The origins of brass band associations

Reading through this week’s British Bandsman I noticed in the report on the upcoming Scottish Championships that the Scottish BBA, founded in 1895, believed itself to be “the oldest such organisation in Europe, as no other similar representative groups were in existence at the time“. Sad to say this is not quite so – there were at least seven earlier brass band associations in the UK (eight if you include an anomalous one in Glasgow in 1863). For a list of the UK brass band associations and their formation dates, see:


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Le Roi d’Ys – Edouard Lalo

The arrangement by Frank Wright for brass bands of Le Roi d’Ys is one of my “desert island discs”.

In October 1971, when I was still new to brass bands, I was invited by our conductor, Fred Ingham, to go to the National Finals in the Royal Albert Hall with some others from the band. Having survived the mad dash down the M6 and M1 (in our solo cornet player’s Jaguar, at considerably above the speed limit), I found myself listening to the cream of the bands of the time playing Le Roi d’Ys as the test piece – with Wingates winning the Championships. This was the first time I’d heard such quality and power in brass bands, and that together with the, to me, beauty of the piece, made my decision to remain with our band easy, despite the normal teenage distractions. I did not get a short score of the piece at the time – the version below I picked up many years later – but I did get one for “Energy” in 1991, and regretted it !


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Shotts Foundry Brass Band

The Shotts Foundry Brass Band was founded in June 1829 and survived through to around 1960. A typical industrial “works” band, it provided entertainment for the workers at the iron works, and at one time was one of three brass bands in the small town.

Shotts Foundry Band small

A brief look at the history of the band together with some of its early activities is given in the paper below:


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Llangollen Town Band – Minutes 1925-1957

ltb-01A few years ago, I acquired two books of minutes of the old Llangollen Town Band. When they eventually reached the top of my “to do” pile, I scanned the books, contacted the current Llangollen Silver Band, and offered to return the books to them. They accepted the offer and I am pleased to say they now reside safely with the band once more. It is not known how or when the books became “lost”, as I discovered them as part of a parcel of books in an antique shop in Yorkshire.


Llangollen Brass Band


Llangollen Town Band

The document below combines some notes on the history of the band from the band’s extinct website together with the scanned pages of the original minute books.

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The long and short of it

Some months ago there was a brief discussion about which was the longest brass band name. I looked into my database and came up with the following top four from past and current bands:

  • Alexandra Band of the Carriage and Wagon Department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
  • Port of Hull Society’s East Coast Mission and Sailor’s Orphan Home and School Band
  • London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Operatives Literary Society Brass Band
  • National Union of Operative Boot and Shoe Rivetters and Finishers Brass Band (an earlier name for Northampton Shoe Trade Brass Band)

Hull Sailors’ Orphan Home Band

As for the shortest name, there are several contenders – ff you leave off the “brass” and/or “band” then there are a number of three-letter candidates after the winner “BT”: Ark, Ash, BD1, BTM, Cam, Cwm, Ely, Eye, GEC, GUS, Hay, HFC, Hoo, Ide, Ivy, J36, KES, Lee, LGB, Moy, Old, Ore, PCA, Rye, Ton, UDI, Ury, Wem, Wye, and YBS. (not an exhaustive list).
With “band” or “brass” in the name the winner is still “BT Band”.


Hoo Band – 1912


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Worcester Brass Band, Massachusetts

The Worcester Cornet Band, Massachusetts, was originally founded some time before 1852. It disbanded during the Civil War when most of the band signed up with the 15th Massachusetts Regiment Band for the duration of the hostilities. Nathum P. Goddard was leader at that time. After the War, Goddard returned to Worcester and founded the Worcester Brass Band, which was still active into the 1930’s. The conductor was Thomas C. Richardson in 1870-1881, with 24 players in 1878.


Worcester Cornet Band

At a band festival at Rocky Point, Rhode Island in August 1878 their contribution to the music was a march, a selection from Norma (Bellini), waltz Leitartikel (Strauss), and selection from William Tell (Rossini). The other bands involved were Dodworth’s Band (New York), American Band (Providence), Germania Band (Boston), Medford 5th Regiment Band, and the Leominster Band.

In February 1883 it performed at a Costume and Skating Carnival in Worcester.

Worcester MA 1883


Skating could be dangerous!

The band’s leader was L.D. Waters in 1887-1895, and F.W. Clement in 1900-1932. Charles G. Marcy was a member in the 1890’s.


Another band in the town was the Worcester City Band. It is not known what association it had with the Worcester Brass Band.


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Cambridge Albion Band – six years of records

The Cambridge Albion Band was formed on November 18th 1921. During its short independent existence it only appeared to have entered one contest, at Kings Lynn in September 1926, winning first prize. It merged with the Cambridge Town Band in January 1927, to form the Cambridge Town Silver Band. The document below is compiled from scrapbooks and record books of the Cambridge Albion Band which had been in the possession of Ronald Matthews, a bass trombone player in the band.


Members of Cambridge Albion Band


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