Band set to share fantastic Flora Day with Russell…
As the town clock strikes 7am, Helston Town Band’s longest serving bandsman, cornet player Russell Harvey, will lead the procession away from the Guildhall and into Meneage Street, marking the start of Flora Day 2016. Remarkably, Russell, who is deceivingly in his 82nd year, will be taking part in his 70th Flora Day; an unprecedented occasion the band is proud to celebrate with him. Only National Service has stopped Russell from playing on Flora Day, throughout his 72 years with the band.
Mr Russell Harvey
The man with the honour of striking the first beat on the big bass drum will be Deputy Musical Director and all- rounder, Jack Curnow who, in the last year, has played Euphonium, Bass Trombone and Percussion. The second bass drummer of the day will be former farrier, Simon Wills, who will have the privilege of starting the Midday Dance. The band’s most enduring and famous drummer, the late Billy Pethick, had his ashes scattered along the dance route, in the grounds of beautiful Lismore House. The owner of Lismore, Michael Jay, is the President of the band and will escort them into his gardens, during the course of the Midday Dance.
Walking alongside Russell, leading all four dances, will be the band’s Musical Director, Kevin Johns. A familiar figure, Porthleven-born Kevin has been involved with the organisation for over 30 years and was previously the Solo Euphonium player. Kevin’s daughter, Horn player Lisa Sara, will be introducing his 5 month old Grandaughter, Ivy, to Flora Day and no doubt wondering if there could soon be a third generation of the Johns family playing in the band. Kevin’s wife, Jenny, is a steward of the Morning Dance.
As Helston Town Band splits into two, for the Childrens’ Dance and Midday Dance, around 130 brass band musicians will come together, in Wendron Street. Alongside Helston players and former players will be representatives from Porthleven, Gweek, Breage, Stithians, Lanner, Pendeen, Camborne and Saltash bands. Retired MoD Policeman and Helston cornet player, Martin Pascoe, will take charge of the second group and lead them through the town.
Helston’s additional groups, Helston Concert Brass, directed by Ian Edwards, and Helston Student Brass, are particularly well- represented this year. Tutored by Principal Cornet player, Marika Charleston, the Student Brass meet every Wednesday evening and range in age, from 6 to “substantially older!” Some of them have been learning for less than a year and all 26 players will be present on Flora Day, a handful for the first time.
Even before 7th May, band members will already have played the famous tune many hundreds of times; at the Culdrose rehearsal for the Officers dancing in the Midday Dance, at the May Day Dances in the town and at the Epworth Hall dance rehearsals on the two evenings leading up to the big day.
Within the band, there are a number of family links; however, in 2016 no family can beat the Christophers clan, with nine bandsmen and women among their extended family and playing on the day.
As much as it is part of the fabric of the band and despite popular perception Helston Town Band is not just for Flora Day! The following week, band members will be back to their usual twice- weekly rehearsals and have numerous engagements planned for the summer and beyond. With the Concert Brass and Student Brass both very active, too, the band’s busy practice room, in Church Street, is in use at least four nights each week.