All Good Things
Hard times came to the Band in the early eighties. Things had been rather tense during the late seventies, and breaking point was reached when a disciplinarian MD took the helm. By about 1982 the Band had suddenly reduced to something of the order of 12 members.
By this time Bill Barnes (‘Mr Albion’ according to one newspaper article) had resigned from the committee, and taken a seat on the back-row, playing repiano cornet. He continued to play with the Band until about 1985 – sixty years of playing with the Band, and was a Vice-President of the Band until his death in June 1995.
Bram Taylor became the main-stay of the Band through the eighties. He took over as Musical Director shortly after the decline, and held the Band together. The strong Taylor influence now became essential to the continuation of the Band. For a number of years the family connection was as follows: Bram Taylor, MD; Haydn Taylor (son), principle cornet; Pauline Taylor (Haydn’s wife), trombone; Irvine Taylor (son), trombone; Eileen Maclachlan (Pauline’s sister), horn; Elizabeth Taylor (daughter), horn; Emma Taylor (grand-daughter), horn; Ann-Marie Taylor (grand-daughter), cornet; Richard Taylor (grand-son), trombone and occasionally baritone; Susan Taylor (Irvine’s wife), band secretary and then later treasurer.
The committee which took over in the eighties had to come to contend with virtually a complete new set of players, and two changes in practice hall. For about eight or nine years the Band did not enter any competitions, and the memories of past glory were tinged with bitterness over the sudden fall from grace.
A Band Reborn
The first signs that the darkness was to end came in about 1986 when the Band voted to re-introduce the name ‘Albion’, and became the ‘City of Southampton (Albion) Band’. The Albion title had been dropped during the early seventies during what was ironically an attempt to modernise and improve the Band’s image – not to destroy it. Next in 1988 a new set of uniforms were bought to replace the rather shabby jackets which had served for some fifteen or more years.
Under the direction of Barry Willis the Band started to compete once more, and also undertook a large number of concerts. This gradual improvement continued, and for our efforts we were promoted from Wessex 4th to 3rd section. Unfortunately a knock-back came when a number of players moved on, and the missed contests led to relegation back to the 4th section.
Next in the hot seat was Peter Hyland, who firmly established his musical credentials (and his patience!) after coaching the Band to victory in the Wessex fourth section at Poole in 1990. Through this time the number and variety of performances given by the Band was improving, and a more forward looking and positive attitude was in-place.
One of the associations made by the Band during this time was with the Southampton Anglo-German Society, who invited us to participate in their Oktoberfest. This has become one of the most enjoyable events of the year. Each year several hundred merry-makers gather for a dinner and dance, with entertainment from the Albion and a band from Germany. The Albion plays during the dinner, for the early part of the evening, and then the German band entertains later in the evening when almost everyone (including the Albion) are on the dance floor!
Nick Dawson took-up the baton in 1993, just in time for a trip to Germany organised primarily by the Anglo-German Society, and accompanied by the Albion Band and a number of local dignitaries. While in Germany we gave a number of concerts, in town squares and at civic receptions. The sun shone every day, the band played to appreciative audiences, and everyone relaxed and had fun between performances. It was wonderful to see the Band become more united as a result of the time spent together, and also to hear the general improvement in performance standard.
A number of concerts were undertaken during 1993-4, with the quality and variety improving under Nick’s ‘street-wise’ instruction. Also in this time a few former players (from the fifties and sixties) returned to the Band, and links were renewed with the Southampton Docks.
At the start of 1994, a grant for £6250 was received from the Foundation for the Sports and Arts, primarily towards instruments, to help recover from the years of necessarily limited expenditure. Also the Band has put much effort into improving its performances, presentation and publicity.
The first Band recording for about twenty years was made in early 1994, and the tapes have not only sold very well at concerts and other performances but they have also been useful for a couple of local radio broadcasts.
A couple of contests were attended during 1994, with disappointing results. This was attributed largely to late preparation, due to concert commitments, and to a lack of commitment from some of the Band towards the competitive side of banding. It is hoped and indeed expected that future competitions will yield better results, though the audience enjoyment factor will continue to be our primary measure of success.
Also in 1994 another trip was undertaken, this time to Cornwall. The final performance was a very successful joint concert with the Pendeen Silver Band. Whilst on a day trip to St Ives, the sun shone with a ferocity which would have done credit to the Mediterranean, and made it a very enjoyable day on the beach!
At the end of his term in office, the Mayor of Southampton asked for a massed band concert in the Guildhall, and the Albion were invited to join with the Sholing SA Band, the Shirley SA Band and the Southampton Youth Band. This was quite an occasion, though fitting all four bands on stage for the massed band items was interesting! This event was also interesting from a historical perspective, since the profits were applied to the Mayor’s Scheme, which is a charity started during the depression of the thirties. During the very first year of this charity appeal the Albion Band put on a concert in the Southampton ‘Grand Theatre’ which apparently raised a large sum for the scheme. During later years a contribution from Christmas collections was donated to the Mayor’s Scheme.
Towards the end of 1994 the ‘Albion Training Band’ was formed. This provides an opportunity for novice members of the senior band to play lead parts, and for relative newcomers to brass instruments to be introduced to the world of brass bands. The training band has already taken part in a couple of concerts given by the senior band and is developing an admirable playing repertoire. The previous Albion Junior Band was lead for many years by Mr Ernie Allen, but ceased to exist in the early eighties. During the time it was in operation it was the training ground for several of the current band members.