Category Archives: Uncategorised

Waratah Brass Soloists Excel in 2015 Nationals

While the band did not attend the 2015 National Band Championships, a few of our members were on the stage in various capacities.

Greg Bennett played magnificently and became the Australian National Champion in the Eb Tuba.

Greg Bennett National Champion

Not satisfied with just one instrument, Greg also competed in the Open Tenor Trombone placing 5th. However, that was still not quite enough banding for Greg so he also played with the Hunter Wind Ensemble who were the Australian National Champions in the Open C Grade Concert Band section.

David Wilks St Marys Therese Curry St Marys
Therese Curry, David Wilks and part-time member David Kimpton played with St. Mary’s District Band competing in the A Grade Brass achieving 4th Place. 

David also competed with Castle Hill RSL – North West Wind Ensemble who were the Australian National Champions in the A Grade Concert Band section.

Clarence LeungClarence Leung competed in the Open Cornets achieving 8th Place.

Bob Akerman competed with Toronto Brass who achieved 6th in B Grade Brass.

Hannah Gibbons who is on leave from the band, placed 3rd in Open Tenor Trombone. 

We surely know how talented our players are but there is something wonderful about that talent being recognized on the national stage. Congratulations to you all!

Waratah Brass Endorses New Life Members

Stephen Grice, Leonie Wilks, Therese Curry and David Wilks with their life membership plaques

Waratah Brass is proud to announce the endorsement of four new life members: Leonie Wilks, Stephen Grice, David Wilks and Therese Curry. The new life members were presented with their life membership and commemorative plaque at the recent 130th Anniversary Concert held at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle on 16th November, 2014 by Waratah Brass President Rochelle Buckton.

Each member was endorsed following a speech on their history with and contributions to the band (full text of the speeches can be read on the Life Members page.

Waratah Brass Honors Milton Morris AO with Life Membership

Grahame Scott, Milton Morris, Jimmy McNeillWaratah Brass is proud to announce our newest Life Member The Honorable Milton Morris AO.  Mr Morris was presented with his life membership and commemorative plaque at the recent Proms at the Lake concert on 29th September, 2013 by another Waratah Brass Life Member Jimmy McNeill.  Grahame Scott gave a wonderful speech on Mr Morris’ life, career and association with the band.  

Milton Morris AO is a most respected politician who represented the Electoral district of Maitland between March 1956 and August 1980. 24 years, which included 10 years as Minister for Transport. He was also Minister for Lands and Minister for Decentralisation and Development at various times.

On his departure from parliament, he was permitted by Queen Elizabeth II, on the Governor’s recommendation, to continue to use the title “The Honorable”.   With regard to Honours, in 1988, he became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contribution to politics, youth and the community.

Not one to sit on his afterthoughts, following his retirement Mr Morris has supported the local area by serving with a number of Community based organisations.

Chairman of Hunter Valley Training.
Honorary Chairman of Lewis House Apprentice Hostel, Mayfield
Patron of East Maitland sub branch, Returned Serviceman’s League
Patron of Mai Wel Handicapped Association.
Honorary Prefect of Hunter Christian School (formally Mayfield Christian Community School)

And: Patron of Waratah Brass

During the time Milton has been involved with Waratah Brass he has taken a keen interest in the organisation, particularly to do with the training band, Wallsend Youth and Community Brass. As our patron, Milton has been generous in many ways to Waratah Brass and we as an organisation owe much to him, although, he would have none of that!

2012 NSW State Band Championships

Waratah Brass was excited to compete in the NSW Band Championships held at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, NSW on Saturday 25th August, 2012.  After missing the competition the last few years, it was great to be back battling it out with the top bands from NSW.

The band played the Sacred Item: Meditation – Sacrament by Kenneth Downie, a piece that combines sweet and melodic sections interspersed with minor and serious-sounding elements.

The A Grade Brass Test Piece, set by the NSW Band Association, was Journey into Freedom by Eric Ball.  A piece that vividly depicts the struggle of humanity against a materialistic, industrial machine-like society, eventually resulting in the joyous victory of freedom.

