Above: Geoff Snelling in 2016, at the National Band Champs, held at Trinity College Gawler, SA
Above: Geoff aged 12 in 1954, ready to play with Southall Band
Above: Geoff with son Peter aged 12 after a solo contest in 1979. Geoff is still on soprano at that time
The XP Ford Falcon, released in 1964/5 by Ford Australia was a good car. It was instrumental in assisting Leonard Teale and his trilby-wearing companions apprehend countless TV villains in the series Homicide.
I still have a clear memory from late 1973 of Geoff Snelling driving his XP parallel to my XP (We had matching cars!) along Philip Highway in Elizabeth towards the Main North Road. As we proceeded, Rita Snelling waved to me from the front passenger seat and smiled, Geoff gave me that “Who are you?” look. At the time I was Rita’s 18 year old workmate at John Martins Elizabeth and, without being fully aware of it, had already played a concert with Geoff! We had played a concert at Gilles Plains Shopping Centre (I think?). The details of the engagement escape me 46 years later, but I do remember Rita approaching me a few days later, somewhere between haberdashery and boyswear, to introduce herself as the wife of a bandsman.
We became friends that day.
Geoff and Rita today still possess the same qualities that made me want to gravitate to their company musically and socially. They are doers, they do things. They do what they say they’re going to do, they do what you ask them to do, they do their best for their children, grandchildren and anyone else who looks like they are in need of a good do! They possess real resilience, genuine generosity and sparkling spirit.
Geoff has entertained people, helped beginners, served on committees, cooked bbqs, arranged music and replaced brake pads on XP Falcons. He is also a talented artist!
He has ruffled a few feathers and rattled a few cages in his time. He is, by his own admission, a person who believes that it is not healthy to bottle things up. Rita’s philosophical reading of Geoff’s oratorial style is both soothing and sensible.
“Everything that Geoff is thinking and feeling is there to be seen on the surface, nothing is hidden”. No hidden agenda……………. I can live with that any day of the week.
Geoff’s son Peter is a fine flugelhorn player and still plays in a small group with his Dad. Brett Snelling, Geoff’s grandson, plays with the Salisbury Band but is currently blowing up a storm with a rock band.
I invite to read and enjoy Geoff Snelling’s Banding story and be comforted in the knowledge that we still have a Brass Band movement because of the efforts of people like Geoff and Rita.
Geoff Meikle, 2019
My full Name is Geoffrey Arthur Snelling. I was born in England on the 17th April 1942 at the West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth. My Father, Arthur Snelling was away on Army training exercises in Northern Yorkshire at the time of my birth and my Mother, Vera had severe toxemia whilst giving birth to me at 8 months, so we both had a prolonged stay in Hospital.
My first introduction to music was being taught recorder at Western Rd Junior primary school. It proved at first to be a case of "too many holes and not enough fingers to cover them all with.” Our Teacher, a Mr. Neam, had amazing patience and over a short time managed to teach us to play some basic tunes.
I suffered from asthma when young, which prevented me participating fully in many of the sport activities at school. So when our local Brass Band held a recruitment drive for young learners, my parents thought that being able to play a brass instrument might help to improve my breathing. I had just had my 12th Birthday and in my first year of High School.
On the evening advertised, my mate Morris Johnson and I, together with other youngsters attended our very first brass music lesson. We were each given a small note book and pencil and shown on a very old blackboard our first introduction to the mysteries of “FACE" and its partner in crime "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour".
We were not however, to be trusted with an actual instrument to play at this stage until after about the third week. I was then issued with an old brass baritone without a case, dented in places and green with verdigris. I took it home that evening and my Dad looked at it, chuckled and then washed it out. When he upturned it to let the water out, a dead mouse and three bus tickets fell out! Mum made up a carrying bag from an old pillow case. I had that baritone for another 2 weeks and then was given a cornet with a leather case. Joy oh joy, I could actually blow a note on it. Over the next few years, I progressed through to the Senior Band ranks. I well remember playing at many local events and fetes. Marching in town carnivals in the pouring rain, Sunday afternoon Park concerts (for which the Band got paid!). Freezing under street gas lights at night when caroling and loving it!
