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Where there's Derbyshire, there's Brass

Brass close up

Brass bands have long been a part of life in the industrial areas of our country, forever associated with mining and factories and holding a unique place in our industrial and musical history. The sound of the brass band has changed little in the last 100 years and, for many, listening to it can inspire feelings of emotion and nostalgia.

First becoming popular in the mid-19th century, the brass band was intended to serve everyday working people; while orchestras were perceived to be the preserve of the wealthy, local music-makers performed at church celebrations, pubs, village fetes – or anywhere they could find.

Without the distractions of television and computers, in those days the drive to provide your own musical diversion was strong. Singing groups were relatively easy to start – you just needed people; preferably those who could hold a melody. Musical training usually came with the local church teaching people to read music, and the church choir was always a good starting point. Military service was another source of training, with men learning the necessary skills in military bands. Once demobbed, they would seek to continue this musical pastime.

Amateur music making is an integral part of village life: we could lament the passing of the halcyon days when nearly every town and village could boast a group of musicians, but we should celebrate that Crich still has its own village brass band in Crich Brass.

Lyndon Cooper
Lyndon Cooper

Keeping it in the family

For one Crich family, music is in the blood, with six generations having belonged to brass bands. Lynden Cooper and his wife, Melanie, have always enjoyed a lifestyle that includes music. You may think that families being involved in music is nothing special – but having six generations following one genre must be quite unique!

William Cooper, Lynden’s great, great grandfather, founded the Huthwaite Silver Prize Band in 1857. Since then, the music director’s baton has been passed from father to son, including Lynden’s father, Haydn (who was also a music teacher), and now Lynden himself.

Each generation has played the euphonium to a great standard and also led a band. Lynden and Melanie’s children, now grown up with their own families, were all taught to play as a matter of course. Christmas time and family weddings always feature the family ensemble. Thankfully, they have understanding neighbours!

Lynden is widely recognised as one of the leading euphonium players in the Midlands. He’s in demand as a brass teacher and has coached several successful brass bands in competition and taken large groups on tours across Holland, France, Spain and Japan. More recently, Lynden has been the musical advisor for several local amateur theatre group productions of Brassed Off, and for the last six years he’s been the musical director of the Shirland Miners Welfare Band, recent champions of the Butlin’s Second Section competition.

Shirland Brass Band
Shirland Brass Band

The Shirland MW Band’s ethos is to educate children to play and entertain – it currently has around 70 children and adults on its books. Many of the young people have gone on either to make music their career, or carry on the hobby through university into adulthood. Shirland plays to a great standard for a local village band, giving concerts throughout the area and competing across Derbyshire.

The band enjoys the talents of a few other Crich residents: Lynden’s wife, Melanie, plays flugelhorn, and Dr David Haworth and his son Daniel are both members.

Shirland MW Band is touring Holland this summer, with concerts in Valkenburg and the Main Square in Maastricht, culminating in the honour of taking part in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. Interestingly, engraved on the gate are the names of numerous members of the Sherwood Foresters regiment who lost their lives during the conflict – a poignant link to our monument in Crich.

Brass band
Brass band

Fancy a new hobby? Consider Crich Brass!

The present band was formed in 2001 by members of the former Crich United Silver Prize Band. It started with four dedicated players and has grown from there, even boasting a training band for many years. In recent times, the band has gone through a period of transition, and this year it gained a new conductor – James Findlay, a former member of the band.

With a history of brass bands in Crich going back to 1885, it’s really important that the tradition continues. The band practises once a week on a Tuesday night and we’re always on the lookout for players of any standard. Maybe you had brass lessons at schools and would like to start again? An instrument can be loaned free of charge if you don’t have your own, and we can provide free tuition to get you started.

Crich Brass is a friendly and inclusive group with an age range from 14 to 85, so all newcomers will be made welcome. Currently the band doesn’t compete, playing purely for pleasure and the satisfaction of entertaining an audience. We’re an important contributor to Crich events, including the fete and Christmas carols around the tree.

Call Derek on 01773 852620 or Charlotte on 07796 801001 for an informal chat and to find out more about the band.

by Melanie Cooper