spence here, aka "Beaker". I was lucky enough to join the band in 2014 after moving from Whakatane to study the Euphonium.

I am currently the Principal 1st Bb Baritone player and section leader of the Eupho/Bari section During my time on this tour it really has been a privilege opening my case to find the beautiful sight of the Bb Baritone waiting for me! It has also been interesting to note the constant baritone chat being circulated amongst the band members. Including one "Jonny Momo" who quoted, "I wish I could play that amazing Baritone part".

If somebody told me that in my 3rd year of study I would be sitting on the Birmingham Symphony Hall stage gearing up to play in the British Open, I would have told them to stop spinning a yarn. Now as I sit in my room, (Beer in 1 hand) I find myself absolutely fizzing only a day away from fulfilling one of my life long dreams! As a self confessed Brass Band geek I have no shame in admitting that the highlight of this entire trip for me will be those 18 minutes on stage! It has been an incredible journey to arrive at this moment. The sheer fact that we made it to England is an achievement in itself, especially when you consider the incredible amount of fundraising we have done! I think this group of musicians have a great deal to be proud of, not only are they all great musicians, they are all great people.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every person from NZ who has sent us messages of support! I have been absolutely revelling in it. The band has read every single one of your messages and it really makes us feel like we have the whole banding community behind us. Nz banding is a pretty tight bunch and It has been really cool to see so much support for us during our time in the UK! I would also like to make a shout out to the EBOP brass, you guys are awesome! All of your kind words have been so overwhelming, (especially mother dearest). I would also like to once again thank the people of Dobcross for their incredible hospitality. From the moment we arrived everybody felt so at home. In the words of Sir Riki McDonnell, it really was "sensational".

Today we were lucky enough to visit the Symphony Hall which we will perform on very soon. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it! The size of the room was rather overwhelming, but I think it can only be a good thing for the band to experience before heading on stage. We were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the hall by our British Open stalwart Byron Newton. Inspired by the work of Mr Sweeney from our tour of Rugby, Byron expressed a great deal of passion for his surroundings but lacked the stories to add that little bit extra. An integral moment of our tour of Symphony Hall was the continued progression of Brad Mancer's quest for excellence. Bradley decided that his goal in England was to "Drop the kids off at the pool" as they say, in every possible location. Today he was extremely successful, not only did the aroma travel far and wide, he was also 15 minutes late to the tour of the great hall.

Some of the more experienced members of the band then spoke to us about there experiences playing in the British Open. This was a great idea for those of us not really familiar with just how intense this competition can be. These band members were Byron Newton, Riki McDonnell, Mike Ford and Phil Johnston. It is always fantastic to listen to these guys, real superstars of NZ Banding. I have always been amazed at how calm and relaxed these guys play under pressure, for such a young band this was great advice.

The fine night also provided a lot of laughs. Josh Rogan was fined for cleaning up the remaining toilet paper. Toby for trying to juice an apple. Tommy sacking himself from a low Db. About 5 different people admitted to bullying sister Mark Davey on a regular basis. But the fine of the night has to go to Jack Bewley for admitting to having a Fanny pack! And with that we all had a hot cup of tea and whistled off to bed by order of Chief Commander David Bremner!

Tomorrow is the big day, time to sleep and pray that we don't draw number 1! I personally can't wait and I know everybody else feels the same! If you want to geek out you can follow the live comments via 4 bars rest. Arohanui to everybody back home

Chur

Jack and his lady's

Jack and his lady's

Fine Night

Fine Night

WAG's Tee shirt on display

WAG's Tee shirt on display

Rugby, Curry and Band Practice

Hi everyone. It's Matt Stein here - lip trill apprentice and king of the 3 finger shuffle. I was a part of the Wellington junior band back in the day and now and, after a bit of a hiatus, have been playing with the band since 2011. I'm part of the solo cornet section where all the real work is done. We cop a regular bollocking from our tyrannical MD but we know he only does it because he's jealous we play the most superior instrument. 

After getting back to the ranch at around 1am we set off this morning at the leisurely time of 10am. First stop was the Desford bandroom for our last rehearsal there. It was just a light blow polishing up a few terry tuckers and adding a touch of debonair as we ease off towards the big day. There was time for one last visit to the local Morrisons supermarket for a feed and then we were off to our next stop - Rugby. 

