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History of the Band

Ralph Nellist, an eminent figure in brass band circles, has to take the credit for originating brass banding at the Hall Royd Methodist Church, Shipley in 1945. Cyril Northwood was an able assistant bandmaster as well as being joint leader, with Mr. Nellist, of the Sunday School class in which one could find most of the band members on Sunday afternoons.

In those days it was Sunday School at 2pm, then band at 3pm every Sunday. Evening service followed by Youth Fellowship at the Manse or a long evening walk with the girls from the Junior Choir concluded the day (after which everyone walked everybody else home for at least another hour!).

The combination of the competent Junior Choir led by Jack Wilde (another Sunday School teacher) and the band was known as the ‘Hall Royd Music Makers’.


Evolutions

With the aid of benefactors such as Mr. Ernest Stuart and a splendid parents committee, second hand instruments were purchased up to the full band complement.  Musical progress was good and by 1949 the band was in the 3rd Section, having won the North Eastern Daily Herald (4th Section) in 1948 at Leeds Town Hall. For a time we were nationally famous as the only ‘Junior Band’ in the 3rd Section.

From this time forward there was a steady drain of older players into National Service such that contesting had to be abandoned and ambitions moderated.

Cyril Northwood’s work took him to West Bromwich. Inevitably a number of players did not resume banding after their military service. Equilibrium was restored thanks to the dedicated nucleus and to splendid work by Bill Smith who trained the learners’ class. Variety acts became a feature of band concerts involving the band and former Junior Choir members.

By now the name had changed to the ‘Hall Royd Methodist Band’ by dropping the ‘Junior’ which was no longer appropriate. In the early 60s it was recognised that the step from the learners’ class to an adult band was intimidating for a young player without experience, so it was decided that a ‘Junior Band’ was required.

So the band committee formed the new ‘Hall Royd Methodist Junior Band’ in 1963 as a successor to Bill Smith’s learners’ class. The appointed leaders were John Bentley and Norman Cree as Bandmaster and Deputy Bandmaster respectively and soon new recruits were pouring in for individual and group tuition.

Before long there was a sufficient repertoire of tunes to ‘inflict’ a concert on the unsuspecting Drighlington Methodist Church. The impact of a small band of youngsters, many of whom were not yet 12, dressed neatly in white shirts, grey shorts/trousers or skirts, wearing royal blue corduroy waistcoats and playing simple tunes loud and clear was tremendous. It was a great debut and morale was sky high.

Rehearsals started in the old Sunday School Guildroom on Monday nights at 7pm. Then we moved onto the Main Hall stage at 8pm when the brownies had finished. Individual tuition went on in the numerous side rooms whilst the main element of the band practised repertoire. When he could spare the time, Mr. Nellist came down and taught a few. At 9:30pm everything was packed away and the evening changed over to ‘bean bag football’ and ‘British Bulldogs’. 

Before long, the Juniors were in great demand and thriving despite shortage of instruments. Old instruments were purchased from second hand shops, private individuals and from an instrument repair works in Manchester. Quite often the leaders had to wait several years for the band’s meagre income and subs to repay them for instruments they had acquired.

Memorable occasions abounded, especially the warm receptions at the Eastbrook Over 60s Club where the band was once referred to as ‘Mr. Cree and his children’.

Initially the aim was to use the Junior Band as a feeder to the Senior Band but, over the years, a camaraderie had developed which the children didn’t like to leave behind. Dual membership of Junior and Senior Bands was made an option for the more competent members prepared to bridge the generation gap.

In the early 70s John had to resign from the Junior Band due to business pressures leaving Norman as Bandmaster assisted first by Jimmy Pellitt as deputy for a short spell, then by Brian Anderson, and then by nobody for most of a decade until Andrew Anstice and Graham Wilkinson had grown up.

In 1972, Mr. Nellist, the founder of Hall Royd banding, retired which was the cue for a number of the Senior Band members to retire from playing.

The Junior Band preferred to stay with its established successful formula and remained independent from and unaffected by the inevitable changes which the Senior band had to accommodate. To reflect the growing age range, the word ‘Junior’ was changed and the name ‘Hall Royd Young Peoples Band’ was adopted.

In December 1985, the band became a registered charity and for this purpose a Band Constitution was written. The aims of the band were expressed in the Constitution as follows:

To educate the public in the Musical Arts and, in particular, the art of brass band playing and to further the development of public appreciation and taste in the said art by the presentation of concerts and similar activities.

To offer an opportunity for fellowship, and the development of appreciation of brass band playing amongst young people.

The band progressed under the direction of Norman Cree, seen as ‘Mr. Hall Royd’.  Holidays to Sweden, Hungary, Ireland (twice), Poland and regular social events have helped to cement a good social environment for banding.

One of the bands greatest moments of glory was appearing on national television on the BBCs ‘Songs of Praise’ programme in the early 90s, playing carols on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

The term ‘Young Peoples’ was dropped from the name of the band in the early 90s, reflecting the fact that the term was not appropriate for all playing members. This leaves the band name as it is today, ‘Hall Royd Band’

Mark Sherwood who has been a member of the Hall Royd Band for more than 20 years started conducting the band in 2003 after the retirement of long-time Bandmaster, Norman Cree. Mark has been Hall Royd Band’s main Conductor since 2006.

The main band rehearses at Northcliffe Church and has a healthy Learners Band rehearsing on Monday nights (again at Northcliffe). Musicianship and camaraderie is flourishing with many concerts and events planned.

The main band has nearly 30 members and there are a number of youngsters turning up on Monday evenings for free tuition. Long may the band's success continue.