Letter from Harold McEnery to Band Secretary Stuart Sanders

34 Moor Tairn Lane
LA14 3LP

Dear Mr Sanders,

With reference to your request in the B.B. dated 4th Feb for information about the Crystal Palace Band, I may, from my own experience be able to make some contribution to help you.

I have not retained any programmes etc. other than the photograph taken of the band at an engagement during 1937 at Lingfield Racecourse and I have sent it off to have a copy made which I will let you have when ready.

I was born on 18th Nov. 1913 so of course am now 75 and I played as joint principal cornet with the police band for the whole of 1937 when I was only 23 so 53 years is a long time to remember names since I have played with so many bands since but a lot of events are still very clear in my mind.

I was principal cornet in the Barrow Iron and Steel Works Band and then in 1936 played principal cornet with Irwell Springs Band with whom I played in First Section at Crystal Palace Contest in 1936 on Kenilworth, (Fodens won). The Palace was burned down in Nov. that year and in Jan. 1937 I joined the Crystal Palace Band, later in the year playing in first section with them on Pageantry ? at Alexandra Palace with Dr Dennis Wright conducting. I therefore have the dubious distinction of playing at the last ever contest at Crystal Palace and the first ever at Alexandra Palace.

During my time the band was conducted by Leonard Davies as bandmaster and Dr. Dennis Wright was the visiting professional. Leonard Davies was the official arranger for Boosey and Hawkes journals etc and for their copyright reasons his work was always attributed to Aubrey Winter their nom de plume. We had a full season of engagements including Regents Park, Embankment Gardens, lrogolon Park? etc and many broadcasts mostly on the overseas broadcasts when we played generally about midnight at Maida Vale Studios mostly, but sometimes at Broadcasting House. During those broadcasts which were at least once a month, sometimes fortnightly we broadcast many of Dennis Wright's arrangements in manuscript before publication. In fact all his manuscripts were played to proof read by the band at rehearsals. Leonard Davies was a product of Wright's teaching of theory and arranging etc. and in fact the majority of Wright's works by him (Wright) in short scores with copious notations and then brought into full score and parts by Davies.

At this time Dennis Wright was head of Brass and military band broadcasts at the BBC and the deputy head of orchestral broadcasting was Maurice Johnstone and we broadcast his march County Palatine and the Sea Dogs Overture in manuscript with Johnstone conducting. About that time Harry Mortimer had a number of cornet solo albums attributed to him and he was assisted by Davies and Dr Wright and of course followed Dr. Wright into his full time job as controller of Brass and Military Bands. That was brought about by Maurice Johnstone being appointed as head of orchestral broadcasting based in Manchester and he in turn appointed dr Dennis Wright as his deputy..Dr Wright then arranged for Leonard Davies to follow him and together they created the Northern School of Music. This happened after I returned North so I am not sure of the date.

I had been having correspondence lessons from Jack Mackintosh and wished to have personal lessons so I joined the Palace Band to be near London. After an audition with Jack he accepted me and I had lessons in a studio in Hanover Street whenever he was in town for for morning rehearsal for an evening broadcast with the BBC Symphony Orchestra where he was joint principal with Ernest Hall.

I was a toolmaker by trade and I was given an interview at the T.M.C in East Dulwich (Telephone Manufacturing Co.) and was then employed by them.

W.W grant was at that time bedfast? with acute asthma but he had a twin brother Alfred ? and I first stayed with them (Alfred and his family) and then stayed with his elderly spinster sister in Maberly Rd. just off to the right down the hill going to Penge. Alfred lived a few streets away. Tom Grant was Alf's son and played baritone in the band and Willie was on 2nd cornet.

The repiano was Harold Hall who had been principal cornet with the successful Carlisle St Stephens Band. The solo Euph. was ex guards band and the solo trombone Stanley Brown who later became principal trombone in the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The second and G. trombone were brothers and came from Deptford way. The very good soprano lived down near Penge and Leonard Davies had a large house in Annerly further down the road from Maberly Rd.

