In 1995 Caroline Walker decided to embark on a 3-year 'Woodwind Instrument Making and Repair' course at the then Newark & Sherwood College (now Lincoln College). A couple of years later in 1996/7, the college asked Roger Bryan, then Master of the Song School, to conduct the Newark & Sherwood College & Community Orchestra, made up of the students that attended the college and local music school. Caroline worked with Roger and became the secretary and helped in selecting and collecting music from the Nottingham Music Library. Unfortunately, the orchestra never really took off and, when they got down to only seven players and no MD, the orchestra disbanded. Caroline thought it a shame to lose such a community activity and decided to find a way to turn the situation around.
So with very little experience, in 1997, Caroline ditched the idea of a community orchestra and started up a concert/wind band, and thus the Newark & Sherwood Concert Band (NSCB) was formed.
Caroline wanted the project to attract as many musicians as possible to get it off the ground, and it was decided that there was to be no minimum standard or audition process, to attract as many new players although it was advised that anyone able to play around the Grade 4 standard would fit in just fine. Music was gathered from various friends of the players and a library was started by Ian Saunders (flute) and his wife Kathryn (oboe). The band started to grow, and Caroline gained permission to rehearse in the college main hall (no longer present) for a short time but the band soon moved to rented premises for a nominal charge.
Little by little, more members joined and the band held their first concerts, one of which was in the Newark Castle grounds, a place the band still performs year on year. Caroline also approached the parish committee in Collingham and after a successful first Christmas concert; the date was put in the diary for the following year and almost every year since. Word of mouth spread, and the band picked up more concerts in Newark and Collingham at churches and May Fayres.
Funding and expansion...
In 2009, over a decade since NSCB began, Caroline with the help of Tina Pointing (Principal flute at the time) applied for Lottery funding, and were successful in receiving a grant of £10,000 towards the development of the band. They used the funds to purchase some percussion equipment, music stands and various other bits and pieces, all of which were much needed to keep the band moving forwards. With the help of this funding and new equipment, the band performed around the county and built up relationships with various local, town and district councils, all of which helped to improve their status within the community.
With over 30 members, many of whom are still with the band today, and commitment from the tutors and the students from the local music school who played during term-time over their 3 year course, the band was starting to thrive. Not only in the local community but the spirit within the band began to flourish also, with life-long friendships being made and even marriages that the band were honoured to perform at - including Caroline and her husband Alan!
As the band became a bigger organisation, a committee was created to ensure that the band ran smoothly. Bob Weall (aided by his wife Eve) took on the arduous role of librarian, and a treasurer, chairman and secretary were elected to find premises to rehearse, maintain and store the equipment and make use of any space available including churches, working men’s clubs, village halls but to name a few.
It was then the time to venture further afield to the outlying villages around Newark to widen the community audience and gain some more regular concerts. The committee and band members worked harder than ever to ensure that any obstacles were overcome – funding, rehearsal rooms, storage, membership, music, administration – but it was worth the effort. The band were soon travelling to perform in different counties and hiring coaches to transport them – on the up!
A strong leadership team...
Over the years the band had a variety of conductors, Hugh Casterton, Derek Lusby, Dave Taylor, Ewan Robson, Steve Sutton (whose daughter Shelby is still a member of the band) to name but a few and every bit of help was much appreciated. It was in 2012 that the band put out an advert which attracted the attention of the then 21 year old Colum O'Shea.
With plenty of choral and brass band conducting experience under his belt, but little concert band experience, the band voted Colum to be their Musical Director and NSCB has gone from strength to strength since his appointment.
In 2014 after a concert in the Georgian Ballroom at Newark Town Hall, Geoffrey Foulds and Tony Marriott approached the band to perform at the Palace Theatre in Newark. This was a huge success and led to the annual concert in September which never fails to sell-out. Geoffrey and Tony were asked to be Patrons of the band, and with delight they accepted. Sadly Geoffrey died a few years later, but is always remembered by the band, and Tony is still a patron to this day.
It was a busy year as the band were also approached by the then Mayor, Rita Crowe to perform at the annual Twinning Association’s Last Night of the Proms at the Palace Theatre in February. The band love to perform at this engagement each year, especially as the twinning association request 'fancy dress' for half of the concert which adds to the excitement of the evening.
Rita Crowe accepted the position of President of Newark & Sherwood Concert Band, and with her husband Bob, have been of huge benefit and support of the band.
It wasn't long before the committee and Colum began working hard to secure a new rehearsal venue with better storage for the rapidly expanding band which had grown to have over 60 members. They approached the newly appointed owner of Kelham Hall & Country Park, Jonathan Pass, who welcomed the band to rehearse in The Great Dome every Tuesday. The band was becoming extremely popular within the county and beyond and had an excellent reputation for its performances and was only too happy to perform at some of the events hosted by Kelham Hall as they expanded and developed also.
A new challenge...
In December 2017, Colum O'Shea decided to give the band a new challenge by attending the regional National Concert Band Festival held at Nottingham High School. This first attempt saw the band play a varied programme of 5 pieces to two adjudicators who judged their performance to be of a Gold standard; a standard which the band surpassed in 2018 by gaining a Platinum standard and invitation to perform at the the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with over 50 other bands from around the country. The band were awarded a Gold standard for this performance.
In 2018, Caroline Walker was very much still an active part of the committee and spotted an article about a Canadian band looking for an English band with whom to hold a joint concert whilst on their tour of the UK. She approached them and invited them to Newark.
In the summer of 2018 the band were delighted to host a wonderful concert in the beautiful Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Newark followed by an “English Afternoon Tea” reception in the Georgian Ballroom of Newark Town Hall. This has led to international friendships within the band and an invitation to Canada in the not too distant future.
That summer, the band were also lucky to meet up with The Emmendingen Stadt Band who came to celebrate 35 years since the two towns signed the official charter linking them together. This also came with an invitation to Germany and the band are excited to visit Emmendingen in August of 2019.
2019 also saw the launch of two new and exciting ventures: the Newark & Sherwood Development band led by the talented Mr James Wood; and, the Newark and Sherwood Concert Band Young Soloist of the Year competition which saw 31 incredibly talented young musicians from the age of 6 to 18 perform in the Carriage Court at Kelham Hall.
Last updated July 2019
There are so many people behind the scenes who deserve a mention, but most of all, it’s the players who turn up, play wonderful music and delight our audiences, who are the most important factor.