So here we are, the eve of the biggest day in the towns calendar. Flora Day 2014 is less than 6 hours away and the sound of the big bass drum will ring out across the town in less than 13 hours.
The town has been transformed into its usual floral haven in preperation for the festivities tomorrow and although the streets are still open the atmosphere is in full swing, with one caveat.....the weather. Forecasts have not looked as promising as they initially indicated last week, but come rain or shine (or both) HTB will be there.
Tonight the band returns to the Epworth Hall in its final stop on the road to Flora Day to help rehearse those dancers who will be taking part in the Midday Dance. The midday rehearsal is always a little longer than that of last night as the dance is far bigger, but is always an enjoyable and atmospheric evening.
We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the band over the last 12 months for the hard work and time they have put in. The band is a self funding group that receives no outside sponsorship and relies on the support of its members and generosity of the public, so if you do see one of our collectors tomorrow please donate if you can.
Finally we would like to wish you all a very enjoyable Flora Day 2014, regardless of what the weather brings. We will be providing regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the day.
Tuesday saw the band make its first annual trip down to the Epworth Hall to help rehearse those dancers who would be taking part in the morning and evening and evening dances (could be more like syncronised swimming looking at the forecast)
After the obligatory band on the big bass drum to quiten the exuberant crowd, the history of the dance once explained and the leading four gave a demonstration of the steps.
The dance was was then put in to order and split in two halfs (first half and second half in case you were wondering)
After giving each group a quick run through we were done.
Check back tomorrow for an update of Flora Day Eve! and follow us on Twitter for regular updates.
As previously mentioned, the band has some exciting upcoming news on the appointment of a new full time musical director, but in the meantime we are delighted that two veterans of the band along with our Chairman Alan Trewella will lead HTB on Flora Day.
Alan, who has been an integral part of the organisation for many years, has decided that he will be stepping down from his role as Chairman at the next AGM, and as a token of appreciation for all his hard work the band have invited him to lead the way on Flora Day.
Accompanying Alan for the morning dance will be the bands Flora Day Veteran Russell Harvey. Incredibly Russell turns 80 this year and has been a member of HTB for an astonishing 70 years, with Flora Day 2014 being the 68th Flora Day he will play in. He told me last night that between himself, his brother, his son and grandchildren, the Harvey family have completed 157 Flora Days between them.
Another veteran of the band, principal trombonist Lester Ashton, volunteered to lead the band for the Children’s and Midday dancess. Lester leading the band also continues a family tradition as his father Edward was musical director of HTB and led the band on Flora Day for 30 years. Lester has been a key member of the band for many years and has been involved in Flora day festivities for nearly half a century - his biography is the first feature article on our new 'Articles' tab.
Lester commented on his role this year saying - 'As a Helstonian Flora Day is obviously very special to me, I have great memories and have been involved in the celebrations for almost 50 years, To wear the famous blue jacket on the big day is fantastic, to have led the midday in 1983 was a great honour and to now have the opportunity to walk in front of the band this year will be a great privilege, an experience I could only have dreamt of'
We are also pleased to say that the Musical Director of our Concert Band Ian Edwards has agreed to lead the evening dance. Ian has done a tremendous amount of work since his appointment last year and it is only fitting that he have such a role on Flora Day.
In all of this, we as an organisation must also pay tribute to our Bandmaster Kevin Johns - Kevin opted to play rather than lead the band from the front, but over the last 12 months Kevin has put in so much time, effort and hard work whilst the band have been between Musical Directors. It cannot be underestimated how much he has done for Helston.
Exactly twelve and a half hours later we were back outside the Guildhall setting off again, all having enjoyed a relaxing day at work.
I am still waiting for a final figure on the number of players, but around a 70 strong band formed, from the tiniest Beginners to the slightly bigger Flora Day veterans.
There was a long line of dancers this evening, all enjoying the opportunity to dance outside the watchful gaze of the stewards.
The weather has been a point of concern leading up to today, but aside from the two small showers this morning, we were very lucky, here’s hoping for more of the same next week!
As is always the case, the town was in a great mood, with plenty of people lining the route in what has seemingly become the ‘curtain raiser’ for the festive week. The only people that were perhaps not in a great mood were the people who were diverted down St Johns Road only to get to the other end and realise that road was closed off. The scene did resemble something similar to that of an Indian city, with cars strewn all over the road and bandsmen and dancers darting in and out of the gridlocked traffic. A few tuk-tuks’ and the scene would have been complete.
So, with May Day done, and knowing that in just 7 days it will all be over for another year, we have a few days to wait until Tuesday, where it is the turn of the Morning and Evening dancers to have a rehearsal (not that they normally need it)
We will be at the Epworth Hall with them so check back on Wednesday for an update (and keep your fingers crossed over the weekend that the weather forecast stays as good as it is at the moment!)
