The passing of Richard Evans

The death has been announced of BBSS Musical Director, Richard Evans, one the most popular conductors of the modern brass band movement. He passed away on Friday 22nd April, aged 87.

His persona was of the entertainer, yet it never hid the deeply ingrained seriousness of his musicianship — one that saw him bring joy to countless brass band audiences as well lead bands to numerous contest successes.

Born into a regimental family his early playing was forged through what was to be a lifelong association with the Leyland Band.

In 1952 he became a founding member of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain together with his great friend Maurice Murphy whom he also played with at Black Dyke Mills Band.

After graduating from the Northern College of Music he began work as a freelance player, teacher and conductor; an apprenticeship that he later said was of huge benefit to him.

His startling impact on the elite level of banding came in 1975. Whilst conducting Wigan Cecilian Choral Society at a concert he was asked to audition for the role of Musical Director at Wingates Temperance Band. Three months later they were British Open Champion. It was his first appearance at the contest. He later admitted that he had self-doubts about his ability to conduct the test-piece 'Fireworks' by Elgar Howarth. No one was in any doubt of his ability thereafter.

The following year he led Wingates to third place at the National Finals — the first of many 'top-six' places at a contest that he was destined never to win. However, he more than made up for it elsewhere — with bands from Australia to Wales and almost every stop in-between. He had an inexhaustible passion for his work and an unique ability to connect with players and audiences alike.

Following a short spell at Fairey Engineering Band he was recruited to rebuild the Leyland Vehicles Band with the remit of achieving Championship status within three years. What followed was remarkable — the crowning glory, a second British Open success in 1994.

By then he had also established himself as the ultimate brass band entertainer — the 'Dick the Stick' persona honed to perfection for audiences to savour. However, it hid a steely determination to succeed — one that saw him claim the Brass in Concert title on a record nine occasions, as well as secure a National title in Norway, top-flight Regional Championship victories in the North West, Yorkshire, West of England and Scotland, win the BBC Band of the Year accolade and claim victories at the All England Masters, Grand Shield, Senior Trophy, Pontins and numerous other entertainment events.

His experience helped bands to success at all levels; from Barton Town to Lancashire Constabulary, and from his first win with Coppull Band in the Third Section in 1967 to his last with Dalmellington at the Senior Trophy in 2017.

From 1993 he was the Musical Director of the National Youth Band of Scotland — later becoming a very proud Conductor Emeritus, and since 2003, he has been Musical Director of the Brass Band Summer School, conducting his final course in 2019 at Harrogate Ladies' College, before contributing significantly to the Virtual BBSS in 2020, amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

He will be hugely missed by his BBSS family and all who knew him. RIP Richard Evans 1934-2022

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