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Top Brass: Desford Colliery Band

The Desford Colliery Band is widely considered to be one of the world’s finest brass bands, as well as one of its most successful.

The 25-piece ensemble has performed all over the world, recorded award winning albums and continues to be at the forefront of British music making.

Founded in 1898, Desford Colliery Band is known for its success right across the globe, having won world and European championships – no less than thirty-five in fact.

They have also been crowned National Champions four times.

Peter Smith has been the chairman of the Leicestershire-based band for over 30 years, and labels it his “pride and joy.”

“We’re currently ranked 10th in the world, out of around 3,000 brass bands, so it’s certainly something I’m very proud of,” he told Pukaar.

“The band is very highly trained, and the musicians are all very proficient – that’s what makes it one of the best. It’s taken many years to get to this level,” he went on to reveal.

“Standards are very strict to get in as a permanent member. We don’t sack people, but if someone leaves, the next player in has to be better or at least comparable. So in that way, the band’s always getting slightly better,” he added. “We’re progressing all the time.”

Desford Colliery Band have performed many times over the years at prestigious venues including London’s Royal Albert Hall and the Birmingham Symphony Hall.

It’s something which is always a “huge honour”, according to Mr Smith, who play the cornet as a younger man, before turning his hand to management.

They have also toured the world, showcasing their sound at schools in far flung destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Abu Dhabi – places where children had never seen a brass band before.

For this reason, the band is considered to be one of the best ambassadors for British musical culture and heritage abroad.

“Foreign touring is something that’s an important part of the band’s ethos, both to foster international banding relations and to strengthen the bonds within the band itself,” explained Mr Smith.

“We’re not limited in the style of our music,” he added. “It’s amazing what the band can actually do – from Baroque to Jazz the repertoire is extremely broad, so it fits in almost anywhere.”

Although Peter admits that coordinating the band for tours and shows is at times “extremely challenging”, it’s a small price to pay for the end result, which is “exceptional” he says.

“As the band’s manager, people often say to me ‘why on earth do you put yourself through all that?’ I don’t get paid and I’m not a young man anymore. But for me, when I hear the band, that’s it – that’s the reward,” he explained.

“The pleasure in that sound is exceptional. Everywhere we go, we get a nice audience that are very appreciative of what we do. It really is my pride and joy.” 

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