A Short History
with thanks to Ron Stirk
The Association was formed on the 31st March 1956 at a meeting held in York Railway Institute on the initiative of Fred Bradbury the then Hon. Secretary of the York Railway Institute Band. York R. I. Band together with the other seven Bands that sent representatives, namely, Cottingham Silver, Bridlington Excelsior, Hessle British Legion, Kirkbymoorside Town, Rowntree Cocoa Works, Ripon City, Swinton & District Excelsior and Wetherby Silver became the founding members.
Most of the early and even some of the later records of the Association have been lost so reference has had to be made to a variety of sources but fortunately Fred kept press cuttings, programmes, etc. which have proved to be an invaluable source of information.
Within the first year the original eight had become thirteen with eleven Bands taking part in the first Grading Contest held in April in advance of the Annual Contest in November 1957. This was to be the forerunner of the forty-five held to date (omitting for various reasons the years 1973,1974,2005 and 2006). Venues for these Contests have included Bridlington, Pickering, Scarborough, Scunthorpe, South Elmsall, Tadcaster and York. The 1992 Tadcaster Contest attracted the most entries of thirty-six (thirty played) with the lowest entry being the last one, in 2004, at South Elmsall with only seven Bands.
The fortunes of the Association were to decline on the departure of Fred Bradbury in 1969 to become the founder Secretary of the British Federation of Brass Bands. A low point was reached in 1973 exacerbated by the resignation of the Secretary and Treasurer at the AGM. Things could only get better! They did with a recovery of the membership from 13 in 1973 to rise back into the 20's in 1975. 1976 saw the return of Fred Bradbury as President, equipping the Association to enter a very vibrant period of activities and influence well beyond it s humble beginnings. Membership was to increase to peak at 79 in 1996 since when it has declined to its figure of 60 today. Formed as the York & District B.B.A., it assumed its present title in 1978, and whilst it is probably the youngest Brass Band Association in the UK, it was to become the second largest Association in its field by the 1990's. The Association has had 163 named Bands in membership; some member bands have had no fewer than four name changes due to sponsorships, amalgamations, etc. and of course some are now defunct. However, of the original eight founders, six remain in membership.
Contests and concerts in all their forms have figured prominently, and are too numerous to mention in full. The Massed Bands series of three concerts in 1957-58-59, involving 9,8 and 6 Bands respectively, were held on the Clarence Street ground of the York Rugby League Club and perhaps foreshadowed the 'brass spectaculars' that were to follow. Usually three bands were used for the indoor Massed Bands Concerts, some occasions featuring a Massed Choir, in venues such as Ripon Cathedral, York Minster, Beverley Minster, Selby Abbey, Whitby Abbey, Bridlington and Scarborough Spa Halls, Hull City Hall, York University Central Hall, York Barbican Centre, etc. The first Association event in Ripon Cathedral took place on 5 October 1968 with the Massed Bands of Hessle British Legion, Rowntree Works and York Railway Institute under the Guest Conductor, Eric Ball. The Guest Artists were cornetist James Shepherd (Black Dyke Mills Band) and the Cathedral Organist, Ronald Perrin. As you are no doubt aware, this years jubilee concert premiered the Association's third music commission, celebrating our Golden Jubilee, entitled 'Yorkshire Fantasy' and composed by Goff Richards.
The Association's first music commission was a setting of Psalm 104 by Anthony Hedges, which had its premiere in Beverley Minster, featuring Massed Bands and the East Riding Schools Choir of 200 voices on 27 April 1974. Despite further performances worldwide, its second Association performance was not to be until 31 March 1979, this time in York Minster featuring the National Brass Band Champions 1978/79, the Yorkshire Imperial Metals Band and the York Schools Music Association Choir of some 366 voices with Guest Conductor, Maurice Handford. The concert was recorded by the BBC Third Programme and broadcast on at least three occasions with the Association receiving full acknowledgements in the Radio Times for their promotion, certainly a rare reference if not unique for such a footnote. York Minster had been the scene for the Association's 10th Anniversary Massed Bands Concert with the Bands of Leeds Model, Rowntree Cocoa Works and York Railway Institute under the baton of Harry Mortimer OBE who was to figure on many occasions with the work of the Association. This Concert was to introduce Massed Bands to the Minster for the first time but by no means the last. A stroke of fortune was the promotion of a concert in the York Theatre Royal on the 20 November 1977 by the Brighouse & Rastrick Band conducted by Derek Broadbent to a full house eagerly awaiting the 2nd in the charts 'Floral Dance'. Having endured an evening of 'serious' music, they finally had their patience satisfied by the encore much to everybody's relief. The timing of this concert was nigh perfect as an attraction.
A major venture was the introduction of the Association Youth Band in 1976, which was to prosper for much of the next eleven years. The one-day courses extended over eight months concluding with an end of term concert as public entertainment. Concerts were presented in various venues in Barton-on-Humber, Hessle, Hull, Malton, Scarborough, Selby, Wetherby and York. The Youth Band was engaged to play for a Royal Visit to York but when this was rescheduled to a school day another Band had to be engaged, though some players augmented their substitutes. A legacy of this Youth Band is the set of music stand banners still used by the Association. The musical educational work undertaken directly by the Association was limited in the early years, possibly due to financial considerations, but from the late 1970's much has been achieved in this field despite limited budgets. One day Brass Workshops have been held annually since 1997 with the first four held at the Ripon & York St John College until its closure when the venue was transferred in 2001 to the Minsthorpe Community College, South Elmsall. Starting with attendances in the mid 40's the expansion of the Course format and the benefit of the tutorial team from the Grimethorpe Colliery (UK Coal) Band has increased attendances with a limit of 130 having to be set in 2005.