After a walk through the traditional English town of Rugby we kicked on with tackling the tour of Rugby School where the great game began. We were led by a classic lad, Mr Sweeney, with plenty of yarns. He led us on a very educational and informative tour about the history of the game of Rugby and the grand old school which is one of the oldest in England. After Mr Sweeney told his final story we moved on to the part of the day everyone was looking forward to - another curry night. 

It was another spectacular meal and a great time to enjoy hanging out as a group without any music in front of us. It turns out the British don't use much modern technology at restaurants. Even with our seemingly simple option of a set prices banquet we managed to get the curry house into a fluster with extra poppadoms, bevvies and the odd dessert. 

Time to head back 'home' to the hotel for a good nights rest. Less that 48hrs to go. The countdown is on. 

Matt #fizzingmate

Pat's patriotic boxer shorts. Wheres the pants?

Pat's patriotic boxer shorts. Wheres the pants?

Checking out part of Rugby School. Very Posh

Checking out part of Rugby School. Very Posh

Scrum on the Rugby School field. Kieran 'big man' Smith as hooker. 

Scrum on the Rugby School field. Kieran 'big man' Smith as hooker. 

On Tour!

Hi all, I'm Scott and I welcome you to the next installment of this fizzing blog series. Along with James (aka Champ) I'm also a member of the engine room, however, I operate far superior machinery in the form of the Eb Bass. My back story is that I transitioned from the Wellington Youth Brass Band into Wellington Brass when it re-entered the A Grade in 2009.

We are now bang smack in the middle of our UK band tour and it has been a very busy day. We started off the day with an exclusive brass banding feature being aired live on TV3's nightly Story programme - which featured some nice little intimate close up interviews with our own Buzz Newton and Mark Davey.

Next on the agenda, for the football fanatics scattered throughout the band, some excitement was had as we dribbled (Mark in more ways than one) through a tour of Manchester United's stomping ground (the 76,000 capacity Old Trafford stadium). Before the tour began we ventured into a museum filled to the brim with Manchester United paraphernalia, including rooms fully lined with glorious trophies and others draped with various forms of football attire - which interestingly featured the English football god's (Wayne Rooney) old moonboot.

Getting back to the tour of Old Trafford, we were lead through various awe-inspiring crowd stalls, the home and the away team changing rooms, and also the prime seats of the coaching staff. There was a 'getting hit in the feels' moment indeed when during the tour the guide explained that the prices to get into a football game nowadays were becoming out of reach for the common man/woman (they average out to be about 50£ per game). Also of concern to the guide was the fact that the football stars are receiving grossly out of control wages and becoming increasingly out of touch with thw fans. However, don't worry too much loyal readers - Wellington Brass would never dream of inflicting this harsh reality upon our own supporters, in particular it's WAGs (our equivalent of the 1960s and '70s football hooligans). Anyway the tour was a great experience for all - even the ones who couldn't even name a member of the Manchester United team before the today!

Next on the days list of events was a visit to the classicly English settlement of Dobcross for a mock Whit Friday march and also a concert performance. Upon arrival we suddenly became entrapped down the narrow main street for an extended period of time. Once successfully out of this complex traffic complication, we consumed a quick local brew at the quaint little town pub and then had a quick topping and tailing rehearsal at the Dobcross Band and Social Club. At 6.30pm the band set off from the Club wearing our new walking out ties. We marched through the town until we ended up in Dobcross' main green space and from here, we took up band formation and played through a march in Whit Friday style. The crowd turnout for this in such a small town was really fantastic.

At 7pm we performed our concert to a completely packed out crowd at the Dobcross Club kitted out inour new Wellington Brass getup. It was a different experience for many of us, especially considering that the venue had a fully operational bar (throughout the entire concert) literally 1 metre in front of the trombone section!

One of the highlights of the concert was having composer Peter Graham conduct Hine e Hine. Such a treat for the band to have this iconic composer lead the band. 

Once the concert had finished we were treated to some classic English pie delicacies (cheese and onion, and steak and potato) and some more beer. It was great to meet Black Dykes conductor Nick Child's who popped in for a pint with us. 

It's now 11pm and we are heading off for the trek back home to Birmingham! Estimated arrival time: 1am. Cheers and stay tuned to the next blog tomorrow!

