We caught up with Solo Eb Horn player of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Helen Varley, ahead of the band's performance at Morley Town Hall on Saturday 8 February 2020 as part of the Leeds Best of Brass 2019/20 series.
How long have you played with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band?
I joined Grimethorpe in June 2017 so I have been in the band just over 2 years now.
What’s your highlight so far with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band?
Hands down it would be the first performance of Brassed Off Live at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017. It was incredible experience and the atmosphere was just electric, especially during the Pete Postlethwaite speech at the end of the film - it actually felt like he was on stage with us, which was quite a surreal experience.
How did you get involved with playing a brass instrument?
I was given the opportunity to play an instrument when I started middle school and was specifically told "don't you dare bring home a violin!". The woodwind teacher had no instruments left, so brass it was.
What was your earliest musical experience?
My Mum was a very good piano player, so when I was very young I used to love to hear her playing impressively difficult pieces by Chopin.
Who has been your biggest influence?
I was incredibly fortunate to have a great teacher, James Shepherd, the former principal cornet player of the Black Dyke Band. He's been a mentor to me ever since I picked up an instrument. He's so inspiring, not just as a player, but also as a person.
Do you enjoy practising or find it a chore?
When I started it was definitely a chore! But I discovered that as you improve you enjoy practicing more - it's an addictive cycle.
Were your parents musical?
My Mum was an excellent piano player. Dad doesn't play but he has an excellent ear as an audience adjudicator and his eclectic taste in musical styles has always been an influence.
What piece of music do you most enjoy playing?
It changes every day! Macarthur Park is a particular favourite though.
What’s the best and worst things about performing?
It's a great feeling when you really stretch your own personal limits of playing, and even better when you're on a stage with like-minded people all achieving the same. The flip-side of that is the huge amount of personal commitment required - personal practice every day, minimum 2 rehearsals a week, concerts every weekend and a large mileage on your car!
What can the audience expect from a performance by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band?
A diverse range of music played by performers at the very peak of their careers.
View the Leeds Best of Brass 2019/20 brochure online
Leeds Best of Brass Series 2019/20:
Saturday 19 October 2019 - Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band
Saturday 16 November 2019 - Tredegar Town Band
Saturday 7 December 2019 - Leyland Band
Saturday 18 January 2020 - Black Dyke Band
Saturday 8 February 2020 - Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Saturday 7 March 2020 - Foden's Band
Saturday 4 April 2020 - Brighouse & Rastrick Band
Saturday 25 April 2020 - Rothwell Temperance Band