The organisation of Entertainment Contests in many forms has been to the fore for the Association for many years, and a contest at Flamingo Park Zoo in 1963 appears to have been the first. There were other sporadic contests until the 1977/78 /79 series at Burton Constable Hall. These were followed in 1983-86 by the four at the Bacchus Hotel, Sutton-on-Sea and the Great Grimsby Brass Band Festival held under canvas in The People's Park in 1986/87 and then at the Town Hall for six years 1989-94. They were then moved down the coast for the Cleethorpes Brass Band Championships in the Beachcomber Club, Humberston, which started in 1988 and were held annually until 1997 with the final one in the Winter Gardens. The Malton Brass series also started in 1988 and was been held annually except in 2000 when cancelled due to local floods until 2010 when the state of the building made the holding of brass band contests unsafe. It is hoped that future renovation may lead to the revival of this contest. More recently the Forestry Commission sponsored an entertainment contest series at Kiveton Park. This contest featuring mainly Colliery Bands and celebrating the mning history of the site was very successful, but sadly, owing to the financial climate, the sponsorship ceased and new financial backing could not be found.
The 25th Anniversary of the Association was celebrated with two Massed Bands Concerts; the first in Selby Abbey, which featured also the South Yorkshire Police Choir, followed a fortnight later by four Bands conducted by Roy Newsome in Beverley Minster. The next year, 1982, was to see the Association acting as organisers for two very different events. The first was the Leeds Open Championships Contest, usually known by the sponsor's name, Tetley’s, in co-operation with the City of Leeds Council. A pre-draw was used for the order of play on a timed basis that the Association have applied for their own Contests since 1984. Each of the 5 Sections had separate venues within the City with 89 Bands playing during a single day for prize money of over £6000 in total. The Contest lasted seven years with Tetley’s sponsoring the first five following which interest on the part of bands declined. The second was the Easingwold March and Deportment Contest, which celebrated its 25th Contest three weeks ago and concludes the Easingwold District Lions Club's day of promotions for their fund-raising towards local charities. Sadly in 2012 the Lions decided that changes were needed and the contest was abandoned.
Local BBC Radio Humberside in 1982 and later Radio York approached the Association for advice and to act as the organisers for their annual series of Knockout Brass and the Inter Station Finals held in Hull City Hall. BBC Radio Leeds were similarly assisted with their Finals taking place in Leeds Town Hall and latterly in Morley Town Hall.
In 1988 the Association was entrusted to organise an end of term concert for the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain held in York University's Central Hall. This was a well-supported event which enabled the Association to make a donation of £1000 to their funds.
Contests seldom seem to be revived, however in 1989 the Association revived the Hardraw Scar Contest and this year will celebrate 125 years since the first in 1881, making it the second oldest Contest after the British Open Championships. It is held annually in the natural amphitheatre within the grounds of The Green Dragon Inn at Hardraw near Hawes and its format is now an Entertainment Contest.
The Association readily agreed to Fred Bradbury's suggested Celebration Concert for the 90th birthday of Harry Mortimer CBE at the newly opened York Barbican Centre, however events were to dictate that this Gala Concert in 1992 became the Nation's 'Tribute to a Legend of our Time' recorded and broadcast by the BBC on Radio 2 with Richard Baker OBE as the Presenter, there were to be no Radio Times acknowledgements this time! A commercial recording was issued on CD of the music only. The 'Tribute to HM' Concert was to inaugurate the York Barbican Centre series of Top Brass Massed Bands concerts with the last two of the four having Massed Choirs, the penultimate one being the Association's 1995 'Tribute to Fred Bradbury' who died in April 1994.
Reputedly the first brass band contest was held at Burton Constable Hall in 1845 and the Association whilst intending to celebrate the 150th Anniversary had to be content with the 151st due to a delay in the funding for the Massed Bands Concert in the evening with a fireworks display preceded by a series of concerts in the afternoon, unfortunately there was little enthusiasm by the public or indeed the band fraternity for what was basically a Promenade Band in the Park Concert. This event together with the 1996 York Barbican Massed Bands Concert were to end the era of the 'brass spectaculars' which had extended over nearly 40 years against a background of unsustainable costs in promoting Massed Bands Concerts in auditoriums of appropriate size. Contests mean trophies and the Association starting from scratch had to 'acquire' these for the initial contests. This process has continued through to today, when the count is over 60, many of which are memorial donations by families and Bands. The Association commenced the issue and presentation of Long Service Certificates in 1993 and to date some 30 have been claimed for 50 years or more with the longest for a remarkable 82 years.
The Association have been a member of the British Federation of Brass Bands since its formation in 1969 and have given good support to their aims as a common objective. The Association became a Registered Charity in 1998 having become a member of the National Federation of Music Societies in the previous year, with membership of the Yorkshire Tourist Board being obtained also in 1997. The publication and distribution of the Association Meetings minutes to members commenced during 1986 but some years were to elapse before the Association's website was established in 2002. The Association being a voluntary body depends to a large extent on the freely given services of many people in fulfilling its work and obligations and whilst an outline has been given of the past 50 years little could have been achieved without the financial support provided by various public and private parties. Space has dictated that the text has had to be 'short on substance' so subject to funding it is hoped to publish a book in the not too distant future to complete the story in detail and the personalities of whom there have been many adding to the success of the Association.