Abbey Brass came into existence in 1977 when a group of parents got together to create a band for their youngsters to play with. Although at first lacking in material assets, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed saw them through the early difficulties, and interest in Abbey Brass quickly grew.
The first public performance for this young band came on 4th June 1977
as part of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Parade. At the time Abbey Brass
had 19 players, aged 10-13. Two years later, in September 1979,
Abbey Brass returned to the carnival scene as part of the MG Car Company
50th Anniversary celebrations. By this time the band had grown to
30 players, and had to borrow a 40 ft “artic” lorry from British Leyland
in order to be able to fit the whole band on board.
From its earliest days Abbey Brass enjoyed contesting success, placing 3rd out of 6 in it’s first contest outing in May 1978 at the Oxford and District Brass Band Association Contest (junior section). In 1980 the band won the ODBBA entertainment contest (both music and deportment sections). This gained them promotion to the C section. By 1985 they had made it to the A section. In 1989 they had a hugely successful year, peaking with a 2nd place in the Severn Radio Band of the Year Contest, held in Gloucester in May. In 1994, Abbey Brass won the 4th section contest at Aylesbury, also winning Best Bass Section. In more recent times Abbey Brass has moved away from the contesting area, choosing to concentrate more on the entertaining side of brass playing than on competing. That said, the Abbey Brass Training Band made their contest debut in October 2006 at the ODBBA Entertainment Contest, and the players acquitted themselves well for a first time out. They plan to add that event to their annual programme and compete there regularly.
In 1986 the band gained its own bandroom- six portacabins from Culham were put together on the Abbey Meadow and became Abbey Brass’ new home. Lots of work was needed by players and their families to turn the portacabins into a rehearsal space. They obviously did a good job, as these portacabins still serve as the bandroom today. Fundraising was key to Abbey Brass gaining a home of its own, and is still key as the band works to keep the current bandroom in good condition. Looking to the future, more fundraising is necessary so that Abbey Brass is in a position to replace its current facilities when the need arises.
Abbey Brass enjoys friendships with Abingdon’s twin towns of St. Niklaas and Schongau. They have visited the Harmonie Excelsior Band in St Niklaas, Belgium, and have played host to the band when they have visited Abingdon. They were also invited to play at the 1991 bierfest in Schongau, Bavaria. All that is needed is a visit to Lucca, Italy to complete the set!
Abbey Brass also enjoys collaborating with other musical organisations. In recent years they have done joint concerts with several choirs, including the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir. In June 2006 they held a joint concert with Chanterelders Choir from Leicester in St. Helen’s Chruch, Abingdon, with the proceeds going to Christian aid. A real highlight for the band was playing as guests of Wantage Band when they gave a concert in Abingdon in May 2007. It was fantastic for Abbey Brass to play with a band of that standard, and is an experience they hope to repeat in the future.
In recent times Abbey Brass has developed into a larger organisation,
with a well-established training band which performs in its own right,
and learner groups that form to accommodate those who wish to
learn to play from scratch. There are Friends of Abbey Brass, people
who perhaps lack the time or inclination to play an instrument, but
who wish to contribute to the organisation. Fundraising continues, as
the need for new instruments, more music and improved facilities is
Abbey Brass moves into its 4th decade in robust shape. Its doors
are open to anyone with an interest in playing, whatever standard
they may be. Hopefully, Abbey Brass will enjoy another 30 years as
successful as the last.
Abbey Brass is a registered charity with the following aims:-
To promote the education and training of people in the playing of brass instruments.
To promote public appreciation and understanding of brass band music.
To stimulate interest in the art of playing for the benefit of the public.