BACK IN BUSINESS - First to Fourth sections enjoy Nationals return

Issue 6110

REGIONALS TESTS - Set works announced ahead of 2022 Regional Championships

A RISING STAR - BB meets Flowers and NYBBGB cornetist, Luke Barker

The brass band time capsule - Sandy Smith

Tuesday 10 August, 2021

The year 1985 proved to be momentous in the history of the Black Dyke Mills Band. Tenor horn player Sandy Smith had arrived from Whitburn Band a few years earlier and following a brief stint on first horn, soon found himself in the solo seat.

The National Championships saw a stern test in the shape of John McCabe’s Cloudcatcher Fells – but with a star-studded line-up and Major Peter Parkes at the helm, the result was something very special indeed, as Martyn Ramsay finds out.


“Thanks very much for coming, we’re just going to play through the piece”, said Major Peter Parkes as Black Dyke Mills went through its final paces on the Thursday night before the trip down to London. Around 150 people were packed into Queensbury’s Victoria Hall for the open rehearsal.

“Nowadays it’s a PR exercise”, said Sandy Smith. “You’ll get a march, maybe a solo and then the test piece and that’s it. But this was a proper working rehearsal.”

After the performance of course, done with very little introduction or fuss. At its powerful conclusion, Major Parkes turned around and said, “Well, that’s the piece then. What do you think of that?” An older gentleman in the audience, sitting in close proximity to Sandy’s ghetto-blaster that was capturing the whole evening, replied definitively. “Rubbish!”

Forty-eight hours later, John McCabe’s Cloudcatcher Fells would ring around the Royal Albert Hall for the final time and brass band history would be made.


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