Image by Matt Botsford

2020 in Review

2020 has been like no other year. We began the year with a highlight of taking our main Youth Band to compete in 'Brass at the Wire'. This was a return to competing for the band and marked the beginning of exciting plans for competing and touring in the year ahead. Sadly this wasn't to be as we swiftly closed our physical doors to rehearsals.

Unwilling to accept a lack of provision for our young people; dedicated conductors, tutors, parents and friends embarked on a rapid learning curve to adapt youth brass banding and our community to a safe, vibrant, creative online community.

Much of what we were able to do was thanks to a large, generous emergency covid grant from the Arts Council with additional projects developing from this stimulus. We are grateful to the many voluntary hours offered by so many people in addition to the creative professionals we were able to work with. 

We continue to welcome new members online from aged 4-19. Whilst we can't wait to be back playing together where we can hear the beautiful sound of brass and laughter, our community has changed permanently, for the better. Below are just 10 examples of what we have achieved together in the last 12 months. Thank you to everyone for playing your part.

01

Masterclasses

Throughout the year we have been able to provide an inspiring range of online masterclasses for all of our members from national and international leaders in their fields. These have included a range of subjects from performance, composition, army music careers, West End theatre, wellbeing and therapy. They have been provided by: Georgina Aasgaard, Jonathan Bates, Bill Connor, Simon Cowen, Gary Curtin, Tom Dunnett, Ian Porthouse, Alex Smith and Ian Stephens.

02

pBuzz Course

Unwilling to let a world pandemic stop innovation and introducing new people to brass music, we launched a free online pBuzz course for Key Stage 1 children to begin their brass journey. This led to launching our new pBand! This free video course is still available for anyone who wants to learn - they just need to buy an inexpensive pBuzz and email us to receive the course.

03

pBuzz Happy Christmas

Members from our newly formed pBand, aged 4 - 6 made it into the local news, delighting the town with this Christmas music cheer! Click the image to listen.

04

Here Comes Tomorrow

Jonathan Bates composed Ex Terra Lucum for our band five years ago, which has gone on to be played internationally. Still a great friend of the band, we were delighted that Jonathan agreed to work with our young people this year to write a new commission 'Here Comes Tomorrow' based on their hopes for the future. They recorded this separately at home having only ever rehearsed online - what a great achievement for all from age 7 upwards! The video was created in partnership with Jamm Studios, St Helens. Click the image to listen.

05

Junk Samba

We had great fun inviting friends and family to Junk Samba sessions with guest tutor Pete Mitchell. Some instruction videos remain available for free on our YouTube page for anyone to have a go at Samba with household items! Click the image to see more.

06

Quizzes and Online Family Fun

Being part of SHYBB is like joining a big family and so it was just as important for us to continue to provide fun and support for all the family with regular quizzes and online scavenger hunts created by older members of our bands.

07

Weekly Rehearsals

We have continued to provide weekly rehearsals for all members throughout the year with a mixture of well known music, new music, skills development and fun. We've developed the use of our online platform to have specialist guest tutors working with small sections to ensure that everyone was able to continue developing. We have been so proud of our young people's commitment to attending and making the sessions so worthwhile. We've also been delighted to welcome new members throughout this period.

08

Music Theory Courses

We have developed a set of free video courses of tutoring with worksheets to prepare young people for ABRSM Music Theory Grades 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. Seth Livingstone, the face of theory has become a household favourite and provided support and feedback to members following the courses. These courses remain available to members. Click the image to watch the first video.

09

Christmas Carols

The sound of Christmas is Brass Bands carolling! It was a great disappointment to us not to be out busking and playing concerts through December. This is also a time when we are able to raise much needed funds to keep the band affordable for any young person. However some of our senior members planned, organised and edited a full online advent calendar of Christmas music. What an incredible endeavour showcasing our members skills, engagement and the way they have adapted to online music creating. We were able to spread some joy sharing these videos for churches to use in online services and for the St Helens Willowbrook Hospice Festival of Light and Remembrance. Click to listen to a favourite of ours.

10

Alumni play our theme tune!

With 40+ years history of the SHYBB we have an amazing alumni of players who came together for the first time, to record what has become the band's signature theme tune for a St Helens band. This amazing group of people gave up time from their busy day jobs, professional music commitments and some dusted off long neglected instruments to help us raise awareness of the band ... they did a lot of reminiscing in the process! Click the image to hear this incredibly special performance.

A band with legacy and a future

Since its beginning, St Helens Youth Brass Band has provided hundreds of young people in the area with accessible opportunities to learn brass and percussion instruments, to play in an award winning band, to compete, busk, perform for audiences and travel the world! Through all of this, countless professional musicians and parent volunteers have provided young people with community, support, skills in music, organisation, resilience, persistence and a place to belong. This year has changed our world, music and our band. We can't wait to see what the future holds!