Christmas 2013 was a significant time in the history of the Britannia Concert Band as Ken Goodman decided to hang up the baton after 40 years in charge as bandmaster.
Ken succeeded his father Alban who himself was Bandmaster for over 20 years and this must be somewhat of a record in the world of banding.
The Goodman family has been associated with the Britannia since the early 1900’s with Ken’s great uncle Willie who played clarinet and grandfather also called Alban who was one of the organisers. Ken’s Uncle Jim played saxophone in the 1920’s and 1930’s whilst his dad Alban played firstly cornet (winning a cup at the Londonderry Feis) and then for a longer period playing euphonium before becoming Bandmaster.
Ken joined the band around 1950 and by 1951 his brother Dessie was already a member playing clarinet and in subsequent years his two other brothers joined, Victor playing euphonium and then French horn and Jim playing cornet and now euphonium.
It’s clear that the Britannia Band means a lot to the Goodmans. The only sister Della must have felt cheated as at that time there were no female members. In addition to the four brothers the current membership has four sons, Robert, Michael, Martyn and Alan and four grandchildren, John, Olivia, James and Ellie.
For a couple of years as the Troubles began in the early 1970’s the Band did not function.
The band hall was in Society Street and with streets unlit and general unrest in the city the attendance at practices understandably fell away. At that stage Alban Goodman was in his 70’s and had decided to retire.
Soon, however, there was a desire to get underway again and Ken was appointed Bandmaster in 1973. There was a great energy about the band and recruitment took off at a great rate.
Full use as made of the WELB music service and in no time we had a full complement of instrumentalists including two bassoons, a real novelty. This opened up the repertoire to include a wider concert/cabaret programme and the band ventured into the world of band competitions with great success. Both in Belfast and Dublin Ken led the band to win the most prestigious of contests.
By 1979 the band needed new uniforms and these were dedicated at a service in All Saints Clooney conducted by Archdeacon Willoughby.
The service of dedication included the voluntaries: “Great Gate of Kiev” by Moussorgsky, “Air from the New Baroque Suite” by Huggens and “Flocks in Pastures Green Abiding” by J S Bach and arranged by Ken Goodman.
The band on that day consisted 2 Oboes, E Flat Clarinet, 9 b Flat Clarinets, Tenor Saxophone, 2 Bassoons, 3 Tubas, 7 Cornets, 4 Horns, 2 Euphoniums, 4 Trombones and 3 Percussion.
The following year the band was pictured in their new uniforms in front of the new gates at St.Columb’s Cathedral.
Ken led the band through the next three decades with a growing reputation for high musicianship and the ability to deliver entertaining programmes. The collaboration of the Britannia and the Londonderry Musical Society (LMS) gave rise to the popular Showstoppers concerts started in the late 80’s and this year celebrated their 25th series of charity shows.
Again this is rather unique with Ken conducting the Britannia Concert Band and his brother Jim directing the LMS. Throughout this period the band’s social life was hectic and touring became almost an annual event.
The Britannia Concert Band owes Ken a tremendous debt by reviving the band after he start of the troubles and bringing the best out of the musicians
Very many young players were introduced to ensemble playing and inspired by his enthusiasm and dedication. His patience was endless and he undertook many roles in the band far beyond conducting.
Supported by his wife May the Britannia became a way of life for Ken.
Today, however, the Britannia is honouring Ken’s devotion and dedication to the band. He leaves it with a legacy which shows that it is stronger than ever and is planning for the future with the formation of a large and vibrant Youth Section.
For all the years of leadership, good music, fun and companionship we say to Ken, ‘A huge thank you and enjoy your well earned retirement.’