|Bandmaster Geoff Otter - 1975-1995|
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On the Band's 91st anniversary, in June, 1977, the Bournemouth Echo effectively described the ministry of the Band.
Over 90 years the band have been heard throughout the British Isles and abroad. They have broadcast, appeared on TV and given hundreds of public concerts, like their current series at the bandstand at Fisherman's Walk, Southbourne. And that is only the more strictly musical and secular aspect of their work. They have paid hundreds of visits to hospitals and old people's homes, taken part in meetings, services and open-air seafront rallies, given concerts for numberless good causes over the years since 1886.
It may be difficult to measure in any tangible way the benefits which the Boscombe Citadel Band of the Salvation Army have brought to the Bournemouth area since their formation 91 years ago. But there is no doubt they have brought pleasure, inspiration, and renewal of faith to thousands of local residents and many thousands more of visitors.
Although taking charge of the band in January 1975 Geoff Otter was not commissioned bandmaster until late April, his appointment making him one of only six Boscombe bandmasters to have previously served as a Boscombe bandsman. A fourth generation salvationist, his early interest in music was kindled with the Bristol Citadel YP Band, and developed with five years experience as timpanist with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. During service days he was appointed to the RAF Central Band as bass trombonist.
For many years Geoff ran his own catering business, and also 'freelanced' as a percussionist. In 1974 he joined the Dorset County Council Instrumental Music Service, being responsible for percussion throughout the county. He was appointed to conduct the newly formed Bournemouth Youth Orchestra in 1979. After five successful years he relinquished this post on being appointed a Justice of the Peace. He remained involved with young people, coaching the Dorset Youth Orchestra, conducting the Bournemouth School for Girls Orchestra and instructing at the army's National School of husic.
While still deputy bandmaster in March 1975, he led the band in an 'away' weekend to Newton Abbot, this being the first of several visits made to the west country with other venues including Bristol Easton and Exeter. Campaigns were also held in several London corps - Ealing, Waltham Abbey, Hendon, Hillingdon, Maidenhead and Regent Hall - while the band also travelled further north to visit Dudley, Sheffield, Worcester, Blackburn and Derby. Additional campaigns included Oxford, Banbury, Fakenham and St Peter Port (Guernsey).
Believing in the philosophy a busy band is a happy band Geoff Otter was always pleased for the band to take part in musical festivals, especially when they resulted in funds being raised for various charities.
A festival in aid of Cancer Research in June 1976 was the first of many such programmes given by the band and succeeded in raising £100.
Other beneficiaries of Band festivals have included the Women's Free Church Council, Rotary Clubs, Boscombe Hospital, the MacMillan unit, the Leslie Condon Trust, the Bournemouth project (for the care of drug dependants), Cheshire Homes, several local churches, nine candidates for the Salvation Army's International Training College, and Boscombe Corps' own New Building fund.
To commemorate the Queen's Jubilee, the Band gave a Celebration festival in the Punshon Memorial Church.
The event packed the church and specially invited visitors included
representatives of many aspects of Bournemouth life. The concert was compered
by the Rev. Jonathan Copus and featured as a special guest Joy Webb. But the
real stars were the band themselves, and it may be doubted if ever in their long
history have they played better than they are doing now under conductor Geoff
Otter. They were well balanced, disciplined, very musical and expressive in a
varied programme of testing music. Putting down their instruments they became
a very pure toned male voice choir, and they produced sparkling soloists from
their ranks in Glyn Bosanko, cornet, and Graham Lawrence, euphonium.
Recorded for later broadcast by BBC Radio Solent, the festival was so much appreciated that the band were invited to make it an annual event, and six further Celebration festivals were given. Guest soloists were invited to take part on each occasion with Celebration 2 in 1978 featuring trombonist Michael Hext who had recently been voted BBC Young Musician of the Year. Another well known trombone player, Don Lusher, also took part in a band programme in January 1981 in aid of the Boscombe New Building scheme.
The Boscombe New Building scheme also prompted the Band to produce its first cassette in March 1983. Recorded at the Bournemouth studios of Two Counties Radio, the cassette took its title Fisherman's Walk from Kenneth Downie's march and featured a wide range of brass and vocal music, including Daystar, Glory and Brooklyn Citadel. Eric Ball's specially written meditation Brantwood was also included, together with solos played by Roland Wright (cornet) and Graham Lawrence (euphonium).
Over 1000 copies of this cassette were sold, even though it was never made available through shops. In 1985 the recording was rereleased in record form as Priceless Treasure, with the title coming from one of the featured songs. Marching Along was the Band's second recording, produced in both record and cassette form in 1985, and featuring only marches and marching songs. Extracts from these records have often been featured by the local radio stations - 2CR and Radio Solent - but the band has also made a number of recordings especially for the BBC, being featured more than once on Radio 2's Listen to the Band and Bandstand on Radio 3.
A great honour was bestowed upon the Band in March 1979 when they were chosen to play for the visit to Bournemouth of Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip. Assembled in Madeira Road, the band played for two hours while the Royal couple visited the police station and had a walkabout but, due to the vast crowds, few of the bandsmen were able to get even a glimpse of them.
The Band were further honoured by appearances in two major London festivals. At the Royal Festival Hall, 8th October 1980, they shared the platform with bands fron Derby Central, Ilford and Belfast Temple, and played Ray Steadman-Allen's Daystar and at the Bandmaster's Councils festival held in the Royal Albert Hall, 2nd June 1984, they featured another of this composer's major works - The Holy War
For a number of years Eric Ball had friendly associations with Boscombe Band, regularly being invited to conduct a Fisherman's Walk bandstand programme, lead a band practice and attend the annual dinner. He became widely respected and admired by the bandsmen, and it was fitting then that on his 80th birthday in November 1983 a special concert be given by the Band - supported by the songsters. Apart from Symphony of Thanksgiving - included at his own request - every item on the programme was written by Eric Ball himself and the occasion was truly savoured by the congregation of 400, which included Harry Mortimer and other special guests.
Such prestigious festivals are few and far between and account for the smallest portion of the band's workload. They are more regularly to be found playing at hospitals or homes for the elderly; proclaiming the gospel in the street or on the seafront; witnessing on the march or in the bandstand. Almost 125 years after its commencement, Boscombe Band is one of the busiest in the Salvation Army.
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