Meet the Alder Valley Brass

Steve Burgess
Steve Burgess - Principal Cornet

Steve started playing trumpet at the age of 11 and was initially tutored by Pete Condon. In 2011 he joined Alder Valley Brass in his original capacity as Soprano cornet with the addition of becoming "Post Horn Soloist" (which he says keeps him fit) throughout the summer.

In addition to Alder Valley he still plays Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet and Flugel and is a member of the non contesting Staines Lammas Band as Principal Cornet. When not playing, Steve is a Software Developer and has two children Connor (a Tuba player) and Sheelagh (a Percussionist).

Caz Woods
Caz Woods - Solo Cornet (front row)

I was given a trumpet to play when my father took me and my sister to a evening class at the local adult education college. I played throughout senior school as principle trumpet with Sutton Schools wind band and orchestra and also with the Croydon Youth Philharmonic Orchestra under Conductor Arthur Davison. I enjoyed music trips abroad to Spain, Malta & America and a BBC recording of Ting Tang the elephant with conductor Douglas Coombes & animal magic's Johnny Morris.

Towards the end of my time at school I gave trumpet lessons & played in the pit at a west end theatre to pay for lessons with Crispian Steele-Perkins. Unfortunately a lack of funds prevented me from going to music college so I gave up playing.

After many years I dusted off my trumpet and joined Woking Wind Orchestra for a year. This rekindled my interest in playing so after another break I looked for a band to play with, bought a cornet and joined Alder Valley in May 2017.

Graeme Verroken
Graeme Verroken – Soprano Cornet

I started playing the cornet in my school band in London when I was 11 years old, primarily to get out of cross country running! I auditioned and was accepted as a cornet/trumpet player at the Royal Marines School of Music. Initially there was a lot of military training, fitness and combat stuff……..so much for getting out of cross country running! My cornet professor was the legendary Walter B Hargreaves, ‘The Wee Professor’ himself. During this time, I continued my brass band activities with Betteshanger Colliery Band playing Soprano cornet as well as solo cornet for other notable bands that Walter Hargreaves conducted. The Royal Marines provided me with the best musical training in the world.

After training, I joined the Royal Marines Staff Band as Principle Cornet/Trumpet. In early 1973 I was selected as the principle trumpet for HM Royal Yacht Britannia. During my service on the Royal Yacht, I not only played for the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, but I had the honour of running the Showband. This required me to lead and play for Royal functions as well as private engagements in many countries throughout the world. I left the Royal Marines in 1979 and continued a professional music career playing in bands and shows in London.

In the mid 80’s, I gave up playing due to other work commitments and didn’t pick up a cornet or trumpet for over 30 years. Following early retirement and after getting my lip back in for about a year, I joined St Sebastian’s Band in Wokingham along with a local big band. I joined AVB in mid 2018.

Claire Wade
Claire Wade - Repiano Cornet

Claire started playing in 1991. She was really looking to join a choir but she went along to her local town band just out of curiosity and was handed a cornet to try. The rest, as they say, is history!

After having been for many years Principal Cornet of that band and having depped with many other local bands over the years, she joined Alder Valley Brass in early 2014 for a new challenge. Claire has since become further involved as Trustee and General Secretary of AVB. She was awarded the George Prior Memorial Cup for 'Band Member of the Year' in both 2017 and 2020.

Catharine Baxter
Catherine Baxter - 2nd Cornet

I took up trumpet age 10, played in all sorts of school and county bands, and switched to cornet at the age of 20, pretty much when I joined CAMUS (the Corps of Army Music). I love music and sang in my church choir as a girl, and I play piano. I am a relative newcomer to AVB – I joined the band in 2017.

I am married and have two gorgeous children (a son and a daughter).

I have previously played for Stannary Brass Band, The Band of the Royal Logistic Corps, Charles Church Camberley Band and Saint Sebastian Wokingham Band.

