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Woodbridge Excelsior Band
There are few bands in the United Kingdom that have celebrated their 160th anniversary. But Woodbridge Excelsior Band celebrated theirs in 2006.
There are a number of gaps in the long history of the band, particularly during wartime, but it is known that it was formed in August of 1846 when it began life as the Woodbridge Temperance Band
In those far-off days there were a number of Temperance Bands in the UK: today there are just two or three left. In those early days the band instrumentation was brass and woodwind and it was not until 1916, when the name was changed to Woodbridge Excelsior Brass Band, that the woodwind, trumpets and French horns were discarded in favour of what is now the standard set of brass band instrumentation.
Mr John Dowsing was one of our longest-ever serving players, having been a member for over 70 years. He joined the band on 17 September 1925 and at that time the band was financially supported or 'sponsored' by tradespeople in the town. Other members of his family have been involved with the band over the years including his daughter, son-in-law, granddaughters and grandson. 'JD' passed away shortly after Christmas 2004 but will always be remembered by the band.
There is one other man who has done his fair share to further the fortunes of Woodbridge Excelsior Brass Band. Sidney Smith (known as Guv'ner and who was the town baker) was a member of the band for 30 years, joining when the celebrations were going on to mark the 100th anniversary of the band.
Throughout the years the band has had links with the military establishments within the area. One event made headlines in the local papers when the band was doing a sponsored walk to raise funds for new instruments. The band marched past the United States military base carrying a banner saying BACK THE BAND, but the US military jumped to action believing the banner to say BAN THE BOMB!!
It was 1969 when the band bought their first set of new instruments at a cost of £2,146 and the highlight of that operation came with the celebration concert when Harry Mortimer was guest for the evening. It was a great honour for a small town. Like many other Bands during the 1990s, the Band was able to secure lottery funding to replace the old instruments and those are still in use today.
In the contest field the band has never risen to any greatness, but they have recorded some instances of note. In the early 1970's the band appeared on the same bill as the rock band Deep Purple, when the concert was aptly titled Contrast of Music. There was also the privilege of being the first brass band to play at the National Film Theatre in London for the premiere of the film Akenfield.
Then in 1977 came a recording for a commercial for Golden Wonder Crisps, when the band had to play the Lincolnshire Poacher 90 times because the child actor was less than co-operative! In 2009 the Band recorded a TV appearance for the BBC programme "Richard Hammond's Blast Lab" but on this occasion we used a different piece of music!
It was also in the 1970's when Woodbridge Excelsior Brass Band first accepted girls into the band; today there are several in the band and Jackie Walker (who has been in the band for over 30 years) holds the post of Assistant Musical Director.
In 2002 the band decided to return to contesting, after more than 8 years away from any kind of competition. Their return to form was marked by 5th place in the London & Southern Counties Qualifiers for the National Brass Band Championships of Gt Britain, followed in 2003 by 2nd place, an invitation to the National Finals and promotion to the third section.