Harlow is 70: Memories of Netteswell Youth Brass band

History / Mon 16th Jan 2017 at 01:06pm


Netteswell (School and Youth) Brass Band

By Kevin Forbes

AS part of my enthusiasm to try as much as I could at Netteswell School, I was made aware that the school had an excellent music department and a good Brass Band. I discussed with four of my friends to see if they had interest in going along to find out about this. Approximately half way down the schools main building was an attachment to the building to a single story building in the shape of a “pepper pot”. This unusual building circular in shape with a few glass circular tiles in the roof gave good light to the room in closed within.

We went along to hear the school band practice and see if it was any interest to us or at least to find out more. It had members of all school ages and the head of music Mr Bramwell Taylor whom in his youth was a top cornetist with one of the top brass bands in the country and Salvation Army, was a man who clearly motivated these young people. We had joked when we walked into the practice that, if it was really bad we would escape out slowly one by one. We expected a rather “Um papa” type of outfit and agreed not to giggle if it was not up to much.

Mr Taylor saw us enter the pepper pot and came over. All new students eh! Well you better sit at the back and listen.

The band started playing and we were all shocked by the sound and how good they were. They played a march, a cornet solo and then an overture; we knew the music as one of the classics, and which was for all of us brilliant.

Mr Taylor came over to us and asked.

Did you like the overture “Dichter und Bauer” or as we know it “Poet and Peasant” written by Franz von Suppé in 1846.

So do you think you can do better than that or wish to have ago?

We were all sold on this obviously exciting opportunity. It would be the start of a further half a century of playing in brass bands and the musical arena for me.
He marched us down to the music room and gave us all a brass instrument and told to go home and practice. We rehearse Monday lunch times, and at Saturday morning music schools for music theory and brass lessons, don’t be late.

I was given an Eb soprano cornet, and also a tenor horn, baritone and Bb Cornet walked out of the music room that day.

This was the start of an appreciative part of my life.

I would go onto play Bb cornet, Tenor horn and Tuba for the next 50 years.

Netteswell Youth Brass Band.

Whilst the Netteswell School Band were clearly a exceptional group of young musicians, other schools in Harlow were also developing their own school brass bands and the potential for the merging of these resources into a Netteswell Youth band open to all would follow.

As a student playing for the school band I obviously became one of the “founder members” of the original and successful Netteswell youth brass band which was formed in November 1967.

The groups of young musicians from the Netteswell and Mark Hall school bands composed the initial bands personnel, and complemented the already established Netteswell School Band, which had been in existence for some years previously, and possessed a high reputation in school and youth musical circles. Its triumphs included appearance’s at the Royal Albert Hall in the National Brass Band Festival Concerts, several B.B.C. radio engagements, successes in the contesting field in the UK and Europe, UK and European tours, television performances and above all representing our town of Harlow. 

Since the bands formation it had a very colorful career with some of its highlights listed here:-

1968: National Brass Band Championships – Youth Finalists. Provided the music at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the National Bandsmen Memorial Service.

1969: Scandinavian Tour with concerts in Stavanger and Oslo. National Brass Band Championships – Youth Finalists. Westminster Abbey College Garden Concert. 
Winners of Independent Television’s “Opportunity knocks” program and providing three appearances.

1970: Concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral; on the Paternoster Piazza at the opening of the City of London Festival. 
Continental Tour of Holland and Germany. Westminster Abbey College Garden Concert. 
National Brass Band Championships — Youth Finalists.
1971: B.B.C. recording of a forty-five minute program for Radio 3. Release of a L.P. stereo record entitled “Netteswell Brass’. Continental Tour of Austria and Germany, including Salzburg and Vienna. 
Westminster Abbey; College Garden Concert. 
National Brass Band Championships – Youth Finalists.

It had the honor of giving concerts under the leadership of such eminent personalities as Eric Ball O.B.E. (the Band’s President) Harry Mortimer O.B.E., and Geoffrey Brand of Black Dyke Mills, as well as on occasions trained by other top professionals in the music world like Walter Hargreaves of Brighouse and Rastrick brass band.

Over these three and a half years the band under took over sixty other engagements and concerts both locally and nationally, with Charities frequently benefitting from the Band’s activities, and many worthy causes having benefited from its music, including The Sir Malcolm Sergeant cancer Fund for Children, the Salvation Army, the Leonard Cheshire Homes and the Sue Ryder Homes. Local organizations have not been forgotten and the funds of St. John’s Ambulance, the Sunshine Club for the Blind and the Harlow Community Chest are considerably healthier because of the Bands efforts.

The Band was predominantly funded by parents and fund raising activities and occasional grants to support its running costs, and the incalculable voluntary hours of support and guidance by teaching staff and students whom supported this Endeavour.