The band’s Own Choice selection was Tallis Variations by Philip Sparke. Based on the hymn tune written by Thomas Tallis 1567, the piece showcased not only the band’s melodic sound but also it’s technical abilities.  Another point of interest in this composition is the use of mutes to achieve different sounds from the instruments.  Indeed, at one point the entire band is muted and while the mute is a common tool used in the cornet parts, a muted Eb & Bb Bass is not something you see every day!

The band played well and we were proud of our efforts.  We placed 4th in the A Grade section.

We want to extend our special thanks to Rod Lowe & Rowan Taylor for conducting the band, to the players who came in to cover some missing seats and to the players in the band who switched seats and in some cases even changed instruments to cover missing parts.

Waratah Brass Soloists Excel

While we usually bring you news of the band as a whole, this time we’re featuring some of our talented and dedicated players who choose to test their mettle against other Australian brass players competing in solo competitions.

Clarence Leung - HRBA Cornet ChampionAs with previous years, 2012 saw some of our players compete in solo competitions at the national, state and local level.

First up, the Solo Events at the National Brass Band Competition held on 6th, 7th & 8th of April.  Greg Bennett, from the band’s EEb Bass section, was the National Junior Tenor Trombone Champion, and demonstrating his versatility and talent, placed 2nd in the Junior High Tuba section.  David Kimpton, our percussionist extraordinaire, placed 2nd in the Open Timpani and 2nd in the Open Multi Percussion.

The Band Association of NSW 2012 State Solo & Party were held on July 21st & 22nd. Ossie Jellyman, our Principal Euphonium player, showing off his expertise and experience was the State Veteran’s Solo Chamption. Greg Bennett, back for more after his fantastic results in the Nationals, was the State Junior EEb Bass Champion and placed 2nd in the Junior Tenor Trombone section.

Wrapping up the solo competitions for 2012 was the Hunter Regional Band Association Solo and Party Championships held on August 4th & 5th.  Our Principal Cornet player, Clarence Leung impressed the adjudicators with his wonderful sound and technical skill winning both the Open Bb & Eb Cornets and Trumpets section and the Perpetual Brass Trophy.

Congratulations to all our soloists on their outstanding performances!.  We’re lucky and proud to have you in the band!

Review: Waratah Brass Presents ‘Brass with Class’

Brass with Class: Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay
Waratah Brass (Assistant Musical Director Mr Rowan Taylor)

Waratah Brass

Sunday 8th July 2012 is a day to remember in the concert life of this group of performers who collectively make up the members of Waratah Brass for it was one concert that came with little fanfare in the media or community, but was one of this ensembles crowning performances for the year of 2012 thus far. This also coupled with the whole concert being conducted by the very able Assistant Conductor Rowan Taylor.          

As is the usual the band entered precisely on time as advertised, stood for the arrival of the Conductor, promptly sat and simply commenced what was a most enjoyable afternoon of superb music making. From the beginning the music was well balanced, had great intonation and attention to the little bits on the music page, that make a performance – ‘that little bit better’!

The concert commenced with a work that was published back in 1932 being the Canadian composer James Merritt’s Tour de Force March “The Canadian”. When The Salvation Army published this work it was in stark contrast to any march they had previously released in their Festival Series music publications. Forget the 3 or 4 minute snappy work; this is a piece that tests any of the best of the best.

A little over 7 minutes in length this is a march played at a stately pace loaded with notes that just go on and on but in a brilliant display of masterly composition. This also includes a most famous 4 note 2nd Horn solo up to a top F, and yes we did hear it well and true. Credit also to Solo Horn player Leonie Wilks for a lovely melodic line of the works theme Canada’s National Anthem: O’ Canada. 

As indicated by Band President Grahame Scott in his well versed compere notes the next item was by Goff Richards and a well known number played by just about all the leading bands of the world. Waratah performed such with great control and feeling. This indeed was our Sunday drive in a “Country Scene”. Principal Cornet Clarence Leung adding just the right touches to delight a packed audience in Performing Arts Centre.

