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National Youth Brass Band at 70
Challenges met and opportunities to come

Mark Bromley, CEO of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain talks to 4BR about the organisation's response to the challenges posed in 2021, and how it is now looking forward to its 70th anniversary year in 2022.


The smile says it all: NYBBGB CEO, Mark Bromley

A warm smile appears on the face of the Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain when asked to talk about his reflections of 2021.

It's also one that that remains firmly in place as he gives his upbeat assessment of the year to come too – one that will see it celebrate a landmark anniversary.

Optimism

Optimism and positivity have been the hallmarks of Mark Bromley’s tenure as the executive lead to an organisation that has undergone fundamental change since he took the reins in 2020. 

In the past year that has seen inventiveness, inclusion and progressive thinking used as an effective armoury to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19.

So, with those foundation stones now firmly embedded, little wonder that after a short Christmas break, he is now looking forward to the National Youth Band’s 70th birthday celebrations.


Some of the musicians who gave the musical lead in 2021

Remarkable achievement

“Next year is a big one in more ways than one,” he said. “70 years is a remarkable achievement – one that has been built over the decades by the hard work and dedication, skills and talents of countless people and especially players.  I’m very aware of the contributions made by so many musical as well as administrative figures.

The challenges faced during those years have been varied, but Covid-19 was unique. Everyone worked so hard to overcome them, so that’s why I’m full of optimism. We have a fantastic programme of concerts and events planned, so there is so much to look forward to.”

The challenges faced during those years have been varied, but Covid-19 was unique. Everyone worked so hard to overcome them, so that’s why I’m full of optimism.

2021 saw approaches that embraced the increased use of new technology and social media promotion to overcome the challenges to youngsters unable to meet up in the traditional manner for the National Youth Band courses.


Everyone started to get familiar with new technology...

It also saw start of a new two-year partnership with the Royal Marines Band Service that saw a joint online performance of Dan Price’s ‘Andromeda’, specially arranged for brass and military band. 

New and exciting

“That was something new and exciting – but also a real indication of how technology can now be used in such a constructive manner. Pastoral care is every bit as important to us musical excellence, and youngsters do feel comfortable using new technology to communicate and reach out,” Mark said. 

“Producing a virtual performance from individually played parts takes quite some effort, so my thanks go not only to the tutors and players but to those behind the scenes for stitching it all together.  It was a great learning curve to be on, and it opened my eyes. What stars!”


New opportunities brought into view...

Emotional experience

Due to the ongoing effects of Covid-19, the band’s Easter “gatherings” were held in two parts – an initial ‘virtual course’ laying the foundation for three ‘live’ days in Manchester, Malvern and London when restrictions allowed.

Mark added: “Those live days was the first-time members had played together in almost two years, so it was quite an emotional experience for everyone at each of the welcoming venues.  

Highlight

Guest Conductor Ian Porthouse was amazing, and we were privileged to hear masterclasses from the likes of Tom Hutchinson, the Royal Marines musicians Nick West and Mark Upton and composer Gavin Higgins.  However, for so many reasons the highlight was the inspiring talk by Clarence Adoo about his life and unstinting passion for music.”

However, for so many reasons the highlight was the inspiring talk by Clarence Adoo about his life and unstinting passion for music

The promotion and support of the next generation of National Youth Band players remains key to the success and relevance of the organisation. 


The National Children's Band of Great Britain 2021

Proud

Mark was particularly proud of the commitment to the National Childrens Band during 2021. A great deal of preparation work enabled the Summer Courses to be held with appropriate Covid-19 guidelines in Repton, where Prof Nicholas Childs in his last stint as Music Director, led a wonderfully uplifting week.

“I think the smiles on the children’s faces and their obvious joy in being back, some a foot taller than when they last met, were as infectious as their playing. Euphonium star Gary Curtin was brilliant, and the band looked wonderful in their new uniforms and sounded magnificent.

It may have rained – but given the circumstances nobody cared. It was just wonderful to hear the talented players in live action once more.”

It may have rained – but given the circumstances nobody cared. It was just wonderful to hear the talented players in live action once more

Demanding repertoire

A week later the National Youth Band followed under the direction of Philip Harper, his team of tutors and guest soloist, Simon Howells. 

Blessed with better weather it culminated in a super concert in the Repton School grounds where the MD put the players through demanding repertoire, including a trio of major test-pieces as well as a world premiere of Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Where She Sings Freely’, featuring a moving poetic text narrated by Clara Price. 


The line-up of NYBBGB principal players with conductor Philip Harper 

Inspiring week

Mark Bromley added: “That was another inspiring week of music making.  The response of the players was incredible – especially as Philip Harper really tested their musical mettle to the full. It really showcased the organisation’s musical ambition for its players.”

The year was rounded off with both the Youth and Children’s Bands convening back at Repton over the final weekend of the Autumn half term holidays to record a special 70th anniversary CD, entitled ‘Celebration’, which has now been released.

“That really was the culmination of what we wanted to achieve in 2021,” Mark said. “My thanks go to everyone involved. It was the perfect way to end 2021 and look forward to 2022.”


The new CD release: 70 years of Celebration 

2022 events

Mark revealed that the first event of the 70th anniversary year will hopefully be in Evesham on 29th January, where six young conductors will take part in the NYBBGB Weston Conducting Competition led by Dr. Robert Childs and Martyn Brabbins, the Musical Director of English National Opera.

“This should be a wonderful event and we hope guidelines will allow it to be fully open to the public. The prize is for the winner to be the Associate Conductor to Martyn Brabbins, on our 2022 Summer residential course in Taunton and at our 70th Anniversary Concert in London.”

There are sure to be many more challenges ahead in the coming 12 months or more, so we are determined to work harder than ever and to ensure this 70th anniversary year is one to remember.

Reality

Mark’s optimism though is also laced with reality, and he hopes that people will continue to support an organisation that continues to strive to provide unique musical opportunities to talented players.

“There are sure to be many more challenges ahead in the coming 12 months or more, so we are determined to work harder than ever and to ensure this 70th anniversary year is one to remember.

I would ask that if anyone shares that vision, to please consider supporting our Bursary Fund to help ensure that no talented brass or percussion player misses the opportunity to play with the Youth or National Children’s Band of Great Britain because of financial hardship.”

Iwan Fox


To purchase the National Youth Brass Band CD, go to: https://www.nybbgb.org.uk/shop/all

To help with the Bursary Scheme go to: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/NYBBGBBursaryFund2022

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