The first band broadcast?

Thursday 6th September 1888usabandrecording1890s

The strains of the Band of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion South Wales Borderers were telephoned from Newport to Ebbw
Vale, where a bazaar was being held in aid of the funds of a church. To make matters easy for a number of listeners Mr Ashton, the obliging local superintendent of the Western Counties Telephone Co., had arranged a dozen listening tube at the Ebbw Vale Institute, wphonecondhere the bazaar was held, and getting music from Newport, a distance of 35 miles, proved the feature of the evening. The encores demanded were not stated. The band, under Mr Hazell, was stationed in the Newport office of the Ebbw Vale Company’s manager, and played a selection which comprised a clarionette solo, valse, piccolo solo, quadrille, waltz, grand march, march, fantasia, etc.

Interestingly, a month later, in October 1888, Colonel Gouraud, Thomas Edison’s agent in England, gave a reception in honour of the new “phonograph” with the arrival of a fresh batch of the precious cylinders from the USA. As reported: Breathlessly the guests watched them inserted into the instrument and set in action, and to their intense delight the sound given forth was that of a fascinating polka played outside Mr Edison’s laboratory, at Menlo, New Jersey, by an itinerant brass band. In a twinkling all prejudices against the proverbial ‘German band’ disappeared, the room was cleared, and the company was whirling in the mazy waltz, to the ghosts of the strains first played thousands of miles away.

The following year, in July 1889, there was a demonstration of the Edison Phonograph at the Victoria Hall in Exeter by Professor William Lynd, featuring the reproduction of a performance of a brass band.

A lantern lecture in Hackney, in April 1890, by J.E. Greenhill, demonstrated the Harmonograph, Sympalmograph and Edison’s latest Phonograph – which included the records “American Village Brass Bands“, “English Street Band“, “Horn Calls” and a “Cornet Solo

In September 1890 William Lynd gave a demonstration of Edison’s phonograph at the Fine Art Institution in York, which included “Brilliant Cornet Solos by Celebrated Musicians” and “Performances of Brass Bands played before the phonograph in America and England“. The evening also included a “Great Vivisection Feat: Cutting a Living Man to Pieces, and the Cremation of a Living Woman” – a truly great night out! Just one of a series of similar occasions as he toured the country with his show. At one of his later shows, in Leighton Buzzard, he featured the cornet solo “The Ash Grove“, “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep” played on euphonium three months back. “The most remarkable was the perfect and effective reproduction of the Silsden Brass Band, recorded in Yorkshire.”

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Book: British Brass Bands – historical directory


Of the bbbhdmany brass bands that have flourished in Britain 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 12,100 bands are recorded here, with some 6,300 additional cross references for alternative or previous names.

This work is available as a PDF download from

Documentation about bands in the early years is very sketchy, reliant largely on reports in the newspapers and magazines of the day. Often bands would have been referred to in ambiguous terms, and it is not entirely clear which specific band it is. More detailed information about a few hundred specific bands does exist elsewhere, in books and journals and in online resources, particularly current bands’ own websites and the IBEW ( which contains much of the information in this directory, together with further information on individual bands.

The next edition of this directory will include the following

  • location details of further information about specific bands, whether online or published material
  • an appendix of non-British brass bands
  • an update of brass bands including those identified since this edition
  • details of brass band historians and researchers

Based on my research so far I would estimate that perhaps 10% of the entries in the directory are actually the same as other bands. In addition, I expect to be able to add up to 3,000 more British brass bands to the directory in future editions.

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Alliance City Band (Ohio)

Paul Hobe has written a history of the Alliance City Band.

This paper describes much of the history of the band from its founding in 1858, before the Civil War, until its ending in 1992.

The first section, which follows an introduction and discussion of research methods, is a set of questions about major aspects of the organization’s story. The questions involve early performances, funding, directors, the Rinkendorf years, and why the band ceased to exist.
The second section is a year-by-year timeline from 1859 until 1992. Though rather detailed, it provides many examples of band performances, concert venues, funding, uniforms, and directors and gives an insight into the role of the Alliance City Band in the political, cultural, business and patriotic life of the City of Alliance, Ohio. This section includes three sample programs that were presented by the band and mentions of various soloists during particular periods of the band’s existence. Several other bands in the Alliance area are also mentioned.
The third section is a preAllianceCB1sentation of several pictures, many of which are formal pictures of the band, possibly in their new uniforms at the time. A description of the uniforms and stories associated with those uniforms is presented when appropriate information was available. The reader could possibly get an interesting history from the various commentaries that follow each picture. Members’ names are provided for the last two (1961 and 1976) formal pictures.

