Mark has been involved in brass banding for almost forty years, with most of this time spent playing at the highest level in many of Yorkshire’s top brass bands, including Carlton Main Frickley Colliery, Brighouse and Rastrick, Black Dyke Mills and 14 years as Principal Percussionist of Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Mark’s first Championship Section Contest was the British Open in the iconic Kings Hall at Belle Vue Zooaligical Gardens, playing Gilbert Vinters Variations On A Ninth; A great day in 1981 as this was the last time the contest would be held at Belle Vue. This was a great start to his Championship Section banding “career” as he was mentioned in both sets of remarks for his “nimble temple block playing”. Maybe this would pale into insignificance with Mark’s future exploits, but always a great memory for him still to this day.
Stage at Belle Vue for the British Open Contest
In 1992, a traumatic year for Grimethorpe with the pit closure, Mark was part of the band that went on to win the National Finals in London, with the backdrop of all rehearsals being interrupted by the press wanting their interview with anyone and everyone. How the band went on to win was a miracle with the constant interruptions, but adrenalin is an amazing thing and the band went on to win, which turned out to be the basis for the one and only brass band movie “Brassed Off”.
On Stage the Royal Albert Hall, 1992
Following this, Mark and the band played some excellent high profile concerts including being the support band to the pop group The Beautiful Southat Birmingham, Sheffield and Wembley Arenas playing to audiences of 15,000 at each venue, performing on a TFI Friday Christmas Special with Chris Evans, and being part of the interval act at the Eurovision Song Contest to a TV audience of over 100 million worldwide.
After party with Paul Heaton of the Beautiful South
Eurovision Song Contest interval act to approx. 100 million TV audience.
From the 1992 story of Grimethorpe, the band were asked to record the music and take part in the film Brassed Off!where Mark played one of the percussionists in the band. Mark said: “This experience was absolutely amazing and an eye opener in seeing how films are made, but the best experience was being around and socialising with such great actors: Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald and Stephen Tompkinson.” Not only did the band get critical acclaim for an excellent movie, the soundtrack also won a Gold Disc in both Australia and UK.
It was with Grimethorpe that Mark’s most memorable time was spent, performing in some of the biggest venues in the world: The Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall and touring all over the globe including most of Europe, Arkansas, New York, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand twice and Australia three times.
Sydney Opera House
Carnegie Hall, New York
Although contest wins can be important for a band, they weren’t so much for Grimethorpe, because audiences wanted to see the band for its entertainment, great concerts and to see a band having so much fun on stage. Mark took many notes (maybe subconsciously) seeing how brass band entertainment worked and shying away from what he calls “4thsection funny”, meaning the cringeworthy “humour” many bands and conductors try. This came from playing with such an excellent, fun load of lads and playing great music, by composers and arrangers such as Goff Richard and Sandy Smith.
One memorable occasion was the Brass In Concert Contest in 2005, when a band had withdrawn so each band in the entertainment contest got an additional 5 minutes. Mark was consistently badgering Sandy Smith to arrange a brilliant piece of music called “1712 Overture”, (yes 1712!), composed by PDQ Bach (actually Peter Shickele, who had invented the comical composer PDQ for his comic compositions). Due to the additional 5 minutes, Sandy did the arrangement, and Grimethorpe broke more ground in finishing a major entertainment contest playing an 8 minute comedy finale, which brought the house down.
Mark felt extremely privileged to be chosen as part of the 4barsrest national bands for 2001 and 2002 as well as 4barsrest “All Star Band” for 2002. Although these are fantasy bands, he felt very privileged to be chosen in recognition of his playing by an international band.
Mark has won all of the major titles in banding, including the Yorkshire Area title on numerous occasions, British Open and European titles and the Brass In Concert title 5 times. He has performed with the foremost conductors in brass banding including Elgar Howarth, Frank Renton, Garry Cutt, Geoffrey Brand, Philip Harper, Kevin Bolton, David King, Richard Evans, James Gourlay, Peter Parkes and Alan Withington. Mark said that to play under such amazing conductors has shown him how to be the best he can be and the work ethic required to give the most polished performance possible.
Mark also said he had played under some less proficient conductors which inversely showed Mark how not to take a band!
Mark moved to Cornwall in 2005 where he married Emma. Mark joined Emma at Bugle Silver Band where they spent 5 years. While there, Mark left behind his percussion and returned to his very first instrument, playing Baritone, then Euphonium, and finally having a good go at Bass Trombone (which he secretly loved). Mark took time out when both their boys Joshua and Thomas were born; this helped Emma concentrate on her playing to eventually become Principal Cornet of St Dennis Band.
Playing at the top level for such a long time has shown Mark the determination and dedication required to give his best, and now he expects each and every musician in the band to also give their all to achieve the highest quality entertaining performance possible. He is very much a realist in the bandroom and knows that players turn up at rehearsal to play for a band as a hobby and for fun.
St Austell Youth band.
Since turning his hand to conducting, Mark has had great success with St Austell Youth Band, winning the Bugle Band Contest training section first prize and latterly the Bugle Band Contest Youth Section just 3 years later. In 2015 Mark became the Musical Director of Indian Queens Band, where he has rebuilt the band from just 12 players and had great success at contests, culminating in the band’s promotion to the 3rdsection in just two years. Showing Mark’s great love of entertainment, he will not compromise on getting new unique pieces for the band to play, which has proven successful at the Exmouth Entertainment Contest. In the 4 years the band has entered, Mark has led the band to two 4thand 5thplaces in performance, two most entertaining awards, Best Trombone Section and Best percussion section twice, this is against bands up to and including the 1stSection.
Mark has also gained himself a reputation as an innovative Musical Director, priding himself on original programming for concerts and contests, with great contest successes and fantastic audience responses.
Indian Queens band 2017