A brass band festival is a celebration of music that showcases brass band ensembles. In general, an ensemble that features brass instruments, woodwinds, and percussion instruments can be considered a brass band. Usually, the music presented at a brass band festival includes a variety of different styles and sounds. Many such festivals also include other activities for people to enjoy.
The purpose of a brass band festival is not only to entertain but also to educate. Toward that end, these types of festivals often showcase a variety of brass bands that play different styles of music. For instance, one band might have a traditional marching band sound and repertoire, while another might have a jazzy, New Orleans style. No two brass bands are ever exactly alike, and each one will have its own unique sound and style. This is a point that is often illustrated quite effectively and enjoyably at a brass band festival.
Like most festivals, a brass band festival will usually have other activities available to entertain guests. Aside from a variety of brass band concerts, most festivalgoers will also find a variety of food, beverage, and craft vendors Some festivals might also offer educational seminars and lessons regarding brass band history and the different types of brass instruments. Brass band competitions might also be held. There could also be children’s activities available to entertain the younger set, such as bounce houses, games, and kids' crafts.
Festivals involving brass bands have been held for centuries. In fact, the first brass band festival might date back to the early 19th century. In the 1800s, during the British industrial revolution, brass bands developed as a form of recreation and entertainment for workers and laborers. The ability to skillfully play brass instruments quickly became a source of pride and competition among the working class, and communities would often gather to listen to and determine which musicians were the best at playing. This tradition carried over and likely gave rise to what most people recognize today as a brass band festival.
While the specific instruments might vary, traditional, or British-style, brass bands typically have 28 players and include cornets, trombones, flugelhorns, and euphoniums. In addition to brass instruments, a brass band generally includes woodwinds, such as clarinets or flutes, and percussion instruments, such as snare drums, cymbals, and glockenspiels. Many standard brass bands have 25 rather than 28 players and include saxophones, tubas, and bugles. Whatever variety of instruments are chosen for a particular brass band, the distinguishing feature is the absence of string instruments.