It was with shock and deep sadness that the band lost its drummer, Andy Callingham, during the summer of 2017. Andy was a great drummer and a great eccentric, much loved by members of the band and our audiences alike.
Appropriately, for a somewhat unconventional character like Andy, his funeral at Efford Crematorium in December was a fairly informal and cheerful affair, no more than a gathering - led by the band's chairman, Tony Bott - to remember and celebrate the life of a very special and very unusual friend. We started by listening to a recording of I was born under a wandering star, which many of you will remember Andy singing in his deep bass voice - and top hat - at one of our concerts.
Andy's great loves were drumming and motorcycles, and these important parts of his interesting life were well represented by members of the band and local motorcycle enthusiasts. Eulogies were delivered by fellow drummer, Dave Cawse, motorcycling friend Bill Marsh and our own band member, Ian Sothcott. Two of these are reproduced below.
A long-standing motorcycling friend
Circumstances bring us together to celebrate the life of Andrew Callingham. Many of you here will know him as the accomplished musician and talented drummer, who until recently played for the wonderful City of Plymouth Concert Band.
But other than music Andy's other great passion was motorcycling and it was through this common interest that I first meet him over 30 years ago. Back then Andrew's life was dominated by motorcycles. He established a regular monthly meeting for enthusiasts of rare Italian bikes at the RABI in Plymouth, where like-minded people would meet and socialise. These meetings were very laid back and made all the more enjoyable by Andrew's ability to mingle and talk intelligently with anyone. Other than these evenings Andrew would organise various Sunday bike rides, and trips to race tracks where we would all enjoy our bikes to their full.
Soon we became friends and I remember being amazed when I first went to his house, which back then was at Lipson Road, where upon opening the garage door was confronted by the most desirable collection of motorcycles I had ever seen. The names Laverda Jota, Laverda SFC, Ducati 851, and Honda RC30 may mean nothing to the unenlightened but to help give you a perspective these bikes were the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the motorcycle world and Andy had them all.
One of the things I really admired in Andy was the absolute belief he had in himself. I remember he once told me that as a youth he had wanted to achieve two main goals. One was to play the drums like Keith Moon and the other was to ride in The Isle Of Man TT motorcycle road races. To finance this ambition Andy worked cruise ships, he played locally as a session musician and being a pragmatic man even took a job at Vospers who back then sold Ford cars and Honda motorcycles thus enabling him to gain favorable discounts on the two main requirements to go racing, one being a Transit van and the other a new Honda race bike. To gain eligibility for the TT Andrew competed at club level around the country and I spent several happy weekends helping him out when I could. Ultimately and for various reasons Andy was unable to fulfil his racing dream but I think he was happy to concede this, knowing that he had tried everything within his ability.
Another fond memory of this period was when I was filling my car at the services on top of Holdon Hill near Exeter. Fellow customers and myself stopped in our tracks as we could all hear a fast approaching cacophony of sound that was so loud it could be heard from the bottom of the valley. Within seconds Andrew came screaming past and over the crest of the hill on his cherished MV Augusta.
Motorcycling aside back then I also witnessed Andrew's great talent as a drummer. One particular memory was at a mutual friend's engagement party. To put it politely a mediocre live three piece band was playing. Unusually the band had a drummer that also did the lead vocals. When the band had their break I noticed Andy talking to the band members and thought nothing of it, until to all our amazement upon resuming their final set Andrew had taken up the seat at the drums. I still can't quite believe the transformation, with out any rehearsal or even knowing each other for the second half of that evening they raised the roof.
Quite a few years after this period my meetings with Andy were sporadic but occasionally I would see him out and about either on his little C90 Honda step through or walking on Mutly Plain wearing his familiar flat cap, Italian coloured motorcycle jacket, and carrying his shopping bag with the day's groceries.
In recent history I was glad to introduce Andrew to Frank and his band, and in some ways feel it was like returning a favour to him for all the good times I had had as the direct result of our previous friendship. Some that didn't know Andrew might say that he cut a slightly sad, almost lonely figure but they could not be further from the truth. Andrew was a fiercely independent person, and very happy in his own skin.
We will all miss Andrew for our own reasons and he would have laughed at any sentimentality but despite the slightly upsetting circumstances that surrounded his passing Andrew Callingham lead a fulfilling and successful life, and for that I hope we can all take comfort.
City of Plymouth Concert Band
It was about 28 years ago that I met Andy for the first time.
I was playing at Exmouth in a big band and Andy was depping for the drummer. Playing the 2nd trumpet stand I was
stood next to Andy and what he did made a lasting impression on me. He had his own music and yet he was looking over
at mine and playing all the stabs, lifting the section and the band as a whole. I didn’t hear of him after that until
just over 6 years ago when I was playing with the City of Plymouth Concert Band and his name was mentioned in a
conversation. It transpired that he lived in quite a reclusive state less than 200 yards down the road from where the
band rehearsed every Monday in Peverell. He was invited to one of our concerts during which we persuaded him to come
to one of our rehearsals as we were without a drummer.
An old spark was rekindled and he was hooked. This was a style he was not used to and he enjoyed it. We enjoyed him too. He had some strange idiosyncrasies. When playing, he would wear his slippers and his cap and, sitting just in front of him in the trumpet row, we would often smell coffee and notice Andy with his flask out during a period of lengthy counting of rests. He would have us in stitches with witty and timely remarks, and stop Frank, the conductor, during his count-in by shouting “Wait a minute!” He would then pick up his pencil and make a note on his music. I don’t think anyone knows what these notes meant except Andy. His humour played out in his music too and we loved it. For example, he would often finish a classical piece of music like “Rule Britannia” with a bucket-o-fish on his kit; and when rehearsing “Barnum” it would be a minor miracle that he didn’t strangle himself with the multitude of whistles strewn round his neck. After rehearsals a group of us would offer to help him pack the band drum kit away but this was often met with “No, I can manage!” and we would have to wait for him to finish, losing valuable drinking time, before we could lock the music cupboard. No matter what time we left rehearsals he would always arrive last at The Prince Maurice where he would place his bag in the furthest corner, and make his way through the pub with a clipboard of questions and notes in his hand. His tomato juice would always be waiting and he insisted that the bottle was rinsed out with water into his glass. Quite often he would take the bottle and top it up with water from the tap in the ladies washroom because it was closer than the gents. He would always buy a pint between Last Orders and Time and be the last in the pub to finish.
People seemed to love to converse with Andy who always took an interest in what was said, and such conversations were always intelligent, interesting and witty. His memory and attention to detail was quite astonishing. Whether he realised it or not, the day that he joined the band, he made new friends. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at how many because I’m not just talking band members. He had fans of every age in our audiences from every performance we gave. His playing was always precise, tasteful and timely and he always seemed to know just what was needed, lifting the band and striking the right tempo with just a glance at the conductor. Members of Mount Gould Methodist Church (where we rehearse now), The Church of Latter Day Saints (where we have performed many times) and regulars of The Prince Maurice pub welcomed him with open arms, and when he was unwell, were constantly asking how he was.
I don’t know whether he knew how to handle people caring the way they did, as when he became ill he
slipped back into his reclusive state, cutting himself off from the outside world. One thing I remember him saying to me
was that he would like to sing a particular song in front of the band. He did this and, much to the enjoyment of the
audience and his own satisfaction, dressed in a top hat, sang “I was born under a wandering star”. His last concert with
the band was in February 2017, when he said he was too unwell to continue playing. In the Concert Band our hearts are
heavy with his loss. It’s not every day you find such a character with so much talent right on your doorstep!