Ronald Harrison and an ISB question

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Parp, May 31, 2005.

  1. Parp

    Parp Member

    Does anyone have any information/recollections/anecdotes about Ronald Harrison who played soprano in the ISB for many many years?

    I always enjoy listening to his distinct sound and find it strange that there isn't much information about someone who was the cornerstone of the ISB for so many years.

    I know that he played in the band before the war, was prisoner in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the war and then returned to the band after the war until he left in the early 80's. I think he died in 1990 and his corp was either Upper Norwood or Wood Green.

    I have a few recordings of him from the early 80s when he was probably old enough to know better when he was sticking in top D's at the end of Princethorpe Variations and also in The Prodigal and it sounds fantastic. His playing in My Comfort and Strength sends a shiver down my spine!

    If Brian Bowen is reading then I think that you'd be my best chance of information since I imagine you sat next to him in the ISB, but I'd love to hear from anyone that knows anything about him.

    Also, on the ISB website a few years ago there was a list of all the past members of the ISB and their length of service. I can't find it on the site anymore so if anyone has a copy then I'd appreciate if they could post it or PM/email it to me.

  2. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Ron was a great asset to the ISB. He provided an upper extension to the solo cornet section that blended in a natural way. His sound was full yet bright, always in tune, and never shrill. His highest notes, and they could be high, had the same quality as his mid range. I sat next to him for many years in the band and often on the coach. He was a gentleman, always immaculate in appearance and had a good sense of humour. (He also sang tenor). If you have specific questions, pm me and I'll try to respond.

    His brother, Ken, is presumably in the south London area as I notice he plays in the South London Fellowship Band (under George Whittingham). They were both at the Upper Norwood corps. Someone else who keeps tabs on soprano players is David Harrison (no relation) of Hadleigh Temple. He's also a sop. player and used to admire Ron's playing. Perhaps he could offer further information, too.
  3. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Towards the end of his ISB career, Ron was either brilliant or very disappointing: fortunately the last time I remember hearing him, at Cardiff in about 1979, he was on top form - it was the first time I'd heard "The Prodigal" and every one of the top D's soared over the band magnificently.
  4. Jules Cornet

    Jules Cornet Member

    Ron Harrison was the soprano player for much of Bernard Adams' tenure as Bandmaster of the ISB. His artistic upper end playing added much colour to the band of this period and his unmistakable sound can be heard in many LP recordings of this era. The original recording of The Kingdom Triumphant (1963), Joyous Carillon (1966), Triumph of Peace, Steadily Onward, and many more including live premiere recordings at the Royal Albert Hall of The Holy War, The Present Age, and many others including his final appearance at this grand old hall on Ken Downie's Prncethorpe Variations, are all testament to this fine players' skill.

    He was known more for his quality of sound, stamina, and ability to add real artistry to he top of the band rather than his technical prowess and rumour has it that some of the more challenging and exposed solo passages on recordings in the 60's were cued by solo cornet, Terry Camsey.

    The list I have of staff band membership records his period of service as 26 years, which I believe was spread over 2 or maybe 3 periods of seperate membership.
    He was also a bandsman at Upper Norwood corps.

    He retired from the band in the summer of 1983 and was succeeded as the soprano player in the ISB by Kevin Ashman.
  5. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    Ron stayed at my house, along with Eric Tebbett, when the ISB visited our corps for a weekend in 1979.
    The ISB played Kaleidoscope and this was the first time I had ever heard top D's on a soprano, absolutely wonderful.
    Ron's (in)famous top D at the end of Princethorpe Variations at The Royal Albert Hall was captured on LP and is part of ISB folklore. I picked up a copy of this LP for a couple of quid on Ebay recently!

    Incidentally, Ken and Marjorie Harrison have recently moved to Gloucestershire from South London.
    Last edited: May 31, 2005
  6. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Which album is this, Carl? Don't think I've ever heard it.

  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    It's the live recording from the Royal Albert Hall, 1983, entitled "A Choral Celebration". If I remember correctly, it is a double album, also featuring the Canadian Staff playing "Deus Vobiscum", Bob Redhead's memorial to the former staff band members who drowned en route to the 1914 congress. I think I'm right in saying that the performance of "Princethorpe Variations" put on the lp omits one of the sections due to time constraints.
  8. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    I'm not sure about that as I haven't listened to it yet. However, the published version is one variation short of what was played in 1983.
  9. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Maybe I got it the wrong way round :oops:

    Am I right in thinking that Enfield over the last year or so have been playing the full, original version?
  10. Parp

    Parp Member

    Thanks everyone for that. Very interesting reading - I especially like that the festival where they played Princethorpe was his last engagement and that he nailed that top D! Was that the same recording where they had an...'enthusiastic' bass trombone player at the start of 'Celebration'?!!!

    Anyway, thanks for the comments about him - he's certainly a distinctive player!
  11. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    Anorak time:

    The original version (i.e with extra variation) was recorded by ECB on 'Joyous Brass' under Richard Phillips.The Canadian Staff Band recorded it on 'Sounds of Joy' too....great CD.

