A brief history of Brass Bands
Brass bands have been around since the turn of the nineteenth century. It was easy to find Brass bands flourishing in many towns and cities where there was industry, and not just in the North of England as is commonly believed. Bands were usually formed away from the heart of many industrial cities but tended towards the surrounding smaller towns and villages. In these villages there was less in the way of entertainment than in the cities. Therefore a small, close knit community of about a thousand could easily form large Brass bands.
The first brass bands started around 1815, and were principally brass and wind bands, more like modern day military bands. The most important development for brass bands was the invention of the valve for brass instruments around 1815. When the cornet came into production, it enabled Brass Bands to have a leading melody instrument. After the invention of the first initial Valve instruments, more were to follow – including the tenor horn, baritone, euphonium and of course the all mighty tubas.
The music played by brass bands were usually were well know pieces of music , usually opera or symphony related that were arranged for Brass instruments, more often than not by either the Band master or a member of the band, and published accordingly. Later publishing companies started publishing these pieces of brass band music themselves and became very successful.
Some Brass Bands were formed as the result of a large group of people having common interests. The most obvious place is the work place. Brass Bands were formed in two ways, either the bands which were formed by the workers or by their employers. Those that started off without any help were usually supported by the whole community, by means of subscriptions from fellow work members and people from higher up the social ladder. The brass bands with company sponsorship, or rarely, private patronage was usually more successful due to the fact that they had more funding. The more money a band had, the more attractive it became to players, in return bands could 'pinch' players from rival bands by promises of new instrument and better facilities.
Bandsmen were often trained and conducted by someone with a musical heritage. Many did it for a wage - more expenses than a wage, sometimes even less. The conductor and bandmaster were primarliy responsible for the day to day running of the brass bands.
Individual Brass Bands then started to play to the locals of a town, more often than not in the local public hall. Bands that went on to become almost famous would then play in other towns and venues. Local contests then started between Brass Bands and some times local rivalries would develop. This in turn developed in to nation wide contests for brass bands to compete against each other.