The band originated in the period 1832-40 as a fife and drum ensemble attached to Chester’s Blue Coat School. Money left over from a fund established by the 'Ladies of Chester' to buy a present for Queen Victoria led to the ensemble becoming a British brass band. The money was donated to the Blue Coat School foundation, and so the Blue Coat School Brass Band came about. With a likely formation date of 1853, the band celebrated its 150th Birthday in 2003.
Prior to World War II the Chester Blue Coat Band would regularly walk the city walls as part of a religious event marking Palm Sunday. The perambulation of the walls was re-created in September 2003 as part of the events commemorating the 150th anniversary, and again in 2013.
Although no longer referred to as The Blue Coat Band, the link with the past is maintained through the Band’s distinctive blue uniform. The jacket also carries a badge of the famous Eastgate Clock, recognisable around the world as a symbol of Chester, a city with a fine cultural heritage which the Band has been proud to represent for over 150 years.
Apart from the period of World War I, when the instruments were loaned to the military for recruitment purposes, the Band has been active ever since, becoming independent of The Blue Coat School in Northgate Street, Chester in the mid-20th century when it acquired charitable status and its own band room in Bedward Row, close to the city centre.
The Band returned to the brass band contesting scene in the 1970s and made its first European tour in 1982 when it toured Switzerland under the musical direction of the late John Golland. In 2014 and 2016 the Band visited Amboise, in the Loire Valley, to compete in the French Open Brass Band Championships.
Today the Band proudly carries the City name and is totally self-supporting, income being derived from members’ subscriptions and fees or donations earned through performing engagements. A lottery grant in 1997 enabled the purchase of new instruments and the widening of public access to the band, brass band music and the formation of a thriving Training Band.
Main band rehearsals are held in the Bedward Row band room on Mondays and Wednesdays from 20:00 to 22:00 under the musical direction of Ewan Easton MBE, Principal Tuba with the Halle Orchestra and Tutor in Tuba at the Royal Northern College of Music.
In 2000 the City of Chester Training Band was formed and several former members now occupy principal seats within the main band. The mixed-ability Training Band comprises young people aged 7 to 70. Several times a year the main and training bands combine for joint rehearsals under Ewan Easton’s direction.
Early in 2017 the City of Chester Junior Band was started, aimed exclusively at children aged 7 to 11. These bands meet on Monday evenings during term time in St Luke’s Church, Huntington between 18:00 and 19:30.
City of Chester Band
Main band members’ profiles
NB - Opinions expressed here are the individual's own and not necessarily those of the City of Chester Band.
Musical Director – Ewan Easton MBE
Ewan Easton is Principal Tuba with the Halle Orchestra and Tutor in Tuba at the Royal Northern College of Music. He took over the MD’s role in January 2016.
Soprano Cornet – Paul Donoghue
Bio. details awaited.
Principal Cornet – Philip Mottershead
I began my banding career with Chester in 1963, gradually working my way up from 3rd cornet to Principal over the next 20 years. I also took a junior class/band for beginners.
I moved to Point of Ayr Band in the late 1980's as resident MD and flugel horn player, returning to Chester in the mid 1990's, playing top man again but mainly MD until retirement from this role in 2014 when we won the Area. Principal again at the moment.
Solo Cornets –
Sarah Kissack – picture and details awaited.
Mandy MacDonald – picture and details awaited.
Alix Flynn – picture and details awaited.
Repiano Cornet – Chris Peover
Likes (in ascending order):-
Dislikes (in ANY order):-
Nick Turnbull – picture and details awaited.
Robert Tarver – picture and details awaited.
Having learnt trumpet when 12 then falling away, I took up playing again in my mid 30's in a brass quintet. This led to a trumpet position in the Wychcraft Big Band where I still play.
I was invited to join Rode Hall Silver Band to go to the NW Areas some 15 years ago and stayed with this 4th Section Band playing along the cornet back row, Repiano and 4th Solo Cornet.
Having now moved to Chester, I am delighted to play with the City of Chester Band on the back row.
