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Thursday, April 26, 2012

R.I.P. Derek Bridge.

(By Peter Ayton) (Photo courtesy of former BBC producer George Lambelle and BBC Radio Teesside.. Derek Bridge is  pictured at the rear in the centre. behind the seated George Lambelle.)
Derek was born in Brighton and, as a youth, went for lessons to the  same sax teacher as Barbara Thompson and indeed knew Barbara through this. As a young sax player he performed  in various palais  bands of the day - In particular The ‘Denis Langford Band’. Whilst playing  with these various  orchestras, he came to  blow alongside such notable musicians  as drummer/keyboard player Garry Husband  and the great tenor sax player, Red  Price.  Derek eventually went on to work and tour extensively  with Adam Faith’s  band .

His calligraphy  was second to none and he secured a job writing arrangements and parts for the famous ‘Pop Plan’ music publishers based in  in Leeds. 
Derek  met his wife Wendy and made his way to Redcar and eventually in Yarm. 
I first came across Derek when he became conductor and M.D for the Middlesbrough Musicians Union Big Band.  By this time he had become  a very successful instrumental teacher, proving to be very popular  amongst his  pupils/students with his lovely, superlative, relaxed  manner .
What will I personally remember Derek for!? Well   he was a great musician, had a wonderful sense of humour, and really ……just one of the nicest guys I ever met .  Thoughts go out to Wendy and family at this time.
Peter Ayton.
Derek's funeral service is to take place in the chapel of Fawcett & Hetherington Funeral Service, King George House,92 High Street Eston,TS6 9EG on Monday April 30 at 1.00pm prior to burial at Yarm Cemetery.


George Lambelle. said...

Derek Bridge was the leader of Middlesbrough Big Band, also known as the Trade Union Band, because it was sponsored by the Musicians’ Union. It practised on Sunday mornings in the Trades Union Club, just off the roundabout at the top of Marton Road. It was a side street, but I forget the name. You turn left at the top of Marton Road as though going to Redcar Trunk Road and then turn sharp left. The band was significant because it contained senior members of the union with young musicians, many of which were still at school. It became one of the first big bands in the country to receive what we called “sensible” fees because the national big bands had so many members that the fees were impossible. The senior members of the band were known as “stiffeners” because they led by example and helped to produce a better, co-ordinated sound. Derek wasn’t the first leader of the band, but he took over soon after I started handling music. He was a great teacher of young musicians, both within the band and privately.

I’m really sorry to hear of his demise. On a personal level, he was patient, quiet and a lovely performer as soloist and ensemble man. I know there will be many people saddened by his loss, because he played such a significant – if unsung – part in Teesside music circles.

We recorded the band many many times, sometimes without a fee simply to allow the band to hear the recordings and learn from their mistakes. In return for this we were allowed use some of the recordings. There were many repeat recordings of specific numbers simply to give the lads the chance to hear their improvements. It was Derek, with the support of the union secretary Kath (surname has disappeared from the brain for the moment), who cleared the system of payments and which I was able to report within a chaotic music seminar in London some time later. Steve Race was there and fell about laughing saying the local radio was always in trouble, but usually in the right. When he came up to West Auckland for a County Durham seminar I was able to tell him we HAD won, so he pointed out that we still couldn’t afford HIS band. All of this down to the effect of Derek Bridge and Kath. I wonder how many people know!!!

Jeremy McMurray said...

I was very sad to hear of Derek Bridge's untimely death. I had the privilege of working with Derek many times over the years both in education and as a fellow musician. He was a superb jazz clarinettist and saxophonist, arranger and educator who was always cheerful, encouraging and with a wonderful sense of humour. He was one of life's real gentleman who was held in high regard by both his fellow musicians and his past pupils, many of whom would keep in regular contact with him.
You couldn't wish to meet a nicer guy, God bless him.

Jeremy McMurray

Kevin O'Neill said...

I first met Derek a little over 30 years ago when I was asked by MU secretary Kathy Moore to play with the MU rehearsal big band because they needed a regular drummer. We immediately became good friends and in the ensuing years worked together many times. My wife also worked with him on keyboards in his own band and when Derek would dep at Marton Country Club. Each gig was an absolute joy because of Derek’s humour, good nature and great musicianship. Apart from the many bands Derek ran he was also a great teacher - his past students must number in the hundreds and he was respected by all of them. At one school they simply called him “The Legend”. I last saw Derek late last year in hospital and his main concern to me was his walkman and the music on it. Derek really was one of life’s gentlemen and will be missed by many. Now he is working in that great big band in the sky-I hope they make him bandleader!
Our thoughts are with our dear friend Wendy.
Kevin & Michele O’Neill

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