The History of the Brass Band: Gone With the Wind?

The History of the Brass Band

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend a brass band concert.  The event was a fund raiser for the Christian organization World Vision that fights world hunger and helps in disaster relief and various other goodwill measures and humanitarian missions.

I didn’t expect to be in for such a treat.  I was so impressed by the rich and powerful, moving sounds of the brass band that I set about to find out more about brass bands, beginning with how and when the band got their start.

Way back in the 1830’s and before, brass bands were playing.  It wasn’t exactly the notes we enjoy now.  Some of the instruments like the cornets, trumpets and horns did not have valves as they do today so it put restrictions on what they could play.  But the sounds were still appreciated, mostly in the company of other instruments and not so much on their own but sometimes they were singled out or in a band with solely brass players.

In the 1830’s though, came to invention of valves to brass instruments.  That greatly improved the sound and the range of note which could be played so they became much more popular.   The era of the brass band had begun.

Bands played in concerts and people flocked to see them.  They traveled and toured and were appealing to the middle class and not just upper class.  Towns and communities took pride in putting together brass bands all their own that generally had eight to ten members.  The country and even the world was loving the sounds of brass.

It wasn’t uncommon in those days for well-to-do companies to sponsor a brass band.  There were bands that represented things like the fire department, police department and even non-profit organizations.  These bands offered a great resource to generate funding for these causes too.  Then, those who donated could experience the pleasure of hearing the bands and contribute too, just like I did.

Brass bands have experienced their share of waxing and waning in the years gone by.  They rose to popularity and then people lost interest in the early 1900s, preferring the softer sounds of the concert bands that often featured woodwinds rather than brass.

But in the past century, brass bands have been resurrected.  The love for brass is once again sweeping the nation.  Even those who would have never imagined they would like the bands are steadily becoming fans, like me.

Sometimes it’s the accidental exposure to a brass band that gets you hooked on the joy of it all.  I learned that.  I would have never ever gone to see a brass band had it not been for the “good cause”.  For me, it was a win-win all the way around.

Brass band have been around a long time.  They have been wildly popular and they have been overlooked.  No matter what the pulse of the world is, whether the general population into brass or preoccupied with another sound, brass remains.  Appreciation may rise and fall and at times may seem to be gone with the wind, but for fans like myself, brass bands will never go out of style.