Whether military, civilian or church-based, brass bands have been using pretty much the same instruments since the 1840s when a number of technological advances had been made in instrument design, especially the introduction of efficient piston valves.
The mid-19th Century saw an enormous surge in the British working class that had been brought on by industrialization and major companies (particularly in coal mining areas) began to sponsor brass bands, ostensibly to boost the morale of their workforces. The fact that these groups and their supporters would then be caught up in competing against one another at the local, regional and national levels didn’t go unnoticed by the same corporate concerns, who were also interested in keeping their workers from organizing into radical groups.
By the early 20th Century, when brass bands were at their peak, there were as many as 20,000 players in the UK. Presumably this includes those playing on behalf of the Salvation Army, which began “deploying” its own brass bands in 1878 and, within the realities of a more secular era, has served to provide a rich resource of musicianship in an age of industrial (and “industrial-sponsored”) decline.
Brass band music remains popular to this day, with competitive and non-competitive community brands providing live entertainment to music lovers throughout the United Kingdom. Which is why Peter Skellern, a successful songwriter and musician from Lancashire, has long specialized in performing standards, occasionally backed by such groups as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band from South Yorkshire.
Born in 1903, Ray Noble was an English bandleader, composer, arranger and actor who led the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra in the 1920s. Many of his recordings became popular in the United States and, using American musicians, he had a successful run at New York’s Rainbow Room in the mid-1930s, after which he moved on to a Hollywood acting career where he typically played an upper-class English twit.
He wrote this (our final Love themed) song in 1933 and it topped the chart for five weeks.
LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Saturday 23 September
Love Is The Sweetest Thing
Love is the sweetest thing
What else on earth could ever bring
Such happiness to ev’rything
As Love’s old story
Love is the strangest thing
No song of birds upon the wing
Shall in our hearts more sweetly sing
Than Love’s old story
Whatever heart may desire
Whatever fate may send
This is the tale that never will tire
This is the song without end
Love is the greatest thing
The oldest yet, the latest thing
I only hope that fate may bring
Love’s story to you