HISTORY

 

Maidstone Wind Symphony (MWS) was founded as Maidstone Winds (MW) in 1998, as an adult amateur wind orchestra based in Maidstone, but drawing players from other parts of Kent. The founder and first musical director was Brendon Le Page, who was then a conductor and brass teacher with Kent Music School (KMS).  Brendon saw a lack of opportunities for brass, woodwind and percussion players of a good standard (Grade 8 or above) in the Maidstone area. Former KMS and Maidstone Youth Music Society (MYMS) players returning from higher education, and other local players, were unable to find places in the local amateur symphony orchestras.  

 

1998-2004

The first rehearsal was held in a back room at Union Street Methodist Church in Maidstone in March 1998. By 2000 the Band had more than 30 regular players.  From the very beginning the band gave public concerts, and has given at least two and often many more concerts every year since. The first was at the Corn Exchange theatre in Maidstone in June 1998. In September 1998 MW performed at the National Concert Band Festival in Cambridge.

Further concerts followed at the Corn Exchange and at All Saints Church in Maidstone. MW appeared regularly on the Brenchley Gardens bandstand in July, as part of the Maidstone Festival.  MW brass players also entertained passengers between Maidstone West and Paddock Wood during the Maidstone Festival of Steam.  Other open-air performances were at Hythe Town Bandstand (July 2001), on Bearsted Green (June 2002) and in the Garden at Egerton House, as part of the Egerton Music Festival (July 2002).

In early 2001 MW visited Roeselare, Maidstone's twin town in Belgium, with the Maidstone Youth Wind Orchestra, where they played for the Mayors of Maidstone and Roeselare.  In March 2001 Maidstone Winds were invited to appear at the Mayor's Grand Charity Gala Concert at the Mote Hall, Maidstone Leisure Centre, in aid of the Maidstone Community Support Centre.  The band performed with other music, dance and theatre groups based in Maidstone.  The concert finished with a combined performance of Bill Whelan’s famous Riverdance.

The Mayor of Maidstone who organised this was Councillor Dan Daley. A former brass player himself, he took a great interest in Maidstone Winds who invited Dan to become its first President, an office he still holds today.  Dan has been a constant source of support and encouragement over these many years, and an important link with the Borough Council. He has also commissioned new works for the band.

In May 2001 the band played at the opening of the Hermitage Millennium Amphitheatre, part of the Maidstone Millennium River Park.  The music began with the fanfare Flourish for Maidstone by Giles Barnes, written for the occasion.  November 2001 saw MW at the Mote Hall again when Maidstone Choral Union invited the band to a joint concert.  MW performed Little Red Riding Hood by Paul Patterson, with the text (after Roald Dahl) narrated by Dan Daley.  Dan also narrated for extracts from Peter and the Wolf (Sergei Prokofiev) at the Christmas concert in 2003.

In May, 1999, MW performed the Timpani Concerto by Malcolm Arnold with soloist Andrew Cottee, and in May 2000 the Concerto for Tuba and Band by Edward Gregson with soloist David Moon. Three Early Songs, by Richard Strauss, were performed in May 2002 with soprano Jennifer Nunn. Martin Carling (piano) played Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto with MW in June 2004. MW also gave joint concerts with The Maidstone Singers, conducted by Jeffrey Vaughan-Martin.

 

2004-2009

By 2004 Brendon Le Page was working full time for Croydon Music Service, and felt that he must leave MW.  Jeremy Cooper, already well known in Kent as the Musical Director of Invicta Wind Orchestra, became the second musical director of MW from September 2004.

From 2006 MW has given a Remembrance Concert each year at All Saints Church, Maidstone, on a weekend close to Armistice Day. These have been in association with the Borough Council and supported by the Royal British Legion.

2008 was the tenth Anniversary year of Maidstone Winds. This was celebrated at a concert on 7th June, in the North Barn, The Friars, Aylesford, in aid of the Heart of Kent Hospice. The concert began with the first performance of Cavaliers and Roundheads (The Battle of Maidstone), a specially commissioned piece by Richard Hubbert to mark the band's 10th Anniversary and the 360th anniversary of the Battle of Maidstone.  David Moon played the solo in the Allegro Deciso from Edward Gregson's Tuba Concerto.  Many former players rejoined the band for the occasion, and Brendon Le Page conducted Puszta, by Jan Van der Roost, from the 1998 repertoire.  The concert finished with a complete performance of the Symphony No. 3 for wind orchestra by James Barnes.  

 

2009-Present

Jeremy Cooper left at the end of 2009.  Jonathan Crowhurst, then aged just 23, began as Music Director in March 2010 and remains in post.  In consultation with the President and the committee, the band was 'rebranded' as Maidstone Wind Symphony (MWS), coupled with a new drive to attract new players and audience, and to develop the repertoire.  The first concert as Maidstone Wind Symphony was at The Exchange in Maidstone in June 2010.

