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Four friends and tuba players from in and around Solihull celebrate playing in the same Solihull brass band together for at least 30 years


Four friends and brass players from the West Midlands have just celebrated playing together in the same brass band and tuba section for at least 30 years.

Sally Middleton, Richard Hart, Ian Birchall each became members of Solihull-based Shirley Band, one of the best brass bands in and around the Birmingham region, in 1984, joining Lawrence Tew who by then had been a member for three years. The band competes in what is known in the brass band world as the first section.

Sally, 44, from Solihull, plays solo Eb tuba, alongside her partner, 2nd Eb tuba player, Lawrence Tew. Sally, a school teacher at Turves Green Primary school in Northfield, Birmingham, is a graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire of Music. Taught by Fred Devereux at school and Alan Sinclair at music college, her memorable highlights with the band, include coming 2nd in the 2nd section National Brass Band Championships in 1987, 2nd section Midlands regional champions in 2003, and performing a series of concerts in Germany.

Father of two, Richard, from Shirley, plays 1st Bb tuba - the largest and most expensive of all brass instruments. He began playing in the band when he was 16 after being spotted by the band's current President, Donald Hodesdon, waiting at a bus stop with his tuba. After leaving school, Richard studied with tuba virtuoso James Gourlay at the London College of Music before returning to the Midlands to take up his first job with Solihull Music Service as a teacher. His 12 year old son, also plays tuba and is a member of Solihull Youth Wind Band.

Second Bb tuba player, Ian, 75, who lives in Solihull, began playing tuba at school, having previously played the clarinet. Taught at school, he played in Leicestershire County Youth Orchestra and other local bands before joining Shirley. His highlights include 2nd place in the 1987 2nd finals of the National Brass Band Championships and 3rd in 2002 2nd section Finals.

The fourth member of the section, Lawrence Tew, 46, Sally's partner, who works as an applications specialist has the longest career in the section, having joined the band in 1981. He is also a graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire of Music and was taught by Fred Devereux at school and Alan Sinclair at music college. One of Lawrence's career playing highlights was performing in the 75th anniversary concert of Gustav Holst's the Planet Suite at St. Paul's Girls School, where Holst was working when it was written and premiered.

The 25-strong band, which was founded in 1919, regularly performs in concerts across the region; and last year, recorded its first ever CD, La Rejouissance.

Richard Hart, speaking on behalf of the section said: "We're very proud to be members of the Shirley Band and believe that the four of us are the longest serving members of the same tuba section, which we think is some feat. Whether we'll still be members in another 30 years time is another story."

Brian Johnson, the band's secretary, added: "There are not many amateur brass bands, wind bands or orchestras in the country, who have four members who have played together for so long. However, not all our members have been in the band for such a long period of time. We have a wide range of members of different ages, and we're always on the lookout for new members."

Anyone wishing to get involved in the band or come along to the a rehearsal, should contact Brian Johnson 01564 703787 / 07778 467129 or brian@shirleyband.org.uk

Twitter: @shirleyband

www.shirleyband.org.uk