Reflections of a Yorkshire brass band born from temperance roots

Kirkbymoorside Brass Band, one of the oldest in the country, have just moved into their new hall named the James Holt Concert Hall. Pictured Band member Yanxi Wang, aged 10, from Kirkbymoorside, playing her cornet during the rehearsal. Image: James Hardisty
Kirkbymoorside Brass Band, one of the oldest in the country, have just moved into their new hall named the James Holt Concert Hall. Pictured Band member Yanxi Wang, aged 10, from Kirkbymoorside, playing her cornet during the rehearsal. Image: James Hardisty
0
Have your say

It began as a temperance movement, open only to townsfolk who had “signed the pledge” not to drink alcohol.

Read more-> Blackface Morris dancers stir racial tension in rural Dales community
Read more-> Musicians battle it out at the Yorkshire Brass Band Championships
Read more-> Voices from pit
Two centuries and £370,000 later, the headquarters of Kirkbymoorside’s brass band is still without a bar.

Kirkbymoorside Brass Band members rehearsing in the new concert hall. Image: James Hardisty.

Kirkbymoorside Brass Band members rehearsing in the new concert hall. Image: James Hardisty.

The band, possibly the oldest in Yorkshire, is no longer abstemious, said its secretary, but its priorities in planning its new building had been elsewhere.

“It was the concert space we wanted,” said Emma Smailes, who also plays horn in the senior band. “A bar may come eventually.”

It had taken four years to raise enough money for the building, the biggest of its kind for miles around. It can accommodate audiences of up to 250 and also provides space for the local scout troop.

The need for it had arisen when the nearby memorial hall was refurbished. “It was great for the town but it meant that we no longer had a space where we could play to more than about 50 people, so it was no longer feasible,” said Ms Smailes.

An old photograph of Kirkbymoorside Brass Band taken in 1897 at Castle Howard. Image: James Hardisty

An old photograph of Kirkbymoorside Brass Band taken in 1897 at Castle Howard. Image: James Hardisty

“At the same time, the scout building was collapsing, so we said that if they gave us their land, we would raise the money and build a concert hall, and they could have it two nights a week.”

History

It was not the first time the band had been made to up sticks.

Shortly after the First World War, its members had moved by hand the vast wooden hut they called home, plank by plank, from West End – where the lemonade factory was closing and new houses being built – to Manor Vale. It remained until a brick replacement was erected in the 1970s.

Kirkbymoorside Brass Band conductor Jeanette Kendall, with members rehearsing in the new concert hall. Image: James Hardisty

Kirkbymoorside Brass Band conductor Jeanette Kendall, with members rehearsing in the new concert hall. Image: James Hardisty

Only one brass band in the former heartland of the genre – at Stalybridge on the outskirts of Manchester – is known to be older than the Kirkbymoorside outfit. Formed in 1809, it predates it by just five years.

Local landowners can be thanked for it, said Ms Smailes.

“They wanted people to have hobbies, rather than going out drinking, and you had to sign the temperance pledge to join the band.

“We’re not temperance now, but we’re still different from other bands, because we belong to the whole town.”

It maintains six sections, covering players from five to 87, and funds free tuition, uniforms and instruments from the money it raises at its concerts.

Its buglers have played the Last Post at every remembrance service in Kirkbymoorside since the First World War, and its records show its earliest members to have fought in the Battle of Waterloo.

It had also served as an unofficial marriage bureau, noted its musical director, Sarah Woodward, who met her husband, the current band master, Philip Woodward, over the music stands.

A 'wonderful achievement'

The new building was “a wonderful achievement for a town of only just over 3,000 people”, she said.

The first public concert there will take place a week on Saturday.

They may be a community resource, but brass bands in the North remain fiercely competitive.

The old colliery and factory bands in the Pennines are particular rivals, as a documentary series on Sky Arts last month revealed.

Competition was part and parcel of the music, said Dr David Thornton, of the Brighouse and Rastrick Band.

“There is a rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire,” he added.