Zac Lodge – details awaited.
Kate Harland –
I played violin as a child and loathed every minute, but learnt the rudiments of music. I grew up in Yorkshire - there is nothing like the sound of a brass band playing at a village fete - so there was something 'in the genes' that lead me to join the City of Chester Training Band in my late 30s. The uniform was also a key attraction. I've played 3rd cornet with main band for nearly four years in order to 'up my game'. I love the focus, the challenge and the team. Sometimes I notice an improvement! I also enjoy my push-bike, industrial heritage and scrambling in the mountains.
I started playing in 1950 at the age of 11 and joined Clayton West Band (near Huddersfield) on Third Cornet. My father George was principal cornet and shortly became musical director. I moved up the ranks and achieved the front row in about 1958 playing second solo cornet and occasionally principal. In the late 50s until the middle 60s I played cornet in a local traditional jazz band (all 6 of us from the same church choir) and trumpet in a 14-piece dance band. In the middle 60s Clayton West and the nearby Emley bands combined and I continued playing second solo cornet (the band is now just named Emley).
In 1968, after audition, I played with Brighouse and Rastrick Band for 4-5 months variously on tutti and back row cornet. I was offered a place on tutti cornet but had to decline because of changed family and work circumstances. In 1969 we moved to Chester and I joined the City of Chester Band
Flugel Horn – Robert MacDonald
I started playing at age 7 with Prescot band in Liverpool in 1970 and played my first contest at age 8. I worked my way up the ranks from bottom 3rd cornet until I got to Flugel in 1979. I remained on Flugel with Prescot Band until I joined City of Chester in 1984 where I took over from Janet Killmurray. Later I moved on to cornet for about 12 years to take over the Principal Cornet seat, but returned to Flugel about 6 years ago.
Having my brother Andrew as one of the Top Cornet players in the Northwest, has given me the opportunity to play with some of the top Championship section bands around the Northwest. Over the years I have guested with: Besses o' th Barn, CWS Manchester, Leyland and Wingates.
Around Christmas, I usually get the opportunity to play other instruments in the band and so far my tally is, apart from Cornet and Flugel, the Tenor Horn, Baritone, Euph and Eb Bass. For much of my time with City of Chester I also served as bandmaster and conducted them on the last two outings to the Whit Friday Marches. I handed over the bandmaster’s baton two years ago to give the opportunity to Matthew Birkett.
Solo Horn – Kirsty Bargh
I started playing tenor horn in 2000 in my primary school band, joining Chester Training Band soon after. I 'graduated' to the main band in 2002 taking part in my first contest with main band in Feb 2002 at Preston..
I played flugel horn in the training band as well around 2005/06.
I also learned clarinet and alto saxophone at high school. I played in my high school training band, senior band and swing band (on alto sax).
First Horn –
Carmel Donoghue - – picture and details awaited.
Second Horn – Sylvia MacDonald – picture and details awaited.
Solo Trombone – James Flynn – picture and details awaited.
Second Trombone – Sammy Clague
At the age of five I began my playing career with the Manx National Youth Band on Baritone horn. After several years (and a growth spurt!) I moved onto the Tenor Trombone. Before departing the Isle of Man to study at the University of Chester, I held the position of Principal Trombone for the Youth Band and Second Trombone for the first section band, Manx Concert Brass.
In 2013 I competed in the Island’s ‘Young Musician of Mann’ competition in which I came third, and in 2017, the same year I was awarded my ABRSM practical grade 8 on Trombone, I won best soloist in the Island’s annual ‘Manx Music Festival’.
I am delighted to currently be playing with such a fantastic band which has so many talented musicians. I look forward to being a part of its continual success, and I am very grateful for the warm welcome I have received.
Bass Trombones –
In 2002 my daughter joined the training band on cornet and as they had no one to play trombone they asked if I would like to learn. Three months later I was playing in main band in a contest in Preston, only about three notes though!