The legacy of this band of young people, and a strong management of committed music teachers and supporters, has provided a brass ensemble which has continued to grow for many more years. Its renowned success champoined the introduction of “Free” Saturday morning music lessons across Harlow, which was then instituted across the county, establishing a future of music for the young people of Harlow. Its existence and commitment from those involved, has enabled many hundreds of young people to explore the field of music, becoming, professionals, teachers, and amateurs, in turn creating music and funds for their communities.
I am proud to have been one of the then mantra’ed “Sons and Daughters of Harlow” raising the name of Harlow.

1970: Concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral; on the Paternoster Piazza at the opening of the City of London Festival.
Netteswell School’s senior Girls’ choir.

It cannot go unmentioned that the successes of the schools brass band and youth band were not the only area of national achievement. The school under the direction of Mr. Bramwell Taylor trained and mentored an excellent school choir which was recognized as one of the most successful school choirs in the UK, with winning the honours at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in Wales for several successive years.

It is therefore a fitting recognition that apart from all his successes in the field of brass that Mr Bramwell Taylor had the final word. -:

“My greatest thrill Was Conducting Netteswell Choir at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in the Saturday Evening Concert before an audience of ten thousand people.”
Good for the town and Good for the people.

Harlow saw a period of good support and community between both the council, education and all those working in or interested in the field of music and the towns ethos to do well for the town and the community. This was articulately stated in the Harlow Developments Corporation (HDC) Yearly statement to the government of the day in 1970.

This large report records the growths of the major building programs and all the towns’ activities and involvements, and then high up the list-

“Item 19. Meanwhile Netteswell School Choir won honours at the Llangollen Eisteddfod and its brass band acquired national fame at the Albert Hall and on television. First, at Netteswell, and then at other Comprehensive Schools, the County established Saturday Morning Music Schools which soon exploded far beyond the limited groups in other parts of the County and brought Further enrichment to the musical life of Harlow. Today 650 children attend Music schools in their own time. This and the stimulus of the Alberni Quartet, has led to the establishment of Junior and Youth Orchestras and

The emergence of a new Symphony Orchestra. Members of the Youth Orchestra have graduated to the Essex Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra. Last year, as part of its twenty-first anniversary celebrations, the Corporation commissioned Miss Elizabeth Poston to compose a Special Concertante for the Harlow Youth Orchestra and the Alberni String Quartet. Nor is this musical interest confined to the young. A very large Number of players and singers are involved in the operatic and choral societies.”

Except from: The HDC 1970 Yearly Government Report.

This clearly shows local and national government working well with both education and the society providing a proud community.

Potpourri / Miscellany

The Netteswell School band played at the Royal Albert hall providing half time entertainment on a one off exhibition game of basketball between America’s top teams at the time, of which one was the world famous Harlem Globe Trotters.

The school band and choir were asked to go to inside of Westminster abbey and record music for a Christmas service which was to be aired on a national radio that year.

The school choir and brass band were honoured to perform a new piece of music written by the composer Malcolm Arnold called Song of Freedom, which had been commissioned by the National schools Brass Band Association (N.S.B.B.A.) to commemorate its 21st Anniversary and its “coming of age”. The work for chorus and Brass Band also demonstrated the capabilities of school musicians, with a piece in four movements, Prelude, Hymn, Intermezzo and Postlude. The first performance was given on 12th May 1973 at the Harlow Sports centre by the Netteswell School Band and Choir, conducted on that occasion by the composer Malcolm Arnold and was aired on national radio. This music only required a brass ensemble and I was the tuba player on the day and I received very complementary comments from the composer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 Comments for Harlow is 70: Memories of Netteswell Youth Brass band:

Tim Bushnell
2017-01-17 13:38:34

I'm 10 from the right on the back row, and still playing!

Stephen R Allen
2022-09-01 20:03:31

Wonderful to see the history of my youth playing with the band and Bram, Denis Taylor my teacher. Was at one time solo cornet but lip went ending up playing joint solo euphonium.

Ted Savill
2022-11-13 10:30:26

Great to read your history of the band at Netteswell, and your inclusion of the circular music room.That is were the band was formed early in 1956. Four of us were in the room , in detention, with Mr George Atkinson presiding, when a large box was delivered. I was sent to Mr Frost’s woodwork shop to collect tools to open it. Once opened George withdrew, one at a time ,four Brass musical instruments, and handed one each to us lads. I was lucky in getting a b flat cornet. ‘Right’ said George, ‘you are the school band!’ And so it was. George Atkinson was an inspiring teacher, not just for music. He taught me my first words of German, as part of a music lesson. I later lived in West Germany for many years. I played in bands for many years, only having to stop after a particuly vicious rugby match.

Bryan Thomas
2023-05-02 06:22:25

Thanks for your note Ted, and for mentioning George Atkinson. I started at Netteswell in 1959 and the school band was well established then, maybe 20 players. I don't claim any particular musical talent, but I did derive huge benefit from being part of a group that broke down the barriers between age and class. It didn't matter if you were in form 1.1 or 5.B, we were all of one mind: play music and help everyone to enjoy it. I owe a great deal to George and everyone else who was in the band at that time.

Leave a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *