A brief History of Gloucester Excelsior Band

The Sparkenham Trombones
The Sparkenham Trombones

The band really started in 1956 when Bill Sparkes, and three of his friends got together to form a trombone quartet under the name of the Sparkenham Trombones.

They were very successful, winning 47 cups and plaques in 52 competitions. In fact they were so successful that they were accused of being professionals, which they were not, and not really being a band at all.

The outcome was that they were banned from competing, so the quartet decided to regularise their position and form a full band. In 1960 they placed an advert in The Citizen asking if anyone wanted to be in a brass band and they had enough replies to proceed as a band, thus the formation of Gloucester Excelsior was born.

Practices were held at the British Legion Hall near the Cathedral and so the band was originally named the Gloucester British Legion Band. Later this was changed to the Glevum Band and still later the band became the Gloucester Excelsior Band.

Over the years, in addition to playing in various parks and at fetes, the band has competed in a number of competitions such as The Phoenix Brass Festival, Coleford and the Hungerford Entertainment Competitions.

Bill's story goes all the way back to 1930.

The son of a trombone player he was born in 1920 in Dinglewell, He bought his first trombone in 1930 for 2½d (6p).

The trombone had been kept hanging on a nail on the wall of the owner's cottage and consequently it was covered in whitewash. Bill cleaned this off with wire wool!

He was taught to play by his father, who played with the 5th Gloucestershire Regiment, and his brother George. He must have been a good pupil, as at the age of ten he joined the Gloucester City Band. After that he played with the 5th Gloucestershire Regiment Band until they were disbanded when he joined the Royal Gloucestershire Hussar Band. With this band he played at the opening of the Severn Bridge in the presence of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The Band presented Bill with a commemorative model of a trombone made in glass and contained in a bottle at a special AGM in 2009 to acknowledge Bill's contribution to the original formation of the band in 1960 and to thank him for his long loyal service to the band which ended that year when Bill put his trombone in its case for the last time at the age of 89.

Bill sadly passed away at the age of 94 on the 21st November 2014. In memory of Bill the band named their training bands Gloucester Excelsior Sparkes.

The band is very much a family band with young players attracting their parents to try their hand at brass playing and at any one time we have children and parents all playing in the band, in fact several families have enough expertise to almost form a small band of their own!

Our repertoire is as varied as the ages of the band members and covers traditional brass music such as marches, as well as classical, swing and jazz. We really enjoy playing big band music and film themes which have been adapted for brass.

The future will hopefully continue the past traditions and whilst we are more than capable of fulfilling and enjoying our regular engagements we are always looking for new players to join our training band.