Therese CurryThe bands varied soloists performed to their usual high standard with the afternoon’s offerings no exception in quality with each being equally well supported by the band. Euphonium Stephen Grice with the Robert Childs “A Little Prayer” was a moving rendition, and once again cool cat Soprano Cornet David Wilks with “Sugar Blues” (A. Morrison) were excellent offerings that the audience warmly applauded. Band Secretary Therese Curry displayed her talents with the technically demanding “Tambourin” (Gossec/ E. Wilson) as a Baritone Solo. Therese is a leading exponent on this instrument which made a nice change from those generally heard in concerts. 

Greg BennettMention needs to go to Greg Bennett who plays E Flat Bass but on this occasion performed on Trombone “Suite for Trombone and Band” composed by the great Don Lusher. Containing some of the known ‘Lusher’ musical nuances of glissandos and upper register work for Greg who is just 18 years old this was an excellent performance and very well done.

There were several standout highlights for me in this concert with one of these being another airing of the bands ‘2012 East Coast of Australia Band Championships’ winning Sacred item of Leonard Ballentine’s song setting “I Know Thou Art Mine”. Based on the delightful hymn ‘Unsworth’ this rendition was equally reminiscent of their June winning performance. Lovely melodic work, attention to crescendos, light and shade, this was truly music at its best.

To end the first half of this afternoon, Offenbach’s Can Can was altered in such a way even the composer would I believe have had a laugh. Rearranged under the title “Can Can’t” (G. Colmer) this had the audience in stitches. Conductor Rowan Taylor must have been beside himself when one of the players actually stopped playing to take a mobile phone call after the phone had rang and rang during playing. All in great humour and sounding easy, but as with lots of these types of pieces very hard to bring off and perform.  

Opening the 2nd half JJ Richards great march with its mass of chromatic runs through the entire band “Midwest” (arr. D. Broadbent) set us up for the balance of this excellent concert. The march keep its fast pace from top to end and was a good display of control playing but attention to detail.

It has been said that just about every person knows what they were doing and where they were on that day 31 August 1997 when the world lost Princess Diana. Marking the 15th year since that sad event Waratah performed the work written to commemorate her passing by the New York composer Joseph Turrin “Hymn For Diana”.  Set in a hymn like arrangement this, as well as apart from the reason behind the work, is simply moving music. The band were at their best in sound and controlled playing during this rendition and at the end the virtual pin drop could have been heard. For me this was the best item of this concert and worth attending just to hear that one number. 

In contrast to what we had just been privileged to hear, the Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s classic “Ruby Tuesday” (A. Catherall) full of superb Soprano Cornet work courtesy of David Wilks and its array of percussion was a good addition to the concert and one the audience appeared to like very much. This was followed by a lovely work written as the theme to the 1986 movie ‘An American Tale’ and arranged for brass by Darrol Barry “Somewhere Out There”. Light in sound to begin but building to a full band ending this is a very nice piece of composing.

To end the concert Irving Berlin’s well known “Puttin’ On the Ritz” (S. Roberts) took us back to when people in the 1800’s put on their ritzy outfits to head out on the town. Not a lot has changed in over 200 years in that respect. This was a fine display of good playing and a good end to what was an excellent concert.

As with most Waratah concerts following prolonged applause from the audience the band bought as an encore what is becoming a signature march for the group, another JJ Richards march “The Waltonian”. It was easy to see the band love playing this number with the last item given to detail just as the first one of the day, which is what makes this group just that much better….Their approach to each work, obvious enjoyment, and the ability to play at such a high level.      

Sitting in the audience one gets full view of not only how the band look, plays and conduct themselves but also how the audience respond to what is offered and this concert was obviously well enjoyed by every person. One of the audience following the march rose to his feet to sincerely thank the band on behalf of the audience for such a splendid afternoon and for giving much enjoyment to all.

Waratah Brass players, this concert was superb. Conductor Rowan Taylor job well done, good conducting and great music selection – Thank you!

Review: ‘Brass with Class’  8 July 2012  

Waratah Brass Wins 2012 East Coast of Australia Band Championships

Steven English & John TateSecuring their position as the Hunter’s Premier Brass Band, Waratah Brass won top honors in their section in both the East Coast of Australia Band Championships and the Festival of the Bands competitions held at Newcastle City Hall on Sunday June 10, 2012.

