history question

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by sousaphone68, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. sousaphone68

    sousaphone68 New Member

    hello I have a question for any members of old long established bands.
    I am a member of St James's Brass and Reed in Dublin we are celebrating 250 years of music making this year.
    The band was formed under its present name in 1800 but was active as a temeperance band since 1737.
    I am fairly certain that we are the oldest private band in Ireland and maybe Europe.
    Can anybody here lay claim to being in an older Band?
    Google brings up the Stalybridge Band formed in 1804.
  2. nethers

    nethers Active Member

  3. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The difficulty with all of these kinds of assertions is the usual question of continuity - are we certain that either band has existed continuously in some form or another for all of that time span?

    To show via the example of my band - old newspaper reports talk about a "Kidlington band" from 1840 and a "Kidlington brass band" from 1852. A "Kidlington brass band" is mentioned regularly until 1872 and then there is a gap in the record. In 1892 there is a report talking about the "recently-formed" brass band in Kidlington, and then report references resume (one every couple of years or so). The present-day band traces the Kidlington side of its ancestry (Oxford Concert Brass being the other side) to this 1892 band - but I'm not sure whether the ensemble continued throughout both WW1 and WW2 - most ensembles didn't, and this would have been a village band.
    Now, suppose that 1892 report were lost or hadn't happened to have mentioned the recent forming of the band - we'd have a series of references between 1840 and the present day that looked close enough to continuous to be maybe assumed so, but in actual fact such an assumption would be wrong.

    Many band history webpages fall into this trap - they see one old reference to a town band, and assume that it must be the same organisation, when in actual fact it was a separate foundation.

    Edit: Just spotted an issue with the Ratby claim there... From the link:

    "There has been music-making in Ratby for hundreds of years, with records of a Ratby band playing to welcome King James to Bradgate House in the 1700’s"

    There was no King James in the 1700s!
    William III 1689-1702, Anne 1702-1714, George I 1714-1727, George II 1727-1760, George III 1760-1820

    James II left the throne in 1688, but lived until 1701, with his son James Francis Edward Stuart being known as "The Old Pretender". Does this mean that Ratby was a town in sympathy with the Jacobite revolutionaries??!
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  4. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    There is also evidence that the Chattenden Drum'n'Bass Corps has been active since 1653 and the ******s still haven't stopped. (Think it must be a 24 hour playathon.)

    One of the easiest ways to set yourself or your band up for ridicule is to make longevity claims without cast iron evidence. With very few exceptions, the date of founding claimed is not justified by evidence that a band did exist, but by the lack of evidence that it didn't.

    In cricket terms, my old club always said it was formed in 1947; the reality was it was 1951, but "adding a few years to the club's age at that time gave you a certain credibility when chasing fixtures". The club that we merged with should have celebrated its Centenary in 2005, but any suggestion of such was quietly retired when it was found that no records existed before 1921. The club MAY have originated in 1905; it may have been temporarily suspended during the Great War then reinstated, and that would probably be sufficient to justify the test of continuous existence, but the extant records make no mention of this.
    I reckon I could pick holes in 95% of clubs' claims as to when they were founded in 18th and 19th centuries, and a more knowledgeable wit than me could no doubt do the same with Brass Bands.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  5. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I remember writing a GCSE history project on football teams (a VERY long time ago) and when many date their formation from is woefully inaccurate - albeit there is a massive amount of scope for interpretation. For a long time Newcastle united (a club I support, I hasten to add) claimed a date of 1881, which was actually a football club in Byker who subsequently became Newcastle East End. It is true that NEE were one half of what eventually formed Newcastle United (in 1892) however how does one properly date the formation of a club? Newcastle have, rather properly settled on 1892 as the date from whic the name was chosen and the club's real playing history starts, but as I say, there's a huge amount of scope for interpretation available.

    It's the same problem with any organisation and you'd be surprised how far it goes. Lots of brands are keen to show long periods of dedication to their chosen pursuit, because it hints at trustworthiness and heritage. That's why old car and motorcycle Marques keep getting bought up and revived, (Norton, Spyker, Bugatti, Bimota, Moto Morini, Benelli, Royal Enfield, Triumph etc have all been revived to a greater or lesser extent in recent years) because they are already a brand people can identify with, and therefore a certain amount of publicity comes free with the brand because of it's history.

    One look at the Wikipedia page for Norton Motorcycles shows that these things are rarely cut and dried, and that Norton as a current motorcycle brand can be argued to have been established anywhere from 1898 to 2008 - a gap through which a historian can drive almost twice the reign of the current Queen.....

    It's very rare for any long-standing organisation to have stayed the entire course without some major changes, collapses and reformations, periods of disbandment and complete reinventions along the way, and because a lot of records of early local bands are sketchy at best, any dates for how long a band has been going are best taken with a large helping of salt.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  6. sousaphone68

    sousaphone68 New Member

    I have checked with some other members to make sure I am not being overly boastfull and can confirm that the bands records and public source material are the basis for the claim.
    The 1732 claim is based on newspaper reports of a "band of music" giving public performances every monday in the month of June.
    The band was an active particpant in major events of historical interest and as a result are mentioned in many reports and histories.the band has been a stable and constant group since 1800 the present subscription record ledger in which my name appears(in 1985)dates back to 1902 the earlier ones are in safe keeping with the bands bank.
    I was hoping that some one who has made a study of bands in British Isles may have been able throw some light onto the subject.
    A fellow member is emailing me a history of the band that was compiled by a member in the 50's and will share the sources once I have them.
  7. hobgoblin

    hobgoblin Member

    It is often difficult to pinpoint the precise beginning of our older bands as they often go through several incarnations and name changes, and often firm records only start with the advent of contesting in the 1800's. This confusion even extends to well known bands like Black Dyke. They celebrated two centenaries within 20 years! If nothing else this can help swell the coffers with the obligatory merchandise / concerts, although their md must have had enough of cake and blowing out hundreds of candles after helping fodens celebrate their centenary too. I would always advise going with the earliest date found, then you can always do the other centenary a few years down the road if this turns out to be wrong.

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