In 1960 I met my wife Rita. When I told her that I played in a Band she thought at first it was a Rock Band. Was she surprised when I took her to a band engagement for the first time.
The Band that I started with in 1954 was the Southall Borough Band. In 1960 I was invited to play on permit with the Hillingdon Band on Soprano for a Band Contest at Southend. The Test piece was "Three Negro Spirituals" and the Adjudicator was Eric Ball. We were entered in second section and we won it. Afterwards I made the decision to leave Southall and spent the rest of my playing career in England playing for Hillingdon, formerly named Hayes & Harlington Silver Band.
Rita and I married in September 1963 and had our first child in 1965. We moved out from Greenford to Bracknell in Berkshire in January 1966, where our other two sons were born.
In September 1971, I enlisted in the RAAF in London and we all as a family emigrated to Australia. I was unable to join a local Band whilst stationed at Wagga so I bought an old trumpet and played with a small group in our barrack block. We were lucky, the other guys in our building accepted our musical efforts, but one poor soul who had joined the local Pipe Band had to practice alone away from everyone else on the other side of the footy oval!
The first Band I played with in SA was the Para Hills Band. Rita and I went to the old Parafield Disposals tin shed to buy some household items. A rep from Para Hills Band was there giving out flyers. I went along one evening and as a result played with them for a short while. The MD in 1972 was John Cannon. Para Hills Seniors at that time were not a contesting Band. As a result I was asked if I would like to play on a permit with Enfield Senior Band at the forthcoming Tanunda Contest. Peter Hutchings had the Enfield Senior Band and Ron Arthur the Klemzig Juniors. We entered D Grade section and won it, but amazingly to me, soon after a lot of the Enfield senior members left.
At this time I also played with the St John's Ambulance Band when they and K & N performed the very first Band Concert to be held in, the then brand new, Festival Theatre. Harold "Digger" Walmsley was their MD and at that time they were one of the top contesting bands in the country. Those of us who remember Digger still smile at the memory of him sitting at the front bar of the Richmond Hotel in Rundle Mall. His nose gently glowing.
In 1973 the State Band was formed by Neville and Ernie Alderslade along with Dougie Burnside. My name was put forward along with others and after an audition with Neville was invited to play with this band. The appointed MD was Laurie Hicks and our first concert was in the Festival Theatre. The band was some sixty members strong!
After the State Contest in 1973. I was asked by David Griffiths if I would like to join Kensington and Norwood Band. This was my first experience of playing under Mr. Bernard Bygrave. A soft spoken gentleman who had been an excellent Cornet player with Black Dyke Mills and a close friend of fellow cornet soloist James Shepherd. Bernard returned to the UK quite soon after my joining, to conduct one of the top Cornish Bands. I stayed with K & N for some 4 years but left them later due mainly to work and family commitments in April 1977.
Fate however, is a strange thing because about two weeks later Mr. Arthur Briers called at our house to see if I was interested in helping to form a band in Elizabeth. A meeting was held at the council building in Elizabeth Town Centre. Bernard Bygrave who had recently returned to Australia, was appointed our first MD and as we say, the rest is History. We formed in June 1977 and had many successes under Bernard going from D to B grade in just a few years. Bernard finally gave up the MD's position in late 1980. Glenn Madden then took over the baton in 1981 and had many contest successes with us as an A grade Band. Elizabeth City Band unfortunately was wound up in about 1994 due to reasons too many, sad and painful to go into here.
In 1993 I joined the Salisbury City Band and have been a proud member of that organization now for some 26 years, bringing our banding within South Australia up to 47 years. During our membership, Rita and I have served as Secretary, President and Librarian (not all the same time). Also on the exec of SABA as Vice President and band delegates for both Salisbury and Elizabeth. We have made lots of friends over this time within the banding movement, which have lasted many years and with a bit of luck will hopefully last many years longer.
Geoff Snelling 21st October 2019.