Earby Brass Band History

A new book – The History of Earby Brass Band – has been written by Stephanie Carter. Copies are available from Earby & District Local History Society (£10 + £3.50 p&p) – email info@earbyhistory.co.uk for details.

Earby Brass Band can be traced back to c.1847, and this book records the history of the band and it’s players from then until the present day. It has lots of photos to chart the band over years.

book launch Band book 2018 poster (1)From Stephanie Carter’s preface: “I hope this short history of the band to recount some of the triumphs, achievements and frequent contest successes of former days and to document a whole range of accomplished performances down the years. As in all aspects of life there have been high and low times but Earby Band has long been a showcase for talent both young and old from families with a long history of performing in brass bands who played not only for their love of music but for the camaraderie of the band family. Earby can claim world class players with legendary status but so many bandsmen have contributed to the enjoyment of many people in the local area and beyond. Earby folk all know or knew of someone, relative or friend who played in the band and it is their legacy and the important they played in preserving the community tradition that is recorded here. We must support the current band and not allow this tradition to wane.”

To contact Earby Band, e-mail earbybrassband@talktalk.net or telephone Tracey Fairhurst on 0781 3609648

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More on the ladies

Some further papers have been published – which completes my investigations into the distaff side of brass music (at least for the time being!). These are available at https://gavinholman.academia.edu/research

Image21Scoring for the ladies – the women composers of music for brass bands – A brief look the women who have composed music for brass band, and the initiative of the Harrogate Band to highlight their music



Berger vbpc0220

Soft lips on cold metal: female brass soloists of the 19th and early 20th centuries – this looks at those women who were trailblazers in so may ways. Largely cornetists, but with a few on trombone, euphonium and tuba; from the girl prodigies to the mature professional artist, a good number of them also contributed significantly to the bands of the day (both male and female bands) as players in the ranks or as guest




Damen ohne Blasinstrumente – the non-brass ladies’ entertainment groups of the German Empire 1895-1918: an illustrated directory – following on from my look at the brass ensembles of this period, this work documents some of the many other musical and vaudeville acts in Germany. This type of entertainer was not exclusive to the German-speaking world, but they were more common than the equivalent in the UK and USA, and also their self-promotion was much better, in that a lot of their advertising material is still in existence. This paper is split into three parts (due to the size of the pdf files)

Fröhlichen Weiber DE (3)

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Women and Brass

A new paper has been recently published and is available at: https://gavinholman.academia.edu/research

Women and Brass: the female brass bands of the 19th and 20th centuries

Brass bands have been a musical force across the world over the last 200 years. Mainly concentrated in Europe, North America and Australasia, they were predominantly male, and the members were largely working class. The female brass band is a somewhat rare beast, even today, though it did enjoy a “golden era” during the late 1800s and early 1900s in the USA. In this paper are details of some 408 female brass bands – a very small number compared to their male equivalents. hblb

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New brass band research papers (4)

Four new papers have been recently published and are available at: https://gavinholman.academia.edu/research

Brass drawings – a look at the depiction of brass bands and bandsmen through the eyes of the cartoonist and illustrator

Brass bands, their players and instruments have always been ripe subjects for humour. They have been used to poke fun at themselves, and others, to make satirical or political points, to promote products, or just to provide the scene for a joke. Cartoonists have found the world of brass bands and brass players an inspiration, both in comment on the brass band movement itself and also as reflections on the contemporary political and social scenes.

Thirsty work – brass bands and the temperance movement in the 19th century

Playing a brass instrument is thirsty business. All that pneumatic effort, spit and water vapour will leave the average player needing a good drink after a rehearsal or a concert – possibly the reason that brass bands, in particular, have been renowned for enjoying a tipple or two – though hopefully not before their performances. Nevertheless, brass bands have had a long association with the temperance movement, which advocated abstinence from alcohol, helping to promote the teetotal message to the public. The 19 th century saw the rise of the fight against alcohol and the parallel increase in the popularity and availability of bands led to brass bands being adopted or established by various temperance organisations. This paper gives a brief overview of the temperance movement and brass bands associated with it, together with some contemporary portraits of temperance bands, drink-related band tales, and lists of the temperance bands over the last 200 years

Children as mutes – the practice of stuffing babies and young children into the bells of large brass instruments

How many children have had their lives blighted by their fathers stuffing them into a tuba, and then having that sorry experience recorded for posterity in a photograph? It appears to have been a commonplace activity in the early years of brass bands, though we cannot know how widespread the practice was before the advent of photography, through lack of evidence, though there are plenty of examples since then.

Music and Musicians for the People: Scottish International Exhibitions, 1886 & 1888 – The brass bands and their contests

The musical contributions at the two international exhibitions in Scotland, at Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1886 and 1888 were detailed in two books written by Robert Marr. Both exhibitions featured many musical events and groups which were engaged to entertain and educate the thousands of people that streamed through the doors each day. From Marr’s copious descriptions about the wider musical performers and events I have extracted the details of the visiting and competing brass bands, using his notes, and have included roughly contemporary pictures of those that are available. In addition to bands, orchestras and choirs performing concerts throughout the Exhibitions, there were a series of contests, including two at each exhibition for brass bands – one limited to Scottish bands, the other open to all. The contest results in Marr’s books have been expanded using contemporary newspaper reports.

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Book: Brass Bands of the British Isles – historical directory

bbbiOf the many brass bands that have flourished in Britain and Ireland over the last 200 years very few have documented records covering their history. This directory is an attempt to collect together information about such bands and make it available to all. Over 19,600 bands are recorded here, with some 10,600 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. This volume supersedes the earlier “British Brass Bands – a Historical Directory” (2016) and includes some 1,400 bands from the island of Ireland. A separate work is in preparation covering brass bands beyond the British Isles. A separate appendix lists the brass bands in each county.

Both the book and appendix are available as PDF downloads from https://gavinholman.academia.edu

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How many brass bands? 19,634!

There have been many estimates of the number of brass bands over the years. These have ranged widely and, in most cases, were greatly exaggerated.

My research to date has identified nearly 20,000 distinct brass bands which existed in the British Isles between 1880 and the present. This is not a final figure and, although there are many bands still to unearth, I would be surprised if there were more than 2,000 to 3,000 to be added, based on my research experiences.

The full details of the analysis and distribution of the bands across the country are available at https://gavinholman.academia.edu/


  1800 – 2018 Current
Total bands 19,634 1,234
England 15,588 981
Scotland 1,350 93
Wales 1,239 87
Northern Ireland 531 41
Eire 872 24
Islands 54 8


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Researching the History of Brass Bands

A new paper has recently been published and is available at: https://gavinholman.academia.edu/research

Researching the History of Brass Bands – a guide to the resources available

For those wishing to delve into the history of brass bands there are various sources available, both primary and secondary. These are also published histories and individual bands’ memorabilia and records. In addition to British resources, In this paper I also include some relevant details about key resources in the USA and major commonwealth countries where brass bands were/are common.  Aspects covered in this guide include: books, articles and journals, local archives (county record offices and archives), museums and libraries, newspaper archives, digitised newspapers, local history societies, industrial societies, records of individual companies, trade directories, religious organisations, the temperance movement, friendly societies, the volunteer battalions, political brass bands, people – personal memories, people – genealogical resources, children’s homes, institutional brass bands, family bands, professional bands, ladies’ brass bands, geographical resources, and specific archives of brass band materials.

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