SADDLEWORTH’S Whit Friday Band Contests will be missing one of its most popular and talented musicians this year.
Delph raised Mark Rodgers, who performed for a multitude of bands in Saddleworth and throughout the North of England, died in his sleep earlier this month, aged 40.
But his life and contribution to brass banding will be celebrated on an emotional day throughout the villages.
Uppermill Band, for whom he played at the time of his death, will pay their own tributes to the experienced soprano cornet player.
All members will wear white roses in their jacket lapels and Mark’s cornet will be carried at the head of the Band to all contests before the instrument is retired from service.
“To lose a player at such a young age has completely rocked the Band,” says Chairman and Band manager, John Ward of the former Saddleworth Independent columnist.
“We had talked about what we could do on Whit Friday out of respect for Mark. One of the ideas was the Band shouldn’t turn out.
“However, it was felt by the vast majority Mark wouldn’t want that. He has been in banding nearly all of his life and would have wanted the Band to carry on and put on a performance.”
Mark’s parents, Bob and Mary, organisers of the Delph band contest, were consulted on proposals to honour their son.
“They agreed the white roses would be a very nice touch,” confirmed John. “And the cornet will be carried at the front as the Band marches down the High Street in Delph and throughout Saddleworth.
“It is going to be very tough, not just for the Band, but for Mark’s family. But they are in full agreement of what we are doing.”
Mark’s dad Bob said: “The outpour of kind messages has been overwhelming. If you lined up all the people who have offered to help they would stretch through the villages.
“A lot of the bands wanted to do a tribute or play a hymn on Whit Friday but that could have been disruptive, as nice as the idea was. We are just trying to get on with things as normal.”
Mark’s girlfriend, Lauren, a tenor horn with Uppermill Band, hopes to take part in the Whit Friday tributes.
Last week on Whit Sunday, Uppermill attended a procession of witness with St John’s, Church in Lees down to St Thomas’s.
“Before we started and when everyone met up consoling each other, it was felt right we should play a hymn for Mark which was ‘Abide With Me,’ added John. “A number of former Band members got in touch to volunteer because they were upset about what had happened.
“Mark was very well known and very well respected throughout the North West and Yorkshire particularly. As well as playing for a number of bands he also helped a lot as well.
“He would step in if a cornet player was missing and he must have ‘debted’ for more than 100 bands. He would never turn anyone down.”
Mark finished his career with Uppermill but had previously played for Black Dyke, Brighouse & Rastrick, British Aerospace, British Telecom, Delph, Diggle, Hepworth, Leyland and Marsden Silver.
He studied at Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester under John Hudson and Roger Webster and later successfully added a MA degree at Huddersfield.”
Mark’s funeral will be held on Friday, May 27 at Christ Church, Denshaw, at 2pm. All welcome. Flowers welcome, any donations will be go towards repairs on the church’s pinnacle.
Brass Band stalwart Bill Cullen will also be missed as he passed away in February this year. Bill was integral to helping organise the Springhead and Lees contest, as well as compiling results from across the villages.