Scott

Luke enjoys a Pint at Dobcross

Luke enjoys a Pint at Dobcross

Football fans

Football fans

Off to the pub!

Off to the pub!

NZ flag sets the scene

NZ flag sets the scene

Some of the band with Nick Child's and Phil Goodwin from Black Dyke

Some of the band with Nick Child's and Phil Goodwin from Black Dyke

Peter Graham conducting the band in rehearsal

Peter Graham conducting the band in rehearsal

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Hi, James Sutherland here, or for those in the know, Champ. I'm part of the unsung heroes (basses) that make up the engine room, currently on Bb Bass. I’m the longest current serving member of the senior band (14 years) and now a life member at the tender age of 29, which makes me wonder if the band is telling me my time is nearly up…..

Being in the band so long, I am one of a few that have seen our illustrious Musical Director Dave's full reign of the band. All the way from his first rehearsal with a very green band, through to this current rehearsal on the other side of the world. It's interesting to see the development over the time with the whip cracking and expectation from our leader increasing with every year and contest that passes.  With this current build up to the Open, sitting near the back of the band, I have enjoyed watching the torment our leader has inflicted on the cornet section being put through their double tongueing paces near the start of Triumph. It's like a Sergeant in the army, breaking down his recruits until they can take no more. Or on the other side seeing Mark Davey on trombone getting a one on one lesson in the middle of rehearsal with our leader on how to play his solo (or at least how to count to three). We all however have been victim of the dreaded metronome. The object of fear, blasting away in the background of rehearsals while trying to play fistfuls of notes, no one has been left unscathed. Thankfully he forgot to pack it for use on this trip.

As part of the preparation, the band finally did what was the secondary (some may think primary) objective of coming all the way to Birmingham to do. Have a curry. 
Ever since I can remember, curries have been a staple of the Wellington Brass contest week. Over the years there have been many incidents with this tradition. From curries that are too hot for individuals to handle, people being hangry when their order takes too long to arrive, utter confusion of what people actually ordered, to settling the bill correctly (you don't want to be last in line to pay). This curry was no different, however it started with a twist on the half hour walk to the curry house. Walking through the 'scenic' parts of Birmingham, a local in a car decided he wanted to cut the traffic out of the equation in order to stop the cops catching him. He or she decided the footpath we were walking on would be ideal for evading the cops but did require a couple of us to swerve out of the way, myself included to give them a clear path. Thank goodness I've been skipping for the last year as it may have ended differently. The car thankfully pulled back on the road just before almost colliding with the main group that were 50m up ahead. Once settled at the curry house, there was much to talk about, but for Byron and I, we had a challenge of having a banquet for four, between the two of us. We had a good start, polishing off the starters with ease, but when we saw the naan breads come out for the young guys Dom, Callum, Pat, John, Toby and Kip had we started to doubt our eating abilities. Their naan's are the biggest I've ever seen, being even larger than Kieran. Thankfully however our portions were more realistic and after some determination and perseverance (and a mysterious trip for Byron to go to the bathroom to make more room), we achieved our goal. Another highlight was paying for the meal, with vigorous discussions about how to pay. Many had to be patient (some managed to get a nap in) before it was their turn to settle their bill.

There is however always two things guaranteed at any band curry and this was no exception, an inspirational speech from Mark Davey (although I feel like he has used the same awe inspiring speech more than once), and secondly the smelly next day rehearsals. Considering what was eaten, the Desford Band may not appreciate the aromas that will be wafting in their small rehearsal room which don't have windows to air.

So we are on the finaI push, the home straight with only a few days to go. We are "absolutely fizzing". It’s quite strange from my perspective about preparation for this up coming moment in time. 10 years of dreaming, hoping, a year to plan, months of preparation, countless fundraisers, a week long trip away, all for one day where we leave it all out on display for 18 minutes. Like others I think what I will take out of this the most is the journey. To do this with a great bunch of people reminds you why you do this. To try not only to play the best for yourself, but the best for them as you have been through this together.

Lastly to help with our motivation we have received some tremendous support from fellow members in the banding community and this morning have received a gem from Guy Cleverley and Jennie McInnis. Thanks for the inspiration, the band enjoyed it and can’t stop playing it on the bus.

