Tenor horn player, who has been in Norwich Salvation Army band for more than 70 years, is the last remaining of original line-up
- Credit: Archant
It started with 10 little boys forming a brass band and performing in their morning assemblies at school.
Now, more than 70 years later, Trevor Middleton remains the only player from the original line up still performing in the Norwich Mile Cross Salvation Army Band.
And as Mr Middleton's 80th birthday approaches, he has no plans of giving it up quite yet.
'With the exception of being taught the scales, I never had any music lessons, and having a slight impediment has meant that I have always found it hard to play an instrument,' Mr Middleton, who plays the tenor horn.
'In 1943 after being bombed out we went to live with some friends of my parents at their home in Bolingbroke Road, close by the Mile Cross Hall. I remember that when it was decided I should attend the Sunday School, I locked myself in the bathroom.'
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But it was at Sunday School in 1945 that Herbert Walker, a postman, decided to put together a young people's band.
And in the Eastern Evening News in October 1945, it was said: 'They were so keen and attained platform standard so quickly, that they were adjudged good enough to play at both indoor and outdoor services in their district; amounting to eight every Sunday.'
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Mr Middleton said: 'We played for all the services and we would go out into the open air and hold open air meetings.'
Five of the boys went to the old Norman School, and by 1948 they had been drafted in to play at assemblies every morning by headteacher Harry Cushing.
Many years later, Mr Cushing told Mr Middleton that when he had arrived at the Norman he had found out the five boys were members of the Salvation Army band.
And so when the only member of staff able to play the piano left suddenly, he came up with the idea of forming a brass ensemble.
'Although we did not realise it at the time, it must have been unique, and it may well have been that there was no other like it anywhere else in the country,' Mr Middleton, who lives in Heath Close, Norwich, with wife Daphne, added.
'Now I'm the last one playing out of those 10.'
In 1970, when the Salvation Army band reached its silver jubilee, Mr Middleton said he began to feel like he could not progress higher unless he moved away.
So he joined the Norwich Citadel Band, which Mr Middleton said was recognised as one of Army's premier bands.
'It was just that I felt - although looking back now, very selfishly - I wanted to play in 'the first division' before it was too late,' he said.
With the Citadel band, Mr Middleton went on a tour of Sweden - which he classed as one of the standout moments experienced through playing the tenor horn.
But after four years, he moved back to the Mile Cross hall - where his family remained - and took up the post of deputy bandmaster.
As well as the regular services, Mr Middleton said: 'We do the carolling in December, for a lot of people they say Christmas doesn't really start until they hear the band.
'And we're fortunate because the city council lets us play in the city outside Chapelfield.'
In almost 72 years playing with the Salvation Army, Mr Middleton said two things stood out.
The first was a visit from Stephen Cobb, from the International Staff Band band who Mr Middleton said were 'in brass band world, maybe the most famous.'
He said: 'Stephen Cobb came for a band weekend, and during rehearsal he stopped the band, looked at me and said 'that's a fine piece of horn playing'.
'Although very embarrassed my immediate thought was 'now I can go to heaven!''
The second stand out moment, Mr Middleton said, was when the Army published his idea.
'The Army published a lot of music for bands and choirs, and the choir we had at the hall sang this piece called He Leadeth Me. And I thought I would love to play this as a horn solo.
'George Twitchen, who was Major at the time, said he would send it up to the Army music board.
'That was a thrill for me!'
As Mr Middleton gears up to celebrate his 80th birthday on Saturday, he credits playing with the band for keeping him going - as well as swimming and riding his bike.
'It's good for the concentration,' he said.
'I'm going to keep going for as long as I can - one of the members is going to be 96 so I'm not going yet.'