My proudest banding moment: Being commended in a review after my first contest when I’d only just started. Most memorable playing moment: Playing at and being part of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Sam Hutson
Sam Hutson - 3rd cornet

I actually started my playing career on the piano at the age of 7, before taking up the trumpet aged 9. I started learning under Paul Sykes, until I moved to Secondary School. After a year here, my beaten up trumpet was finally starting to reach its limits, and the brass teacher, Simon Wyld, offered me a deal. A cornet, in exchange for playing in his youth brass band, the North East Hampshire Area Schools Band, and I never looked back.

After 4 years on the front row, I moved into the principle cornet seat for my final 2 years. This coincided with 2 years of studying music at college, part of which included tuition under Mercury Prize nominee, Laura Jurd. During this time I joined multiple jazz groups, but banding has always been my true calling, with spells at Cove Brass in 2016 and now Alder Valley Brass since 2019.

Donna Burgess
Donna Burgess - Flugel Horn

Donna started playing at Townfield School at the age of 11 under the tutorship of Bill Rumford. With the Girls Brigade band she progressed to Trumpet/Cornet playing in Hillingdon Music School for a number of years. During her time there she was involved with recording a record at the BBC and also a 2 week band tour to Bulgaria which was very interesting to say the least at 13 years old.

Donna has played as a guest with a number of bands in and around the southeast. She has also studied cornet under Charley Brighton, and is an accomplished player performing a number of recitals at St Mary's church in Slough. In 2011 Donna made the brave move to take up the Flugelhorn seat at Alder Valley Brass, a position which she has found very challenging but feels was the right move.

Liz Sandford
Liz Sandford - Solo Horn

I grew up in Yorkshire and so it was inevitable, with my musical interests that I would be playing a brass instrument. From the age of 10 I started to learn the tenor horn and played in the Wakefield Metropolitan Schools band. We moved South to Hampshire in 1992 and I began to play in the Hampshire County Youth Band under the baton of Leighton Rich. I spent many years with HCYB and enjoyed tours to Hungary, Belgium, Germany and Austria. I was also fortunate at this time to play with the National Youth Band of Great Britain on 1st Horn and learnt from directorship of Roy Newsome.

My time with Alder Valley Brass initially began in 1997 as I played with the band for a year before moving to Leeds University to study Music. After having several years off from playing, I re-joined the band in June 2007.

Nick Betts
Nick Betts - 1st Horn

Nick Betts joined Alder Valley Brass after moving back home following his graduation from Durham University.

Nick started to play at the age of 11 and has played tenor horn with North East Hampshire Areas Youth Band and Durham University Brass Band where he was an exec member and the president.

Nick started to play the cornet during summer 2013, however, he has now moved to the horn section and plays first horn. Nick was awarded 'Musician of the Year' in 2020.

Rob Greene
Rob Greene - 1st Baritone

Rob started learning the trumpet when he was 12. He soon moved to cornet and then joined the Richmond Schools Band. At the age of 15, Rob became a member of Watneys Silver Band (later Richmond Band), who competed in the Championship Section, and progressed to playing Flugel Horn.

Rob followed his two sons into the Alder Valley Brass in 2000, and now plays Solo Baritone. After having been Alder Valley's Contest Secretary for many years, Rob is now Treasurer of the band, as well as being Vice Chairman.

Judith May
Judith May - 2nd Baritone

I decided to learn to play a brass instrument at the age of 12 after having a go on a cornet my cousin was learning to play and being surprised that I could get a note out of it. The school had a choice of Eb tenor horn or Eb bass, and it was agreed all round that I might be better suited to the Tenor horn. Having joined the school band I was asked by a friend a few weeks later if I would consider playing in a local brass band; Loxley Methodist and there started my career in brass bands.

I have played Tenor horn throughout apart from the last few months at Sandhurst, where I moved on to baritone to fill a vacancy as we had a surplus of horns. I joined Alder Valley on Baritone in the Autumn of 2014 after agreeing to help them out at the Leicester contest.

Roy Hancock
Roy Hancock - 1st Euphonium

Roy began playing tenor horn aged 8 with the Band of the First Whitstable Scout Group, where his late father played BBb bass.

He switched to euphonium 8 years later and has played that instrument ever since - subsequently with Snowdown Colliery, Folkestone, Godalming and since 1992 Alder Valley Brass.

