Band welcomes celebrity conductor Steve Sykes

In keeping with their policy of learning from celebrity musicians, Lyme Town Band recently enjoyed a day’s workshop with Steve Sykes, one of the finest tuba soloists to emerge from the British brass band scene.

Steve is in great demand as a soloist, conductor, composer, adjudicator and teacher. He works as a freelance musician appearing in the USA, Canada, Europe and Scandinavia and has many recordings and broadcasts to his name. He has performed with many of the country’s leading brass bands, including the famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band, with whom he was Principal Tuba and Soloist, performing throughout Europe and Australia.

Chairman, MD & the Sykes family

Band Chairman Paul Snowball, the Sykes family & MD John Powell

Brass banding runs through the Sykes family and Steve brought both his wife Joanne and his son Steve to support him. For all brass band aficionados out there, band member Gilly Warr describes the day’s workshop in detail:

‘The first session began with warming up exercises with the emphasis on breathing, length of notes and different rhythms, playing combinations of semi-quavers, quavers, crotchets, minims, semibreves, etc. Steve also explained how the conductor indicates to the band his wishes in terms of volume, etc. He stressed the importance of the band all breathing together on the up-beat as he pointed out that a band that breathes together stays together throughout the piece.

We moved on to two hymns followed by ‘Star Lake’ and ‘Somewhere Out There’ featuring a tenor horn solo. Throughout the first session the emphasis was on counting and sub-division and Steve also covered dynamics, especially crescendos and the correct position of the tongue when playing staccato.

After coffee, Steve gave a very interesting talk on his lifetime of playing his bass from a very early age to date.  He demonstrated the techniques he has developed over time including vibrato, circular breathing and alternative fingering to enable the player to play fast pieces faster. It was fascinating stuff!

Following lunch, we split up into groups. Young Steve took the trombones, Steve took the basses, baritone and euphoniums and Joanne the cornets, horns and flugel.  In our groups we re-visited ‘Somewhere Out There’, ironing out some of the tricky bits and we then worked on two new pieces, ‘African Funk’ by Alan Fernie and ‘Daventry Parade’ by Chris North.  Both were very nice pieces and we made good progress with them.

After a final break we all joined up again and went through both pieces together, plus another one, ‘Pavane – the Battle’ by Tielman Susato, arranged by Steve himself.  We also played ‘Somewhere Out There’ and ‘Star Lake’ one more time.

All in all it was a very good day and I am sure that everyone learned a lot, but there was no pressure. Both Steve and Joanne were very good teachers and were very thorough. One good thing was that after we had worked on a piece we were able to play it through several times, so that we could put into practice what we had learned’.

The band’s first engagement of the summer is on Sunday 25th May at 3 p.m. – the Blessing of the Boats on the Cobb, Lyme Regis.


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Concentration! Coffee duty Cornet section Horn section Coffee break Ready to go! Smile!





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