Never to much curry

Never to much curry

Mark's cooking attire

Mark's cooking attire

All aboard the Bedford to Desford

Hi all! Leighton (assistant to the Principal 3rd cornet) reporting (pint in hand) from Desford Colliery band room in Coalville where we have just finished our first day of rehearsal and uniform fitting with the full British Open band.

Today was the first time we have played with bass players Phil Johnston and John Mason who have been entertaining the crowds of Europe for the last 8 weeks so it's great to have them here with us. Matt Stein and Dori Raphael have also rejoined us. It's fair to say we didn't put our best foot forward a week and several thousand miles from our last rehearsal, but the maestro was patient(ish) and after blowing some serious cobwebs from the instruments we came back firing after lunch, and 2nd time lucky (what's a bar between friends Callum? Better now than on stage) had a great run through of Triumph. We will be spending the week rehearsing at the famous Desford band rooms - it's a real privilege to be amongst such history and success and we are extremely grateful to Peter Smith and the band for letting us put the polish on the test piece in their great band rooms, and for opening the bar for us to rehydrate at the end.

The new uniforms arrived for our final fitting today too. We have gone back to the more traditional style uniform and sadly (or delightfully) retiring our yellow ties from the contest stage. The uniforms look great (see photos) but I could have done without seeing so much of some of the members trying them on!

We are all looking forward to the band curry tonight (a Wellington Brass pre contest staple) on Birminghams famous Ladypool Road, deep in the heart of the balti triangle - and we are fizzing to have a table in the self proclaimed 6th best curry house in the United Kingdom - who knows, perhaps New Zealand's 4th best folk band will be the entertainment. Curry nights have come with some stress in the past as squeezing 50 odd brass banders often means seating is stretched. But we have organised a special seat for one more precious - I took a photo and attached so he knows which seat is his. 

After having the last 2 days off and visiting castles, a bar that was opened in the 1300s, West End shows, canals and many other very English things its been great to get back into the band room and make some awesome music together again. As Phil said to the band after receiving his tie "it's just so great to be making music with this awesome bunch of people".

Back to business  

Back to business  

Quite a set of pins

Quite a set of pins

Better get the author in! 

Better get the author in! 

"We can bring it in in the crutch" 

"We can bring it in in the crutch" 

For the littlier and angrier ... 

For the littlier and angrier ... 

The calm before the storm!

Hello loyal readers! This is Patrick Webb, a fellow back row battler speaking now that we've arrived in the UK and settled in.

Things have taken a split as the band have a day and a half to relax, taking a moment on hard ground after some serious air time. The reason for the split is that Luke Spence, Callum Mallett, Toby Pringle, Jack Bewley, Dominic Jaquemard, and myself decided to make a meal out of the time off and we have before rehearsals and travelled to London. We saw a hilarious South Park inspired musical called the Book of Mormon that was all the wrong (right) levels of offensive. Callum and Luke were treated to the stage show of the Lion King. I only imagine the rest of the band back in Birmingham had an early one with a warm cup of milo.

Sunday morning in London: after a stroll through Hyde park we visit the great Royal Albert Hall. Not only did the hall have striking physical majesty I couldn't help think of all the awesome music that has been played there and all those musicians who have been lucky enough to play there! Flash sideways to Birmingham... The main party visit the Birmingham Concert Hall. The buildings here on the other side of the world are more than enough to keep us frothing and fizzing. The anticipation is too real.

At the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace we were treated to the Coldstream Guards playing their own rendition of Wellington March! Wellington Brass are also playing this local march in their Dobcross concert later this week. Resident oracle Luke Spence said that the Coldstream music selection can only be seen as a good omen for the band.

Next on our London adventure we sit in on a somber St. Paul's Cathedral service fit with organ playing and rich choir singing. The spiritual reflection and resonant music was intense to say the least. Equally impressive was the gold lined paintings and mosaics that lined the roof of the the cathedral.

Now as I sit here; cheap pint in hand, in an out of the way authentic British pub I admit to feeling mentally and physically drained. But more so I have a quiet anticipation about tomorrow morning. The work over in Birmingham is about to start! And we finally welcome Phil Johnston and John Mason to the Open Band. This extra trip to London before the main slog has made the whole trip that much more special and memorable.

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

Canal tour

Canal tour

Convicts

Convicts

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

At your service Your Majesty

 

Today's blog was generously written by Toby Pringle.