Roy was made Chairman of the band at the AGM in 2017 and is also a Trustee.

Bob Larbey
Bob Larbey - 2nd Euphonium

Bob began playing cornet at age 9, taking lessons at school. His first band was the recently formed Farnborough Brass, starting on cornet, then trying tenor horn, although really fancying euphonium. With an ex Salvation Army euphonium of unknown vintage, and Harry Harrison (also of the Aldershot Brass Ensemble at that time) as his mentor, Bob's career on euphonium was started.

By 2012 he had decided that he needed some brass banding and joined Farnham Brass Band. During a trip to the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall, he met Alder Valley Brass MD Roger Burke and agreed, over a pint, to play euphonium for a concert with AVB. After hearing the band he could not resist, and joined a month later to play bass.

Roland Knight
Roland Knight - Solo Trombone

Roland was introduced to brass instruments at Sandfield Primary School (Guildford) and started off on euphonium at the age of eight. Four years later, he saw the light and switched to trombone and was taught by peripatetic teacher Tony Moore; a former session musician with ‘The Beatles’! Roland played in Guildford Youth Band and then Cobham Band, before joining Friary Band on Solo Trombone in 1983. He played at the Band’s first engagement, concert and contest. Roland occupied the end seat with Friary from the 4th Section through to its promotion to the Championship Section.

Roland’s highlights with the Friary Band included winning the 1st Section National Final in 2010; playing at the Royal Albert Hall (Championship Section National Final) in 2014; winning the British Open Senior Trophy in 2014; winning the Most Entertaining Band at the Butlin’s Championships in 2015; and playing at the ‘Brass in Concert’ contest at The Sage, Gateshead in 2015. Roland is a former SCABA (Southern Counties Amateur Bands Association) Trombone Solos Champion, and was Public Relations Officer during Friary Band’s sponsored years as the Friary Meux (Guildford) Brass Band. He joined Alder Valley Brass in September 2019, filling a vacancy on Solo Trombone.

Roland works for Surrey Choices (formally part of Surrey County Council) as an Activity Facilitator, providing a wide variety of day centre activities for adults with learning disabilities; including cooking, gardening, IT, music, art and sport. In his spare time, Roland enjoys running 10K races, and is an active member of the local WaterAid Support Group. He also manages to find time to play in two big bands, one of which he was a founder member. Roland says they are a welcome break from intensive brass band rehearsals, and a chance for him to let his hair down… what’s left of it!

Mike Pennicote-Henrie
Mike Pennicotte-Henrie - Trombone

I was first introduced to the world of brass, whilst in my first year at secondary school. The then music teacher Mr Barlow, was looking for a student to provide the bass line for a wind ensemble he was putting together. As I was the tallest member of his tutor form, he handed me a rather battered Eb Bass, suggesting that my stature would enable me to ‘handle’ the large instrument.

I was born in Surrey, but at the age of 12, moved to Steep, a small village just outside the market town of Petersfield in East Hampshire. The move to Hampshire coincided with a move from Eb Bass to Trombone.

Through out the last 4 decades I have enjoyed playing with many varied and interesting musical groups in around Hampshire, including several local bands, Liss Band, Luckett's Travel Band and Spinnaker Brass. I have also been a member of several local orchestras, a swing band and brass ensembles.

My most memorable playing moment was actually not as a trombone player, but performing as a lone drummer, on the centre floor spot of the Albert Hall. The performance was in front of a packed hall, which included the Her Majesty the Queen and the late great Roy Castle.

Phillip German
Phillip German - Eb bass

I joined Aldershot Brass Ensemble in 1963 I was 12 and sat bluffing on third cornet, working my way up to front row cornet, then Eb bass, then 2nd Baritone, 1st Baritone and finally Eb bass again.

We started in the 4th Section and under the baton of George Prior worked our way up to playing in the Championship section at the Albert Hall. We had by this time changed to being Alder Valley Brass receiving sponsorship from the local bus company.

I was very honoured to be made an Honorary Vice President of The Band which was a big part of my life for over 40 years.

