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Cambridge-based brass ensemble Prime Brass was formed in 1989 by trumpeter Paul Garner as a quintet and since 2002 the ensemble has developed into a conductor-less dectet, the formation in which it currently gives most of its concerts. This ten-piece line-up of four trumpets, four trombones, horn and tuba was made famous by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and continued by their successors London Brass. The ensemble also expands for a few concerts each year to perform repertoire for symphonic forces or larger, playing regularly in Ely Cathedral and King's College Chapel, often in programmes which include the organ.

In addition to recitals of its own and with organ, Prime Brass frequently performs with voices, and has worked with many of the leading choirs in Cambridge. The ensemble has been on tour to Paris with Cambridge University's CUMS Chorus, and has also accompanied the Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus on tours to Prague (Rudolfinum) and Amsterdam (Concertgebouw).

Prime Brass is well known for its performances at the lighter end of the musical spectrum, and the ensemble has achieved notable success in family concerts with titles such as 'Prime Brass at the Circus', 'Prime Brass in Space', and 'Around the World with Prime Brass'. The ensemble has recorded five CDs, the latest being 'Spirit of the Age'. Prime Brass also supports Junior Prime Brass, an ensemble of talented local teenage brass players.

The Brass Herald featured Prime Brass in its August 2014 edition in recognition of its 25th anniversary: see here for the article.



Darren Ashman


Darren started playing the cornet aged nine, achieving grade eight distinction in just five years, before being selected to play solo cornet with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain.  Buying a trumpet then opened up many other genres, including orchestras, wind bands, big bands, and show bands.


After reading Engineering at Brunel University, Darren moved to Cambridge, where he has played with most local ensembles, from orchestras to brass quintets. For seven years, he played principal cornet with the City of Cambridge Brass Band, before moving to the world-famous GUS Band for eight years.  Darren now lives in Milton with his flautist wife, Sheanna, and percussionist son, Jordan - maybe not the quietest neighbours to have!





Now celebrating 40 years as a trumpet player, Paul is in demand as a teacher and freelance player. Early years were spent playing in brass bands (including the National Brass Band Finals at the Royal Albert Hall and the British Open Brass Band Championships) and touring both in England and Europe. He studied at the Birmingham School of Music where he won the Ludlow Philharmonic Concerto competition. Following graduation from Birmingham (where he studied with Bernard Brown, Alan Whitehead and John Wilbraham), Paul travelled the world playing aboard cruise liners for P&O and Cunard. Summer seasons also saw Paul working with Linda Nolan, Mike Reid and Bob Monkhouse. Paul has also played for commercial radio and television including the theme tune for a special edition of 'This is Your Life' and as part of the brass section on an album for Walter Trout and for Katrina and the Waves. Locally he has played with the Cambridge PhilharmonicSinfonia of Cambridge and K239 Chamber Orchestras, 78 RPM Big Band and Superstition (an 8-piece function band).

Paul founded Prime Brass, which has provided many cherished musical memories, anecdotes and lifelong friendships.

Paul is married to Helen, with whom he runs a theatre production company - Fledgling Productions - and has been the MD for over 20 productions, including The Demon Headmaster, Seusical the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Smike, Sweeney Todd, Copacabana, Wind in the Willows and Rent.




Gavin started playing the cornet at the age of 6. The Haverhill Youth and Learner Bands were particularly strong at the time, and music quickly became a serious hobby. Since then he has played in many brass bands including the Rigid Containers Band (formerly the GUS Band). Gavin was Principal Cornet of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain for two years, a position held by such illustrious names as Maurice Murphy, Phillip McCann and Philip Cobb.

In 1995 (aged 19) Gavin was a semi-finalist in the Shell-London Symphony Orchestra Scholarship, and in 1999 he graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After travelling in Australia and Canada, and playing with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, he now teaches brass at schools in and around Linton and Haverhill.

As well as playing in Prime Brass, Gavin is a member of the East Anglia Chamber Orchestra. He has recently played for The Bishop of Ely, The Queen, and Kylie Minogue!