Quote of the day – ‘I don’t know what all the fuss is about Flora Day, it’s a bit boring’ – our new euphonium player Shaun, either thinking today was Flora Day or not realising how much different it will be next week.
Today is of course the traditional May Day celebration, where the band ‘rehearses’ the Flora Dance at the early hour and again in the evening.
The band this morning numbered around fifty, made up of players from the Senior, Concert, and Beginners bands, with the vast majority living within just a drum beat of the town.
Despite the early hour, there was a decent crowd throughout the town and many stood at their doors or windows with bleary eyes, dressing gowns and a cup of tea in hand.
There was a light shower to wake us as we set off and another one on the way up Coinagehall Street, but other than that we got away with it. Although there were minimal dancers this morning, there is no doubt that by this evening their numbers will increase and the band will also swell in ranks. We will leave the rest of the day in the hands of Rick Stein and an oss and see you again at 7pm
So here we are, the first stop on our road to Flora Day, the Culdrose rehearsal, as always we were generously provided with a coach to and from the naval airbase and the band made it to the Ward Room where the usual nervous laughter could be heard around the room as those Naval Officers who will be taking part in this year’s Midday Dance prepared to be shown the ropes.
John Eddy gave the traditional speech about the history and origins of the dance, before introducing four Helston dancers to give a demonstration of the steps.
As the officers lined up to rehearse the dance with experienced Helston dancers intermingled, they all gave a valiant effort.
Once the officers had a grasp of the dance the Helston dancers withdrew and it was time for the navy to go it alone. After a couple of turns around the ballroom and a lap around the car park, we headed back inside for a pasty and a pint.
As we began our journey home our thoughts turned to the next event for the band, May Day, this coming Thursday where the streets will be packed with the Senior, Concert and Beginner members of the band. Being a school day, the morning procession will begin at 6.30am and the evening procession at 7pm.
Looking at the forecast it might be an idea to bring a mac!
Once again, we would like to thank Culdrose for their hospitality, check back during the day on Thursday for an account of the May Day morning procession.
It’s that time of year again, Flora Day is once again upon us - the senior band have completed their final rehearsal before the Flora Day fortnight, the beginners group have worn out the band room tarmac, and the usual mad scramble to locate enough blue jackets has ensued. For the first time in what seems an age, the 10 day forecast looks pretty good
for My the 8th, but let’s not get carried away just yet…..
In previous years I have written a ‘Flora Day Diary’ but as it was becoming increasingly difficult not repeat myself, this year I will be providing simple updates to each event we attend and of course a full write up of the big day itself - obviously with any interesting side notes or occurrences that may take place.
I will begin with a quick recap of the last 12 months.
An emotional finish to Flora Day 2013 saw MD John Hitchens stand down after an incredible decade of success at the helm of the band. The crowd and band reaction at the end of the 5 o’clock dance was really something special.
John’s departure ushered in a busy and transitional year for HTB.
The band began the post John era on the hunt for a new Musical Director, which ultimately led to the appointment of Derek Johnson. Derek led the band throughout the summer season as well to the SWBBA contest in November and he continued in the role until the end of 2013, also helping to establish the Helston Town Concert Band during his tenure.
During this period the band also appointed a new principal cornet in the form of talented 14 year old Andy Wingham, this followed Demelza’s regrettable but understandable decision to move to Camborne band.
The New Year saw a new man in front of the band, January saw RAF musician Jim Gribben take over the reins on a temporary basis and lead the band to the West of England Regional Championships. Jim made an immediate impact on the band with his enthusiasm and obvious musical ability. Our appearance at the West of England Regional Championships gained a mid-table finish thus securing the bands national 1st section status until at least January 2016.
Jim has now moved to Oman to take up another post with the RAF and we sincerely wish him well in his new career.
The band also saw the departure of some well-known players, as well as the afore mentioned Demelza, Louise Williams and Kathryn Stinton decided to take a break from banding and top young percussionist Justin Strike also made the move to Championship section Camborne. Justin has recently been successful in attaining a place in the Nation Youth Band of Great Britain where we wish him every success.
I also took a 7 month break from the banding world, but am delighted to again be back with HTB.
The band also welcomed back some old faces – Ann Pascoe, Lowenna Christophers, Ben Martin (who will play the bass drum this year) and Gavin Pascoe made their full time returns to the band. HTB also welcomed Shaun Carter, Katy Wilson, Steve Matthews and Hannah Matthews into their ranks, all of whom have made a positive impact on the band.
Long term, the band has some very exciting news about the appointment of a new full time Musical Director……..but you will have to wait to find out more about that one!
So that, in a very small nut shell covers the last 12 months.
Our fortnight, as tradition dictates, begins with our trip to Culdrose this evening to help rehearse those naval dancers who will be taking part in this year’s Midday dance. Check back tommorow for an account.