Sandwich Concert Band is a community organisation constituted through Making Music. The band comprises a Main Band and a Training Band and so encompasses wind, brass and percussion musicians of all levels.
The band started life in 2003 as the Pfizer Wind Orchestra, which was set up to give employees and locals the opportunity to rehearse and perform music together. In 2011, when Pfizer moved most of their facilities out of the area, along with a number of the band’s regular players, the remaining band members were determined to continue to make music, and re-constituted as Sandwich Concert Band, hoping to focus even more on the community band outlook. The band continues to be successful, giving four to five concerts a year, as well as other small group activities such as various charity events and fund-raising.
The band strives to give concerts of a high standard whilst maintaining an enjoyable, relaxed rehearsal environment. Playing in the band not only provides musicians with a way of improving their musical skills but also provides a method of socialising with people with a similar love of music. We’re a friendly bunch!
The band rehearses on Wednesday evenings at the Phoenix Centre in Sandwich, Kent. The Training Band rehearse from 6pm to 7pm, after which the Main Band rehearsal runs from 7.15pm to 9.15pm. Progression from the Training Band to the Main Band comes when players reach approximately Grade 5 level, though many players choose to play with both sections of the band for several years.
The Training Band accommodates players from approximately Grade 1, and supports both adults and children in their musical development. The Training Band performs in the same concerts as the Main Band, and there is a wonderful air of comradery between the players.
Sandwich Concert Band covers a wide variety of music including music from films and shows, marches, classical transcriptions and military and symphonic band music; and over the last couple of years, has been making a determined effort to raise funds to expand their music library.
Main Band Conductor, Benedict Preece, has worked with the band since 2012, and the band has improved immensely under his directorship. He is also Musical Director of East Bridge Chorale, Caritas Chamber Choir, and is currently Genesis Sixteen Conducting Scholar 2017-2018.
The band is run by a ten-strong committee of dedicated people, each with their own essential role – Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Librarian, Webmaster, Concert Manager, Marketing, Fundraising Co-Ordinator etc., and everyone ‘mucks in’ on concert days setting up chairs in the venue, transporting music, stands, percussion. There is a lot of work, but the outcome is very rewarding!
Over the last few years, we have combined forces with East Bridge Chorale, Benedict’s community choir, and have put on several joint concerts. This is a challenging venture, as there is a limit to the amount of music written for Wind Orchestra and Choir (apart from Christmas music), but the concerts have been met with enthusiasm from our audiences, and have been quite exhilarating to play in!
Mostly, the money we raise from our concerts goes back into funds to buy new music and to pay for rehearsal hall hire etc., but we also fundraise for other groups and charities. In November, we raised money for ‘The Mayor’s Fund’ which raises money to distribute to local community groups, from which we have also benefitted in the past; and a small instrumental group from the band often performs at local events/garden parties etc, and has recently collected for Age UK and Martha Trust, a local charity that provides lifelong care for people with profound physical and multiple learning disabilities.
We would like to do more fundraising for other organisations, but running a band is an expensive business. Wind Band music costs a lot, and weekly rehearsal venue hire is not cheap. We have been unsuccessful in finding a satisfactory music hire service for Wind Orchestra music – most seems to be for orchestral or choral forces. The one piece we did find we could hire, was only slightly more to buy outright! It would be great if there could be a central music hire facility – perhaps there is, but we haven’t found it yet!
Sandwich Concert Band is always happy to welcome new players in all sections, and currently has vacancies specifically in the trumpet, horn, and percussion sections.
For more information and contact details, please go to the band’s website www.sandwichband.org.uk
To keep up to date with the band’s current activities please “like” their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @band_sandwich
The Pfizer Wind Orchestra came about from a discussion by two chemists in the drug discovery department at the company's plant based at Sandwich in Kent. A message was posted on the Company's intranet saying that there would be a session at the social club on the evening of the 12th February 2003 - would any likeminded players/musicians like to turn up?
Over 40 players turned up to see what it was all about, employees and family members and myself included, as nervous as hell - I hadn't played for years and was dreading it!
Nonetheless it was a great success and I surprised even myself and the Band was born. A Committee was formed and we got organised, playing our first concert on the 15th June that year.
We went from strength to strength, forming a Training Band as well and played many concerts and functions in the local area until 2012 when the Company reorganised globally and players either left the Company or were dispersed elsewhere.
We reorganised as The Sandwich Concert Band the same year and continued - one of the big misses was the many sandwich students who turned up to play for us in their industrial placement year - proving the well renowned theory that science and music go hand in hand!
For myself the formation of the band was a godsend as I was looking to fill my spare time with some sort of hobby/pastime, love of music, and this fitted the bill exactly.
