HELSTON TOWN BAND
Helston Town Band has an extremely rich heritage, which can be traced back to the turn of the century; indeed, alongside the younger musicians, there are members of the current band whose family connections extend back four generations.
It is these family ties and the unusual long- service of many of the players that make the feel of the Band unique. Of today’s line- up, Mark Williams, Martin Pascoe, Keith Busby, Ian Harvey and Lester Ashton have all been associated with Helston Town Band for over forty years and since a young age. However, it remains to be seen if they can match the distinguished record of undisputed band veteran, cornet player Russell Harvey, who in 2014, in his eightieth year, received an unprecedented special award from Brass Bands England and the Cornwall Brass Band Association in recognition of his remarkable seventy years of continuous service to the organisation. In September 2016, Russell will be recognised by Gorsedh Cornwall for his services to local music.
In 1946, player numbers were consolidated when most of Helston’s pre-war members returned from active service and Helston pork butcher Leonard Hender, a member of the band for some 28 years, became bandmaster. The band enjoyed steady progress, which culminated in them reaching the National 3rd Section Finals, held at Belle Vue, Manchester, in 1951.
Following the sudden and premature death of Mr Hender, whilst rehearsing for a live recording of the BBC’s “Songs of Praise,” at Mullion Cove, in August 1967, the Band came under the direction of Edward Ashton, with whom they gained much success and a reputation for consistently playing music to a high standard. Edward, who had joined the band at the end of the war, before leaving to play at Camborne, led them to numerous successes in both local and regional contests, over a period of 35 years, until his retirement in November 2002. He remains a much respected Life Member.
The Band appointed top Euphonium player, John Hitchens, as their new Musical Director and flourished under his direction. In 2003, they were crowned Cornish First Section Champions and in 2004 they gained promotion to the National First Section. 2006 saw the band win the First Section West of England Championships, earning a qualification place at the National Finals. The band continued this success in 2007, with a 3rd place finish, before going on to regain the First Section title once again, in 2008.
With two wins and a third placing, Helston Town Band earned promotion to the Championship Section, in 2009, and this was the first time in the band’s entire history that they had competed in the top flight of brass banding. The band remained in the Championship section until 2012, where a commendable seventh place at the Regional Championships in 2011 was not quite enough; once again they returned to the First Section. In 2016, they compete in the Second Section.
Following over a decade of success, John Hitchens stood down from his position in June 2013. The Band is indebted to John for his dedication, drive and enthusiasm over a long period and wish him well in his playing return, on Solo Euphonium, with Camborne Town Band.
Following John’s departure, Derek Johnston came to Helston at a time of great change and oversaw the formation of the Helston Town Concert Band. Then, former RAF musician Jimmy Gribben took over the band on a temporary basis in January 2014, before heading off to take up a new post with the RAF, in Oman. Following Flora Day 2014, talented former Camborne Principal Cornet and local businessman, Darren Hendy, took up the reigns.
It will always be for their association with Helston’s world- famous Flora Day, when band members lead the dancers through the streets, shops and houses of the town, for which the Town Band is best known.
In addition to Flora Day, the Band undertake numerous civic functions and engagements and perform regularly at concerts throughout the county. Summer Friday night concerts at Porthleven have become a familiar event and, for over a decade, the August Bank Holiday weekend Lismore Proms, most recently with the acclaimed world- class Tenor, John Treleaven and talented Mother and Daughter Soloists, Bromley and Karen Hurn, were a regular fixture in Helston’s calendar.
From November 2014, Deputy Musical Director, Kevin Johns, who had been Solo Euphonium for nearly 30 years, took the majority of the Band’s rehearsals and prepared them for visits from Professional Conductor, David Johnson. Kevin was subsequently appointed as Musical Director, in January 2016. With Kevin at the helm, band members now look forward to an exciting time ahead. In November 2016, Professional Conductor, John Berryman, will take the band to the South West Brass Band Association Annual Championships, at Torquay.