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Our History

Ocean Brass was formed in 1998 from the amalgamation by two Southampton based bands called Solent Brass and Southampton Central. Both bands had been experiencing falling membership levels and it was considered amalgamation would produce a band with the potential for a strong and positive future.

With the formation of Ocean Brass Leighton Rich was appointed as its first Musical Director.  During his leadership the Band steadily developed, with some notable success being achieved relatively quickly.  In March 2000 the Band became Second Section champions after winning the National Brass Band Association Regional Contest.  This resulted in the Band qualifying to take part in the National Section Finals held in the Royal Albert Hall, as well as receiving automatic promotion to the First Section.

Notably, much success was also achieved during the tenure of Nick Grace (R.M.) who, during his 6 years leadership, increased the Band's reputation by building on the Band's concert and contest performances.

Southampton Central owed its origins to a small group of dedicated youngsters who wished to continue playing after leaving school.  Under the baton of its founder Gordon Cutler the Band was based at the Central School and became part of the Further Education Centre. Recruiting players from the local area, the Southampton Police Band, and the Portsmouth Citadel Salvation Army Band (both with whom Gordon played), the group quickly expanded into a full sized band.

Within a short period of time a competent band had emerged and the Southampton Central (FEC) Band was officially registered as a contesting band in 1970, entering its first contest later that year. By 1979 the Band had gained promotion to the Championship Section of the National Brass Band Association, but by 1998 found itself back in the second section with its membership declining.

Solent Brass could trace its origins back to the late 1930's. Just before the War a small band was formed by one of the local Southampton Air Training Corps. The Band continued throughout the War, as part of the ATC, and then developed into a 'mature' band when the young cadets became too old for the Corps. After the War the Band's membership was increased and enhanced by returning ex-servicemen, and it was at this point the Band became known as the Bitterne and West End Band, as its location base had changed to the eastern part of the city.

The Band soon became involved in contesting and gradually progressed from the fourth to the third section of the National Brass Band Association. Some minor contesting success was achieved, notably reaching the National Finals of the fourth section two years running during the late 1970's.

Much of the Band's success during this period was due to it's MD, Ron Cordell.  It was also during the early 1970's that the Band changed its 'home'. As it was now attached to the Further Education programme, based in a school in Southampton, and had a membership covering Southampton and beyond, the Band decided to change its name to Solent Brass.

Throughout its life Solent Brass benefited from the membership of a few players who remained constantly loyal to the Band - for example one player, Albert Cooper, joined the Band in the early 1940's and remained a loyal member right up to his untimely death in June 2007. 

Another connection to the Band's origins can be found in the Southampton Hall of Aviation. This museum is also the home of the local ATC unit, (424 Sqdrn), and contains one display detailing the history of the local ATC units, especially during the War. In this display can be seen the original bass drum used by the founding ATC band, and donated to the museum by Solent Brass.The Band continued in a constant state until the late 1980's, early 1990's, when general membership levels started to decline and the Band lost its permanent home. However, this disappointing period in the Band's history was slightly offset when in 1993 Solent Brass was employed to provide music for a scene in the film The Browning Version, starring Albert Finney (released 1994), resulting in a mention in the film's credits.

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