Fifteen years later I am now playing bass trombone and wish I had taken up brass sooner rather than violin etc. Mind you the band always enjoys it when I bring the ukulele out (at least those that haven’t thrown themselves off the coach screaming “not again”).
[Currently, Donna is on a sabbatical helping Matthew and Malcolm on BBb Bass.]
Patrick Sterling – picture and details awaited.
First Baritone – Matthew McCleary
I joined the Training Band in 2003 as my local Brass Band on cornet. I then joined the main band three years later, before finally 'seeing the light' on Baritone.
I also played in the Cheshire Youth Brass Band from 2006, until the bands final practice in 2012.
The picture is taken ahead of contest preparation in my earlier days!
Second Baritone – Andrew Smithson
My musical background is choral and I only took up brass about 10 years ago after moving to the NW from London.
I started on cornet but moved to baritone 4 years ago and enjoy playing in the middle of the band with colleagues whose talents make me envious of their ability. I have taken up the French Horn recently and can be seen playing at any amateur orchestra who will have me. I love the classical repertoire and my ambition is to play Wagner Tuba before I die. Given the response my practising gets, this may be sooner rather than later.
Solo Euphonium – Kathryn Peover
Second Euphonium – Nigel Evans
I started playing a brass instrument in my first year at secondary school in Tarporley at the age of twelve in 1975, being taught by my great-uncle Tom Harding beginning on tenor horn.
After about twelve months I joined Tarporley Silver Prize Band, as it was then, on Second Horn playing under leadership of ex Fodens baritone player Jim McDean. Tarporley had a fair band at that time. As I progressed in my playing career I have also played the Baritone, Bb bass and Euphonium.
Bands I have played with are Llay Miners Welfare, Gwernaffield and Whitchurch, the latter under the leadership of Teddy Gray.
For the past eight or so years, I have enjoyed playing 2nd Euph in the City of Chester Band.
Eb Basses –
Sarah Lorenz- awaiting details
My first instrument was an old euphonium belonging to the Crewe West End Band. Practising on it at home for the first time c. 1963 our neighbour thought there was a cow calving in the adjoining field and, sound-wise, things haven’t got much better! By 1964 I was in Crewe Co-op Band playing Second Baritone. Moving to Chester in 1981 I joined City of Chester in 1982 when I filled a vacancy in the band touring Switzerland with John Golland. I moved onto BBb Bass in the early 1990s and since 2017 I’ve been on Eb Bass.
BBb Basses -
Matthew Birkett –
Started playing: 1995, started on horn 2001.
Bands: Parr (St. Helens), Burneside Brass, City of Chester
Instruments: Tenor Horn, Euphonium, Tuned Percussion, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Eb Bass, Bb Bass....oh and some conducting......and piano, recorder and clarinet......
I was born in Liverpool in 1937 and started playing at the age of 13, joining The Sailors Chapel Band. In 1953, aged 16, I joined Liverpool City Silver Band. After National Service, I returned to Liverpool joining the Edge Hill (BR) Band which competed at the highest level against Foden, Fairey and CWS (Manchester) at regional level, then against the likes of Black Dyke, Brighouse & Rastrick, Grimethorpe at the national championships in the Royal Albert Hall and the British Open. In 1975 changes within the Edge Hill Band led to my moving on, joining another Championship band, Skelmersdale, with whom I played until 2005 when I transferred to City of Chester.
I have played the BBb tuba throughout my playing career. When commitments allow I still play with The Sailors Chapel Band. In 2016 I received the North West Brass Band Association’s Diamond Diploma of Honour.
Alex is an Aberystwyth University drama graduate and a self-taught percussionist who has been playing since the age of 11. He loves to put on a performance, particularly when the two arts of Drama and Music are combined.
Robert Pullin – details awaited.
Robert Fletcher - details awaited.
Training Band Co-ordinator
I am the Coordinator of the Training Band and Junior Band, the first port of call for all new members wanting to either join the TB or JB. I have been with the band since 2000, when my daughter joined the TB, taking over the role of Coordinator in 2003 and have been involved ever since.