Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Band is a traditional British brass band with its home in the heart of the Berkshire countryside between Reading and Maidenhead. It has been making music at local events for over 135 years. Though it has participated in many contests in its time, today it is a non-contesting band. Membership is open to anyone who wants to develop their musical skills and entertain the public. See the Rehearsals page for details of when and where we practise. The band's current committee and officers are listed on the People page. Our Musical Director, Steve Block, took up his post at the beginning of 2018.
The band supports itself through engagement fees and fundraising efforts such as the Draw Club. It also helps other charitable ventures, and provided an annual meal for local pensioners (along with musical entertainment) for over 60 years starting 1957. Proceeds from some concerts are shared with local charities.
The band has a long-standing exchange arrangement with the German concert band Musikverein Friesheim (MVF), based near Cologne. Our latest visit there was in June 2017, while MVF's last visit to the UK was in June 2019, when events included a joint concert on Windsor Alexandra Gardens bandstand, a quiz night and a barn dance. Practical obstacles thrown up by the pandemic, Brexit and the natural disaster that struck Erftstadt have so far prevented continuation of the exchange.
The origins of the Waltham St. Lawrence Band go back to 1886. The founder players were mainly village tradesmen backed by two wealthy benefactors, William Landsdowne Beale and the Revd. Grey Neville. Little is recorded of the band's early days, but it was certainly a well established part of the local scene by 1910. The band was revived after the disruptions of World War 1 in 1922, and made great progress under the direction of Twyford publican Ernest Pearce. Activities included regular appearances at "hospital parades" to raise funds for Royal Berks Hospital, and there were significant contest successes in the inter-war years, including a first prize at Fairford Contest in 1938.
After World War 2, the band was re-established in 1946 as the Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Prize Band, again under the direction of Mr Pearce. He continued as conductor until his death in 1953. It was a struggle to get the band going again, and it is thanks to the efforts and determination of Sydney Boyd that the band continues to exist today. Syd continued to play a leading role until his death in 1982.
In 1950 the name changed again to East Berks Silver Band, reflecting the wider area from which members were being drawn. Jack Clark, who formerly played cornet for Morris Motors band among others, became bandmaster in 1954. There were a number of contest successes both locally and at national level through the 1950's.
In 1957 the East Berks Silver Band decided to base itself in Reading, a move that was unacceptable to many members. A new Waltham St. Lawrence Band was formed, based in the village and rehearsing then, as now, in the village's Neville Hall on a Wednesday evening. Mr C.Tuffley was made bandmaster, but died soon afterwards, being succeeded by W.T.Kirkland. In 1960, F.Lewingdon became bandmaster until 1967. Between1967-75 the role alternated between J.Shaw and F.Merrick.
In 1975 the baton was taken up by John Lawes, who was very active on the Reading music scene, and also conducted the Reading Operatic Society's orchestra. He composed and arranged many pieces for the band, including easier items for a 10-piece ensemble. John promoted a move towards a more modern presentation, with more "swing" music and interaction with the concert audience.
Jim Pullen, who joined the band on trombone in 1986, became bandmaster in 1988. Previously a professional musician in the RAF, Jim was also a capable string bass and guitar player. As well as tackling demanding pieces from the brass band repertoire, the band also learned to handle jazz and rock genres under Jim's direction, and recorded its first CD, "Serenade", reflecting the wide range of music it was playing. Jim had to stand down for a period in 2004 due to pressure of work, and the band was conducted during that time by Sarah Topp, a graduate musician and also a fine singer.
Derek Holland was appointed MD in 2006, and continued in the post until early 2016. Under his direction the band learned many "forgotten gems" of the brass band and light classical repertoire, and Derek's comprehensive background knowledge about composers and musicals added sparkle to many concerts. Notable events in Derek's time as MD included visits to Germany in 2008 and 2013, and a number of special performances for the Queen's jubilee in 2012. The band's second CD, marking the previous year's 125th anniversary, was also recorded in 2012.
Jim Pullen (see above) was reappointed as the band's musical director in February 2016, and continued in the role until autumn 2017.
Current MD Steve Block has been in the post since early in 2018.