Teachers’ brass band hopes to hit the right note at national competition

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A BRASS band is hoping to sound the trumpets of success at a national competition.

NASUWT (National Association of School Masters and Union of Women Teachers) Riverside Band will attend the National Brass Band final, at the Royal Albert Hall, as regional champions for the first time on Saturday.

The Riverside Brass band rehearsing at St. Mary's & St. Cuthbert's Church, Chester-le-Street on Monday night, as part of their preparations for the Natioanl Brass Band Finals at the Royal Albert Hall, London

The Riverside Brass band rehearsing at St. Mary's & St. Cuthbert's Church, Chester-le-Street on Monday night, as part of their preparations for the Natioanl Brass Band Finals at the Royal Albert Hall, London

The band, of Chester-le-Street, is set to face off against three-times winners Reg Vardy, also from Durham, in a bid to claim brass glory.

Made up of 29 members, the group, which meet at Saint Mary’s and Saint Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Chester-le-Street, have lost out on the best brass band title for the last three years, but this year are hoping to clinch the accolade.

“We will certainly give it our best go,” said band manager Tony Thompson, who has played with the group for more than 50 years.

“We haven’t done all that well in the past, but that’s because we are playing against the best bands in the country.

“This year we are going down as regional champions so hopefully we will do well.”

The group, made up of brass players from across the North East, and the other the other 19 finalists, will take it in turns to play a 15-minute-long piece called Distant Memories, by Sunderland born composer Edward Gregson, who has reworked an old piece of brass band music for the competition.

“For the last few weeks it’s all we’ve done,” said Tony, who will travel to London with the other band members on Friday. It’s quite a tense competition. We practise four or five nights a week.

“It will cost between £8,000 and £10,000 for all the members to go to the competition, and none of us get paid – we are all amateur players – so that’s quite a lot of money, but it’s what we do.”

NASUWT Riverside Band formed as Pelton Fell Methodist Band in 1877, before becoming Pelton Fell Colliery Band until the pit closed in 1966.

It has had various other sponsors since then and became NASUWT Riverside Band thanks to sponsorship from the unions in 2006.

The group has expanded in recent years, and now has a Concert Band, and recently started Nippers for under 10s who want to learn to play an instrument.