Early Sunday morning, the band competed in the Brass Section 1 (A & B Grade) against local bands Toronto Brass and CNL Brass.  Waratah Brass performed extremely well with adjudicator Robert Bedwell awarding the band a near-perfect score of 49/50 points for their performance of the Sacred Item “I Know Thou Art Mine” and 96/100 points for their Own Choice selection “Journey Into Freedom”.

The band kicked off the afternoon’s “Festival of the Bands” entertainment competition with Bass Trombone player Andrew Hocquard leading the band’s meandering entry to the stage and serenading the expectant audience with a mellifluous solo introduction to Swiss Air.  The band followed up this fanciful opening with a virtuoso performance of the trombone solo “The Blue Bells of Scotland” by soloist Hannah Gibbons.  Hannah’s wonderful performance and superb talent were appreciated by both the large audience and the adjudicators alike.

Next up, the band and their expert percussionist David Kimpton gave a rousingly entertaining performance of Russky Percussky.  The piece required David to run (yes run!) about on the stage from timpani to glockenspiel, tubular bells to xylophone and even to the Chinese gong.  David, a born performer, even managed to entertain the enraptured audience with some Cossack-style dancing in the few moments he had spare!

Wrapping up the performance in grandiose fashion, the band played An American Trilogy – a medly of American civil war era tunes.

At the completion of competition, Musical Director Steven English proudly accepted the first place trophies for both the contest and concert sections of the competition from Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate.

Review: “East Coast of Australia” Band Championships and “Festival of the Bands” Entertainment Contest

Waratah Brass shine in the “East Coast of Australia” Band Championships and
“Festival of the Bands” Entertainment Contest Sunday 10 June 2012
Newcastle City Hall

In a day that had been long awaited musicians and supporters traveled long distances from all over New South Wales to come and participate in a contest that was fiercely fought by the largest number of individual bands since 2000.

Waratah Brass - June 2012Waratah knew this was going to be one day they needed to not only be on their toes but simply at their level best if they were going to make any impact in this contest. The band had strong competition from several other groups holding State titles, Entertainment titles and National Awards and understood this wasn’t going to be a day to be taken lightly.

The morning session taking in The East Coast of Australia Band Championships saw the band present a sacred item and own choice test piece for professional adjudication. Points being awarded based on standard of performance consisting of a possible 50 for the sacred item and 100 for the own choice being available.

Waratah chose for their Sacred work “I Know Thou Art Mine” a brilliant challenging composition by the Canadian Leonard Ballentine. Their opening was controlled and soft, quickly rising to a full band crescendo, lovely horn work blending into the first stanza of the melody ‘Unsworth’ from where the words give us the title ‘My Jesus I love thee, I know thou art mine’. Basses- good control blending in sensitively, a wonderful build up to that full band Waratah sound- not over done in its double forte portion. The entire ensemble giving of themselves to make this something to be proud of. This was music at it best, not just notes but an experience. It concluded as it started controlled, great intonation, sensitive and nothing short of excellent.

This was followed by the bands own choice test “Journey into Freedom” a major work originally composed as the 1967 British National Band Championship Test Piece by a doyen of brass the great, Eric Ball. This work depicts the victory of human emotion against the struggle of life’s materialistic existence; with it sub themes running through of violence, protest and love. This is all depicted by Balls amazing use of different sections of the band to bring his message through. This was a work to certainly challenge the band and give the adjudicator plenty to look for grading such complexity.

Waratah started well with the works great forceful flurry of notes, basses working to their absolute peak, nice soprano cornet work of David Wilks in the early portions of the rendition, expressive sensitive cornet of Clarence Leung, good ensemble work from euphonium / baritones with trombones blending well, controlled double fortes, and a percussion sections that are second to none brilliant in adding just what was needed to this performance.

With a work of some 16 minutes duration many things can happen during such a performance of this length and complexity, and as the work came to its climax of ‘The Love Theme’ it was obvious the band had given their best. Conductor Steven English coaxing players to the finale of Balls amazing chording with its intensity of sound, but emotion in scoring – this was a rendition that the band could stand proud of.

