Pete May – Thoughts & Memories

By Graham Wilson
Pete May

Pete, or “Straps” as we Christened him when he joined (for obvious reasons) embodied the spirit of the band – he loved music, enjoyed a good laugh (often at the conductor’s expense), and encouraged those around him. Pete gave his all for the band – he was always there, always willing to help out with anything, and must have fixed all of our stands at least once.

I’ll remember his sense of humour above all else… aside from taking me aside at the start of band & telling me his latest (generally inappropriate) joke, his quips during rehearsals continued a long tradition of band members who’ve infused rehearsals & concerts with the sense of fun & jesting that’s key to the band’s uniqueness. A couple of (clean !) examples spring to mind…at a Concert at St Botolph’s, Pete shared a stand with my brother Jeff, and afterwards took me aside & said “He’s a dry old stick – does he actually have a sense of humour”…and on my return from a holiday, when I was lamenting my co-pilot’s lack of navigational ability, someone suggested Karen & I tried a different type of holiday next year, to which Pete added “You could try going on your own”.

Musically…the sound he made on the Bari Sax was fantastic…and we all chuckled with him at the moments when he was more Eric Morecambe (“all the right notes, just not in the right order”) than Gerry Mulligan. That self-deprecating humour & relaxed approach gave encouragement to the younger members of the band, who could see that even us older players made mistakes, so it was ok – they could relax, not worry about it, and play with freedom.

The last time he came to band we were all so happy to see him that no-one minded the rehearsal taking a back seat while everyone greeted him & found out how he was. It was as if he hadn’t been away – his sense of humour & high spirits were on full show, and he was on top form. That’s how we’ll remember him.

Pete made many friends in the band who I know will miss him greatly, and all of us will miss his personality, humour & the fun he brought to rehearsals. The band has lost one of its kindred spirits, but we’ll always remember him with a great deal of fondness, and a wry smile.