Oxted Band was founded in 1901 although local musicians were meeting before that. The band’s founder is given as one Arthur Paul Barry who is also described as the band’s teacher. Is it Arthur Barry who sits proudly in the middle of this 1905 photograph, swagger stick on knees, side drum at his feet?
The early photographs of the band show men in military style uniforms, complete with peaked caps, and the presence of a bass drummer resplendent in his tiger skin indicates that the band was a marching band. Note also the clarinet players, the french horn player standing in the back row and the strangely shaped tuba held by the player on the left of the front row. This instrument has been variously identified as a helicon or a Bass saxhorn. (Tenor and Baritone saxhorns are still an integral part of the brass band instrumentation).
Early photographs also show that the band was a social as well as a musical institution. The band sports day with its races for children appears to have been a regular feature of the Edwardian era.
The Inter-War years
At some point around the time of the First World War, the band underwent a name change. Originally entitled “The Oxted and District Prize Band”, a title of “The Oxted and District Silver Prize Band” can just be made out on the Bass Drum featured in photographs. This fact and the absence of clarinets in the line-up suggests that the woodwind have been banished and that Oxted was now in the ranks of the purely brass ensembles.
According to the recollections of a former member, the band’s instruments were dispatched to France during the Great War in order to equip the band of one of the volunteer regiments in Kitchener’s new army. It is quite feasible that they returned in less than perfect condition and that this is the reason for the change in instrumentation. One other point to be noted from the photographs is that the uniforms are simplified, no more blancoed cross-belts, and on occasions dispensed with altogether. The MD in this picture taken at Crawley in 1927 is dressed as if auditioning for Dick Tracey, while two players on the left are in more workaday garb. Whether this change in dress was due to economic circumstances one can only speculate.
The band was expected to take part in community events, as this picture of the town’s Easter Parade some time in the late thirties shows. The band are seen treading on the heels of the parish church choir, while at a safe distance behind the pupils of the St Mary of Normandy school follow in Norman costume. Note the trombonist holding his bass trombone with the extension to the slide.
1945 to the present Day
After the second world war the band are back in uniform. This picture is unusual, showing as it does little pillbox type hats worn at a variety of angles. Apparently the Band were requested to wear these to ‘celebrate’ the 1951 Festival of Britain. Brass banding though was in decline in the early post war years, and the fact that there are only sixteen musicians, of which two are percussionists, in this picture suggests this was not one of the band’s stronger periods.
Up until around 1960 the band was an all-male preserve but times were changing and Oxted Band benefited from recruiting from both halves of the population. Female players have played a key part in the band’s continued success.
You can guess from the earlier names of the Band that they enjoyed success at contests. Early photographs show the band performing at open air contests in places such as Crawley and Tunbridge Wells. This postcard view from the thirties shows the band, mainly out of uniform, posing for the photographer, while behind them the attention of the crowd is clearly on something else.
Over the years the band reached the National Brass Band Championships finals on three occasions. Here the band are proudly showing off their trophy as the London and Southern Counties Region 3rd section champions of 1977. Three of the band pictured on this photo are still full playing members forty years later!
In 1996 the band applied for and received a grant from the National Lottery. This award enabled the purchase of a complete set of new instruments and purchase of new music, the benefits of which are still being felt very strongly to this day.
For a number of years, the band has been proud to host a visiting soloist for a ‘Stars of Brass’ concert, These concerts have featured such brass greats as Brett Baker (2002 and 2014), David Childs (2003), Ben Thompson (2007), John Doyle (2009), Owen Farr (2010), Paul Duffy (2011 and 2014), Paul Lovatt-Cooper (2012), Derrick Kane (2013), Ben Dixon (2016), Matilda Lloyd (2017) and Paul Woodward (2018).
The Band continues to channel all of their considerable energy into entertainment performances across the South East, community events and occasional Contest entries. With over 110 years of fruitful history behind us, Oxted Band aims to continue to produce good quality brass music in each of these arenas for many happy years to come.