top of page
History of the Suffolk Concert Band

The band was formed in 1967, when several amateur musicians attended an adult education class. The class was run by the Ipswich Civic College (now Suffolk College) for people interested in playing military and brass band music. The nucleus of the class were members of the Ipswich Town Brass Band, and the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Territorial Regimental Band. The band split from the College and became the Suffolk Military Band with Rankin Bushby, their college tutor, as Musical Director. TOP


In the early 1970s the band became a self-contained and civilian organisation which financed itself by playing at fetes and concerts. The band patron was General Sir Richard Goodwin, an ex-Suffolk Regiment soldier and great supporter of the band.

In 1970 Bernard Reader took over Rankin's job at the Civic College and also took on the Suffolk Military Band. The band rehearsed at St. Helen's County Primary School in Ipswich, a venue on the 1st floor which meant carrying drum kits and stands up two flights of stairs every week! Bernard Reader was not only a talented director but also an accomplished arranger and composer. During this period he provided the band with many arrangements of popular music and original compositions.

The band concerts became very entertaining events with many local musicians appearing as guests. The band played in a variety of performance venues. When Ipswich opened a new venue in the Corn Exchange, the band played in the inaugural week and because regular performers at this new venue. The band were regular summer visitors to the Pier Pavilion in Felixstowe with Handel Evans regular Tuesday organ and band concerts. We had regular Christmas events playing in the streets of Grundisburgh and indoors for the Kesgrave Wine Circle.

When Queen Elizabeth visited Ipswich in 1977 to celebrate her Silver Jubilee, the band played outside Ipswich Airport where she had landed and her motorcade drove past the band playing a piece Bernard had written for the occasion.

The Junior Band was formed during this period, it was the idea of Bernard to give players on secondary parts a chance to play the lead parts as well as an opportunity for learners to have somewhere to perform. In 1976 the Junior Band was taken over by Geoffrey Webb, a bass player from the band.

In 1978 Bernard Reader left the band to take up other musical challenges in the Ipswich area. During this transition period we were conducted by a couple of young teachers in the area called Barry Salmon and Geoffery Lavery. The band eventually appointed Andrew Fairley as a new conductor who was an ex-Guards flautist. On the administrative side of the band, Colin Pettingale was the driving force of the organisation as the band secretary. TOP


Into the 1980s Andrew Fairley continued conducting with his more traditional military band style. On occasions when he was unavailable Barry Salmon and Band Sergeant Ray 'Hookie' Walker would conduct the band. Ray had been with the band since its inception and had a career as a regular with the Suffolk Regiment behind him.

In 1981 Andrew decided to leave the band to further his business interests in the area and the position of Musical Director went to Derek Cable. Derek was head of music at Stowmarket High School and he ran a very successful schools band with tours to Europe and the USA. In 1983 the band made its first trip across the North Sea and performed in Bruges in Belgium. This was the first of many trips during the 1980s.

Derek was also composing and arranging for the band, but he also had commitments as a music examiner. These commitments took Derek overseas, particularly to the Far East for parts of the year. During these absences the band was conducted by Ray and Barry as before. In 1984 and opportunity was given to a young clarinetist in the band called Suzanne Dexter to conduct in Derek's absence. On 16th June, a nervous Suzanne Dexter conducted her first 'proper' concert with the band in Hadleigh. Sue became the regular stand-in for Derek, she also began to introduce the band to more contemporary music written specifically for wind band.

During this period the band moved its rehearsal venue to St. Clements Congregational Hall in Back Hamlet, Ipswich or as it was known, the Grimwade Memorial Hall. This venue gave the band the opportunity to store music and equipment in the same building we rehearsed in. At this time the library was in the hands of Steve Barton and was catalogued and put in its new home. Steve left the band when work took him north, so the library was taken over by Andrew Farthing and the first electronic catalogue began.

