As Bold As Brass

RNCM Brass Band Festival marks anniversary year with a call to protect vanishing brass
January 27, 2023

Britain’s core national brass brands will be assembling for a spectacular weekend festival taking place at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) as part of the College’s 50th anniversary celebrations from Friday 27 to Sunday 29 January. The RNCM Brass Band Festival encapsulates all that is thrilling about brass band performances; from a history that stretches back to the industrial revolution to a future that is lit up by young people’s pioneering work.  

Brass might well light up people’s lives, almost every day with the renditions of Coronation Street’s theme tune by Eric Spear echoing poignantly throughout the decades, but a threat hangs over its own future. This is something that began in classrooms and threatens to spread to stages, film scores and more – and that’s the impact that the list of endangered instruments could have to brass music. Put simply, there wouldn’t be quite the same ride in Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries without the French horns, trombones and tuba and where would the strings in John Williams’ theme to Star Wars (1977) be without the dramatic contrast of the brass instruments, including the under threat trombone? These are some of the instruments on the endangered instruments list, which is currently made up of the French Horn, Trombone, Tuba, Oboe, Double Bass, Bassoon and Viola, and dominated by brass instruments.  

What lies at the heart of this problem is a bigger issue. Against the backdrop of the National Plan for Music Education, set out in 2011, there has been a continuing reduction of music education in schools, despite it being a curriculum subject. This has widespread implications and one of the knock-on effects is that there are fewer places to learn endangered instruments and even finding the instruments to play can be difficult.  

Murray Greig, Director of Brass at the RNCM, says, “The RNCM Brass Band Festival is a reminder of the incredible and uplifting impact of brass band music in all its glory and the weekend will be filled with performances from the country’s leading bands who will enthral and entertain our audiences. The RNCM brass department is world renowned and we were the first conservatoire in the UK to offer a Brass Band course back in 1990. Over recent years the take-up of several instruments within the brass family has been in decline, but our Brass Engage and Young Projects are showing positive signs of redressing this balance and trumpeting the brilliance of brass!”

Paul Hindmarsh, Artistic Director of RNCM Brass Band Festival, says, “We are marking the start of RNCM’s 50th anniversary celebrations in the festival this year, with performances of new work composed by RNCM students played by the RNCM Band which Howard Snell founded in 1990. Every year we also include performances by our region’s award-winning youth bands and from RNCM alumni who are making waves in the music world. One of the joys of my time as Artistic Director has been the opportunity to highlight both the achievements of and challenges facing music education alongside performances of the highest class from the best brass bands and soloists.”

The RNCM Brass Band Festival audiences are going to be treated to a rich variety of brass band music including the Young Musician’s Showcase representing the next generation of musicians and Grimethorpe Colliery Band, which was formed during World War I and is now a British institution thanks largely to an appearance on the soundtrack of Brassed Off (1996).There will be classics played and newly composed pieces in a programme that spans across the weekend.  

RNCM Engage

The RNCM50 Fund is there to support young people with a talent and love for all music and this includes supporting those who play instruments on the endangered instruments list. There are funds available to support the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Awards for aspiring professional musicians who play endangered instruments with more details here.

RNCM Brass Band Festival programme

Festival Prelude

Friday 27 January 2023, 6.30pm
Opening this year’s festival is student ensemble Rosamund Brass, an award winning brass quartet.
Tickets are free and can be booked here
Foden’s Band
Friday 27 January 2023, 7.30pm
Cheshire based Foden Band has a wonderful record of achievement and only last year was crowned National Champions at the Royal Albert Hall. The band’s reputation internationally has seen it tour the world.
Tickets are £9 (Under 26s and Students) / £18 (Full) and can be booked here

Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Saturday 28 January 2023, 11.00am
Formed during World War I, Grimethorpe Colliery Band is a British institution. It has an amazing list of accomplishments and also notable appearances at international occasions such as the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony and FIFA World Cup.
 Tickets are £9 (Under 26s and Students) / £18 (Full) and can be booked here

Wardle Academy Brass Band
Saturday 28 January 2023, 1.45pm
 For over 40 years Wardle Academy Brass Band has been at the forefront of youth banding. They have recently been made European Youth Champions for the third time in succession.
 Tickets are free and can be booked here
Tredegar Town Band
Saturday 28 January 2023, 3.00pm
Tredegar Town Band is known for its artistic innovation and has been making the headlines in Wales and beyond since being critically acclaimed for their appearance in the film Pride.
Tickets are £9 (Under 26s and Students) / £18 (Full) and can be booked here

Junior RNCM Brass Band
Saturday 28 January 2023, 4.45pm
Enjoy the chance to see the next generation of brass musicians showcase their work at RNCM. Every Saturday these students travel from as far afield as North Wales, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the Midlands to be a part of one of the world’s best conservatoires.
Tickets are free and can be booked here

Black Dyke Band
Saturday28 January 2023, 7.30pm
The Black Dyke Band has an incredible list of achievements stretching back to 1855 and the chance to see them play is a very memorable experience. The most recorded band in the world, in October 2020 they became the first brass band to reach No. 1 in the classical music chart.
Tickets are £9 (Under 26s and Students) / £18 (Full) and can be booked here

RNCM Brass Band
Sunday 29 January 2023, 11.00am
Established during the 1990s by brass innovator Howard Snell, RNCM Brass Band reflects the work of both the RNCM’s composition department and its brass department.  
Ticketsare £6 (under 26s and Students) / £12 (Full) and can be booked here

A4 Brass Quartet
Sunday29 January 2023, 1.45pm
Combining traditional brass with contemporary elements makes A4 Brass Quartet’s sound a unique blend. The quartet comprises of principal players from some of the UK’s top brass bands.
Tickets are £6 (Under 26s and Students) / £12 (Full)

Cory Band
Sunday 29 January 2023, 3.00pm
Cory Band promises to create music that is “spinetingling, moving and life affirming” and describe themselves as the pride of Wales.
Tickets are £9 (Under 26s and Students) / £18 (Full)

Brighouse and RastrickBand
Sunday 29 January 2023, 6.30pm
Recognised internationally West Riding based Brighouse and Rastrick Band has a history that stretches back over 140 years. They also made history with their chart topping rendition of The Floral Dance.
Tickets are £9 (Under 26s and Students) / £18 (Full) and can be booked here
The full festival programme is available here.

All Images: RNCM/Robin Clewley