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A brief History of Gloucester Excelsior Band

The band really started in 1956 when Bill Sparkes, who only hung up his trombone last year at the age of 89, 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 not being a band and also of being professionals, which they were not.

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 form a band, thus the Gloucester Excelsior was born.

Practices were held at the British Legion Hall near the Cathedral and so the band was 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.

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 although it is becoming more difficult to fill the places of skilled musicians when they leave for university and then when they finish their studies, either move away or have such busy lives that their music takes a back seat.

Whilst we are quite capable of fulfilling and enjoying our regular engagements we are currently involved in looking for new players to join our training band.

Presentation To Bill Sparkes -- 12th March 2010

At the AGM a very special event took place when the band presented Bill Sparkes with a commemorative model of a trombone made in glass and contained in a bottle.

The presentation was 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 in 2009 when Bill put his trombone in its case for the last time at the age of 89.

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

The son of a trombone player he was born in 1920 in Dinglewell, just down the road from where he now lives. He bought his first trombone in 1930 for 2½d (6p). Coincidentally the man from whom he bought the trombone later became the father-in-law of our present drummer!

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 H.M. The Queen.

Bill passed away at the age of 94 on the 21st November 2014.

Gloucester Excelsior Band in 2018