What followed might only be described as a car crash,both of intent and of accident.You See,the effort he put into his speech seemed to be completely lost on his audience who just couldn’t believe what they were hearing.In that small Cornish village in East Cornwall mothered was a proud tradition of brass band boasting representation in each of the competition sections .So why had Denzil Polmounter caused such a stir?What could this quiet,normally unassuming man of 30 possibly have done to cause audible gasps from the audience?
That last sentence might have been an enigma to you for any number of reasons,but if you were from a culture used to its roots being perpetuated,you might find this unfolding shocking too.As you take time to process the proposal,the very word in modern day parlance seems to be part of everyday life,particularly in the business world.That word was :MERGER!
Picture if you may indigenous brass bands from the clay villages of the St Austell area ,with their proud heritage stretching back decades :Their very lifeblood was the village band .It provided the entertainment for the village carnivals,the teatreats, in fact,every village wheeled out its members to entertain the inhabitants ,all proud of their singular heritage,their autonomy.
Now,Denzil Polmounter,That local boy made good ,having studied music at the Royal academy in that there Lo don as the locals affectionately called it had returned to the county to take up a music teaching post at the local sixth form college.Upon arriving,he quickly got snapped up as a soprano Cornet player for the Indian Queens band,as well as helping out with the training band too.Denzil had intelligence drive and ambition,all admirable qualities.He was an exceptional musician who could have continued working in music in the city,but chose to return to the county of his birth,and also to the Eastern part of the county.His father ,Albert,had been a fine trombone player ,so much so that he could have played for the Black Dyke Mills band but instead stayed in his beloved Cornwall,seeing out his days there as a respected member of the community.Denzil had a sister,Gwen ,who had shown promise as a musician too,but ,like so many of her peers,had married a local boy,settling Darling wn in the village near her mum and dad.It was Denzil who had spread his wings as such,and it showed in his ideas about life and in his wanting for things to be better.
To understand the culture of Cornish village life is to respect its musical traditions,but maybe more importantly,it is to understand that village life is at the centre of what they did back in the 1970s when Denzil made this speech,or his pitch for change ,as they say.Why,each village seemed more than able to support a brass band of some standard,and although they might be rivals in competition,there was never a thought about merging ,in fact that would have been abhorrent.So there was poor Denzil,an exceptional musician himself,but a person for whom the status quo meant little because of his training and emphasis on excellence,trying to persuade his own people ,those whom he had grown up with,to think about fracturing their institution,their centrepiece,their heritage if you like.His intentions were so noble,the formation of a Cornish band to rival the best in the country:Denzil wanted a Cornish band to be spoken of in the same company as Brighouse and Rasteick,GUS footwear,and the sainted Black Dyke Mills Band.
Having sounded out Mr Williams from the Dennis Band,and having made a visit to Malcolm Arnold at Padstow,he felt confident that the feeling among the musical elite of Cornwall might be such as to realistically move forward with the venture.He felt that his approach to Geoff Richards to compose a special March fr the band might spur on new members,and the promise of sponsorship from English China clay to purchase new instruments,seemed to be energising many of the talented younger players.
From these soundings ,he had received positive feedback from the county music advisor regarding a possible venue for rehearsing .Denzil had worked so hard with every ounce of ability he had to get things going,but this meeting tonight that promised oh so much,was fast becoming a disaster.As he spoke about his vision for the band,he could see that his audience were suspicious of the vision of a super band that Denzil had put forward.Many were menand women who had been in the same band for decades.You See,it was as much a social occasion for them as it was a musical one.They loved to play in the old band room,but they didn’t want to practice too much,and were wanting to retire to the pub .Now Denzil,although a king and warm man,wasn’t the most ebullient,preferring to arrange music toning out with the lads to the pub.In many ways,it was a battle that had to be fought on two fronts,you had to win their minds to the concept,but not only that,you had to have touched their hearts .They had to feel the need to make changes .
Denzil was to learn a lesson that education and talent are one thing,but a village community runs on its cohesion ,it’s soul.