Gallery: Golden years of making music

A summer's afternoon, an ice-cream and a deck chair, a bandstand and a brass band - what could be finer or more English?

James Marston

A summer's afternoon, an ice-cream and a deck chair, a bandstand and a brass band - what could be finer or more English? But for those in a brass band, entertaining the public requires practice, passion and dedication. Today JAMES MARSTON meets the Ipswich Over 50s Brass Band.

YOU might have seen them at the Suffolk Show - they are regulars there.

Or maybe you have heard them playing in Felixstowe during the summer.

The Ipswich Over 50s Brass Band is often out and about bringing their particular sound to the community.

And their latest rehearsal pieces - a brisk march called Florentiner March by Julius Fucik and the soundtrack from the musical Singin' in the Rain - is an indication of how broad the band's repertoire is.

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Band founder Jack Biggins said “The band started because there are a lot of musicians in a lot of different bands and I thought it would be interesting to bring together people who were over 50 to play together.

“We began with about 18 or 19 people of reasonable experience from all different bands with some returning to playing.”

The band rehearses every Thursday at St Augustine's Church Hall in Bucklesham Road.

Jack added: “I've been playing since 1942. I started with the Salvation Army. I play the euphonium. We play a wide range of music, today we are playing a French march.

“We play a lot of marches but we also play music from the shows and we have a pop music repertoire including recent hits like Is This The Way To Amarillo.

“We are a foot tapping band.”

The band doesn't compete.

Jack, 77, added: “We play for enjoyment, we don't play at weekends. We are mostly retired.”

For Jack, of Bent Lane, Rushmere St Andrew, music has been a life-long passion and before he retired he owned Jack White Music - a string of music shops across Suffolk.

He added: “I love being in the band. We are all dedicated. We won't give up unless we have to.”

With 31 members the band is at capacity at the moment.

Jack added: “Members are all over 50 with the youngest in their mid fifties. The average age is about 70. We donate excess funds to charity and St Elizabeth Hospice is our main beneficiary.”

The band will be performing on September 27 at Christchurch Park Bandstand at 2pm.

Jack said: “The band caters for many of the weekday engagements in the area including race meetings, special events, the Suffolk Show as well as entertaining at residential homes and church clubs.”

Retired policeman Allan Cook travels from his home in Colchester to play in the band.

He said: “I have been in the band for three years and I play the euphonium. I am also the chairman of the band.

“My inspiration to join came when I saw them playing at the Suffolk Show and at the time they were short of a euphonium player. I have been in bands throughout my life and at the moment I play in three bands so I am rehearsing up to three days a week.”

Mr Cook said bands originated in the north of England catering for the musical tastes of the working man.

He added: “Once you are in a brass band it never leaves you. It is a passion and an interest. I have quite an eclectic taste in music from marches to musicals and there is a lot of music that has especially been composed for brass bands.”

Trevor Ravenscroft, a retired freelance editor, of St George's Road, Felixstowe, plays the soprano cornet.

He said: “I have been in the band for 12 years. We don't enter competitions which I find boring because you spend so long on one piece of music.

“It is nice to make music with people of your own age.”

Trevor, 66, has spent more than 30 years playing in a number of different bands.

He added: “Making music with other people is a wonderful thing. It is hard to explain until you have done it for yourself. I also play in a brass quartet which we really enjoy.

“I like playing the traditional brass band music as well as arrangements of classical music. I also arrange music. We get to visit some interesting places.

“We recently played in the garden of someone's mansion during a summer's evening. You get to go to places you don't usually go.”

Retired community nurse Betty Green is one of the band's lady members. She plays the cornet.

She said: “I joined in the first year of the band. I have played the cornet for about 34 years and I started with the Ipswich Hospital Band.

“I thought I'd have a go at something different. I like the social aspect of the band and making music with other people is very enjoyable.

“We have a lot of years of experience.

“It is a relaxing hobby. You can come along to rehearsal and forget everything else because you are concentrating on the music.”

The band is available to play at events. To arrange a concert for a charity, social club, wedding, Church event, fete or other function contact band secretary Elizabeth Wallace on 01473 435727 or e-mail

Have you heard the Ipswich Over 50s Brass Band? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to