FORMIDABLE FODEN'S - Full coverage from the 2021 National Brass Band Championships

Issue 6112

HOW TO IMPRESS - Amos Miller on flourishing in a conservatoire audition

COMPOSER CAST - Liz Lane on her fascinating early musical life

DEPARTURE - Cornet star Kirsty Abbotts leaves Carlton Main

The horn player who tried to change the horns

Tuesday 20 April, 2021

Ifor James famously stated that he only played the French horn because he couldn’t sing. In fact, he played beautifully and enjoyed a successful performing career.

For a time, James returned to his brass band roots and tried to change bands’ long-established instrumentation. His efforts were to prove unsuccessful, as Tim Mutum explains in this exclusive article for British Bandsman in the year James would have celebrated his 90th birthday.


Looking back over the past 60 years or so, a considerable number of musicians brought up in brass bands who left for professional pastures playing in orchestras came back to their roots. Their subsequent involvement in brass bands was hugely significant and influential and they made lasting change. Coincidentally, those who stayed the course over a substantial period were largely trumpet players – Bram Gay, Geoffrey Brand, Elgar Howarth, Howard Snell and James Watson.

At the front of that list in historical terms would be Harry Mortimer, but one could reasonably argue that he never really left?

One former brass band player who went on to a brilliant orchestral career playing French horn before a brief return back was Ifor James. Sadly, he died in 2004 but, had he lived, this year he would have celebrated his 90th birthday. An opportune time, then, to reflect on a musician who is often overlooked for the im-pact he made on brass bands in the 1970s, possibly because it only covered a relatively short period of five years and involved only one band: Besses o’ th’ Barn.


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