The Sun Life Stanshawe Band


Reunion Concert
Conductor: Dr Roy Newsome
St George's, Brandon Hill
Staurday 5th June

StanshaweOn a warm, balmy evening, plenty of warm, balmy memories.


As revellers enjoyed themselves in the city centre below, a  highly satisfying reunion concert of the former Sun Life Stanshawe Band took place at the tastefully modernised St George’s in Bristol, where an audience of well over 400 people packed into the former church to enjoy an evening of unashamed nostalgia.   

Even the wonderfully ornate ceiling roses in the hall looked uncannily like the logo of their former insurance sponsors.

Led by Dr Roy Newsome, and featuring 43 former players (20 of whom were members of the 1990 British Open winning band), a cleverly chosen programme paid homage to the significant musical figures and episodes of the band’s short, but successful, 29 year history.

Nods of appreciation

Nods of musical appreciation peppered the proceedings from start to finish – from the opening ‘French Military March’ (arranged by Walter Hargreaves for their 1974 Granada Band of the Year appearance), to the closing ‘Carnival’ Overture arranged by Roy Newsome himself, which the band played (although in the Geoffrey Brand version) at their sole appearance at the European Championships in 1985.   

Hairlines may well have receded and waistlines grown in the intervening years, but the pride of the former players meant that many a lip had been rescued from long imposed neglect for the occasion.

The standard of playing on the night was of course a touch variable, but given as was said, that many of the players were perhaps now having problems opening their instruments cases let alone playing the instruments inside, it was still quite an achievement.

Fine quartet

Kevin Robbins, Lyndon Baglin, Steve Walkley and Phil Randell rolled back the years with a quartet of fine solo performances, whilst there was also some lovely playing on show from the ‘back up’ ensemble too – notably the cornets of Paul Richards and Chris Howley, both of whom are still playing at a high contesting level.

In between, homage was paid in full to the musical leadership of the likes of Geoffrey Brand and Derek Bourgeois, with spirited performances of ‘The Corsair’ and the whimsical ‘Serenade’.

Memories of significant concert performances also came with ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’, ‘Le Cid’, ‘Cranberry Corners USA’ and ‘West Country Fantasy’ (which was played as part of their ‘Lap of Honour’ at the 1990 British Open).

Perhaps understandably, there was to be no repeat performance of the test piece that gave the band their famous 1990 win at the Free Trade Hall: Something’s are best left untouched to grow in stature and myth in the memory banks.

Show of respect

There was though a neat show of respect paid to ‘Le Roi d’Y’s’ in Philip Harper’s specially commissioned ‘Reunion’ concert piece that brought a fleeting recall of that famous day in Manchester.

The most moving playing of the night came with a finely wrought rendition of ‘In Memoriam’ from ‘Royal Parks’ by George Lloyd, as personal memories of departed friends and colleagues were recalled, whilst there was a robust old run through the whole of ‘Suite Gothique’, to remind the audience (and players) just how the band forged their reputation for hard nosed contesting success.

Only disappointment

Perhaps the only disappointment was that the famous British Open Trophy itself wasn’t on display on the night (although the decision not to try and resurrect the old mustard jackets was a blessing it must be said).


A night of memories ended with some rose tinted sentimentality, with speeches from Ian Dickinson (who recalled the band’s sometimes hard nosed ethos of making sure they always aimed to compete with the very best) and Dr Newsome, who recalled some personal highlights of his association with the band.  

”That’s what made this band so different to others you may know,” Ian said – which perhaps in a way also explained why the band folded so quickly after the money ran out.

As the satisfied audience slowly made their way home, that was perhaps the only time on a highly enjoyable night of brass band entertainment that any real sense of disappointment struck home.

29 years could, and should, have been so much more.

Iwan Fox