Here in Lanson, the local town band is ever present, its exuberant tunes familiar to all as they ring out across town during local events and celebrations.
The deep, mellow, yet cheery sound of a town band nestles itself into a community. We all become accustomed to its unique sound. Across the country, summer fetes, community celebrations, Remembrance commemorations and the like are all accompanied by town bands. It’s a tradition that seems to be deep-rooted wherever you go.
Mike Warne and Tony Uglow, both long-serving members of Launceston Town Band, wanted to share a little bit of the band’s history, as well as their own experiences of playing over the years.
The ‘Launceston Municipal Band’ was formed in 1919 when the following resolution was passed: “That the Launceston Municipal Band be formed, outside the territorial force” - the territorial force presumably being the territorial army reserve attached to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
In June 1920, minutes record the band received four Bb cornets, three Bb clarinets, 1 Eb clarinet, two tenor horns, one euphonium, two bombardons with carriage straps, one bass drum with sticks and straps for drums, all thought to have been purchased from Messrs Boosey, a leading firm of instrument makers. The band already owned one tenor trombone and one Bb baritone (horn), so the band’s original instruments comprised a mixture of brass, woodwind and percussion, the same as a military band. However, in May 1924 it is recorded that the committee agreed to dispose of the clarinets and buy more brass instruments, and since then the band has been a brass band without woodwind instruments. The band later received a donation of instruments from the vicar of St Stephens who had presumably kept the instruments left behind by the St Stephens Band, who had disbanded at the outbreak of the First World War.
Tony Uglow, proud Launcestonian whose family have lived in the area for generations, joined the band in 1956 as a ten-year-old boy and still has connections with the band today.
“We used the old Congregational Sunday School Room down Northgate Street as our Rehearsal Room in those days, long before the neighbouring Congregational/Baptist Chapel collapsed - although, frankly, the Sunday School Room was in a fairly dangerous state, as I recall. The first floor balcony was a no go area due to it's dilapidation with holes all over the place,” Tony recalled.
It was some time after this that Eric Smith became chairman of the band and they were able to access a room under what is now Stags estate agents, before the band was moved into the present building.
Former solicitor Mike Warne, who moved to Launceston in 1980 and joined the band that year, holds the original lease to the bandroom. What was once a disused chapel was leased to the band for a seven-year contract for £10 rent per year in the 60s. Finally, in 2009, the bandroom was transferred to Launceston Town Council, after some difficulty surrounding the price of the rent following the 1970s local government reorganisation. This new lease was to last 21 years with four trustees of the bandroom on a full repairing basis at the same rent of £10 per annum.
After giving up playing in the band in 1989, Mike continued to be involved and in 2011 he became chairman and is still very much involved today.
The musical director of the band is now Ann Brown, who was previously principal solo cornet of the band for a continuous period of some 40 years.
Do you have fond memories of playing in or seeing the Launceston Town Band over the years? Let us know, email firstname.lastname@example.org
With thanks to Roger Pyke at Launceston Then for providing some wonderful old pictures of Launceston Town Band.