John Kirkbride takes a take a look at the Whit Friday Band Contest in Saddleworth (illustrated with cartoons by the late Jack Kirkbride, former cartoonist for the Oldham Night Chronicle)
If it was spelled in another way, you may be forgiven for pondering that Whit Friday was some sort of annual contest for the perfect new joke.
However as most Saddleworthians shall be totally conscious, Whit Friday round right here is all about brass. And I don’t imply the type that comes with muck, however the sort that produces stirring music to march to, which is one thing we’ve been doing in Saddleworth for fairly a while now.
Which leads me neatly to the query, the place did all of it begin?
A quick historical past
It was once known as Whitsuntide once I was a nipper, but it surely’s often known as Pentecost. Whitsun (from White Sunday) is a moveable feast that falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter, which is why the date is totally different yearly. It commemorates the day the Holy Spirit came around the disciples following the loss of life of Jesus.
It’s believed the primary Pentecost marked the beginning of Christianity as an formally recognised motion, so Whitsun is usually thought-about to be its birthday. Celebrations differ barely all through the UK, however processions, morris dancing and music are commonplace.
After I was a teen, again in medieval instances, we had been made to decorate in our greatest on Whit Sunday and our grandparents gave us cash for “new garments”.
Since I used to be already carrying my new garments I might by no means fairly determine how that was imagined to work. Nonetheless, on one specific Whit Sunday I used to be very happy to obtain my first ever ten bob notice (ask your dad and mom).
The primary Friday after Pentecost is Whit Friday, and within the North West of England it’s on at the present time that the Whit Walks are historically held. Nevertheless, for nearly 150 years, the arrival of Whit Friday has held an additional particular significance for the individuals of Saddleworth.
The beginning of the band contest
In Stalybridge in 1809, Thomas Avison and Billy Corridor fashioned a band, which develop into often known as Stalybridge Outdated Band. The lead melody elements had been initially performed on flutes and ‘clarionets’, accompanied by a variety of brass devices together with ‘pure’ trumpets, which had been trumpets with out valves.
One of many band’s darker claims to fame it that it carried out on the notorious Peterloo Bloodbath in Manchester in 1819.
On a lighter notice, (pun meant), following the event of the valve cornet in 1815, the Stalybridge ensemble went on to develop into the primary all brass band in Britain. (It might even have been the very first non-military brass band on the earth)!
Different bands had been forming within the surrounding cities and villages, and by 1870 an annual band competitors was being held in Stalybridge on the day of the Whit Friday walks.
In June 1884, two further occasions had been held in Uppermill and Mossley, and thus it was that the custom of Saddleworth’s Whit Friday Brass Band Contest was born.
twenty first century brass
Variously described as “the best free present on Earth” and “half Wacky Races, half Brassed Off”, the band contest on Whit Friday now attracts entrants from throughout the globe, to not point out a major inflow of holiday makers.
In 2019 there have been bands from Norway, Sweden and Germany, together with the one brass band in Iceland. And if you see their faces gentle up on the response from the crowds lining the village streets, you’ll be able to see why they make the journey.
The bands take the competition extraordinarily significantly too, as mirrored by the truth that a number of the nation’s prime outfits come right here to carry out. World rating bands like Brighouse and Rastrick, Foden’s and Fairey are common guests.
The trick appears to be to carry out at as a lot of Saddleworth’s villages as doable over the course of the day, with out ingesting a lot that you simply lose your cornet.
As youngsters, Whit Friday was a day we seemed ahead to with mounting anticipation. I appear to recollect there was a time when the pubs in Saddleworth stayed open all day in the course of the contest, (I’m positive somebody will right me if I’m incorrect), however an invasion of lager-thirsty youths from outlying districts ultimately put paid to that.
These days many individuals take their very own provides of liquid refreshment. If nothing else, it means you don’t need to depend on a kind of horrible plastic glasses, which is a bit like ingesting out of a polythene bag. And if my very own two sons are something to go by, the event is seemed ahead to now simply as eagerly because it ever was.
However Whit Friday isn’t in regards to the ingesting, after all. For these of a extra non secular mind set it’s in regards to the strolling and the marking of Pentecost. However for many people, greater than something its about celebrating the enjoyment of rousing and well-played brass band music and the pleasure of that shared expertise.
It’s a day of blissful chaos, of glittering (and infrequently glistening) brass devices, and unfeasibly giant coaches shoe-horned into tiny nation lanes.
It’s a day of sounds and sights and smiles, when the neighborhood comes collectively to indicate its appreciation for the lots of of gamers who make the journey.
For the musicians, it’s a possibility to indicate off their skills to some of the appreciative crowds they’ll most likely ever play to. It’s additionally a possibility to win prize cash to assist assist the bands themselves, and attaining an award on the Saddleworth contest is one thing to be genuinely pleased with.
It’s develop into a practice that we ought to be pleased with, too. And with the 2021 contest sadly cancelled, I assume it’s as much as us to make the 2022 occasion a day to recollect.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s there was a preferred idea as to why lots of the nation’s most profitable brass bands had been positioned in and across the Pennines… In accordance with this speculation, it was all as a result of space being stuffed with hills, and the bodily exertion wanted to stroll up and down them. This extra train, it was steered, gave the inhabitants superior respiratory management which made them higher suited to enjoying wind devices.
Even the illustrious British Bandsman journal admitted in 1914 that: “It can’t be denied that the house of the brass band is on the slopes of the Pennine chain.” So now you recognize.