Kenneth Downie

Bandmaster Kenneth Downie

1971 to 1974

Kenneth Downie was commissioned bandmaster in May 1971 when he moved to Bournemouth from Southport to become head of music at Summerbee Secondary School. 0riginally from Greenock, where his family were life long salvationists, he studied music at the Royal Manchester College before taking a degree at Durham University. When commissioned Boscombe bandmaster, at the age of 24, he was considered one of the army's most talented young musicians having already written music for both vocal groups and brass. He was the sixth of seven Boscombe bandmasters to have had musical compositions published by the army - surely a record unique to Boscombe.

He immediately set about developing his own skills as bandmaster, and changing the style of the band's playing. His desire for an orchestral sound often meant that volume was reduced to a mere whisper, even if many bandsmen had to restrain themselves from playing. Ironically, one of the band's first engagements under his leadership was to provide music at a service, conducted by the Bishop of Winchester, in connection with a conference for the deaf and dumb.

Bandstand programme pictures 1973

Musical programmes were given at Wimborne Minster, Winton Methodist Church, Summerbee Secondary School and Dorchester Prison. Festivals at Boscombe included a partnership with Poole Band in May 1973, when Richard Martin was guest soloist, and a special programme arranged on behalf of Bandmaster Raymond Zabale of Johannesburg in June of that year. Soloists on that occasion were Stephen Cobb (cornet), Dudley Bright (trombone) and Jane Otter (vocal), and £55 was raised for the South African Band. Another fundraising gesture led to the band holding a play-in from 10am. to 6pm on 26th May 1973 in aid of Boscombe's New Building effort.

A special band weekend on 12th and 13th October 1974, commenced with an open band rehearsal in which Major Leslie Condon explained the intricacies of Call of the Righteous. This item was featured in the evening festival together with Bandmaster Downie's own, unpublished, rhapsody Through the Blood of the Lamb. Solos were provided by Songster Leader Maisie Wiggins (trombone) and Delia Jones (vocal). The weekend concluded with a monday night band dinner - a social event for bandsmen, band reservists and families that was held annually for many years.

Band 1972

For several years the Band had led the Hospital Sunday procession from the Royal National Hospital to Punshon Memorial Church but on Sunday 10th November 1971 for the very first time they led the British Legion Remembrance day parade to Bournemouth Cenotaph, once again establishing a precedent that is still maintained.

The Band was much in demand for weekend campaigns which took them to Castleford, Devonport Morice Town Hartlepool, Bargoed, Yeovil, Coventry, Gorseinon, Regent Hall and Wealdstone. For the majority of these weekends, Lt. Col. Woods accompanied the Band as its special leader, and on most occasions seekers were recorded as a result of this joint ministry. The saturday night festival given in Regent Hall was reckoned to contain some of the best playing heard from Boscombe Band for many years.

One of the bandmaster's last engagements was a BBC TV Songs of Praise broadcast recorded at Romsey Abbey on 22nd November 1974. The broadcast featured the band both as a brass and a vocal combination.

Although stepping down as bandmaster a few weeks later, Kenneth Downie continued to serve the band as a flugel horn player and pianist with his brilliant piano improvisations providing the highlight of many a band programme.