The British Open Brass Band Championship, also known as the “British Open,” is a prestigious brass band competition that has a long and rich history. Its origins can be traced back to 1853, when the Crystal Palace Company organized the first National Brass Band Championships as part of its annual music festival. The competition attracted bands from all over the country, but it was plagued by controversy in the early years due to disagreements over judging criteria and performance quality.
In 1860, a group of leading brass band musicians decided to break away from the National Brass Band Championships and form their own competition, which they named the British Open Brass Band Championship. The first event was held at Belle Vue in Manchester, and it was a resounding success, with top bands from across the UK competing for the coveted silver challenge cup.
Over the years, the British Open has become renowned for its high standards of performance and strict judging criteria. Bands are required to perform a set test piece commissioned specifically for the competition, which is designed to test their technical ability and musicality. The performances are judged by a panel of experts who evaluate the band’s intonation, balance, rhythm, and interpretation.
The British Open has also played a significant role in the development of brass band music in the UK, with many of the most famous brass band composers and arrangers writing pieces specifically for the competition. Some of the most frequent winners of the event include:
- Black Dyke Band: The Black Dyke Band, based in Queensbury, West Yorkshire, has won the British Open a record 30 times, with their first win coming in 1864. The band has a rich history and is considered one of the most successful brass bands in the world, with numerous national and international titles to their name.
- Fairey Band: The Fairey Band have won the British Open 16 times including a hatrick of wins in 1961, 1962, 1963 and five wins in the 40s and 50s
- Foden’s Band: Foden’s Band, based in Sandbach, Cheshire, has won the British Open 12 times, with their first win in 1909. The band has a strong tradition of musical excellence and has been at the forefront of the brass band movement for over a century.
- Brighouse and Rastrick Band: The Brighouse and Rastrick Band, based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, has won the British Open three times, with their first win in 1932. The band is known for its distinctive sound and has a loyal following of fans around the world.
- Grimethorpe Colliery Band: The Grimethorpe Colliery Band, based in Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire, has won the British Open twice, with their first win in 1971. The band is famous for its role in the film “Brassed Off” and has a long history of success in both national and international competitions.The famous Wingates band won the event in 1975 having had 6 more wins in the earler part of the 20th century.
- The famous Wingates band won the event in 1975 having had 6 more wins in the earler part of the 20th century.
- Cory Band from South Wales have won The British Open 8 times with their first win recorded in 2000.
Today, the British Open is still held annually at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, with the silver challenge cup still being awarded to the winning band. The competition remains one of the most prestigious events in the brass band calendar, and its rich history and high standards of performance continue to inspire musicians and audiences alike.