Brass Bands:
Return

A Yorkshire style brass band is a musical ensemble comprising of a standardised range of brass and percussion instruments; the modern form of the brass band in the United Kingdom dates back to the 19th century, with a vibrant tradition of competition based around local industry and communities; the Stalybridge Old Band, still in existence, was formed in 1809 and was perhaps the first civilian brass band in the world.

Bands using the Yorkshire instrumentation are the most common form of brass band in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and are also widespread in continental Europe, Japan and North America; the tradition for brass bands in the UK is continuing and many local communities and schools have their own brass bands; a selection of brass bands can be experienced at the annual Durham Miners' Gala.

Most of the instruments used in Yorkshire brass bands have been in use for some time in village, church and military bands and in the 1840s and 1850s the brass band emerged from these as a popular pastime; they were a response to industrialisation, which produced a large working class population, technological advances in instrument design and the mass production to manufacture and distribute the instruments; a major improvement to the old designs was the development of efficient piston valves, which were easier to play and produced a more accurate, consistent sound.

Arguably brass bands were an expression of the local solidarity and aspirations of newly formed or rapidly growing communities; this was seen, for instance, in the creation of brass band competitions by the late 1850s; in 1853 John Jennison, the owner of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester, agreed to stage the first British open brass band championships; the event was attended by a crowd of over 16,000 and continued annually until 1981.

Brass bands probably reached their peak in the early twentieth century, when it has been estimated there were over 20,000 players in the country; many Yorkshire bands were originally either works bands, or sponsored by various industrial concerns; this was particularly evident in coal mining areas, such as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, in Yorkshire.

Bands sponsored by factories include The Black Dyke Mills Band, a wool mill about half way between Bradford and Halifax; the Yorkshire Imperial Band, originally the Yorkshire Copperworks Band; the Hammonds Saltaire Band, sponsored by the Hammond Sauce Works and latterly by the Yorkshire Building Society, changing its name to the YBS Band; Foden's by the truck manufacturer, Fairey by the aircraft manufacturer and Leyland Band by the vehicle manufacturer.

With the decline of these industries several bands have dissolved and others now draw their membership from other industries and other parts of the community; the Brighouse and Rastrick Band is unique in having operated continually at the highest level without sponsorship, drawing its income from regular concerts, public donations and sales of recordings and merchandise.

British banding is highly competitive, with bands organized into five sections much like a football league; these are the Championship section, 1st section, 2nd section, 3rd section and 4th section; competitions are held throughout the year at local, regional, and national levels and at the end of each year there are promotions and relegations.

At a national level the main contest is the Besson National Brass Band Championship and this determines a band's section; for this, the UK is split into 8 regions, London and Southern Counties, Midlands, North, North West, Scotland, Wales, West of England, and Yorkshire; each year in Spring the bands compete in a regional contest for their section and the top two or three in each section go on to the "National Finals" in Autumn; in 2011 the finals for Sections 1 to 4 were held in Cheltenham and the finals for the Championship Section at the Royal Albert Hall in London, as featured in the film Brassed Off.

The bands are awarded points for their result, 1st gets 1 point, 2nd get 2 points and 9th gets 9 points, etc, and this is added to the previous two years to give a three-year total; two or three bands with the best total are promoted and two or three bands are relegated.

For a current list of Brass bands in Yorkshire see: http://my-yorkshire.co.uk/organisations/brass-bands.html

Yorkshire Brass Band Instruments can include the following: Soprano Cornet, Cornet, Flugel Horn, Tenor Horn, Baritone Horn, Euphonium, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Eb Bass, Bb Bass, Timpani and the Drum Kit.

Soprano Cornet:
Commonly abbreviated to the soprano; in Eb, the highest pitched of the brass band instruments ; the instrument uses valves; Cornets also sometimes have a 'trigger', that helps to improve the tuning on certain notes; only one in a standard brass band; it will sometimes play the melody, doubling the solo cornets at a higher octave; it can also play the descant or be used to embellish the melody.

Cornet:
In Bb, high pitched, ; the instrument uses valves; Cornets also sometimes have a 'trigger' that helps to improve the tuning on certain notes; the solo cornets often play the melody line; they are equivalent to the first violins of an orchestra; there is a 'principal cornet', that is the leader and normally the most accomplished player of the band; the rest of the positions are often referred to as '2nd man down', '3rd man down', '4th man down'; there is normally one rep/repiano cornet in a band; it occupies an independent role, sometimes playing the melody with the solo cornets, sometimes helping out the lower cornets; there are two 2nd cornets and two 3rd cornets, both mainly have accompanying roles; a typical accompaniment would have the 2nds playing higher in pitch than the 3rds, playing in harmony.