Waratah Brass - June 2012The afternoon ‘Festival of the Bands’ is an entertainment contest where all bands present a maximum of 15 minutes of playing time in a concert format to be judged by the mornings adjudicator who is joined by a second judge. Winners are placed from 1 to 3 on a criteria that a band needs to display not only musical ability, but the ability to entertain an audience, keep their interest and as well choose music appropriate to the occasion given the bands standard. This was not going to be easy for Waratah as their 2 main rivals had given excellent performances- ‘CNL Brass’ with its carnival/ circus theme and ‘Toronto Brass’ using a spaghetti western come mexican theme both of whom had played very well with great interest from the audience, and certainly in great form.

Due to the time frame of 15 minutes in total several of the bands items were shortened to take in the concert length ruling, but this did not take anything away from their performance. Commencing with a staggered entry by all the different sections of the band Waratah entered playing “Swiss Air” (arr. C. Davis) without music. Conductor Steven English entered only to conduct the final couple of bars after which he introduced Principal Trombonist Hannah Gibbons to play “Blue Bells of Scotland” (Pryor/ Derek Broadbent) and play she did. This was nothing short of brilliant, both high and low register notes flowing easily and was warmly received by the audience that numbered over 300.

David Kimpton one of the percussionists who had assisted just about every local band during the day was in superb form with his percussion extravaganza work “Russky Percussky” (Goff Richards) which simply thrilled the audience with much laugher, cheering and prolonged applause. The band backing being something to desire as well assisted David as he literally ran from percussion instrument to percussion instrument across the City Hall stage.

To end Waratah’s concert the band chose to use another Goff Richards work that is associated with Elvis Presley and also The American Civil War that of “An American Trilogy”. The work includes the 3 songs of Dixie, Hush Little Baby and Battle Hymn of the Republic in a sensitive moving arrangement. The band played with feeling, wonderful full band sounds that moved the audience and with such an ending showed Waratah Brass were indeed the band to be beaten.

Following a short time for judges to make final decisions, tally scores Hunter Regional Band Association President Mr Allan Shaw proceeded to read out the awarded points for each band and places for the Festival.

Steven English & John TateA day of wonderful music making by many bands but one in which Waratah were worthy winners and shone through with some high level playing. Congratulations!
Points awarded:

Waratah Brass: Section 1 A & B Grade ‘East Coast of Australia Contest’ WINNERS

Sacred item 49/50 highest mark of any band at the contest
Test Piece 96/100 highest mark of any brass band

Division 1 ‘Festival of The Bands’ Entertainment Contest WINNERS

Review: GSM
East Coast of Australia Championships
10 June 2012


Review: Waratah Brass Presents ‘World of Brass’

World of Brass: Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay
Waratah Brass in Concert with Guest Conductor Mr Ron Prussing
Memorial Performance for the late Ron Grice, Musical Director and Cornetist

There is a very old adage that says ‘The show must go on’ and on this occasion this concert certainly lived up to that saying. If one was to predict that a concert was as close to being cancelled as could be, then that may very well have applied here. Full marks certainly go to the band for a performance that was still of a high standard, adhered to its original printed ‘Programme’ and was received by the audience in the same manner as any concert performance by this ensemble.  

Ron PrussingPersonnel are very important to any performance group and none the less a Brass Band but on the morning of this concert Waratah found they were in a bit of a pickle to say the least. They had several late player absentees due to work commitments, another absent due to a prior arranged professional engagement, and a recent player relocation resulting in having to step down from the band. Put this all together and you have a group expecting to perform finding they were in some concern as to how!

Steven English a Champion Soprano Cornet player stepped in to assist the Solo Cornet bench, but then being the conductor this left an even bigger hole of who was to wave the magic stick that gets these musicians to perform. So at the last minute on the morning of the performance Ron Prussing was invited to conduct the band. Ron is well versed in the brass arena and a previous Musical Director of this group with credentials such as being Principal Trombone of Sydney Symphony Orchestra was a fine choice to lead the band.

A late start to the concert did not seem to bother the audience and starting with a great work of Dr Peter Graham “Gaelforce” we saw something that was not usual for any band being, juggling instruments. Flugel Horn player Clarence Leung having been promoted to Principal Cornet was at the same time attempting to put the flugel solo portions in as well, using both instruments. Clarence can only be described as a master musician and is simply yet another reason this concert was able to proceed. He never missed a note during this item and was a delight to hear during this afternoon.  

