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The resurgence of the St. Dennis...
4BR talk with MD Brian Minear

The resurgence of the St. Dennis Band over the last two years has been one of the real good news stories in the band movement and their Musical Director Brian Minear kindly took time-out to meet up with 4BarsRest at the Pontins Championships. Here we publish what we hope will be just the start of an on-going progress of the band.

"My family has a long tradition in brass bands that can be traced back through three generations when my Grandfather conducted in the early part of the Century. My father taught me along with my brother Peter and in the early 1960's we both joined the St.Dennis who were a then a top band in the West of England and conducted by the late Eddie Williams."

"I played in the Cornwall Youth Brass Band and for several years I was their principal cornet where we played under some well-known conductors, Dr. Denis Wright, T.J.Powell, Eric Ball, Geoffrey Brand and Malcom Arnold. I remember, in 1968 when I was playing for the St.Dennis Band, they were launching a new lifeboat in Padstow and Malcolm Arnold was living in Corwall. He was commissioned to write a march to commemorate its launch and the band were asked to play at this event. I think we played very well on that day, we had practised hard realising it was a prestigious event, none of us forgot that day."

"I played principal cornet for St.Dennis for a short while later moving to the solo horn and solo euphonium positions. We contested regularly both at local and National level and in that 20 years I competed at 3 British Open Championships at the Kings Hall in Belle Vue and played at the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall on 11 occasions."

"It was whilst at St.Dennis Band in the 1970's that Eddie Williams asked me to deputise for him in his absence and that's when my interest in conducting began."

"In the early 1980's the pressure of work in instustry, involving regular overseas travel, made it impossible for me to continue banding at a high level but I continued to play and maintained my keen interest at a lower level."

"In late 2000 St.Dennis Band were advertising for a new musical director which co-incided with my early retirement from industry and I was fortunate to be selected to take up the position in March 2001."

"The band had gone into decline in the 1990's and were rebuilding having just commenced attending contests once again - but in the fourth section. I took over two days after the band had achieved a third place in the local association fourth section contest with the talk of preparing the band for the area finals four weeks later."

"I had to draw on my experience of having played at Championship level and my demands were readily met by the young band. The hard work both me and the band put in paid off and we achieved second place out of 26 bands."

"Within a short period my role was extended to conducting the Youth Band which required preperation for the summer engagement season for both the senior band and youth band. St.Dennis Band are fortunate to have 60 brass players on thir books ranging from a beginners group through learners group to youth and senior bands."

"In 2001 we were approached by Carlton Television to partake in a programme featuring a band from the West Country and it followed the band's progress at the Open-Air Bandsmen's Festival at Bugle on the 16th June 2001 and the National 4th Section Final at Preston."

"The Bugle Contest is special occasion and there are about 40 bands in Corwall with ages from about 7 to 75 - even 80 in some bands. All the villages had a band built up around the industry reflecting the individuality of the village and I think St.Dennis Band was formed in 1898 to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Victoria."

"Marching down through the village we played 'Death or Glory' which seemed appropraite as the band had some difficult times about five years ago. The band was falling into decline so went into the schools and offered teaching and instruments. The band in the main consisted of these players when we played Gordon Langford's 'Three Haworth Impressions on the contest and won 1st prize. We worked very well up to this contest and the result was the fruits of our labour."

"We took enormous support with us on a double decker bus to both the Preston Finals in 2001 and Torquay in 2002 even having red and black supporters t-shirts made."

The St.Dennis Band have gained promotion to the 3rd Section from January 2003 and we they eagerly looking forward to the challenge. When we asked Brian if he would contribute to 4BR we asked him to talk about the 'up's and down's' of the last two years. As he said to us, with a smile in his voice and quite rightly, "there haven't been many down's" and when you look at their record under his guidance he's not wrong!

April 2001:
2nd place - West of England 4th Section Qualifiers
June 2001:
1st place - Bugle Bandsmen's Festival Class D (3rd Section)
September 2001:
2nd place - National Finals Section 4 Preston
March 2002:
1st place - Cornwall Brass Band Association Contest (3rd Section)
April 2002:
1st place - West of England 4th Section Qualifiers
June 2002:
1st place - Bugle Bandsmen's Festival Class C (2nd Section)
June 2001:
1st place - Bugle Bandsmen's Festival Class D (3rd Section)
September 2002:
1st place - National Finals Section 4 Torquay
Octobeer 2002:
2nd place - Pontins Championships Prestatyn 4th Section

With thanks to Brian Minear MD, St.Dennis Band

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