MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - Whitburn claims historic seventh consecutive Scottish Open title

Issue 6119

SIX IN A ROW - Valaisia victorious at Swiss Championship

FOUNTAIN OF KNOWLEDGE - Brett Baker meets American music dynamo, Lee Harrelson

The brass band time capsule - Gwyn Thomas

Thursday 18 November, 2021

Gwyn Thomas caught the banding bug as an eight-year-old sitting in the audience at the National Brass Band Championships. Twenty-seven years later, he would play a major role in a win at the same event that would seal his band’s place in the history books.

Martyn Ramsay finds out more.

 

It was in 1957 that Gwyn Thomas first sat in the Royal Albert Hall as a captivated eight-year-old, listening to the best bands of the day negotiate Variations for Brass Band by Vaughan Williams.

“What really, really struck home to me was the reaction of the Morris Motors Band which came sixth. They were all jumping around, crying and cheering. I thought, ‘For God’s sake, they’ve only come sixth! What have you got to do to win this thing?’ And I said to my dad ‘That’s my intention.’ He just laughed and said ‘There’s no way on God’s earth that you’ll get close to that.’"

Twenty-seven years later, he would take the stage looking for his fourth Nationals title and a win that would seal his band’s place in the history books. Cory was looking for a hat-trick. The first instrument that Gwyn was handed was a soprano cornet, when he joined his local Salvation Army band at six years of age.

However, a year later, when he got “bored of playing the same marches every Sunday”, his father took him to the Cory bandroom, where he joined the junior band on Bb cornet. After he worked his way to principal cornet, he joined the senior band on the back row in 1960 until he got his hands back on the soprano two years later and took to it like a duck to water. At the time, Cory was under the leadership of TJ Powell – “the boss of marches” according to Thomas – but tragedy struck in 1965.

“TJ Powell dropped dead in front of the band during a live broadcast. We had only started the first march when he collapsed. I completely froze – it was the first time I had seen anyone pass away – but Stanley Williams, who was the principal cornet, grabbed the baton and kept going.”

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issue 6116 digital November 11, 2021