Dales People: 'Our audience is part of the show too'
BANDMASTER, full-time gravedigger and part-time DJ Andrew Nicholson uses his skills to keep both audiences and band members happy. As musical director of Barnard Castle Band, Andrew follows comedian Ken Dodd whose motto was “the audience are part of the show”.
“If the audience is happy and the band is happy, you’ve got a good show” says Andrew.
Andrew’s musical career has taken him all over the country, but he has always returned his home village of Eggleston, where he lives close by his childhood home.
The eldest of three children to builder David – mother Janet was a lab technician – Andrew went to Eggleston school and Barnard Castle grammar/tech, now Teesdale School.
He has two children with wife Diana.
“We’ve been married 39 years,” he says with some pride. He started married life working for his dad during the day and DJ-ing at night. Andrew now works in the funeral industry with the band his other main priority.
He started aged eight with Middleton and Teesdale Silver Band playing cornet.
Taught by his father, Andrew was invited to join the prestigious Teesside-based British Steel Band, involving a 100-mile round trip for rehearsals three times a week.
“It was worth it,” he says. “I had the experience of competing against the top bands in the country and playing at the Albert Hall six times. Musical director John Roberts was a great influence”.
He later took up the flugelhorn. Andrew has also played with Fishburn Brass Band and also performs with Reeth Brass Band.
Barney band does not go in for competitions or long-distance travel.
“We’re happy to play locally,” says Andrew, who joined Barney band in 2009, taking over as musical director five years ago from Ian Symonds who was finding it difficult making rehearsals after moving out of the area. It was a change by mutual agreement. Ian remains a band member, playing soprano cornet.
Whether it’s that or their leader’s ebullient and cheerful personality, or both, band membership has increased when most others are struggling to recruit members.
“We were down to a bare dozen players when I took over, but now we’re up to 40,” says Andrew.
Several members live out of the area but all are dedicated to entertaining the locals.
“Keep our audiences happy and we’re happy” says the band’s ever-smiling leader.