BROMLEY CONCERT BAND
The Friendly Band, keeping music live since 1953
The band was founded in March of 1953 in the Parish of “The Good Shepherd” Downham, Bromley, Kent. The founders were Cyril Mahoney, Tom Whinder and Tom Shea all accomplished musicians. (Trombone, Clarinet and Cornet respectively) They were soon joined by others and in May were playing for outdoor church services in the Parish. Appropriately the Band was called “The Good Shepherd Band”. A programme of sports days and garden fetes rapidly developed in addition to Church music and by its second year was engaged on almost every Saturday and Sunday in May and June in and around South East London.
The band’s first professional conductor was Brian Wills, son of the bandmaster of the pre-war Lewisham Silver Band. He saw the band through its formative period a highlight of which was the opening by HM The Queen of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich in 1957 when Tom Shea played the General Salute. Brian handed over to Leo T Croke when he moved out of the area in 1959. Leo was a former director of music at the Tower Ballroom Blackpool. He was a professional band music arranger and composer and several of his works are still in our library.
After Leo’s death in 1964 Jack Hickman from the famous Cresswell Colliery Band took over and continued the Band’s development until he too moved out of the area in 1973.Walter Gill a former cornetist with Black Dyke Mills band helped out until Lary Woollaston MBE was appointed Musical Director in 1974.
Just prior to that, difficulties with our Good Shepherd School rehearsal facility regrettably forced the Band out from the patronage of the Good Shepherd Parish. The Holy Rosary Church in Mottingham took over as our patron although rehearsals were held in the Mallory School in Grove Park, an ILEA Evening Institute. The Holy Rosary Church ran a social club called the Maryfield Club (Maryfield being a medieval name for the Mottingham area) so we adopted the title of “The Maryfield Concert Band”.
Lary was a Kneller Hall trained army bandmaster who had great vision and hopes for the future of the Band but unfortunately he suffered a massive heart attack and died, on the podium, in 1976, a tragic and traumatic experience for us all.
The redevelopment of the Good Shepherd Church and the building of a Church Hall offered us the opportunity to return to our roots so we left the umbrella of the Evening Institute and became fully independent.
After Lary we engaged Barry Carben, who was in charge of the Junior Band at Woolwich Artillery. He took the Band for two years until he moved back to his native Norfolk.
Nigel Anderton another army trained bandmaster and also from Woolwich Artillery succeeded Barry and his energy and enthusiasm took the Band forward quickly. Membership improved dramatically in both numbers and quality and he was anxious to introduce the Band to continental audiences. We undertook our first continental tour, to Adelsheim in South West Germany, in 1979. Nigel retired from the Army later that year and we were again in search of a new Director.
Glen Morgan a professor at Trinity College of Music and an ex United States Navy musician took over and saw us through our 30th anniversary concert in 1983.At this time Tom Whinder, still the principal clarinet, was the only member who was still a Good Shepherd parishioner. So we thought it better to adopt a more representative title for the Band. We decided that it should become known as “The Bromley Concert Band".
The Anniversary concert was a prestigious event held before a packed house at Bromley Technical College and for which the Band was prepared by Norman Burgess and Christopher Gradwell, two colleagues of Glen’s on the Trinity College faculty. It was one of the most successful concerts the Band has ever promoted for itself.
However Glen’s heavy commitments in London sadly forced him to resign shortly after that success.
Ray Lewis was then appointed and he served the Band for the next 22 years. During this long period we resumed continental tours, visiting Ostend, Brugge and Knokke Heist in Belgium on several occasions, Bromley’s Twin Town Neuwied on the Rhine in Germany and three Costa del Sol trips to Estepona, Manilva, Casares and Calahonda where we enjoyed rapturous receptions. The Spanish people certainly enjoy band concerts.
Under Ray’s direction we undertook three day engagements (six separate two hour programmes) in London’s Royal Parks. Sadly cost constraints have curtailed the Friday and Saturday sessions but we still play regularly in either St James’ Park, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park or Greenwich Park on Sundays in the summertime.
We also entertain summer audiences in Brighton, Broadstairs, Canterbury, Chartwell, Eastbourne, Folkestone, Hastings, Herne Bay, Hever Castle, Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Southwark Park. West Wickham(Royal Bethlem Hospital) and Whitstable.
In the wintertime the Remembrance Sunday Service in Hither Green Cemetery is an annual fixture, as are Christmas concerts and every Christmas Eve, we take part in the very atmospheric Blackheath Christmas Pageant. In February or March .we entertain an audience at St John’s Church Eden Park at which that Church promotes a different charitable cause each year.
In October 2005 we chose Ray’s successor from a strong field of candidates all of whom were given the opportunity to take at least two rehearsals. In a close fought election we chose Martin Gibbs to succeed Ray. Martin is a trumpeter and had just been appointed Head of the Music Department at the new music specialist Bishop Justus School in Bromley. The band has gone from strength to strength under his leadership.
Band morale is high and we look forward with confidence to our future.