Usk Brass Band have had a wonderful Christmas bringing traditional festive cheer to the local community and beyond.
The Christmas period got underway with the Usk Winter Festival on Saturday 7th December with the Band playing on stage in the town Square packed with continental market stalls, and townsfolk and visitors shopping and sipping mulled wine.
A week later saw the highlight of the Band's year - their ever-popular Christmas Concert on Saturday 14th December in the Memorial Hall in Usk. The fantastic musical programme, crafted by Usk Band's Conductor Mr Jeff Jones, brought together traditional carols and more modern arrangements of seasonal music. Also, the Learning and Training Bands, which are the future of the Band, were conducted by Lea Jones and Maya Burchell-Haslett respectively. The Band was supported wonderfully on stage by local singer Lucy Phillips who is studying music at the University of Manchester.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the Band President, Mrs Margaret Etheridge, said it was the best concert she had seen over the 40 years or more that her and her late husband had been associated with the Band.
The concert also provides the annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of individual players. The Jack and Ivy Stradling Memorial Trophy is awarded by the conductor to the player he feels has made the most significant contribution throughout the year and, this time, it was deservedly awarded to 17-year old Callum Phillips who is not only plays cornet, but also volunteers to help out every week with the beginners and training bands.
A new award was introduced this year - the Jeff and Lea Jones Player's Shield - kindly donated by the conductor and his wife. The winner is selected through votes from every member of the Band and the inaugural recipient is Emily Davies who this year made the difficult but highly successful switch from solo to soprano cornet to help out the Band (see photo).
The concert also had a wonderful surprise, for at the end of the award presentations euphonium-player Rachel Meese received and accepted a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Richard who marched up onto the stage and proposed on one knee and placed a beautiful engagement ring on her finger. The audience and band gave them a standing ovation to wish them well - it was a lovely moment.
In the lead up to Christmas members of the Band played carols in and around Usk: at the Wheatsheaf Inn in Llanhennock, the Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel and White Hart Inn in Llangibby, the National Trusts Tredegar House in Newport, a carol service at St. John's Church in Llangwm, and in Usk the British Legion, Conservative Club, King's Head Hotel, New Court Hotel, and Three Salmon's Hotel. An ensemble even played on the streets in Usk on Christmas Eve morning!
Mr Jeff Jones, the Band's conductor, said that "the Band's main function is to serve the community and it's never so important than at Christmas time. Although it's a busy period, every player makes a contribution and we know that the community appreciates the Band and that our music adds to the festive atmosphere in the town".
In the New Year the Band will be preparing to enter the Welsh Regional Championships in Llandudno in North Wales and will be fundraising to help them take part.