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Review| Richard Evans – Still Beating

This was one of those books that I wanted to read slowly and appreciate fully, for two reasons.

The first reason being, I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the banding legend that is Richard Evans. I’ve been lucky enough to be conducted by him on a few occasions and I have always walked away from his rehearsals with more knowledge than I had when I entered the band room. My second reason was, after attending one of his ‘An Evening with Richard Evans’ concerts, I was eager to learn more about his incredible banding journey.

A Lifetime in Banding

If I accomplish a tenth of what Mr Evans achieved in his life, I will take that as a success. The amount of incredible banding events that he has experienced is beyond astonishing and the way that his book is written makes you feel as if you were there witnessing it. Everything is described so vividly, it’s literally like you’ve stepped into a time machine and followed him through his banding life. One minute I’m in Black Dyke’s Band Room with Maurice Murphy, the next I’m in Japan with Harry Mortimer, then I’m off to Scotland with NYBBS and then at Brass in Concert with Grimethorpe – it’s like a virtual reality but through the power of words. One particular highlight for me was when he met one of his conditions of his contract with the Leyland band, which was to get them into the Top 5 at the British Open. Not an easy task when you have 3 years to do it and Leyland were in the Third Section when he started his contract. It was also surreal to read a book where you’ve met some of the people involved. It really made me realise what a small world banding really is.

I also appreciated how honest Richard was about his life in banding. It wasn’t a journey that was observed through rose-tinted glasses and it was refreshing for topics such as banding politics, arguments, sackings and backstabbing, which we all know takes place, discussed openly. He was also honest about regrets and mistakes he has made during his playing career which were really interesting and an honesty which made the book real, rather than an overglorified CV. Similarly it was interesting to see how banding has changed over the decades. The determination of bands who once benefitted from sponsorship and then having to go it alone when companies decided not to sponsor bands was particularly interesting and also the strong opposition from men that female banders faced when trying to enter the higher sections of banding. I was amazed that bands would be willing to turn away a talented player just because she was a woman. I was even more surprised to discover that some female players declined seats in top section bands because they were worried about the aggravation it could cause. It certainly made me realise that I have taken my life in banding for granted and I’m grateful I started playing in an era where females in bands isn’t such a big issue (for most people, anyway). I dread to think about how much trouble I would have caused if I had been a player before women were accepted into bands!

Meeting Heroes

It’s a sad fact that I never had the opportunity to watch players such as Harry Mortimer and Maurice Murphy play live. I can’t imagine how amazing they must have been to watch and what would I give to sit down and have a conversation with them?! Well, after reading Richard’s book, I strangely feel as if I do know them. Again, thanks to the book going into such great detail and the fact that both Maurice and Harry, as well as other brass legends, are mentioned often, I feel like I’ve met them. I don’t just know facts about their lives, I’ve seen a glimpse of their personality and what type of people they were, which was fascinating.

Of course, when I talk about my banding heroes, Mr Evans is always included in the line-up. There are a select few banders who I can honestly say inspire me and both during and after finishing the book, I found myself inspired to listen to the pieces and look up the events and musicians that were mentioned. Believe me, if you need a kick up the backside to pick up your instrument and better your playing, I think this book will inspire you to do that – it certainly inspired me!

Beg, Borrow and Steal

I’ve never done a book review on this blog, but I felt compelled to show my love for this book. There are parts that are relatable to every bander. It’s incredibly entertaining, with parts that had me laughing out loud and then there were sections that moved me to tears. As I’ve mentioned a few times now, every event is described in such a way that you feel you are there – it’s a real adventure. ‘Richard Evans – Still Beating’ is a fascinating read and so much more than an autobiography. If you are in need of some banding reading that is inspirational, funny, intruiging and emotional – you need to read this! Turn off your Netflix and go find yourself a copy!

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