Duncan Ford
Duncan Ford - Eb bass

I started playing the tuba at school, simply because I wanted to play the biggest instrument! I had a very inspiring teacher called John Elliott, who played in the show, Barnum, in the West End. I joined the Southern Counties Wind Orchestra and we got to play at the Schools Prom at the Albert Hall.

After school, I became a member of the recently formed Friary Meux Guildford Band. I was with the band for thirty five years, during it's transition from 4th section to top section. For a number of years I ran the Training band, which mostly performed at local music festivals. I also helped to organise the Southern Counties Youth Band.

I am delighted to have joined Alder Valley for a new adventure. Thanks for giving me such a warm welcome.

Laura James
Laura James - Percussion

I started playing the cornet when I was about 6 years old and eventually got to the dizzy heights of grade 8 at age 17 (I think!). I have vague memories of first hearing the band play whilst we were parked outside the bandroom on the day my parents moved us all down from the Midlands to Mere and wanting to learn to play.

I joined AVB in 2001 and I’ve been in the band ever since. It’s been great fun and we’ve had some memorable trips abroad over the years, including Oberursel in Germany, Delft and Switzerland (where I quickly discovered I’m rubbish at skiing!!).

Greg Hayes
Greg Hayes - Timpani and Percussion

Started playing EEb Bass at the age of 12 in the school brass band and travelled extensively throughout Europe and Canada performing with them. At the age of 14 he joined the Hanwell Band, one of the leading Championship Section bands in the south of England, on EEb bass. Whilst with this band he played many times on Radio and TV. Two of the many highlights playing with the Hanwell Band was playing on the “Hit Records” – You’re a Lady (Peter Skellern) and The Floral Dance (Terry Wogan) and recording the “That’s Life!” theme tune (Esther Ransom).

After leaving school Greg trained as a Secondary School music teacher, a profession he stayed in until his retirement in December 2014. Throughout his teaching career he took many roles from class music teacher, Head of Music, Local Authority Advisory Teacher, Director of Performing Arts through to Assistant Principal. For a period of 8 years he was also the Director of a local authority specialist Music School.

Greg joined Alder Valley Brass in 2007 on EEb Bass having spent 12 years playing with Sandhurst Silver Band. In 2014 Greg gave up playing EEb Bass and switched to the “kitchen Sink” department playing Timpani and other percussion. Greg became a Trustee of the band when it gained charitable status as the Contest Secretary. Greg left and moved to Wiltshire for some years and returned in 2023 and has now rejoined the band.

Alder Valley Brass Band Vice Presidents

Mick Bolton
Mick Bolton - Vice President

Mick started to play with Alder Valley Brass in 1970 after leaving the army. At the time the band was called the Aldershot Brass Ensemble. They practiced in what was Christies Cosmetic Factory, in North Lane, Aldershot. In 1980 a new practice venue had to be found and Mick had a spare shed on the small holding where he lived in Badshot Lea. This became the band room for many years until his move to Devon. During this time Mick did have a few years as Contest Secretary for the band.

Mick has played a variety of Brass Instruments over the years, Cornet, Trombone and Bb Bass. Mick remembers travelling with the band and one year did an excellent concert in Stuttgart. After 38 years with Alder Valley Brass Mick retired and is now living in Devon and plays for Torquay Brass.

Peter Haigh
Peter Haigh - Vice President

I started playing the cornet in 1968, quite by accident. The woodwork teacher at Glossop School in Derbyshire also ran the school brass and, in a woodwork lesson one day, he challenged the class to try and get a note out of an old cornet. I was one of the few to achieve this and I went home that night with said cornet under my arm; able to make a sound on the instrument but unable to read a note of music. However there were plenty of opportunities for music lessons in the local area and by the time I left school, I was principal cornet in the school band and in local brass band, Tintwistle Band.