Flugel Horn:
Commonly abbreviated to the flugel; in Bb, high pitched, same pitch as a cornet ; the instrument uses valves; the flugel also sometimes has a 'trigger' that helps to improve the tuning on certain notes; the flugel serves as an instrument to blend the conical cornets with the upright tenor horns; it can be found doubling with the front row cornet melody, or playing with the horns; the flugel has a more mellow tone that is particularly suited to soft slow melodies and jazzy solos.

Tenor Horn:
In Eb, lower pitched than the cornet ; the instrument uses valves; the word tenor is slightly misleading as the horn often plays the role of an alto voice in terms of 4-part harmony; there are normally three horns in a brass band, the solo horn, 1st horn and 2nd horn; the solo horn leads the section, with the other two horns offering accompaniment or support.

Baritone Horn:
Commonly abbreviated to the baritone in Bb, but lower pitched, with the same pitch as a trombone and euphonium ; the instrument uses valves; newer baritones are usually made with a '4th valve', that provides the same role as a trigger on a cornet; it is used instead of certain notes to assist with tuning; it serves often as an accompanying instrument, but can double a number of the other instruments particularly the horn, euphonium and trombone; there are two baritones in a standard band, each playing an individual part, the 1st baritone and 2nd baritone; in terms of 4-part harmony the baritone is regarded as the tenor line.

Euphonium:
In Bb, but lower pitched, the same pitch as a trombone and baritone ; the instrument uses valves; most euphoniums have a '4th valve', that provides the same role as a trigger on a cornet; it is used instead of certain notes to assist with tuning; newer instruments can have a trigger on the 1st valve slide to assist with tuning; in terms of musical importance, the euphonium is generally regarded as the second most important after the solo cornet; the euphonium has a very mellow tone; it is a versatile instrument with a very varied role; it may play the melody, a counter melody, an accompaniment with the baritones and trombones, or double the bass line with the basses; there are normally 2 euphonium players who play the same part, although it is common to find some split passages in the music.

Trombone:
Also known as the tenor trombone in Bb, but lower pitched with the same pitch as a euphonium and baritone ; the instrument uses a slide; the longer the slide, the lower the pitch that can be produced; as with all brass instruments, embouchure also plays a part in obtaining different pitches; the trombone, like the cornet, has a conical bell facing away from the performer and produces a more 'brassy' sound than the upright instruments; trombones can be used to good effect in louder sections, to add colour and power to the ensemble; there are two tenor trombones in a brass band; they are often employed to play in harmony, with the first player playing higher in pitch.

Bass Trombone:
In C, the music is written in bass clef ; the instrument uses a slide; the longer the slide, the lower the pitch that can be produced; as with all brass instruments, embouchure also plays a part in obtaining different pitches; there is normally one bass trombone in a brass band; it has two main roles, one is to double the basses playing the bass line and the other is to provide the lower harmony part with the two tenor trombones; they can be used to good effect in louder sections, to add colour and power to the ensemble; bass trombone players have a reputation of being able to play louder than any other player in the brass band!

Eb Bass, Sometimes referred to as a Tuba:
In Eb. Lower in pitch than the euphonium ; the instrument uses valves; most basses also have a '4th valve', that provides the same role as a trigger on a cornet; it is used instead of certain notes to assist with tuning; the Eb bass tends to lead the bass section; this involves playing mainly the bass line, but it can have the occasional solo; it is usual to find two Eb bassists in a brass band, who both play the same part.

Bb Bass, Sometimes referred to as a Tuba:
In Bb; the lowest pitched of all the brass instruments ; the instrument uses valves; most basses also have a '4th valve', that provides the same role as a trigger on a cornet; it is used instead of certain notes to assist with tuning; Bb basses normally play the bass line in a brass band; some players will add 'pedal notes' to the music, which is where they will play the note an octave lower to add a real feeling of depth to the music; it is usual to find two Bb bassists in a brass band, who both play the same part.

Timpani or Kettle Drums:
In C, the music is written in bass clef; up to four or five kettle drums, depending on the piece being played, are hit with sticks; the timpani are often used at important points in the music, for example at the climax of a piece, in a loud section, or at cadence points; in places it can double some of the bass line notes; traditionally timpani would play the root and 5th of the chord, but with the increased use of pedal timpani, a range of notes are available.

Drum Kit:
A typical kit consists of a floor tom, two tom toms, a snare drum, hi hat, crash cymbal and ride cymbal; the drum kit is used to add interest and colour to the music; in certain pieces it plays a very important rhythmic role, for example in arrangements of popular music; although its role is predominantly an accompanying one, players can have important fills and other solo passages to play.



Go back.