Article by Godfrey Winn - (Writer & Broadcaster)

.....Next morning, when I met the two other parental couples on holiday, Mr and Mrs Barclay from Fifeshire in Scotland and Mr and Mrs Fox from Redcar in Yorkshire they echoed everything the MacBeans had told me.

Jasmine Barclay - a blonde trombonist - confessed that she had received great encouragement from her two brothers and her father, who once had been a miner and member of a brass band.

"How old were you when you began taking music seriously?" I asked. "Fourteen" "And no one minded the din at home when you practised?" "No, they liked it."

The pride in her voice, I felt, was her pride in the knowledge she was a member of the best band of its kind in the land. A pride shared by the two vocalists, Mary McSherry and Lesley Arden, and by the band’s pianist Anne Odell, who was a student at the Royal Academy of Music. Just as it is shared by Jean Fox, a redhead and increasingly expert performer on the alto-saxophone, who is so pretty to look at, that though one of the youngest members of the band, it is no surprising she is credited with the most current admirers.

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"One of my chief headaches" admitted Ivy. "My players seem to get younger and younger and are paid higher and higher salaries but so often as soon as I have moulded them into the personality of the band, they get married!"

"No, they seldom seem to marry a fellow musician but playing so often, as we do, for the overseas forces in places like Germany can be fatal. Only last year, one of my best players left the stand one evening, a thought to go to the cloakroom, and was literally never seen again by us. Her elopement would have seemed very romantic, if it hadn’t left us a player short!

I am always fighting for better terms and conditions not for myself but for my girls."

From her pocket at lunch she took a letter that had come that morning from the father of a girl musician, a band leader himself, asking for an audition for his daughter. One sentence pleased Ivy very much "There is no other band I would let my daughter tour with except yours."

Wherever she goes, she is always ready to audition a promising, eager student. She can take quite an ordinary performer and turn her into something special. One of her trumpet players, Robey Buckley, sent her a record of her playing from Australia and got a job! In any case, losses through marriage create an urgent need for continuous

 

 

replacements. Yet, ironically, Ivy Benson’s own two marriages have both failed."And the second marriage?" "The second was to an American and the divorce has only just gone through now. This time I admit I was largely to blame, because he was always asking me to go to the States with him, and I was always putting off the date because of the band and my elderly parents who live with me. What was I to do about them? I love them so dearly, they have been such wonderful parents to me and that is why I make it part of my job to look after the girls in the band. In the end, he could not wait any longer. It is something that could happen to any career woman." "Will you ever marry again?" She shook her head. "No, I realise now I am married to the band."

Then she kissed me goodbye and went to cook the evening meal for her parents before changing into her glamorous silver dress once more to take the stand, eternally young, announcing numbers in her warm Yorkshire voice, the universally friendly efficient leader of the band. More successful now than at any time in her career, fully booked up with dates at the Northern clubs and later, abroad, until next June.

Thank you Ivy for making my return to Jersey such a reassuring and rewarding reunion.

Click here to see photograph.