Life

The Rich History and Cultural Significance of British Folk Brass Bands

  Not long ago, I went to the West Yorkshire countryside in England. In addition to visiting the scenic spots, I also took an old-fashioned steam train. This line runs from Keighley to Oxenhope, with a total length of about 8 kilometers. It is no longer a normal railway passenger line, but a tourism project run by volunteers. When we got on the train at Keighley and set off, we saw someone setting up folding chairs and music stands on the platform, forming a semicircle, thinking there might be a band performing. Sure enough, when we returned by car more than an hour later, we were greeted by the sound of a brass band on the platform.
  After getting off the train, we stayed on the platform to enjoy the performance for a while. There are 16 people in this band, all playing brass instruments. During the break, a music expert who was traveling with us told us that there were no horns in the band and there was no percussion, but the conductor controlled the rhythm very well. There is no charge for the performance, but there is a donation box next to it and a sign reading “Linthwaite Band”. I came back to check and found out that this band has a long history. It was established in 1852. It was a band established by the people in Linthwaite, a village in West Yorkshire. It has been passed down from generation to generation and continues to perform.
  Many British folk brass bands were established in the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, especially in northern England. This phenomenon is closely related to the economic development and social changes caused by the Industrial Revolution. It is precisely because the Industrial Revolution promoted urbanization and population migration, and created new communities. At the same time, technological development made brass instruments more popular and their timbres were better. standard. These created conditions for the birth of the folk brass band, and it also developed its own characteristics. For example, the band has mellow horns, cornets and alto horns, but no trumpets and French horns.
  Since its inception, the folk brass band has been a cultural and entertainment activity for the working class. The band may belong to a certain village, a certain church, or a certain coal mine, serving as a platform for people in a rapidly changing and uncertain society. find a solid cultural identity of their own. There used to be many coal mines in northern England and Wales. Almost every mine had its own brass band. The band members were coal miners, and the funds for the activities were extracted directly from each worker’s salary. When there are more brass bands, there are competitions. In the UK, brass band competitions are divided into five levels like a football league, with promotion and relegation. Every year, there are also competitions at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Hall) holds the national finals.
  The performance on the platform that day reminded me of watching a British movie “Brassed Off” in the 1990s. At that time, I only paid attention to the love story in the play. It was only after I arrived in the UK that I had a deeper understanding of the background of the story. understanding. At the beginning of the movie, the heroine brought a melody horn inherited from her grandfather to the workers’ club in the coal mine. She happened to catch a brass band rehearsing, so she played a piece of “Alain Huys Concerto” adapted from the guitar concerto ( Concieto d’Aranjuez), as the music plays, we see that the coal mine is facing closure. After the failed general strike by British coal miners in the 1980s, most coal mines faced the same fate. The coal mine brass band in the movie represents the self-esteem and pride of coal miners. The performance is also a kind of entertainment and a kind of protest. The filming location of the movie is a typical coal mining town. The coal production was once very high, but the mine was closed in 1993.
  On the platform in Keighley, as if they knew we were from Scotland, the band started playing Highland Cathedral. At this time, a steam engine was slowly passing by the train platform built in the Victorian era. It is conceivable that if this situation had happened 100 years ago, it would not be out of the ordinary at all. When it comes to cultural inheritance, it is not only about preserving skills, but also about giving people a sense of continuity and finding a fixation point in a rapidly changing society.

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