Sunday, 17 July 2011

Band Stand Treat

Nottingham Arboretum Band Stand
I received a text this afternoon from a dear friend of mine, who was taking a break and enjoying the sunshine in their garden. I was asked what was I doing? I was sheltering under a tree (non too successfully by the end) in the Arboretum, while listening to a brass band concert from the Band Stand. There were other hardy souls sitting on provided seats, sheltering under their umbrellas. Picture above to prove it. My friend texted back to tell me to go home, and stop being an eejit by being out in the rain (eejit is Irish pronunciation for idiot). Only a true friend can get away with that. But, my friend was not taking into account the fact that we music buffs are prepared to suffer for our art. Though to be fair, after an hour of being rained upon, eejit, may be a reasonable description.

According to someone sharing my tree (we music lovers are a gregarious lot), the band playing was the Kirkby Brass Band. I didn't ask, but I'm assuming that this is Kirkby, Ashfield in Derbyshire, and that the full name of the band is the Kirkby Colliery Welfare Band.  There's been a brass band in Kirkby since 1897, when its members consisted mainly of surface workers and office staff from the local mine. This band broke up in 1924. In common with many other bands it has seen highs, lows, closures and new beginnings. The present band incarnation, though not necessarily its members, was born in 1949, and it had great success in band competitions during the 1990's. They were very pleasant to listen to this afternoon, playing a mixture of traditional marching music; music from the shows and arrangements of songs from the likes of The Carpenters.

According to Nigel Horne on his website, "How to write for Brass Bands", the basic brass band has 25-26 brass players with 2 or 3 percussionists. They are, 1 Soprano cornet; 10 Cornets; 1 Flugelhorn; 3 Tenor horns; 2 Baritones; 2 Tenor trombones; 1 Bass trombone; 2 Euphoniums; 2 E Basses; 2 B Basses and Percussion. For the musical purists among you, here's a quote from another website, "With the exception of the trombones, all of the brass are conical-bore instruments, which gives the British-style brass band its distinctive bright, mellow sound (as opposed to a dark symphonic sound). All parts apart from the Bass Trombone are now written in Treble Clef".

Black Dyke Mill
Let's move on to others in the world of brass bands. The Black Dyke Band was formerly known as the Black Dyke Mills Band, and is one of the oldest, best known and, with due respect to Kirkby, finest bands in the world.

The original name was after the Black Dyke Mill in Queensbury, West Yorkshire, a company owned by John Foster. He was a French horn player, who joined with others to form a small band in 1816. This folded after a number of years.

In 1855, Foster and other musicians established the new mill band, and kitted it out with uniforms made from the mill's own cloth. Most of the musicians in the band also worked at the mill, and this is the band that has remained active to this day. The band has been hugely popular and successful over the years, not only in brass band circles, but also in the popular music field.

The band has made over 300 recordings, including one of the first brass band recordings in 1904. In addition to working with Peter Gabriel and The Beautiful South, they released a single in September 1968 on the Beatles' Apple label. The A-side was an instrumental composed by Lennon and McCartney called 'Thingumybob', (the theme to a Yorkshire Television sitcom starring Stanley Holloway), and the B-side was a brass band instrumental version of the song 'Yellow Submarine', and was one of the first four singles released on the Apple label. In 1979, the band again worked with Paul McCartney on a track for the Wings album 'Back to the Egg'. In brass band circles, 1985 was undoubtedly their finest year. They won the Yorkshire regional; European; British Open and National Championship contests, as well as being voted BBC Band of the Year. The band have always been hugely versatile in their choice of music, and for those who may be unfamiliar with them, here are three examples out of many that show something of that versatility and musical perfection.

The first sees the Black Dyke Band playing 'Wedding Dance' at the European Championships in 2002.

The next is a fabulous arrangement of 'When the Saints go Marching In', with Paul Duffy on solo cornet, recorded at the Black Dyke Brass Festival in Leeds Town Hall on Sunday, 15th May 2011, and I defy you not to want to dance.

Lastly, the '1812 Overture', again at the Leeds Town Hall with the Yorkshire Youth Band and two other bands. The video is a bit shaky, but the music isn't. We know that the Overture has a fabulous climax, but this version is just awe-inspiring. As an aside, do take note of the magnificent pipe organ in the town hall.

Happy listening.

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