Shaun plays trumpet and flugel horn. He enjoys playing a wide range of musical styles offered by Prime Brass to diverse audiences. He also supports the music at Girton College where he is a Fellow in Engineering. Outside of Prime Brass he is actively involved in tackling climate change as Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and has supported the government in its efforts to manage Covid-19 as a Member of the SAGE Environmental Modelling Group.



French Horn

Tony began his musical career on the trumpet, and studied at Colchester Institute under George Reynolds. After a few years travelling the world playing in cruise ship show bands, a city job beckoned, which enabled him to play with some excellent London-based orchestras. He moved up to Cambridge in 2011 to embrace the thriving start-up culture, and was part of a team that developed a pharmaceutical automation, and more recently, the Exotogg inflatable thermal vest. On the lookout for a fresh challenge, and appealing to his inner adrenaline junkie, he decided to switch to the horn in 2014, and immediately regretted not having done this sooner. He now regularly plays with many of the local Cambridge orchestras and smaller chamber groups. When not playing or teaching the horn, Tony can be found pondering new products, and enjoys cycling in his spare time.




Ryan studied at the Liverpool Hope University, graduating in 2015 with a BA with honors, achieving a 1st in performance recitals, and collecting a prestigious musical scholarship along the way!
While in the Northwest, he studied under some of the best brass instrumentalist in the country, including Simon Cowen, principal trombone of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ryan has played in ensembles based all over the Northwest and lately the Southeast, including pit orchestras for musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Annie, and Brassed Off, in professional chamber ensembles performing Mozart's Requiem and Hayden's Creation, and in championship section brass bands, including the famous Wingates Brass Band and Pemberton Old Wigan Band.




Neil started playing the trombone aged 10 (after initially trying the guitar!) and developed through the Essex youth orchestras, brass ensemble and jazz band including tours to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and pre-revolution Romania. By day Neil works in the food supply chain but also plays regularly with musical ensembles around East Anglia.




Gary has been playing the Trombone for over 50 years starting in Brass Bands. Gary won a scholarship to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Junior Department. After deciding not to pursue a career in music Gary started working in the Property industry as an Estate Agent. Gary is the Band Manager and has now become a Grandad. Gary loves Alfa Romeo Cars.

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Bass Trombone

Chris' introduction to music came from his Grandad, a local organist. Having started piano lessons at 6, Chris really wanted to play trombone but was steered towards cornet, taught by John Warburton. By 16 he was ready for a big boy's instrument and began trombone; studying under Geoffrey Lindon. At the same time City of Cambridge Brass Band had a spare euphonium which Chris tried. Under the mentorship of Charles Shipp, Chris moved on to perform as principal euphonium with Cambridge and later Haverhill Silver Band. After university Chris returned to Cambridge and joined a local dance band, Sound Idea. In 1990 Chris joined the 78 RPM Big Band as their bass trombonist.

Chris is married to Rachel and has three musical sons, together they perform as a quartet.




Paul began on violin at 7 at Haverhill Music School, before progressing onto Tuba at 11, because no-one else played it. He played with the Haverhill Silver Band, and local quintet Polished Brass, and City of Cambridge Band, before leaving left to study music at the University of Huddersfield. Here he studied the Tuba with Andrew Duncan (Halle), and played with some of regions top bands, including Brighouse & Rastrick and Besses O'th Barn, and was nominated for the Harry Mortimer prize for best brass player, in his final year. After University, Paul moved to London, playing with various ensembles, including the LPYO, Anglia Brass Academy, Bloomsbury Chamber Orchestra, the Real Brass quintet, and was an original member of Surrey Brass. After some time away traveling, Paul then moved back to Suffolk to live & work. Brass playing remains his focus, joining Prime Brass at the beginning of 2016.




Dave didn't start playing percussion until the age of 13, but he hasn't looked back since. He enjoys performing all styles of music from small band jazz to the largest choral symphonies and everything in between. Whilst at school, Dave had lessons with Graham Hosker and during his time at the University in Cambridge he studied with János Keszei at the Royal College of Music. For a bit of variety, by day, Dave works as a Research Scientist for an international technology firm. Dave lives near Cambridge with his young family.

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