The band was formed in 1993, following a one-day workshop in the Yeovil college main hall. The success of this event generated enough interest to inspire the college to include a ‘Big Band Adult Education Evening Class’ in their prospectus. From there the band grew under the skilful direction of Bert Parton (Bertie), an ex Royal Marine Colour Band Sergeant. into a tight sounding unit.
After a year Bertie decided to take the band out and release their sound to the public for the first time, holding an end of term concert in the college drama hall. This resulted in instant success, with a further number of concerts given under the name of the ‘Yeovil College Adult Education Evening Class Big Band’! The name had to change, so the members were asked to challenge their creative intellects, and ‘Hey Presto’ the name Berties Big Band was chosen.
A major breakthrough occurred when the band was booked to perform at the Westland Sports and Social complex, Yeovil, in March 1996. This event was so successful that autumn and spring concerts were booked for the next three years, really putting the band on the map.
It was early on in this period that Kirsty appeared on the scene. Kirsty was spotted by band members at a community performance of ‘Floodgates’, a joint project between South Somerset Council and Action Track. Kirsty showed an interest in joining the band, and after some gentle persuasion she came to meet the band at a practice session. We are glad to say Kirsty has been with us ever since, developing into a very strong and confident performer.
There have been some players who have been in the band ever since the first rehearsal and also we have had many young players who have joined the band at the age 15/17 yrs and stayed with us until leaving to go onto University or who have moved out of the area.
With appearances all over the West Country. including the Octagon Theatre, Yeovil; the Bath and West Showground for the National Gardening and Bath & West Show; the Taachi-Morris Centre in Taunton; the Westland Sports & Social Complex, Yeovil; Butlins Holliday Camp, Minehead; and Glastonbury Town Hall for the BBC Music Live Event, this ensemble has developed into a fantastic sounding unit.
In 2003 the band celebrated its 10th anniversary with a concert in the Octagon Theatre, Yeovil. The concert was recorded live and we had a professional CD made (Live at Ten) which is on sale at all our gigs. Extracts from the CD can be found on the Hear The Band web page.
As the band members are amateurs all monies earned goes directly into band fund to buy new music/equipment and rent for practice premises. However, in 2004 the band fund was looking very healthy and our Treasurer agreed (reluctantly as most treasurers do) to the funding of a trip to Jersey over the Easter Bank Holiday. While there the band played two gigs and a great time was had by all.
Over recent years, the band has grown from strength to strength, taking on more gigs. We have played at dinner/dances and concerts for many local and national charities and we seem to have a loyal following of listeners that we see at many of our events. The band have played under Concorde at the Fleet Air Arm Museum and at the Somerton Arts Festival for the past few years and are very popular events.
In 2009 Bertie retired from the band after leading the band since the start. Bob Spiller took over as Musical Director. Bob’s first challenge was to get the band ready for the trip to The Cork Jazz Festival, where the band played three gigs. The trip was a great success and enjoyed by all.
Unfortunately Kirsty retired from the band at the beginning of 2010, and has since moved to Wales. Simon Newton joined as a male singer.
Simon left in 2012 and we were joined by two singers, Liz Browne and Chris Farey.
In 2014 Liz and Chris departed and Simon rejoined the band as male vocalist, with alto sax player Lucy as female vocalist.
A mixture of ex-military musicians, dedicated individuals and talented youths, join together with the sole purpose of entertaining. We like to think that the music we play can be achieved with three points in mind….
- Music we can play with a reasonable time of rehearsal..
- Music that we enjoy playing as a band..
- Music that audiences enjoy listening to..
We only hope that we can carry on doing what we do, not only for our own enjoyment but also for the enjoyment of our audiences.
Up until February 2013 we rehearsed on Wednesday evenings in Stanchester School at Stoke Sub Hamdon, a few miles from Yeovil, but unfortunately we have had to move. We would like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to the school for being so supportive over the years.
We now rehearse on Wednesday evenings at Ilchester Primary School in Ilchester, Somerset. Please do get in touch if you fancy playing with the band.
Every performance by Berties Big Band is a feast of entertainment and fun. Audiences are treated to the whole range of Big Band music from Glenn Miller right through to modern day arrangements. Band Director, Bob Spiller, has taken up the challenge to lead the band into a new era.
The band is available for all occasions, whether it is a concert, dance, wedding, or charity fund raising events.