Paul is continuing his research into the history of Stark County, Ohio, with particular interest in the regimental bands of the area. He can be contacted at

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Cornet prize won by Joseph Hyde in 1861

SAM_1581(1)Nickie Preston has a silver cornet in her family, owned by Joseph Hyde, her great, great grandfather. This was won at a contest at Peterborough in 1861 for the “best soprano or solo cornet player” in the competing bands. A newspaper report of the contest is given below

Hyde was born in January 1847 at Hayfield, Derbyshire, and died between 1901 & 1911. He lived in Doncaster in 1861, and would have been 14 when the prize was won. He was a  “surgeon dentist” in the census of 1871. Before he became a dentist, he possibly worked on the railway like his brothers and father. His address is next to the railway station in 1871.


The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Friday September 6, 1861

Brass Band Contest – The third annual band contest at Peterboro’ came off on Monday last, in a field adjoining  the Great Northern Railway Hotel, the entrance to which was In St. Leonard street. This ground was not by any means so well adapted for holding a fete of this sort as Touthill field, where the contest was held the Last two years, as it is touch smaller, and has not anything attractive about it, being surrounded on all sides by houses.  Notwithstanding this we believe there were quite as many people present as on the former years. The prizes offered were: first prize, £15; second, £8; third, £4; fourth, £2; and fifth, £1. In addition to these prizes a silver medal was presented to the conductor or leader of each of the winning bands ; and an electro silver plated cornet, value 15 guineas, to the best soprano or solo cornet player. For these prizes the following bands competed : Farnley Ironworks, 20th West Riding Yorkshire Volunteer (Doncaster), South Yorkshire Railway, Mexboro’, Nene-side Ironworks, Thrapstone, Whittlesea, Raunds, Kettering, and 6th Cambridgshire Volunteer Rifle Corps. The first five of these bands took the prizes in the order they are placed above. The only band which did not attend as announced was the Baildon. The prize cornet for the best soprano or solo cornet playing was awarded to Master J. Hyde, the leader of the Doncaster Volunteer Band. This caused a little dispute, Mr. Large (the leader and conductor of the Ely band) being without doubt the best player, but Mr. Large belongs to the Cambridge University Band, and was not the person announced as the conductor of the Ely band, and therefore the judges decided that Hyde was entitled to the prize. The decision of course gave great satisfaction to the members of the band to which the boy belonged, and he was carried triumphantly round the ground and loudly cheered immediately the decision was announced.

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Book: Music & the British Military

bookMusic & the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century

A new book by Trevor Herbert and Helen Barlow, published by Oxford University Press – ISBN: 0199898316.

The first book to explore the contribution made by the military to British music history, it shows that military bands reached far beyond the official ceremonial duties they are often primarily associated with and had a significant impact on wider spheres of musical and cultural life.

It plots the story of military music from its sponsorship by military officers to its role as an expression of imperial force, which it took on by the end of the nineteenth century. This study is organised around three themes: the use of military status to extend musical patronage by the officer class; the influence of the military on the civilian music establishments; and an incremental movement towards central control of military music making by governments throughout the world. Military music impacted everything from the configuration of the music profession in the major metropolitan centers, to the development of wind instruments throughout the century, to the emergence of organized amateur music making.

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Book: The Village Brass Band

The Village Brass Band is the latest book on the history of East Anglian bands from the historian David Cawdell. It includes chapters on the history of banding, dating band uniforms, bandstands and contests, then covers over twenty detailed histories of Suffolk bands with snippets and photographs of twenty others.  He has found over 70 villages that used to have bands but, sadly, as yet has not been able to glean enough information to warrant a page or picture.

It is available in some specialist local bookshops and from the author himself, who is well known in the region for his talks on the history of brass bands.

The 76 page book is priced £8.50 with £1.50 postage from

David Cawdell, 23 Low Street, Hoxne, Eye, Suffolk IP21 5AR

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Book: The Musical Salvationist

Just published by Boydell Press:

The Musical Salvationist: The World of Richard Slater (1854-1939), ‘Father of Salvation Army Music’, by Gordon Cox.

The Musical Salvationist frames the musical history of the Salvation Army through the life story of Richard Slater, popularly known as the ‘Father of Salvation Army Music’.
This book focuses upon the significant contribution of the Salvation Army to British musical life from the late Victorian era until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

Richard Slater [1854-1939] worked in the Army’s Musical Department from 1883 until his retirement in 1913. His detailed hand-written diaries reveal new information about his background before he became a Salvationist at the age of 28. He then worked as the principal Salvationist composer, arranger and musical editor of the period and had contact with William Booth, the Army’s Founder, who rejoiced in ‘robbing the devil of his choice tunes’; George Bernard Shaw who wrote a penetrating critique of a band festival in 1905; and Eric Ball who was to become one of the Army’s finest composers.

See this link for futher details from the publisher.

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