In 1984 Barry conducted the band when they performed outside the National Theatre on the South Bank in London and in 1985 he conducted in Marble Hill and Battersea Parks. Derek conducted the band in Golders Green Park in 1985. In 1986 Sir Richard Goodwin died and Paddy Drake took over as the new president of the band. During the 80s the band also undertook regular performances for the Officer's mess at RAF Wattisham. In 1987 Derek took a full-time job examining in the Far East and conducted his last performance with the band. Suzanne took over as the permanent Musical Director. TOP


The revival of trips aways took place when the band performed in Bournemouth in 1990 and Salisbury in 1991. In 1992 the band changed its name to the Suffolk Concert Band in order to reflect the full range of the ensemble's repertoire. Also the band took on a new constitution with a need for Vice-Presidents. All the past Musical Directors were made VPs along with Paddy Drake. The band began choosing its own Presidents and the job has gone to Philip Sparke, Bernard Reader and Martin Bell. During much of this time Gordon Scopes, a founder member of the band, was Chairman of the band.

Ann Clark took over the Junior band in the second half of the 90s after the band changed its name to SCB Community Band. In 1992 the band played at the wedding of Ian and Jill Blofield, a couple that had met via the band. In 1993 Suzanne got married and became Suzanne Dexter-Mills and the band performed at her wedding.

Another event introduced during the 90s were outdoor summer concerts in Christchurch Park called Orchestrelle. The concerts included performances by professional orchestras, local groups and fireworks. The band took part in 95, 96 and 97.

In 1997 the band invited John Whelton, an ex-Royal Marine band master, to conduct as Sue and Barry were unavailable. This introduction led to other conducting opportunities for John and a band decision to split the year between Barry, John and Suzanne. Mark Cheadle took over as Chairman of the band.

In the 90s the band performed several times at the Corn Exchange with celebrity comperes including; Desmond Carrington, Griff Rhys-Jones, Bob Holness and John Brunning. The band established itself as a regular perfomer at annual local events like the Mayor's Ball, Barham Hall Open Gardens and the Music in the Park festival. The band also performed at some old favourites inlcuding mess dinners at RAF Wattisham, now for the Army Air Corps. Interesting performances included those at Southend Air Show and Newmarket races.

Simon Pulham took over as Chairman of the band. Simon's other interest in theatre organs reunited the band with this instrument for several joint concerts. Most of these concerts were at Castle Hill church in Ipswich with its Christie organ, as well as the Wurlitzer at Cotton and Christie in Stevenage. Local organist and friend of the band, David Ivory, was often at the keyboard.

The 90s also saw the birth of the band website. In 1999 the Community Band was put into a state of suspended animation. The numbers had dwindled to a level too low for practical rehearsal and performance. The band has continued to play traditional military band music alongside more modern music written specifically for symphonic wind band. The more modern composers include Philip Sparke, Guy Woolfenden and Nigel Hess. TOP


The band moved into the new millennium at full strength, with all sections full including Eb clarinet, bassoons and baritone saxophone. An old custom was revived with a trip to Europe. The band went to Holland for 4 days under Barry's direction. The Suffolk Regiment OCA event in 2000 was Ray Walker's last performance with the band, he had decided to retire from the SCB and leave the euphonium chair in Ian Blofield's capable hands.

A concert at the Corn Exchange with all three conductors included a performance of "Regimental Reunion", a piece written by Bernard to commemorate Ray Walker's contribution to the band over many years. The band played at the wedding of Ruth Symington and Andrew Farthing, another couple who met through the band. Ray was also made a Vice-President of the band.

The band moved its rehearsal venue up the road to Holy Trinity Church hall. Suzanne was offered and accepted the post of Musical Director of the Cambridge Concert Orchestra. As both organisations rehearse on the same evening she had to resign her position with the Suffolk Concert Band. The immediate conducting duties were taken care of as Barry was programmed to conduct up until Christmas.  The band was fortunate to obtain a booking at Eastbourne bandstand, we had wonderful September weather and a bumper crowd watched a memorable performance.

Suzanne Dexter-Mills, Colin Pettingale, Barry Salmon and John Whelton were all made Vice-Presidents of the band.

The band regained charitable status in 2002. After advertising the MD post, Roger Jones, an ex-Royal Marine band master and teacher at the Royal Hospital School, was selected. A concert series at Holy Trinity was introduced in 2004. This event was intended to be open rehearsals but ended up as informal free concerts in uniform. In the same year  Ray Walker died aged 88. 

2005 was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and to commemorate there were three concerts; a joint concert with the band of the Royal Hospital School, Needham Market and Suffolk College. The concert with the school was made into a CD.