I continued playing after school, as my employment in air traffic control engineering took me to Bletchley in Buckinghamshire, Aberdeen, back to the Manchester area and finally to the Aldershot area with my Julie. I joined the Aldershot Brass Ensemble, as Alder Valley Brass was then known, in 1984; initially playing cornet, then moving onto the flugel horn a few years later and, finally, moving back to the cornet and becoming the principal cornet in 2003. I remained in that position, through thick and thin, until 2014 when Julie and I relocated back to Glossop in Derbyshire, for family reasons. So now, more than 35 years after leaving, and in retirement, I am back with Tintwistle Band, and still getting a kick out of playing the cornet.

During my time with Alder Valley Brass there were many contest successes (plus a few notable failures), and prestigious concert performances throughout the southeast, and on the continent, in Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. However there were two memorable occasions I would like to share with you.

The first was a memorial concert held at the Princes Hall Aldershot, in 1984, following the untimely death of George Prior, much respected trombone player and founder of the Aldershot Brass Ensemble. The final item was a piece called Resurgam, composed by Eric Ball, and conducted by Frank Renton. The emotion from the performance was overwhelming and, as the final notes of the music died away there was barely a dry eye in the auditorium.

The second was a much happier occasion, a joint concert with the 200-strong West Sussex Philharmonic Choir at Horsham, West Sussex, in 1996. After performing separate concert items in the first half, band and choir came together in the second half of the concert to perform the music Carmina Burana, composed by Carl Orff. The arrangement was unlike anything we had played before (and since) and of course only really came together when the band and choir performed together - which only happened properly in a rehearsal on the day of the concert. For many in the band at the time, myself included, that was just about the best concert played by AVB.

Phil German
Phil German - Vice President

I joined Aldershot Brass Ensemble in 1963 I was 12 and sat bluffing on third cornet, working my way up to front row cornet, then Eb bass, then 2nd Baritone, 1st Baritone and finally Eb bass again.

We started in the 4th Section and under the baton of George Prior worked our way up to playing in the Championship section at the Albert Hall. We had by this time changed to being Alder Valley Brass receiving sponsorship from the local bus company.

Highlights of playing with the band included three appearances at The National Finals at The Royal Albert Hall, making a record with Ronald Binge, TV series with Harry Worth, Songs of Praise, TV Lenny and Gerry at The Talk of The Town, TV Jimmy Edwards, Mud playing backing tracks for a record. The Two Ronnies was amazing, we did two shows "Aldershot Brass Ensemble" and "Hello Sailor". The Ronnies were so friendly and made us all feel part of the team. We also mixed in the bar with the casts of "Are you being served" and "Till Death Do Us Part" we felt like celebs.

Another special night with Gerry Nicholson and Bruce Gentry was helping Hanwell Band do the backing track for The Floral Dance with Sir Terry Wogan. We had a special relationship with The Wernau Band in Southern Germany who were very worroed about coming to the home of the British Army but we soon made them welcome. We had four visits (I think) to play at their music festival, they in turn visited us. We did book them to play at a British Legion Parade but had to cancel because the national press got wind of it, times have hopefully changed.

Further trips to Oberusel twice (Aldershot's twin town), Maastricht, Delft and Brussels were the mark of a successful busy band. My roles were treasurer for a bit until they realised I couldn't count and then the band manager working with a great committee to make Alder Valley one of the south's best bands having the best times and in the 1980s and 1990s winning all the Southern band competitions going.

Our founding conductor was George Prior, he was followed by Clive Rubery, Bruce Gentry, Dennis Lease, Duncan Beckley, Nigel Clarke, David Barringer, David Marshall and finally I left for a new challenge with Friary Band in Guildford.

Then came Roger Burke and a new exciting era of Alder Valley !

I was very honoured to be made an Honorary Vice President of The Band which was a big part of my life for over 40 years.

Roger Balls
Roger Balls - Vice President

I joined the band in 1980 after leaving the army where I served for 25 years with the RCT Staff Band. During my time with the band I played mainly in the cornet section where I shared a stand for a long time with the great Gerry Nicholson. I also moved onto baritone for a short time when the band was short of players in that section.

I was appointed deputy conductor and took the band on many rehearsal nights and concerts. I retired from playing in early 2000 and left the band to take up a position as Musical Director with the Basingstoke Concert Band where I stayed for twelve years. I retired from music altogether at Christmas last year.