I have to say here that I am embarrassed to admit that I am mainly self-taught - a big, big, mistake and with hindsight and a message to anyone who reads this that if I could put the clock back I would have had as much tuition as possible and this is probably the reason I'm only a third!
While we rotate our clarinettists (I sometimes play second) I have to thank those players either side of me who give me the confidence to play better, and once again remind me that I should have had proper lessons. Sometimes I don't feel like turning out for rehearsals, but I do, and return home, having played well, with that lift that only music can give. We have a fantastic chair and conductor.
Brent, Main Band & Training Band Player
After not having played since school (9 years) I moved into a new area and happened to have neighbours who were involved with the band and told me I should go. Worrying I might not be good enough after so many years I tentatively went along and found a new 'family' that I became a committee member of after a couple of years. My Wednesday nights now allow me to switch off from everything else, relax from work and looking after two small children. Rehearsals are fun and easy-going but also provide challenge allowing me to continue to improve and become a better player. My children come to rehearsals/afternoon concerts and sit mesmerised. Maybe in time they will join me in the ranks of the players.
Main Band Player
I have been playing the clarinet since the age of eleven, and eventually went on to study music at university. Over the years, I have played in a number of wind bands and orchestras. In 2003, when the Pfizer Wind Orchestra was set up, my son had been learning to play the trumpet for a while so, at the age of eight, I took him along to the Training Band in an attempt to improve his trumpet playing and introduce him to ensemble playing. I went along with my clarinet, and together we joined the band. After a while, because of my musical background, I was asked to conduct the Training Band for a six-week period whilst the original conductor had to attend ante-natal classes with his wife who was expecting their first child. With the exception of a one-year break, I have been conducting them ever since!
The Training Band thrived, and I used to chauffeur a happy, if rather noisy, group of pre-teens to rehearsals every week – the memories still make me laugh! After a few years, these children (later teenagers) progressed to the Main Band and became excellent players. Following university, of course, most live in different areas. Some are still playing, and others will no doubt go back to it when their busy lives allow. My son still comes and plays with us, and other local brass and wind bands. My only complaint is that he is now a better player than me!
The same sense of friendship still exists in the band (both Main and Training) and we have a core of dedicated players who take pride in what we have managed to achieve. The Training Band currently has a greater proportion of adult learners, which brings a different dynamic – no pun intended – but still maintains the perfect balance of hard work and fun.
Kate, Training Band Conductor & Main Band Player
I joined the band in May 2012 having not played the clarinet since leaving school. I was made to feel very welcome and despite my initial nerves enjoyed every second of my first rehearsal. I have loved playing with both the main band and the training band, as well as smaller ensembles from the band, ever since. It is an amazing opportunity to play music from all genres and to meet new people.
Emma, Main Band & Training Band Player
According to Oscar Wilde ‘With Age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone’! So, was it wise to seek to join a band in my senior seniority?
Going back a bit, this senior thought he’d like to learn the clarinet in his 50’s. Five years later and he’d - just - passed Grade 5, but only ever played with his teacher, all classical stuff, got rather bored with all that, and finding himself far too busy at work, gave up playing completely.
Fast forward to his mid-seventies, and very nervously he thought he’d take up where he’d left off. Not possible. Years and flexibility, not to say embouchure etc. had gone into decline. Well, a couple of years later, with a good teacher or two, and definitely no more submitting to ritual humiliations by way of exams, a friend drags him along to the Sandwich Concert Band training section. He had a kindly welcome from the Conductor /ringmaster, Kate, was handed some sheets of music, sat down and found himself completely bemused, mystified. After reflection, apart from saying he’d never go back, what did he find, what has he learned?
Well, the age range for a start; from 10 years and up – a long way up. One junior was so small, she had to plonk her feet on her clarinet case, but she jolly well knew how to play. Nextly, that conductors with their varied styles, waves and signals are all seeing, all hearing. But, strangely, and most unlike his original professional training, are not out to ‘get at’ and embarrass individuals!
Since that start, he’s moved around the sections, 3rd to 2nd back to 3rd, then 1st; found fun in a much wider range of music, grappled with lots of sight reading, along with trying to spot the keys, tempo, dynamics, and, worst of all where to go back to in ‘repeats’ and ‘dal Segno’s’, and, in all, constantly challenged to improve. He’s learned a few things and tricks along the way; do try to keep squeaks and missed accidentals to a minimum – or make them quietly; if completely lost, try a gentle mime and wait till something vaguely familiar jogs the fingers. Beecham – ‘We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you would be good enough to keep in touch now and again’. What a benefit to the learners it is too, that really good and experienced players are prepared spend extra hours playing with and rounding out the sound of the training section.
So, was it wise? Perhaps the answer lies in the sheer thrill of being encouraged and supported to be part of, to be contributing to the full sound of a wind band, to be listening to others, to be making something together, that could never be made by individuals alone.
Mike, Training Band Member