In 2006 the band joined forces with the Nottinghamshire Police Band for mass band concert at the Corn Exchange. This was repeated the following year in the grounds of the castle in a very rainy Nottingham! After the success of the Trafalgar CD, another CD was recorded over two weekends in St. Johns Church, Felixstowe. This CD was to highlight a cross-section of the band's history and the links with the Suffolk Regiment. Toby Hope became Chairman of the band.

In 2007, band member Tony Warren tragically died and with some money donated by his family, a commemorative banner was made for the conductor's stand. In 2008, two founder members of the band; Colin Pettingale and Gordon Scopes were elected as fellows of the Guild of Musicians and Singers during a concert for the Guild at All Hallows by the Tower Church in London. The band took on a new, more up to date constitution recommended by the Charity Commission.

In 2009, the band sadly lost another long-standing , very popular member, Pat Wood. Trevor Daldry became Chairman of the band...TOP

Presidents and Vice Presidents

President: Martin Bell OBE 1998 - present


Brian Annis OBE, Suzanne Dexter-Mills, Andrew Fairley, Bernard Reader, Barry Salmon, John Whelton, Gordon Scopes, Roger Jones

Past Presidents:
General Sir Richard Goodwin (Patron)
Paddy Drake 1970-1992
Philip Sparke 1992-1995
Bernard Reader 1995-1998

Past Vice Presidents
Ray Walker
Derek Cable
Rankin Bushby

Colin Pettingale


The Chairmen

Simon Pulham 2012 - present
Trevor Daldry 2009 - 2012
Toby Pratt 2006 - 2009
Simon Pulham 1998- 2006
Mark Cheadle
Gordon Scopes
Ray Wilson
Geoff Tidey
Bernard Reader


Musical Directors

Matt Wigley 2018 - present

Richard Harvey 2017 - present
Duke Dobing 2016 - present
Charles Hine 2014 - present
Moira Usher 2013
Anthony Bailey 2013
Jonathan Abbott 2013 - 2014
Tom Rumbold 2012 - present
Roger Jones 2003 - present
John Whelton 1998 - present
Barry Salmon 1971 - 2004
Suzanne Dexter-Mills 1987-2001
Derek Cable 1981-1987
Andrew Fairley 1979 - 1980
Bernard Reader 1971 - present
Rankin Bushby 1967 - 1970


Musical Directors
Honorary Members

Gordon Scopes
Ron Garner
Colin Pettingale
Ray Wilson
Simon Pulham 
Mark Cheadle
Paul Blofield


Uniforms, Traditions and Regimental Colours

The band inherited several instruments, some uniforms and a large amount of music from their army connections. The instruments and uniforms have since been replaced but much of the music is still in the present library.

The red and yellow colours used by the band are shared with the Suffolk Regiment and are a reminder of the roots in the Suffolk Regiment. It is said that soldiers of the Suffolk Regiment (XII Foot) picked red and yellow roses to wear in their hats as they marched to the battle of Minden in 1759. The battle resulted in victory for the British and became a regimental battle honour.

The Suffolk Regiment eventually became part of the Royal Anglian Regiment which itself became part of the Queens Division. One of the bands within the Queens Division is now called the Minden Band - we look upon them as distant cousins and occasionally meet at musical functions.

The Suffolk Concert Band always end their concerts with the Suffolk Regimental Quick March, "Speed the Plough", which was once considered one of the hardest marches in the British Army. The march is an arrangement of a Scottish reel and a Suffolk Morris folk tune. The 12th Foot became the Suffolk Regiment in 1782 and the march dates back to at least 1741. The tune almagamated with 'Rule Britannia' (Royal Norfolk Regiment) as the regimental march of the Royal Anglian Regiment. See more about the Suffolk Regiment.

The regimental link was maintained in August every year, when the band played at the Minden Day Suffolk OCA Regimental Reunion. Sadly in 2009, 50 years after the Suffolk Regiment disbanded, this link was ended.TOP

In Memory
In Memory Of Long Serving Members Who Are No Longer With Us

"Thank you for the music"

Reg Clarke

Publicity Officer

Derek Riding


Paul Fenoulet


Clive Beaumont


Freddie Cocker


Hazel Tidy


Ray Walker


Dennis McAllister

Alto Sax

George Heath


Alan Murray


Tony Warren


Pat Wood


Rankin Bushby


Don Cheesewright


Colin Pettingale


bottom of page