A Wisconsin band in the Civil War: 1st Brigade Band of Brodhead




When the Civil War started, the two sides suddenly required armies, and army regiments needed bands. I have already written about the 26th North Carolina Regiment Band, which grew out of one of the oldest musical institutions in the country. Brodhead, Wisconsin had existed less than a decade before its band joined the war effort. The 1st Brigade Band, as it eventually became known, got off to a rocky start, but earned an excellent reputation by the end of the war. The rapid growth of towns like Brodhead In the decade before the Civil War, railroads spread across the country, … Continue reading

Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Saddleworth, and Nostalgia




I decided to look at YouTube for inspiration for today’s post and thought it was past time to mention the British tradition of brass bands. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band, one of Britain’s truly outstanding bands, is one I recalled hearing live when I was in England. So I looked them up and was surprised to find this clip from the 1998 Saddleworth Brass Band Contests, taken in the village of Delph. More on why I was surprised later. By the way, the video has two marches; the first is called “The Cobblers.” British brass bands differ greatly from American wind … Continue reading

Brass Bands of the American Civil War




I like to look around on YouTube from time to time. I recently typed “brass band” into the search engine, and a video called “Brass Bands of the Civil War” came up on the first page of results. I wondered how that subject could possibly work in a video. I have seen “videos” with a single photograph and music playing in the background. This one has a collage of wonderful photos and drawings while the Federal City Brass Band plays on period instruments. At the time of the Civil War, brass bands ruled. Few bands included woodwinds. As the photographs … Continue reading

A "second line" in New Orleans (with video)




Probably no city in the country loves parades as much as New Orleans. As we all watch the progress of that horrendous oil spill and pray for Louisiana, it seems appropriate to highlight some of the musical aspects of the unique character of that part of the country. New Orleans was founded as a French city in 1718 and did not become American territory until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Where English-speaking southern governments dating back to colonial times attempted to stamp out all vestiges of African culture among their slave populations, the French did not. A west-African heritage of … Continue reading

An experimental brass band in 1832




At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the only possible all-brass ensemble was the cavalry band, which could only play military signals. Once keyed bugles and valved trumpets and horns became available, massed brass could play real music. The movie Brassed Off provides a glimpse of the British brass band tradition. The band in that movie, where all the members worked for a coal mining company, reflects the working class origins of that institution. No one can identify the first British brass band with certainty, but several existed before the end of the 1830s. I found an interesting article in … Continue reading