Sunday, July 02, 2006

Will the music stop?

click photo to enlarge
Brass bands are a British tradition that is a long time dying. But die they will unless the bands can continue to recruit young players, and young people have a place and a reason to learn a brass band instrument.

The British brass band usually comprises cornets, flugelhorns, tenor horns, baritones, euphoniums, trombones, tubas and percussion. Most of the instruments play from the treble clef (with the exception of the bass trombone and percussion). This palette of instruments and way of playing is uniquely British, and ensures that parts can be covered when instruments are missing. Most brass bands originated at a place of work, an organisation or a town or village. Britain's best known brass ensemble, the Black Dyke Mills Band, started life as the band of Black Dyke Mills (a textile mill), at Queensbury, Bradford, in 1816. The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band started up in 1881 in Calderdale, Yorkshire, and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band began in 1917 as a recreational activity for the miners of that particular Yorkshire coal pit. In Victorian times many towns and villages had a band that would play on the bandstand in the local park on Sundays, and at the church or town hall at other times. Such bands continue, in very much smaller numbers, today. Each year there are fewer. Sadly, most bandstands that were built for their performances now host music only occasionally, and standing in one you can faintly hear the ghosts of players past, filling the air with their characteristic music.

This bandstand on the central promenade at Blackpool, Lancashire, is usually filled with skateboarders who have made it their home. The steps and the paved open spaces all around offer interest and challenge for the young people, and the canopy provides shelter from the weather. I took this photograph at 9.00a.m. on a bright Sunday morning, when the skateboarders were still in bed and the promenade was only slowly coming to life. I was attracted by the interesting shape of the structure. However, the emptiness also appealed - it seemed to underline the lack of purpose that these bandstands have today. I placed the main shape to the left of the frame, to give the railings on the right a place in the composition. Black and white seemed both appropriate for the subject, and to accentuate the interesting shape.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen