With some sadness, the Solent Fellowship Band (Bandmaster John Bird) has announced the retirement of its Band Secretary, Don Ellwood. Ellwood played a very significant part in the foundation of the Fellowship Band, and he was appointed as Band Secretary at the time of its inauguration on 25 October 1996. As one of the “founding fathers”, since then he has been its guide, mentor, and protector.
Ellwood has great diplomatic skills and he is an adept negotiator. With members of many corps in the Fellowship Band, all active in their own halls, dates for Fellowship Band concerts must be arrange to not clash with corps events and divisional activities. This necessitates considerable coordination and no little persuasion at times.
During his time as Band Secretary, Ellwood successfully arranged nearly one hundred concerts – in Salvation Army corps over a wide area and in a variety of churches large and small, from the magnificent Romsey Abbey to the charming St. Mary’s on Hayling Island to the Victorian edifice of St. Agatha’s Church in Portsmouth.
Assiduous and competent, in control of the details without losing sight of the whole, Ellwood always ensured that everyone knew what was happening, circulated regular updates on the rehearsal and concert schedule, and made certain that all of the members knew exactly where concerts were being held and the content of the program.
Ellwood was appointed Band Secretary of Portsmouth Citadel Band in the days of Bandmaster Harold Nobes and Deputy Bandmaster Lloyd Bates – almost 60 years ago. He grew up at Portsmouth Citadel (his great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side, James Bailey, helped found that corps with Catherine Booth). He began to play the cornet in 1939. With the advent of World War II, his family moved to East Meon, remaining there until 1945. During his time at East Meon he was a chorister in the choir of the local church. On returning to Portsmouth, he played in the Junior Band for a short time before joining Portsmouth Citadel Band, where he remained a member until 1975.
Having moved away from the corps, Ellwood worshipped at Southsea and Winchester before returning to Portsmouth seven years ago. While away from Portsmouth he spent some 20 years playing with contesting bands – mainly Ocean Brass, formerly known as Southampton Central. He also guested on occasion with the Woodfalls Band, Solent Concert Band and Lucketts Travel Band.
Ellwood started his working life as a carpenter and joiner apprentice as the Fareham-based construction company Healy & Evans, eventually rising to become a managing director for many years before retiring. In 1983, he became a member of the Rotary Club of Fareham, serving as club president 1992 – 1993 and as club secretary 1998 – 2003. He was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship for services to Rotary International in 2004.
In his work with the Fellowship Band, Ellwood waged a successful war against the decline of Salvation Army banding, adopting a deliberate policy to get as many former players back into the movement as he could. His success can be measured by noting that he has “rescued” an entire band – some 26 players have returned to Salvation Army banding and of those at least half have resumed playing in corps bands.
A brass band have fine musicians, excellent conductors, and wonderful soloists. Often, they cohere into immense musical teams. But, behind every great band is a band secretary, or organizing secretary, or other administrative person: always unsung, often not noticed, giving endless hours, dealing with sometimes fractious situations, and, certainly in the Salvation Army, giving of their time and financial resources without regard to repayment. These are the real heroes of banding. Ellwood not only helped found the Solent Fellowship Band, and performed the secretarial duties with great ability for a decade and a half, but he also recovered the equivalent of a full band. And this was combined with also performing at a high level as the Fellowship Band’s solo horn player.
Solent Fellowship Band web site