The bandroom was in Upper Norwood near the station and town centre.The band was run on business lines and each man had to pay for his own uniform which was scarlet tunic similar to the guards. All engagement money was banked by the secretary lump sums were paid out quarterly or holiday times etc.

Tom Grant had a crippled leg and wore a steel brace and he worked at the T.M.C and was responsible for my interview there. Alf was on the committee and he took me to see his twin W.W. in his bedroom where I played for him, he was very ill at that time. It was equivalent to an audience with the Pope. I met and played duets privately with Tom Giles who was principal cornet in the Salvation Army Staff Band and Bandmaster of the Upper Norwood Band.

All our broadcasts were live, no taping in those days and during set up times at Maida Vale Studios we did lots of preliminary exercises for Dr Wright. I remember one occasion we performed at a level sound and all the crescendos and part balancing was done by Wright and the engineers. No synthesizers then.

On the day of the Coronation of King Gearge VI we did an overseas broadcast about 6 AM and then went to Oxford Street to see the procession. In the afternoon we played at a home for young female offenders somewhere in the East End!. In the evening we were again at Broadcasting House and listened to the King's broadcast speech which was followed at 9 pm by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Studio 1 on the Home Service and the Crystal Palace Band in Studio 2 on the regional service (only 2 stations then in 37)

On Saturday afternoons at home matches we played before the match and at the interval at the Crystal Palace football ground.

The Academic Festival Overture was chosen as the test piece for the National at Alexandra Palace. In those days original pieces were used and only issued to each band six weeks before the contest and then they were later issued in the Publisher Journals which the band had an annual subscription. Just in time it was realised that that would ban the Palace Band from entering since we had previously broadcast it on the overseas programme in manuscript, so it was switched to the Open at Belle Vue and a previous test piece was used, I think it was Pageantry.

During the late Autumn we played for a fortnight each evening at a very big open air festival at Lambeth called the Lights 'O' Lambeth. There was a tremendous sized stage and arc lights and hundreds of performers. We had to clock in and register each night in marquees used for changing etc. It featured dance groups, singers, bands, the National Women's Health League and they used a very powerful Hammond Electric Organ for the first time in such an event.

Willie Grant at that time worked in the City at the Stock Exchange. Tom Grant was a very gentle kind of man and he and Alfred were very helpful to me. The solo cornet was called Fred but I can't recall his surname, he would be early 40 'ish and worked shifts as a maintenance engineer on the London Tubes so with shifts and breakdown call outs could not always guarantee a presence. I played all the stand up solos, Lucille, Facilita, Hailstorm etc. and often played the duet Tit Larks as an encore with the soprano player. In the middle of the season we were joined by a friend of mine from Barrow called Fred Roderick and he played 3rd man down solo cornet bench. A very strong player and an older brother to Stan Roderick who played lead trumpet with Ted Heath, Jack Hylton, Mantovani and sessions etc. Fred has passed away but Stan retired last year to Maidstone. Since I was probably the youngest in the band in 37, I suppose most will have passed on by now

As you will see from my card I eventually followed an engineering career quite successfully and played as a hobby and I still teach some of the promising players in the local Vickers Barrow Works Band. In my business career I have visited London (in the city) several times but have never been back to the Palace area so it may well be geographically different to my memory of it after the war bombing and building progress etc. but the places and events are still very vivid in my mind but a lot of the names escape me.

I hope this is of some use to you and I will let you have the photograph next week. Of course it shows , Leonard Davies, Willie and Tom Grant etc. and it also includes the local Lingfied band who were our hosts for the day. It is of course in black and white so does not show the scarlet tunics but the Palace players are easy to identify because the tunics have a flash just below each shoulder.

If I can be any further help drop me a line or give me a ring.

All the very best with your research.

Yours sincerely

Harold Mcenery