7 November 2022

In Haverhill for Rachel’s Theatre Tour

By Rachel Sloane
Haverhill Arts Centre

According to their website, in 1882 Daniel Gurteen, Haverhill business owner “built a Town Hall as a place for the people of Haverhill to go so that they could appreciate music performances, hear lectures, play chess and avail themselves of the books and newspapers in the reading room.” The exterior of the building still has quite a ‘wow factor’ sited in the main street surrounded by shops. 

In the 1950s and 60s it become a dance hall and in the early 1990s St Edmundsbury Borough Council, with support from the Arts Council of England and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, converted the building into an arts centre.

In 2004 Haverhill Town Council took over…

“Almost every day of the year there is something going on, it could be theatre, cinema, broadcasts, comedy, children’s shows, rock, jazz, classical, folk performances, pantomimes, dance, workshops, meetings, local history research, tea dancing, or even just having a cup of tea or a slice of cake in the cafe…”

There is a large public car park behind the theatre, and you enter at street level via modern glass doors. There is a downstairs café but to get to the auditorium, and the bar, you go up via the impressive staircase or in the lift. (An interesting display about Haverhill lines the rather narrow downstairs hall and passageways.) 

The downstairs cafe

The auditorium walls are covered with dark blue drapes, to match the curtains on the compact stage and the tiered seats. It all looks rather plush and well-loved! 

The staff were very friendly – and one made a point of going off to ask about programmes, and then came and found me in my seat, to tell me their were no printed programmes as the running order would be displayed on a screen at the back of the stage. Great service!  

Haverhill Arts Centre auditorium

Haverhill Silver Band in concert at the Haverhill Arts Centre

Poster for the concert

After attending plays, musicals, comedy and folk nights, it was time for another genre of performance and Haverhill Silver Band were appearing in Haverhill, only a couple of weeks after competing at The Royal Albert Hall in the National Brass Band Championships. 

The band website says, “A nationally ranked Champion Section Brass Band, the Haverhill Brass Band was formed in 1820, making it one of the oldest brass bands in the country. However, for over half a century, two brass bands co-existed in the town; the Haverhill Brass Band (formed in 1820) and the Haverhill Shepherds Brass Band (formed in 1872).” 

During World War 1 both bands disbanded, only to restart in 1920 and amalgamated in 1920, as the Haverhill Co-operative Band, then, in 1955, they became ‘Haverhill Silver Band’. 

Alan Duguid, conducting Haverhill Silver Band

Their Musical Director Paul Philby was away so the baton was held by Alan Duguid, who explained that he really could not claim the credit for the performance as Paul had led all the rehearsals! 

I love brass band musical directors as they always seem to have a sense of humour and not only conduct but also act as comperes, usually very successfully, as Alan did at this performance. 

There was little elbow-room on the small stage, but somehow the musicians in their green jackets, emblazoned with gold braid, all squeezed in and played a great cross- section of music, including some surprising ones for a brass band. 

Among other pieces, we heard big band style jazz, some Dubussey ( ‘Cakewalk’), some Frank Sinatra (‘In the wee small hours’ with a trombone solo by Steve Rinaldi), a solo from the flugelhorn player, Peter Mackley (‘A little star went out’ arranged by Philip Harper,) and ‘Crown Imperial’ by Walton, (arr: Wright)  that was composed for King George 6th Coronation. I loved the beautiful  ‘All through the night ‘– a traditional hymn, (arr: Wilkinson). 

I also enjoyed the Disney Fantasy partly because of some great percussion, as had ‘Bacchanale’ by Saint-Saens.

The lead cornet player in Haverhill Silver Band is Tim Pannell and I could have listened to him all night. He played the tricky ‘Napoli’ by Bellstedt as a solo piece, but featured in several other tunes, including ‘La Danza’ by Rossini (arr: Langford), and ‘The girl with the flaxen hair’ by Debussy, (arr: Snell). 

It was a concert that was well worth driving through floods from Felixstowe to Haverhill for, and luckily most surface water had drained away for the rainy drive back!

Haverhill Silver Band