From September 2010, a more formal link was made with Maidstone Youth Music Society (MYMS), with opportunities for more senior MYMS players to play with MWS. Over 50 players have benefitted from this partnership in the years since, which also included a joint concert in March 2011.  Richard Hubbert, who had already composed a number of works for the band, was formally appointed as Composer in Association. He was later joined by John Holland, winner of the Making Music Award at the British Composer Awards (2008) and then Peter Longworth in 2012.  New works were also commissioned from other local composers, including Malcolm Riley, Simon Proctor and Elizabeth Freeborn. In addition to supporting local composers, MWS have commissioned and performed premieres of works by internationally recognised composers, such as Bert Appermont, Andrew Baker, Nigel Clarke, Johan de Meij, Ferrer Ferran, Peter Graham, Paul Lovatt Cooper, John Mackey, Peter Meechan, Stephen Mellilo, Jan Sandström, Andy Scott, Philip Sparke, Frank Ticheli and Rob Wiffin.

Since 2010 MWS has welcomed distinguished soloists Kevin Ashman (trumpet) Brett Baker (trombone), David Campbell (clarinet), Gary Curtin (euphonium), Les Neish (tuba), Gavin Pritchard (percussion), Andy Scott (saxophone), David Thornton (euphonium), Glenn Van Looy (euphonium), Tim Watson (saxophone) and Andrew Watts (countertenor). MWS have also given opportunities to young musicians at the beginning of their professional careers including Anthony Brown (saxophone), Alisdair Ashman (trumpet), Oliver Hickie (horn), Philip Leslie (piano), Sally MacTaggart (saxophone) and Alastair Penman (saxophone).

In May 2011 Brett Baker, former principal trombonist of the world famous Black Dyke Band (2000-2014), played the T-Bone Concerto by Johan de Meij with MWS at Astley House. This led to the band recording this and two other trombone concertos (by Rob Wiffin and Philip Sparke) with Brett.  The recording, which also included Jan Van der Roost’s Canterbury Chorale, was made at Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone in July 2012. The resulting disc entitled Slide Projections, a first for MWS, was released the following December to considerable acclaim.   

In February 2013, Brett Baker joined MWS once again to perform the T-Bone Concerto at Mote Hall.  This concert also marked the first collaboration with Maidstone Choral Union under the direction of Jonathan Crowhurst. Together MWS and MCU performed The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins, arranged for chorus and concert band by Martin Ellerby.  In March MWS played The Armed Man again, accompanying Faversham Choral Society under the baton of Ben Saul at the St Mary of Charity Parish Church in Faversham.

Other joint concerts since 2010 have been with the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers, at the Royal Dockyard Church at Chatham; with Eynsford Concert Band, at Sevenoaks School, and with the Byneset Musikkorps from Norway, at All Saints Church, Maidstone. In recent times, MWS have also collaborated with BAE Systems Brass Band and the Medway Brass Band.

In 2014 MWS embarked on a complete cycle of the symphonies of Johan de Meij and formed part of new festivals promoting wind band music, including the National Concert Band Symposium (NCBS) and the Kent Festival for Wind and Brass. MWS came second in the inaugural NCBS competition and in 2015 had the honour of winning the event with a performance of John Mackey's Wine-Dark Sea, Symphony for Band conducted by Tom Davoren.

MWS is recognised as an outstanding concert band.  In addition to providing playing and listening opportunities within Kent, the band aims to further recognition of the symphonic band movement in the United Kingdom. 

 

PAST DIRECTORS

Brendon Le Page, Founder and Music Director, 1998 - 2004

Brendon Le Page's early musical experience was gained in his native South Africa, where he combined professional trumpet playing, teaching and conducting. He has been a regular guest conductor of adult amateur Wind Bands in the UK, as well as county youth Wind Orchestras, including, Kent, East Sussex, Birmingham and Carmarthenshire in Wales. He also worked with the Ithaca College Concert and Symphonic Bands in New York.  In 1996, he founded Cantium Winds, a professional wind ensemble which recorded a highly acclaimed CD of wind ensemble music, heard on Classic FM and performed on BBC television. As well as Maidstone Winds in 1998, he founded Wilmington Youth Music, providing tuition and ensemble experience for over 120 young musicians. He has also been Editor of the international band magazine “Winds”, as well as serving on the National Executive Committee of the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles (BASBWE).  In 2001 he became a member of the senior management team of Croydon Music Service, and he is now, since 2006, Head of Lambeth Music Service for the London Borough of Lambeth.

 

Jeremy Cooper MA AdCertRCM, Music Director 2004 - 2009

Jeremy Cooper had his interest in wind bands stimulated by membership of the Kent Schools' Symphonic Wind Band before becoming a member of the National Youth Wind Orchestra. He studied music at Oxford, where he was conductor of the Oxford University Wind Orchestra, and then studied conducting at the Royal College of Music.  He has been director of the Invicta Wind Orchestra since its foundation in 1989.

 

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