Conductors’ batons of the past

baton2

Do you know of any interesting or historic batons? Particularly those associated with brass bands? Ebony and other hardwood batons, often adorned with silver embellishments, were just the thing for conductors – particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Given as tokens of appreciation, or bought as status symbols, few still exist, and even fewer have an inscription or detailed provenance, although those with silver can usually be dated through their hallmarks.

baton1I have been corresponding with Joanna Gul at the University of Wroclaw, who has been working on establishing a database and website for the collections of conductors’ batons in Polish museums. The “Baton in Polish Collections” is now available (see: http://batons.instruments.edu.pl/en/) and this provides a fascinating insight into the conductors of a range of ensembles, from orchestras to brass bands (mainly from Europe) through their batons. These are often presentation batons, inscribed as gifts from the relevant band, orchestra or sponsor, and are made from a variety of materials, ranging from the plain to the ornate in style. The two batons shown here, from the Polish collections, are those of James Parker (Jamestown & Vale of Leven Silver Band, 1927), and John Pemberton (Catford Diamond Jubilee Band, 1901)

Joanna hopes that a project to collect similar records for the historic brass instruments in Polish museums will take place sometime in the future.

Ever curious, I found an inscribed baton for sale on Ebay, presented to J.E. Reynolds of the Sheffield Comrades of the Great War Band, at the Blackpool Contest on October 30th 1920.  A little research shows this to have been a military band contest promoted by the Blackpool Comrades of the Great War. Bands that competed (presumably all under the COTGW banner – there were quite a number of these formed after WW1 by returning veterans of the conflict – most were military in format/instrumentation, but there were a few all-brass bands) included Manchester, Staveley, Carlisle, Derby, Pontypool, Nottingham, Wallsend (3rd place), Sheffield (1st place), York (2nd place) and Middlesbrough – adjudicator was Colonel J. Mackenzie Rogan – the test piece was a selection from Verdi’s Aida and the march “Colonel Ward” by Cheeseman.

Baton- contest 30-oct-1920

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