As part of our 20th Anniversary Celebrations, we wanted to look at key members of the band and got in touch with a few people to help us. We recently asked Kathryn Rowling, a clarinet player with the group when it was established, to recall her fondest memories of our founder, Aubrey Beswick.
I played for Aubrey from the age of 11 when I joined the City of Leeds Concert Bands (Junior, Intermediate and Senior) and stayed until I was 18 when I left to go to University.
Of course, there were the usual rehearsals and concerts; once we recorded a record and appeared on television, but every summer the Senior band travelled abroad for a week or ten days – usually to southern Germany or Austria – where we played in the local Beer Festivals and spent the remaining time sight-seeing.
Despite the inevitable stress of taking 60 teenagers abroad and the occasional incidents that arose (running through a glass door – the door was closed at the time, and the boy concerned had a terrific headache the next day; blowing a coach tyre on the motorway at 3am and missing the ferry; certain people playing musical bedrooms etc.) Aubrey was never anything but good-humoured and fun to spend time with. He would be in the swimming pool with us and on the rollercoasters and spent time with each and every one of us.
We saw some fantastic places together – climbing to the top of the Olympic Ski Jump at Innsbruck, the Austrian Krimmler waterfalls, Lubeck, Maastricht, the Berlin Wall – to name a few, and even though we had a punishing schedule of concerts, all I remember is what a fun and happy time it was.
My teenage years were defined by the experiences he gave us all. He was a fab conductor, though sometimes due to his habitual twitch it wasn’t always clear whether we were being cued in or not! He was always dapper at concerts, wearing a memorable bright red blazer and tie to match the Senior band’s uniform and regaling the audience with his own brand of humour and usually a piece of his own composing. The trouble was, they all sounded the same, and we would all groan inwardly at having to play all the um-chugs he had written for us!
However, he did write a piece whose name escapes me; it was played at Aubrey’s funeral and moved me to tears – not an um-chug in sight.
He truly made a difference to whole generations of young people in Leeds and was a character who cannot easily be replaced.