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The Black Dyke Band

National Champions 2023

Since its formation in 1855, the record of achievement of the Black Dyke Band can be considered without parallel in the Brass Band world. Everything that has been accomplished stems from a core principle held by all band members, past and present, that the Band exists to promote the very highest quality of musicianship at all times.

It is no accident that amongst its ranks Black Dyke has been fortunate enough, throughout its history, to have some of the greatest exponents of their instruments as playing members. This has also been true of conductors and the musical associations the band has enjoyed through the decades. The virtuoso ensembles that have formed Black Dyke, at different times, have all been able to contribute to and develop a unique musical legacy.

Another critically important factor in this success has been the camaraderie and sheer joy experienced by all members in coming together to play Brass instruments as part of a band. Many players have been world-class soloists in their own right, and when they have come together under the Black Dyke banner, they have achieved and sustained musical excellence.

The band today continues to strive to produce the finest music and also to innovate. Despite its history, the band has never been stuck in the past, and musical achievement has often gone hand in hand with musical risk taking.

Many famous and well-known names from the world of banding have conducted the Band, including the legendary Alexander Owen, John Gladney, Arthur O. Pearce, Harry Mortimer, Alex Mortimer, Major George Willcocks, Major Cecil Jaeger, Geoffrey Brand, Roy Newsome, Major Peter Parkes, James Watson and many more.  

A feature of the Black Dyke Band over the years has been its ability to produce world-class musicians. An abundance of famous instrumentalists has, at one time or another, played with the band. In formative years players such as Ceres Jackson, John Paley and Harold Pinches, were recognised as the very best. In recent decades, Rowland Jones was a  Euphonium player with the band. He had a wonderful voice and went on to become Principal Tenor at Sadlers Wells – it has been said that his training in the brass band, particularly through sight reading, was a tremendous aid to his singing career. Jack Pinches was Solo Trombone for Black Dyke at 16 years of age; he went on to become Principal Trombone in the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Two former Principal Cornets at Black Dyke, William Lang and Maurice Murphy achieved the position of Principal Trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra. William retired in 1995 and Maurice, said by many people to be the greatest cornet player ever, retired in June 2007. Rod Franks, a former cornet player with Black Dyke was also Principal Trumpet with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The Band’s influence has not just been felt in performance and the concert arena. Its recording catalogue and list of collaborators is something of a Who’s Who of famous musical names. In total, the band has made over 350 recordings. Former Prime Minister Edward Heath was guest conductor on one, whilst Paul McCartney and Wings broke new ground with the Band on another. The band also appeared on the Beatles recording of Yellow Submarine. In 1996 they won The Music Industries Association Award for the Best CD in the orchestral category, with their recording of Sir William Walton’s Music. Lady Walton and Richard Baker feature in the Band’s CD release of ‘Façade’, Edith Sitwell’s poems set to music by Sir William Walton. The recording also presents excellent arrangements by Edward Watson of Sir William’s much-loved film music,   ‘Richard III’ and ‘Battle of Britain Suite’.

In February 1999, the album that the Band recorded with Evelyn Glennie was nominated in the ‘Crossover Classical Section’ for a Grammy Award in Los Angeles, followed in March 1999 with an Oscar nomination for the best song in a film, “That’ll Do” from the film “Babe 2” – the vocalist was Peter Gabriel with backing from Black Dyke. The Band has enjoyed success with other recording artists including Tori Amos and the well-known group Beautiful South. Black Dyke Band also provided the background music, written by Jim Parker, for the popular UK Television series of programmes ‘Ground Force’ and in co-operation with BBC Worldwide have released a ‘Ground Force’ CD featuring the music from the series. 

The double CD recording, ‘The Heaton Collection’ featuring Black Dyke Band and the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army was declared ‘CD of the Year’ by ‘British Bandsman’ and Australia’s ‘Band World’. The ‘Eric Ball Festival Music’ recording was judged CD of 2003 by the journal ‘British Bandsman’ . In 2004 the celebrated recording of Edward Gregson’s “Trumpets of the Angels” was voted  ‘CD of the Year’.

As the recording industry has progressed and developed, from cylinders, to 78” records, to LP’s, to cassettes and the present day Compact Discs, DVDs and streaming services, Black Dyke Band has always been at the forefront, recording a wide range of music on all formats, including ‘Black Dyke Plays Beatles’, ‘Eric Ball-Festival Music’, and ‘Eric Ball Centenary Concert’ on DVD. Also on DVD is the 150th Celebration Concert held in Bridgewater Hall and the history of England DVD ‘Heritage’, a live concert from Holland in 2008 and a joint concert with International Staff Band of the Salvation Army, Epic Brass II. Releases from 2009 include the CDs Essential Dyke Volume 9, Essentially Dyke (produced exclusively for the tour of Australia), World Class Marches of the Salvation Army Volume 1, Volume 3 of Fantastic Overtures and Within Blue Empires featuring the test pieces from the National Championships of 2008 by Kenneth Downie and the English National Championship in 2009 by Paul Lovatt-Cooper.

Furthering its connections with all aspect of music-making, Black Dyke Band and Halifax Choral Society (the world’s oldest) have recorded the complete ‘ Messiah’ by George Frederick Handel – a proud connection of two local world-class musical traditions.

In addition to touring and recording, the musical life of the Band has included television shows, films, broadcasts, concerts at Music Festivals, Universities, The Proms, Fanfare into Europe, and Songs of Praise for BBC. Covering the whole musical spectrum, the band has appeared with Lesley Garrett, Elton John, Evelyn Glennie, James Morrison, Phil Smith, Ian Bousfield, Hayley Westenra and many more.

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Video Gallery

Here are some of Foden's many YouTube highlights!

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