A POPULAR Inverclyde band is celebrating a return to live music again with a free concert in Gourock at the weekend.

Capitol Big Band will be on stage at the Gourock Park Amphitheatre on Sunday.

The musicians stopped their rehearsals in March 2020 just before the official coronavirus lockdown hit.

Trumpeter Joe McGrath says not being able to rehearse for the best part of 18 months has been difficult for the members.

He is relieved that the band are back in business.

Joe said: "When coronavirus cases were on the rise, we decided that we weren't going to take any chances and stopped our rehearsals.

"We all kept in touch and phoned each other regularly to make sure we were all okay.

"Only one of our members and his wife contracted the virus so we were actually quite fortunate.

"We obeyed all the rules and all stayed at home.

"The guys really struggled.

"I wasn't event playing in the house or anything as we weren't rehearsing or building up to a gig.

"It has been a very difficult period."

The musical maestros started rehearsing again around five weeks ago and Joe says it's been a real tonic - but admits it's taken a while to get the sound right.

He added: "It's been difficult getting back into it all again when you've been away for a while.

"It takes a bit of time to get the right balance back and get into a rhythm again but we're doing well."

Capitol Big Band began in the 1970s when dance halls in Inverclyde - like the Cragburn, the Palladium, Burtons and the Moorings in Largs - started to close down.

Joe says the ballroom dancing side of things started to fade out and the musicians who had played in these places were left with nothing to do.

Brass stars started playing jazz in the RAF Club and then went onto play in the Capitol Suites at Hasties Social Club, which is where the band got its name.

Joe and his bandmates now rehearse at Jackson Dance Academy in Regent Street on Sunday afternoons, with social distancing in place.

The trumpeter can't wait for the concert and hopes to see a lot of Capitol fans there on the day.

He added: "It's great to be back again, to see everyone and to know that everyone is healthy.

"The concert has really given us something to work towards.

"We're all really looking forward to it."

Capitol Big Band will be on stage between 11.30am and 2pm.

Singers John Griffin and Heather Whiteford will perform alongside the band on the day.