Several of the bands other fine soloist performed during the afternoon and Hannah Gibbons with her rendition of the very taxing trombone work “The Blue Bells of Scotland” (Pryor/ Derek Broadbent) was a delight. Considering Arthur Pryor originally wrote this work for himself to play back in 1899 this arrangement keeping with the original text is complexity multiplied. Any performer attempting such needs to be of superior talent as is Hannah.

Another air and variation solo superbly played by both soloist and band was “Mountain o’ Mourne”.
Ossie Jellyman principal euphonium well known for good quality playing and excellent solo work was delightful. Melodic feeling to the theme and clean valve work to the variations gave a lovely rendition. Arranged by Dr Roy Newsome, well known for this type of solo composition, the audience gave prolonged applause to this performance which was well deserved.         

Elvis Presley appeared at this concert, well if not he himself a work that was closely associated with Elvis. “An American Trilogy” was written by Mickey Newbury and June 2012 marks the 40th anniversary it was presented by Elvis to a packed concert in Madison Square Garden New York from where it became a permanent addition to his repertoire. The work includes the 3 songs of Dixie, Hush Little Baby and Battle Hymn of the Republic in a moving arrangement by Goff Richards which the band handled well, with just the right amount of bass and percussion to give it that Elvis sound, or was it hip swing….

Euphos & BaritonesThe name Sibelius may not be well known to many but a Symphonic Poem he composed in 1900 at the height of Finland’s struggle with the Russian Empire was the work chosen to end the first half of this concert and was one of the highlights. “Symphonic Prelude: Finlandia” (Jean Sibelius) with its stately opening heavy on dynamics, contrasting with the serene melodic lines of the hymn ‘Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side’, coupled with the conducting of Ron Prussing keeping all players on their toes and up to the mark was a recipe of one fine performance.

Waratah love a good march and following interval to commence the 2nd half of this afternoon an excellent choice in “The Cossack” (William Rimmer) was presented. The band kept good tempo with precise playing and a trio section that was superb. This was a foot tapers delight well played.

Clarence Leung mentioned previously for his contributions to the afternoon added yet further by presenting the well known but technically demanding cornet solo “Napoli”. This work written by Herman Bellstedt and arranged by Geoffrey Brand features a theme and variation format, or is it musical gymnastics. This is a solo that would test any of the world’s best players with both band and soloist giving a credible presentation that was well received by the audience.

Back in 1982 a number of well known actors including Kirk Douglas produced a movie that has gone on to become an Australian classic. Loosely based on the 1890 Banjo Paterson poem of the same title the movie was “The Man from Snowy River”.  With music by Bruce Rowland and an arrangement of the theme by Joe Cook this was a pleasant addition to the concert. This is a great piece well composed with the band giving a good tight rendition.  
This concert was a low key way to remember the recent passing of one of the bands previous Musical Directors Ron Grice. The last page of the programme usually given to advertising future events and information on the day’s concert had a splendid tribute which had been originally written by Band Secretary Therese Curry and read at Ron’s Memorial Service 5th March 2012.

Following applause for the last item it was indeed a moving period as compere Allan Humbley spoke on Ron’s life after which the band played as a tribute to his passing “The Irish Blessing” (Bacak/ S. Bradnum) with its words ‘May the road rise up to meet you…..and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand’

It is very obvious the esteem with which this band hold Ron and the gratitude they have for what he achieved during his time with the band. Ron Grice came to Waratah in the mid 1980’s when the band were a “C” Grade combination and in only a short period took them to “A” Grade status winning just about every competition available as they rose through the ranks. He introduced them to much of the world’s best brass compositions, and many of the world’s leading brass players. He set concerts in place that were the envy of bands all over the world. Indeed Ron Grice’s influence is still evident in Waratah today.

Ron moved to the band having had a successful career in The Salvation Army having come from leadership of one of the best ‘Army’ bands in the region at that time. Myself as a part of his SA band, enjoyed serving with Ron in different capacities, such as Band Librarian and Band Board member.

