"It wouldn’t be Christmas without a brass band," is often heard within earshot of the local yuletide carol concert. But who ever heard about a brass band without Christmas? Well, this is precisely what resulted when Besses sailed across the International Date Line on the journey between Hawaii and Suva (Fiji Islands) on their first tour, thereby losing most of 25th December. And we claim that banding is merely a hobby!
To visit the Band room is to take a step back in time. The walls are lined with countless photographs and mementos of historic and more recent glories. The sight of these invariably triggers endless anecdotes from the hundreds of world famous brass band celebrities that have visited over the decades.
One often-quoted legend tells of a visitor from Australia looking for his Manchester roots. He arrived at Victoria Station in London with nothing more than a family name and that of the Band his grandfather played in – "Besses". He was promptly put on a train to Manchester with the instruction to change at Manchester Victoria for Besses o' th' Barn and told, "They'll look after you!"
However, it isn’t just strictly brass band devotees who are attracted to the Band room. André Previn was astonished by the Band’s capabilities when he brought a BBC TV documentary team to Whitefield in the 1970s. Both he and Sir Simon Rattle are listed as Band Vice Presidents. More recently, the world-famous US jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew sat spellbound throughout what was just a normal mid-week rehearsal. He also thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality downstairs afterwards and related some of his own anecdotes about the legends of the jazz world, including Woody Herman and Buddy Rich, for whose bands he played lead trumpet.