Hey, Birmingham.

Zero more sleeps, zero more days. Here we were, thronging around the poor airline staff in the check in area, ready and "absolutely fizzing" (Jack Bewley 2016) to commence our journey to glory.

 

Not too much needs to be said of the marathon plane journey and stopovers... Except maybe from an incident where Singapore airlines decided someone by the name "Tony Pringle" was booked in my place.

Other than this incident, (which was soon resolved you'll be pleased to hear!) there was the expected mental and emotional toll that only flying can have. As Patrick DS - our resident bass trombone tamer said; "With every sip of alcohol consumed, and every hour of sleep unslept, I could feel my bone playing deteriorating." No need to panic however, as we will most certainly be getting back to the top of our game by the end of the week.

 

Our hopes of arriving in Manchester to thousands of screaming fans wanting us to sign their bodies were dashed as soon as we stepped of the plane. The sky was very grey, and as is to be expected in Britain, letting fall a bleak drizzle. The brutalist customs building we entered was prison-like, and we were all desperate for a sleep in real bed. Despite being exhausted and eager to move on, we stood in customs for an hour and a half, listening to Mark Davey's inspiring voice.

 

We all finally made it onto the bus, hitting the road in the final stage of our journey. More drizzle, highway construction and many brick structures soon gave way to Birmingham - a city which few of us knew much about, and most didn't know what to expect. It'll be exciting exploring over the next few days!

 

Now as I write, speeding past Long Buckby, (which isn't very long at all!) five of us young lads are on the train to London for the weekend where we'll be cramming as much as we can into very little time!

 

Until next time, goodbye!

Boys trip to London

Boys trip to London

On the road again

On the road again

Lunch

Lunch

Departure day!

Zero sleeps to go! It’s been a long time coming, but the day of departure has arrived. I’m Mike Ford, a quarter part of an awesome horn section along with Brad Mancer, Garth Coffey and Callum Mallet.I feel very privileged to be a part of the Wellington Brass team, heading off today for the curry capital of the world. Apart from some great curry houses, I believe they also have a very nice concert hall, in which we will be putting down a blinder in 8 days’ time. (Give or take a few hours, depending on your time zone and / or the draw!)

It’s been a lot of fun coming over from Nelson for rehearsals. (Thanks Grant and Sue for your hospitality, and to Rowena for the rides to and from the airport.)There’s some amazing young talent in the band, and being amongst it all makes me feel young againmyself.…..almost. It’s obvious that everyone has worked very hard not only to make the trip happen, but to ensure that they will be playing at their very best in Birmingham, and the feeling in my bones is that we’re going to put on a performance that we will be very proud of. There have been some very funny moments in rehearsal that still make me laugh when I think about them, for example Callum being distracted by a truck outside, Dave’s comments and Callum’s reaction…..well, you had to be there, you know what I mean?There’s a great culture in this band that embodies a quest for excellence whilst maintaining a sense of fun. (I’m thinking of Toby and Matt dancing alongside Bradley…….)

It was awesome to have a big and appreciative audience at the concert last Sunday. The “Tie Presentation” ceremony held afterwards was a special occasion that brought home to me how much blood sweat and tears had gone into making the trip happen.

Here’s a couple of photo’s of some of us showing off our new ties……..
 

By the time you read this, most of the band will be at the airport ready to fly out. Just to be different, Riki, Leighton and I are taking a different route with Uncle Koru, departing Auckland at the rather late hour of 10 pm. We’re looking forward to an on time departure (of course, it being Air New Zealand and all that) dinner, movie, a glass or two of something and a good sleep (hopefully). After a 2 hour stop in LAX, we’ll continue on to Heathrow and a train ride to Birmingham.

Right, it’s time to go and pack. Bring it on!
In the words of Mr. Bewely "I'm absolutely fizzing mate!"

Two More Sleeps...

Hi all, welcome to the fourth edition of Wellington Brass British Open Tour blog.  My name is Tom Baker, former New Zealand Army (Band) Commando and current back row battler for Wellington Brass.  (Credit to Kieran Smith for term ‘back row battler’)

Fresh off the back of our pre-tour concert on Sunday, the reality of heading to Birmingham is starting to set in as there is an undeniable air of excitement amongst the band.  It is not that long ago that attending the British Open was no more than a crazy daydream.  Now the only thing that separates us from Birmingham is one more rehearsal and a long haul flight.

