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Brass Band in the Steel City

March 8th, 2024 | 2 min read

By Adam McCulloch

Brass Band in the Steel City

Sheffield is world-renowned for making brilliant things.

Whether it's concocting Henderson's Relish, crafting cutlery, or as the breeding ground for bands like The Human League, Pulp, and the Arctic Monkeys, it's a green city with a steel spirit.

In Firth Park, the next generation is turning to a heavier metal to put Sheffield on the musical map: brass. Firth Park Community Brass Band are set to compete in the 2024 National Youth Brass Band Championships - with a little help from some Sheffield rock royalty. The band will perform a medley of some of the biggest and best hits that the city has produced, giving the tunes a brass band makeover.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a rehearsal at Firth Park Academy, with the competition due to take place on Saturday 23rd March at Dean Close School in Cheltenham. 

As I jumped out of my car on a brisk February morning, a familiar refrain echoed across the car park of Firth Park Academy: Disco 2000 by Pulp. This wasn't The Floral Dance, that's for sure.

The band is led by Andy Harris, Sheffield Music Hub Brass Music Leader. Andy has helped to kickstart brass learning for children across Sheffield. He has used pBuzz in whole-class lessons to give children the fundamental techniques, with his students at Beck Primary School performing at the Proms in the Playground event in September 2023. Performers from Beck Primary, Firth Park Academy and other schools in the area have joined forces to form the Firth Park Community Brass Band.

Some of the band started their brass journey on pBuzz, and some of the older students have been taught by Andy for more than half a decade! "Getting on for fifty per cent of the band started on pBuzz," says Andy, "They will have started with me at Beck Primary. Whereas the older ones started back in year 5, that was my first year here in Sheffield, and they're now in year 11!"

Andy has arranged a medley that brings together four fantastic hits from South Yorkshire. Along with the aforementioned Disco 2000, it features two eighties classics: Poison Arrow by ABC and Don't You Want Me by the Human League. There's even a brassy remix of Snap Out Of It by Artic Monkeys. With kids, teachers (and a copywriter who used to live down the road) singing along, the performance is sure to be a stirring one. After all, as Andy says, "We're going to go and do our best so that we can represent Sheffield."

Firth Park Community Brass Band will also perform First Light (Bb Cornet Solo) by Ben Hollings at the championships. This piece is a real emotional gut-punch, and although Ben is from Glossop - "We've sneaked him over the border from Derbyshire," admits Andy - he would no doubt be delighted to hear his music performed by a new wave of brass musicians. It certainly made this ex-Sheffield resident rather misty-eyed.

Want to hear the rehearsals from Firth Park Academy? Check out the video:

Beck Primary music teacher Becky Stroud was in attendance, along with several other teachers and staff from Firth Park Academy and Sheffield Music Hub. Her simple assessment of seeing her young students prepare for the championships? "It gives me a buzz of pride," she said.

Everyone at pBone Music is pBuzzing with excitement to hear how the band fare, and we wish everyone the best of luck at the championships. They're doing themselves, their school, and their city proud.

Adam McCulloch

Adam is the Content Manager at pBone Music. This should mean that he’s the ideal person to write about himself, but he finds boasting in the third person a little awkward. He honed his word wizardry with a degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Leeds. He has since written copy for clients and businesses across the land, from awards to something beginning with “z”. He also spent a number of years as a musician. He has written pop songs and even jingles for kids, performed more first dances at weddings than you could shake a pBuzz at, and once played a gig for a pie company at The Etihad Stadium in Manchester. When he’s not reminiscing about those good old days, you might find Adam enjoying the football (although as an Everton fan, that can be difficult). He also loves spending time with his partner, Jen, and his family and friends, and sincerely hopes they feel the same way.