This type of combination is found all over Europe and in countries settled by Europeans, but highest standard of perf. is possibly reached in N. of Eng., especially Lancashire and Yorkshire, where its popularity is great. Usual constitution in Brit. is cornets, flügelhorn, saxhorns, euphoniums, tbs., and basses (formerly bombardons), with perc. Saxs. (not strictly a brass instr.) used to be incl.
All the wind instr. of the brass band except the bass tb. are scored for as transposing instr. Their keys being B♭ and E♭, their notation shows, respectively, 2 flats less (or 2 sharps more) than the sounding effect, or 3 flats less (or 3 sharps more). With exception of bass tbs. and perc. all are notated in treble clef: except E♭ cornet, where the sound is a minor third higher than the notation, all the sounds are lower, the intervals of the discrepancy ranging from a 2nd below (B♭ cornet) to 2 octaves and a second below (B♭ bass). Thus a brass band score is rather puzzling to an unaccustomed reader.
Many 20th‐cent. Eng. composers (e.g. Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Bliss, Bantock, Howells, Birtwistle, and Bourgeois) have written for brass bands, as has Henze. There is also a distinguished line of ‘brass band composers’, including Percy Fletcher, Cyril Jenkins, Hubert Bath, Denis Wright, Kenneth Wright, Eric Ball, Gilbert Vinter, and Edward Gregson. The ‘brass band movement’ in Brit. has a history (almost a folklore) stretching back to the start of the 19th cent. It derived partly from the old city ‘waits’ and partly from the military wind bands, of which there were many during the Napoleonic Wars. After Waterloo (1815) men left the army, but the musicians continued playing in civilian life. Brass instruments were comparatively cheap, and the bands flourished as hobbies among the working‐class population in the manufacturing towns of Lancs. and Yorks. (though also in Cornwall and elsewhere). Brass band competitions began c.1818 but developed fully c.1840. Among the most celebrated championships are the British Open (formerly held at Belle Vue, Manchester) and the National (held in London). It was for the latter in 1930 that Elgar comp. his Severn Suite. Bands are frequently named after an industrial firm or colliery as well as after a place. Among the most celebrated have been Bacup, Black Dyke Mills, Besses o' th' Barn, Wingate's Temperance, Foden's Motor Works, St Hilda Colliery (reputedly the greatest of all), Creswell Colliery, Brighouse and Rastrick, Munn and Felton's, Fairey Aviation, CWS Manchester, GUS Footwear, Grimethorpe Colliery, Cory, Carlton Main Frickley, and Hammond's Sauce Works—names of industrial poetry! Among notable band impresarios, arrangers, and conductors mention should be made of Henry Geehl, William Rimmer, William Halliwell, Eric Ball, Walter Hargreaves, Elgar Howarth, J. H. Iles, Alexander Owen, John Gladney, Edwin Swift, Roy Newsome, Maj. Peter Parkes, the Wrights (Denis, Frank, and Kenneth), and the Mortimers (Alex, Fred, Harry, and Rex).