Having joined the band for the first time in 2007, I have seen just how far this band has come.  There are so many people that the band owes it’s success to but probably none more so than David Bremner.  The band’s resident bad cop/commander-in-chief/universe boss has been the driving force behind the band’s success, only showing signs of how long he has been around when he occasionally reuses jokes from 2007/08.  Dave’s undying energy, ambition and passion for brass music has transformed a struggling B grade octet to a world class ensemble in a just a handful of years.  Having heard the band in recent contest performances, it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago members of the band were strongly encouraged to listen to the A grade bands competing so that we could hear for ourselves the highest standard of NZ brass bands.

It hasn’t been exactly easy leading up to this trip.  With the band determined to represent not only Wellington but all of New Zealand there have been long hours in the bandroom, endless fundraisers and routine checks for bugging.  We have even surrendered our beloved phones for a couple of rehearsals!  Regular roastings on whoever happened to be Dave’s victim of the week have kept us all in line.  Mark Davey has theorised -probably while crying himself to sleep- that Dave only picks on those who he loves the most.  In that case it becomes clear that Dave is in an open relationship with the wider Wellington Brass community.  To be fair to Dave, every joke is made in good nature and does provide the necessary comic relief to keep the band interested during a long rehearsal.  This highlights what I consider one of the best attributes of the band, despite the level of talent within the ranks, no one takes themselves too seriously and every member has the utmost respect for one another.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot with the Army Band and every single one of those trips were fantastic in their own right, but I have never been so excited to travel overseas as I am with this outstanding group of people.  After the concert on Sunday, when we were each presented with a special edition Wellington Brass tie, it became clear how special this band is and how much it means to us all.

There are so many people -playing members of the band and our pack of supporters- who deserve a special mention for getting us this far but I would run out time before boarding on Friday if I were to attempt to name them all.  However, I have to make an exception for Leighton, my co-anchor of the cornet section.  Even after a tough year he is the last person that would want any sympathy or any recognition for all the hard work that he has put in behind the scenes but any recognition he gets is throughly deserved.  It is great to have Leighton back in the band and there is no one I would rather be struggling away on third cornet with than him.

Hanging up in our bandroom wall is a view from the stage of Symphony Hall in Birmingham.  Wellington Brass is little more than a week from giving the performance of our lives on that very stage.  This is going to be an amazing experience for the band and when little Jack Bewley says that he is ‘absolutely fizzing mate’, it is fair to say he speaks on behalf of the entire band.

 

Tommy B

Wellington Brass

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The Latest from Kezza

Hi all. Kieran Smith here taking the baton for the next leg of the Wellington Brass blog as we march closer and closer to the pinnacle event in brass banding, the British Open.

I have been fortunate enough to be a member of the Wellington Brass Band since 2012, and am currently the band’s Principal Repiano cornetist.  Having recently moved from the front row to the back row I was looking forward to a period of being further away (physically) from the scrutiny of our esteemed maestro.  Oh how wrong I was.  After an intense couple of months in the training shed, I can now confirm that my name is etched firmly near the top of David Bremner’s hit list, alongside Principal Trombone Mark Davey and back-row stalwart (read battler) Tom Baker.  While some may view being on the hit list as a burden, it is a position that I cherish and a weight that sits comfortably across my broad shoulders.

The band continues to cross items off our pre-departure checklist, including the farewell concert.  The farewell concert provided us the perfect platform to showcase the fruits of our labour and to thank all of our supporters, without whom our British Open challenge would have been virtually impossible.  Peter Graham’s work and British Open test piece, The Triumph of Time, was the concert centrepiece, but given the plethora of talent we have in our ranks it was a no brainer to feature a number of soloists in the concert programme. Sharing the stage with such a talented group of musicians is a real thrill and justification for spending hours and hours locked away in the practice room. 

Following the concert there was a presentation of ties to the Open contesting band and long serving members.  The presentation was spearheaded by band manager and Chief Morale Officer (“CMO”), Leighton Roberts, and has skyrocketed band spirits to an unprecedented level.  Members donned the ties post function, including one Patrick Di Somma, who presented a front in stark contrast to his usual homeless get up.  The ties are an acknowledgement of the hard work members have put in and the transformation the band has made from a B-grade bottom-feeder to quadruple A-grade champions taking on the world one band contest at a time.