Thank you band and guest Conductor Ron Prussing for combining to give us all an afternoon to remember both for the musical ability of it members and the memory of one past Waratah great.

Thank you

Review: World of Brass  6 May 2012   


In Memoriam: Ron Grice

Ron GriceWaratah Brass is extremely sad to convey the news of the passing of Ron Grice.  Ron passed away on 23rd February 2012, aged 71 years.  Our deepest sympathy goes out to Elizabeth, Paul, Stephen and the rest of Ron’s family.

Many band members past and present gathered at the Memorial Service to celebrate Ron’s life on Monday 5th March 2012.  The band also contributed to the service by playing some of Ron’s favourite music.

Amongst the speakers was Waratah Brass member Therese Curry who wrote and gave a heartfelt speech about Ron’s extraordinary dedication and service to, and influence on Waratah Brass:

Inspirational……talented……influential…..visionary….meticulous….. dedicated….mentor and friend….  Some words to describe Ron Grice.

It is my honour to share with you some thoughts about Ron’s time with, and profound impact on Waratah Brass…. No single person has had a greater influence on the band and its players, than Ron Grice.

Ron came to Waratah from the Salvation Army in the mid-1980s and bought with him his passion, knowledge and love of Brass Bands. Together with Ron came his wife Elizabeth and his two sons, Paul and Stephen…. And so began a wonderful partnership.

Ron took the band from a solid C Grade community band to the pinnacle of banding in Australasia, on both the contesting stage and in the entertainment arena. Whether it was free Sunday concerts in King Edward Park or the prestigious Ern Keller Band of the Year, with Ron as Musical Director, the musical product was special.

The band rapidly improved under Ron’s direction and players were drawn to the band, looking to be part of what was a special band under the leadership of a tremendous band trainer. Under Ron the band cleaned up at their first attempt in B Grade at the Australian titles in 1992. Quickly promoted to A Grade, the only A grade band outside of the Sydney area, the band continued to improve and success was forthcoming.

Ron’s desire to continuously improve the band, and in particular the band’s warm, rich sound, known in banding circles as the “Waratah”  sound,  was a trademark of his band training. Ron sought guidance and advice from the best of the best in the UK. Making frequent overseas trips (at his own expense) to hone his skills and listen to what the best bands in the world were doing; always returning to Waratah Brass with a renewed enthusiasm, fresh ideas and repertoire for the band.

Through these overseas trips Ron forged lifelong friendships with the best brass musicians in the world and some of these people, John Clough, Philip McCann, Geoffrey Brand, Russell Gray, and of course David King, were frequent guests in Ron and Elizabeth’s home and in turn, to our band room and concert stage. This is indicative of Ron’s humility, he never felt threatened to have other musicians in front of the band and he was never afraid to learn from others. This was a key element to the band’s success at that time. It was indeed an honour for all players in the band to be exposed to these musicians, and thanks to Ron we have been blessed with opportunities that we would not have thought possible.

I recall an occasion when Phillip McCann made an unscheduled visit to Australia for Ron’s birthday. Phillip stood on Ron and Elizabeth’s front veranda at Speers Point playing Happy Birthday on his cornet….. Ron was indeed surprised and thrilled to have his dear friend visit.

Under Ron, Waratah Brass became a cohesive unit that was the envy of all bands. Every seat was filled at rehearsals…. In fact, you had better have a very good reason for not attending each and every rehearsal!

If you played in Waratah you were welcomed into Ron and Elizabeth’s home… they shared their lives with us. The support and sacrifices made by Elizabeth, Paul, Michele and Stephen can never be underestimated. For Ron, band was everything. It consumed his days and nights…..Listening to CDs of the great English bands, seeking guidance from his colleagues’ overseas, preparing concert and contest scores, practicing his conducting in the lounge room and giving free lessons.
Truly inspirational… not always smooth sailing, sometimes rocky, but always with the ultimate goal of achieving musically.

Ron was awarded Life Membership of Waratah Brass in 2010, just a small acknowledgement of his role within our band. Our connection does not end here…. Ron will be a part of Waratah Brass for evermore and his musical influence will be for there for all to hear and enjoy.