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The Calderdale Big Band started life in June 2002 under the name of The Calder Valley Youth Dance Orchestra (C.Y.D.O.) the brain child of local musician and teacher Derek Southcott, who was at the time lead trombone with the Sid Lawrence orchestra and Roy Sparrow a local big band enthusiast and our band legend!! The idea behind the orchestra was to provide an alternative outlet for young musicians to play in other than concert bands and brass bands.


The band’s first rehearsal took place at Hoofers dance studio in Ripponden on Wednesday 12th June 2002, which 21 young musicians attended. The first public appearance was at St. Bartholomew’s Church on the 12th October 2002 at a “tons of talent” evening. The band which consisted of 5 Reeds, 7 Trumpets, 5 Trombones and 5 Rhythm, received a standing ovation at the end. This was followed by a very successful Christmas dance in the Ripponden Conservative club on the 20th December.


By this time the band was gaining quite a reputation and during 2003 a total of 9 bookings were taken; including civic balls, churches and Square Chapel. A similar situation prevailed in 2004, but the big breakthrough came on the 3rd September 2005 when the band appeared at the Blackpool Big Band weekend at the Norbreck Castle Hotel where extra seating was required due to so much interest being shown in the band! Derek finally said his farewell on Saturday 10th December 2005, the end of a wonderful and exciting journey…or was it??


Most of the musicians and several parents felt the show should go on, so eventually Derek agreed to sell out, lock stock and barrel to Roy who became band manager and guaranteed the future of the band for years to come.


In 2006 the band, now in the new name of Calderdale Big Band and opening the doors for the first time to people of all ages, struck up again under new M.D Alan Widdop, another prominent Ripponden musician. Alan’s only appearance with the band was the inaugural concert at the Playhouse in Halifax which is now a well-supported annual gig. Shortly afterwards Alan sadly resigned for health reasons.


Mark Chandler became the next M.D., taking over in September 2006. His C.V. included twelve years playing trumpet and flugel with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, as well as several years depping with the BBC Big Band and the John Dankworth Orchestra. Mark’s first appearance with the band was at the Marsden Jazz festival on 13th October 2006, this has become a regular gig for the band which is looked forward to every year. When Mark left the band in August 2009, he was replaced by Peter Lynch.


Peter had been head of music at a number of schools in the area including Rishworth, where a number of the original musicians had come from to join C.Y.D.O. at the start. Peter had been involved with many bands and also taken the roll of M.D in a number of musicals at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax. Peter's enthusiastic leadership saw the band go from strength to strength. For the 5 years he was with the band, he directed us in numerous concerts and gigs around Calderdale and further afield. Including such venues as; Berties Banqueting Suite, Elland Cricket Club, Jeremy's At The Boathouse for the Brighouse 1940’s weekend, along with various churches and venues inside and out. Peter was delighted to be at the helm for the band's 10th anniversary celebrations, in May 2012 at the Playhouse in Halifax, as well as the Tour de Yorkshire celebrations this year at St Bartholomew's Church in Ripponden.


The band is very proud of the fact that several of our young musicians moved on onto further study of music at Cambridge, Oxford, and Manchester universities, Leeds College of Music, and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. One of the original band members, AJ Brown, is now making a name for himself as an instrumentalist composer and vocalist after graduating from L.C.O.M. He has already appeared on BBC Radio 2’s “Friday Night Is Music Night”, as well as releasing two CD’s.


Arabella Fox, another original member of the band, has remained throughout the life of the band, even during her 3 years at university, making her the longest-serving band member. Arabella’s closely followed by Chris Robinson and Dan Catlow. Arabella and Dan who meet at the band have recently got married and had baby Austin, who we are hoping in the not too distant future, will also join the big band family!


In 2013 Roy took a back seat with the day to day running of the band and passed the job to a committee of three playing members, Geoff Atherton, Dominic Brown, and Chris Robinson, with Geoff  as our new band leader. Under the new committee the band has grown again and invested in new music, equipment, branding, and developed our online presence, which has proved to be a great tool for getting bookings and some fantastic new band members. With musicians now ranging in age from 13 to 70, Calderdale Big Band shows age is no barrier when it comes to appreciating good music. 


At rehearsal nights the band room grooves to the sounds of Sinatra and the beat of Basie just like the good old days and long may it continue! 

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