In Memoriam: Ron Grice

February 24, 2012 Off By R B

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.