By: Karrie Keyes
The English Brass Bands got their start during England’s Industrial Revolution. They were originally organized and financed by mining and milling companies to keep the working classes from politically organizing. In 1860, there were around 750 brass bands in England. Today the English Brass Band tradition is found throughout New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The Salvation Army has kept the tradition alive in the United States.
English Brass Bands are made up cornets, flugelhorn, tenor horns, baritones, trombones, euphoniums,B-flat and E-flat basses and percussion. The bands are made up of 28 to 30 members and their programs can include original music, traditional marching songs, hymns, and medleys
Bands in New Zealand are graded into four levels A grade to D grade. A grade being the top grade, and D being the equivalent of a beginner band. In Britain, the equivalent is 1st – 4th grade, with the addition of the Championship Section. The Championship Section is the best of the best and includes famous bands such as Black Dyke and Grimethorpe.
The contests in New Zealand consist of each band preparing a March, a Hymn, and an original piece. They are also given a set test piece. The A Grade is very competitive, and as the contest becomes closer; the bands practice several times a week, with extensive rehearsals on weekends. Each player is expected to continue practicing at home. Several bands have tempted top players from England by helping them relocate to New Zealand.