Gordon Birch

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Gordon Birch plays BBb bass in the band...

He joined Southampton Sholing Corps as a Junior Soldier in 1954! He says “the complexion of the Army was very different of course in those days and the time commitment far in excess of what is demanded today”. He started playing Tenor Horn in the Junior Band but when the Senior Band were visiting Hasting one Bank Holiday weekend the Junior Band was deputised to take the open air. Gordon says “Our Bass player was in the Senior Band and the BM announced that he needed an E flat player - looking hard in my direction because I was probably the only lad in the band capable of carrying it - and the rest, as they say, is history! Gordon says that due to a fit of pique he left the Army a couple of years later and joined the Albion Band.

The Albion was one of the leading bands in the area [Woodfalls excepted of course even in those days]. On joining the Albion he played B flat bass and there he has remained ever since. Gordon says “Some might say it was a lack of ambition but I love the instrument and believe I have an empathy with it”. Whilst talking with Gordon he had an interesting if divergent tale to tell... “In the fifties after the Summer Contest the adjudicator conducted a massed band concert in the evening – usually The Albion, Woodfalls, Portsmouth City Fire Brigade and Wessex RA. This particular year Charles Groves, as he was then, was the conductor for the evening. We commenced the rehearsal and no more than half a dozen bars into the first march he threw down his baton and berated us ‘If you intend to play like a bunch of dustmen I shan’t be here to conduct you’. Needless to say everyone was then on the edge of their seat and he had made his point with great effect”.

Gordon took a break from banding when the family was growing up – flirting [musically] with the C of E Church Choir and some Barbershop singing. His family have all now flown the coop. He has 2 daughters in their 40’s and two sons one of whom is in his late 30’s and the other has just broken the 40 milestone. Gordon says the girls are musical but the boys show not a lot of interest in what he would call music. This said he admits he can appreciate Status Quo and Queen and also enjoys listening to traditional jazz.

In the early 70’s Gordon joined FE Central Band in Southampton which was run initially by Gordon Cutler and latterly by Bill Buchan, both Salvationists. The band undertook few concert engagements but contested with great success on a very regular basis. Gordon says there is no doubt in his mind that Bill is an excellent band trainer and Bill took the band up through several sections he believes eventually to National Championship Section.

Since the 1980’s Gordon has played with a number of bands including Ringwood and Burley Sandleheath and Fordingbridge Associate Band of the Salvation Army. It was whilst playing with the Fordingbridge Band that he returned to the Army, although he had always maintained a connection with Sholing Corps. The Associate Band was conducting the Sunday meetings for Andover Corps and it was during that meeting that he realised he needed something more in his life. After spells at Winchester and Portsmouth he has now returned “home” to Sholing where he plays in the band and sings in the songsters.

He passed his HGV and PCV driving tests in the 1990’s (“just for something to do”) and ended up owning a couple of old coaches. He says this was great fun attending the Rallies and Shows around the area. Sadly the cost of maintenance forced disposal a few years back.

Gordon says that despite having reached his allotted span of years he continue to work full time as a self-employed Chartered Surveyor. He still very much enjoys his work and meeting people and he is very happy to be playing in The Fellowship Band. Gordon says one of his ‘fellow’ Bass players in Sandleheath Band [quotation marks used in respect of the fact it was a lady] when they were discussing their favourite music commented “You do like the weepie ones don’t you”. And indeed Gordon has to admit he does! ‘Light of the World’, ‘ Divine Communion’ and hymn tunes such as ‘Behold him standing at the door’ and ‘When Jesus looked O’er Galilee’.

Gordon says he receives great spiritual comfort from playing this music and feels very emotional. “So if you see me come on stage with a box of Kleenex at the next concert you’ll have a pretty shrewd idea of what could be included in the programme”!