Brass Band Repertoire in Manchester’s Public Parks in World War One: Tradition and Patriotism

Permission from Gavin Holman

Brass Band Repertoire in Manchester’s Public Parks in World War One: Tradition and Patriotism, By  Dr Stephen Etheridge


1913 was a watershed year for the brass band movement. Labour and Love, Percy Fletcher’s tone poem, was performed at the Crystal Palace Contest.[1] The winning band was Irwell Springs who came from East Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley. Labour and Love was significant as it was composed music of some substance that was available to all bands.[2] It was the first test piece that was composed for the standardised brass band line-up and that the sources can account for fully. As Paul Hindmarsh wrote, ‘it was not part of a local ‘bespoke’ repertoire […].It stands like a solitary beacon in the writing for brass band in the early twentieth century[…].’[3]

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God save our men!

Recent celebrations surrounding the Queen’s 90th birthday have once more provoked the old question “what is the definitive version of the National Anthem?”

This is the musical equivalent of “how long is a piece of string?”  The song which we would now recognise as God save the Queen/King emerged in the 18th century and its first verse, at least, fairly quickly assumed the form that we use today.  But if we feel squeamish about that second verse, with its “Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks”, what about Marshall Wade crushing those rebellious Scots?

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Making Music with Shakespeare in 1916

There’s nothing new under the sun. In 2016 we’ve been celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and to the background of the bloody battles of Verdun, Jutland and the Somme, the Royal Manchester College of Music put on a costume performance in honour of the tercentenary of his death in July 1916. The women students of the Elocution Class in a casting role reversal, which might have made Shakespeare smile, “necessarily” had to play the male roles, just as boys had to play female roles in his day, and their acting abilities were “very creditable” according to the annual report of 1916. There were scenes from the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, from King Lear, Macbeth and Coriolanus and from comedies, including Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew. The Tempest also featured and the illustration shows the sprite Ariel who sings the song “Full fathom five”. Purcell’s setting of the words was performed by Elizabeth Sleigh (one of Marie Brema’s pupils). Other songs “in those plays, many of which were sung to the old music…” included “Orpheus with his lute” set by Sullivan to words from Henry VIII and sung by Elsie Kauntze;  Arthur Somerville’s setting of “Take, O take those lips away” from  Measure for Measure sung by Constance Felpts; and Schubert’s setting of the Shakespeare’s sonnet “Who is Sylvia?” performed by Annie Davies.

The picture was drawn in the late 19th century by the illustrator Gordon Browne for the Henry Irving Shakespeare edition.

Katherine Seddon