As the weekend draws to a close, it is slowly dawning on me that this time next week we will be on British soil gearing up to take on the world’s best at their own game.  And to quote Jack Bewley – “I’m absolutely fizzing mate!”.

BRITAIN BECKONING

Hello to everyone reading, I’m Jack Bewley, the band’s ‘Principal’ 2nd Baritone player, with another update on the lead-up to our immense journey to the British Open, a trip that is building our anxiety and excitement with every practice. With only a fortnight to go, practices have been intensifying here in Wellington. Having been in the band for around six months, I certainly feel the nerves about performing on the same stage as bands like Cory, Black Dyke and Grimethorpe, let alone having to compete against them. However, the band is still looking forward to the opportunity, regardless of the result. In fact, our principal bass trombone and natural gas provider Patrick Di Somma said that he’s “absolutely fizzing mate. I’m revelling in it.”

The band was lucky enough to rehearse in the Michael Fowler Centre on Wednesday night, to try and get the feel of playing in a proper concert hall. Apart from the obvious practice of the notes, we’ve also been trying to mentally prepare for a performance on the stage in Symphony Hall, something that will be a different experience to any contest we’ve competed at.

Amongst the practicing though, the band has been carefully following the Rio Olympics. With good reason though; before this week’s band weekend, we welcomed back two of our athletes from the Games – Byron Newton and Matt Stein. There was some drama in their event, the men’s artistic gymnastics, with their acrobatics bringing them gold and silver. The floor routine had been an interesting event; while Matt had opted for accompaniment by former gold medallist Riki McDonnell, Byron took a risk and performed with no music, something he told interviewers was a key aspect of his acrobatics. A scandal had rocked the event earlier in the week, with an allegation that Byron had been using performance enhancing drugs, however, the sample from his water key came back clean. Ultimately, the judges felt that Byron had been “more present” in his performance and he won the gold, with a valiant effort from Matt giving him the silver.

Obviously, practices have to be serious and concentrated most of the time, but our rehearsals, overall, have been lightened by the excitement. We’re very much looking forward to our pre-tour concert next week and the travels ahead.

Thanks for reading, Jack “Russell” Bewley.   

 

 

Bunsen and Beaker

Bunsen and Beaker

3 Weeks until the Open!!

Gidday folks, Pat Di Somma here – Wellington Brass Band’s principal bass-baritone player/chainsaw operator/verbal punching bag - giving you the inaugural update leading up the band’s imminent departure to England in September.

Team morale is soaring following the band’s quadruple A grade win in as many years, especially as a musical and psychological springboard to the dizzying heights of the British Open. Jack Bewley, the band’s associate principal baritone player described his feelings as such: “absolutely fizzing mate. I’m revelling in it.” That being said, our Supreme Leader and musical director David Bremner has emphasised the dangers of complacency, so we’re trying not to be too Gung Ho™ about it. Band rehearsals since the national contest have regularly drawn comparisons to any classic Kafka novel; enduring, somewhat laborious but rich in content and ultimately very satisfying.

No doubt my comrades will outline the various impending highlights of our voyage in the blogs to follow, so I will kick it off by cutting straight to the nitty-gritty.

The inevitable band curry:

Mark Davey – resident Welly Brass anti-hero and principal trombonist – maintains that the conception of the noble (and increasingly widespread) tradition of enjoying a curry as whole-band-social activity can be credited to the Wellington band; an audacious and potentially divisive claim at best. Nevertheless, Birmingham is colloquially known as the curry capital of Great Britain, and indoctrination or not, you can probably put your house on Wellington Brass visiting at least a few establishments of this nature…provided there are enough seats for the littler and angrier members of the band. What better way to simultaneously enjoy the culinary and musical traditions of our colonial overlords than with a classic communal curry leading up to a brass-band related event.

In all seriousness, the magnitude and significance of attending the British Open is truly beginning to sink in, and the level of organisation required for a trip of this scale is immense. The breakfast menu for our stay in Birmingham has already been finalised - a terrifying concept, especially considering some members of the band consistently struggle to recall what day of the week it is. As such, the British Open committee are doing an incredible job to make sure everything is tickety-boo.