Home grown or home groan

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Body Builder

by Terry Camsey, Major – 

I wonder if you were able to see the United Kingdom’s Hendon Corps Band when they visited the territory recently.

It’s a large band of fifty musicians and, when I first saw their picture, I wondered whether the number related in some way to what I believe to have been the regulation maximum number for a band. When I was younger, there were some corps in England (one for sure) that had two corps bands because, I believe, of that regulation.

It seems a moot issue these days, doesn’t it, when many corps in this country struggle to retain (assuming they are interested in doing so) with a mere handful of players. And don’t believe that all is rosy in other territories where, apart from a few corps, there is a continuing challenge even to have a band with sufficient players to adequately function.

But back to the Hendon Band…how on earth can they be so blessed, when so many other corps, even in the UK, see declines that have been the trend for many years?

When in the UK a few years ago, I visited a corps that—in my youth—had a very capable band that broadcasted and recorded frequently. The number had dwindled to about seven, most in their seventies! They, like many corps over there (and over here for that matter) faced the problem of a changed community. In fact, walking around, you could easily think you were living in India—Caucasian faces were certainly a minority. One can easily see how long-term residents felt like strangers in their own land and moved away, trying to find a more comfortable cultural setting…while the faithful—though getting older—were continuing to commute to the corps in hope that revival and growth would take place, and that the future would again be like yesterday.

A few years ago, in the USA Musician, someone commented on how interesting it was that so many corps had brass band marches named after them. I couldn’t help responding that it would be even more interesting to see how many of those corps now had a band…or, more to the point, how many such corps still existed! For many, the march bearing their name stands as a gravestone to a past long gone.

I know, I know…you are wondering why I am so morbid, and also what in the world this has to do with the Hendon band. It’s this…

…apart from their impressive playing, and talented soloists, it was the number of young people in the band that caught my interest…the fruit of young people’s bands that the corps has promoted and nurtured for many years. Unlike many corps in England that have relied on talented players (raised in YP bands of other corps) transferring in—a source that now, it seems, is drying up—this band is substantially home grown; a tribute to a corps that has its priorities right, and where its young people are truly seen as “the Army of tomorrow” and not just a “temporary Army” of young people just passing through.

It’s a lesson for many corps (and I am not talking just in a band context here), although corps that have good music sections are much less likely to lose young people in their early teens. If we want an Army in the future, we are going to have to do a lot more to not only attract, but also to unconditionally love, keep and develop young “inheritors” of our future. We need an “Heir Force” in our Army!!

If we don’t, perhaps we’ll continue to hear of more “home groans” than of “home growns”!

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