    Brighouse recorded the published version (i.e minus extra variation!) with Steve Cobb conducting as did Hendon SA under the same conductor.
  12. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    I have that album and recall hearing at the time that he surprised everyone with that top D. He certainly nailed it. To my hearing, the entire performance was excellent.

    I also have some live recordings made earlier in his ISB career, on tour in California. Pieces include Treasures from Tchaikovsky and Prelude on Three Welsh Hymn Tunes. That band was in great shape and Ron was superb.

    In the two or three personal interactions I had with Ron, I found him very personable. As previously mentioned, his sound was so distinctive, bright and full.

    I was in an ISB rehearsal once and Ron arrived a few minutes late. He sat down, pulled out his sop and joined the piece in progress and his first note was a high A which he simply played as though he was fully warmed up; then he took his coat off :)

    Another time the ISB were at Upper Norwood, probably a Wednesday night program, and they played Lord of the Sea. At the end the sop has a run up to a high A and as he hit that note, his shank slid in and he almost swallowed his mouthpiece. He calmly put it back in place.

    I also heard an outdoor performance of Never Give Up, which finishes with a Fp Crescendo (again) on a high A. He didn't nail it. Talking to him after he said that there was no option, you had to go for it to get the desired effect and, once in a while you're not going to get it. Then, with a grin said, rather here than in a live recording.

    Thanks for starting this thread; it's revived some good memories.
  13. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    On one of the ISB tours to the USA (in the 1950s I think) Ron was unable to travel with the band and Ray Cuell stood in for him. I think it might have been the occasion you mention. Immediately prior to Ron's last stint with the ISB the soprano player was Bert Coppin (not quite in Ron's league).
  14. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    Hi Brian, good to hear from you.

    Yes, I remember hearing about Ray Cuell. Memory tells me that there were two tours in the 50's (1952 and 1957?). Not sure which of the two Ray was on. I'm sure the recordings I have are from 1957 and there are pictures taken during the tour on the album covers, and I'm positive that Ron is in them. I'll certainly double check when I get home and will confirm later. Certainly agree with your comment re Bert Coppin.
  15. Railybobs

    Railybobs Member

    Do you think SP&S (Sorry World Of Brass) have any plans to release it on CD. They've released a few 78's onto CD. Any plans?
  16. Parp

    Parp Member

    I would love for them to re-release most of the ISB LP's on CD. I have most of them (thanks to my dad collecting them) and have copied my favourite tracks to MP3 since I don't have a record player any more but there are still plenty of records out there that I don't have and would love to listen to.

    Only problem is that it would be a huge project to copy them and would involve issuing loads of CDs (as a wild guess I'd imagine there must be over 30 of them at least - more when you start to add in the BM councils etc?).

    A cheaper option - one which is probably rather profitable too for WOB - would be to sell them as MP3s where you pay for each track you download.

    But I suppose in the end it's just like buying books in that when they go out of print then you have to scour around places trying to find them. At least we have Ebay now to make things a bit easier.

    But it would be nice to share such great music, great playing and many important moments in SA music history with a wider audience than those who were around at the time to buy the LP's.
  17. Active Member

    Our recording releases schedule indicates a release called Royal Albert Hall Highlights Vol. 1 as a possible for 2006. I don't know any more at this stage other than that this indicates the release on CD of some historically significant performances at Bandmaster / Songster Leaders Councils Festivals.

    By the way, I also picked up a copy of the LP The Holy War on Ebay at the same time as A Choral Celebration. It's a mono version but I live in hope of finding a stereo copy.
  18. Parp

    Parp Member

    Well this is good news - especially the fact that it's Volume 1 which suggests that there will be at least a Volume 2! :D Although what does 'possible' mean? Does it mean that it's possible for 2006 or possible that it might be made?
  19. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    I looked at the albums and there is one picture of the band leaving the plane and I'm positive that Ron is in the picture, together with Ray Bowes, Roland Cobb, George Whittingham, Bernard Adams and others. He is clearly on another picture, but that is a posed setting and could have been taken either before or during the tour.

    Edit: June 7 - I just tried to attach a copy of the picture but the file is too large; any suggestions?
  20. Reg Elliott

    Reg Elliott New Member

    Ron Harrison - Soprano Supreme

    Brian Bowen has described Ron correctly. He was an example as an Army bandsman in both the ISB and at Upper Norwood where I had the joy and priviledge to sit next to him from 1969 to his death in 1986. At Norwood Ron was also an excellent Band Sergeant.

    As a soprano cornet player, Ron was at the top in both the Army and compared to the non Army world. As a Christian gentleman, there have been non better, in my opinion.

    I now sit next to Ron Harrision number two, David Harrison, in the South London fellowship Band.

    To my belief, Ron Harrison served in an infantry battalion of the Royal West Kent Regt. in WW2 and was a prisoner of war in Europe. I have no knowledge of him serving in the far east.

    Reg Elliott

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