Though the Band is justly proud if its illustrious history it is certainly not trapped in a time warp. It is well known for commissioning new works from both established and emerging composers. Amongst the pieces that Besses have either commissioned or premiered are Images (John McCabe), Of Knights and Castles (Ray Premru), Australian Fantasy (Gordon Langford) and concertos for tuba by both Edward Gregson and Joseph Horovitz
Besses also gave the first performance on radio of Tim Souster's Echoes, a piece written for brass with "radiophonic" effects. Commenting on the recorded version, one of Besses’ horn players at the time, Dave Aston, thought it, "Very unusual to play just one note and then to hear it repeated twenty times on air."
Other radio and television appearances followed including the BBC Omnibus programme with André Previn. Elgar Howarth was the conductor on that occasion. The highlight of Besses’ radio broadcasts has to be its winning performance of the 1978 BBC Band of the Year competition, conducted by Ifor James. In the intervening period since that competition was shelved, Besses have remained regular contributors to the popular Listen to The Band programme and, since its inception, Classic FM Radio. Another recent TV appearance was on the Christmas 1998 episode of The Mall, a documentary series following the development of Manchester’s huge Trafford Centre shopping mall. In June 1999 a performance of English music to a packed Royal Albert Hall enthralled nursing delegates from all around the world after their formal international convention had ended.
The Band also spent several years under the musical directorship of Roy Newsome, culminating in their seventh victory in the British Open in 1982. The test-piece, Herbert Howell's Three Figures, was recorded by the Band and is available on one of its many tapes and compact discs.
The Band continues to play at venues around the UK and to tour internationally, with Switzerland, Holland and Germany among recent destinations. Finland was toured in 1983 and 1986, the Band being led on the latter visit by Major Peter Parkes.
As a mark of respect and recognition to past members who have made the name Besses so famous over almost two centuries, the Band is in the planning stages of a third World Tour. It is hoped that this will take place in 2006 and will include at least some of the countries visited during the first two World Tours of 1906 and 1909. Already, concert invitations are being received, via the modern medium of the Internet, from New Zealand, America and the Far East. The international interest generated so far has led to the unearthing of yet more colourful memorabilia by third-generation descendants of people who attended huge concerts during the earlier tours. No wonder that media interest is already being stirred by the prospect of such a rich tapestry of history juxtaposed with the current thirst around the world for top-class brass band music. Whether the Band will again be able to pose with Zulu warriors in full battle dress remains to be seen! The photograph showing such a remarkable scene only a few years after bloody battles with the British is unfortunately too fragile to allow its reproduction here.
Such is the historical significance of the "Third World Tour" that initial interest has already been expressed by television and film production companies. A recent BBC TV News report (see above) covered both the planned tour and the nostalgic visit by forty members of the Jackson family. They included direct descendants of Bob Jackson, shown as a sixteen-year-old cornet player in the 1869 photograph on the front page of this brochure. The media are attracted by the contrast between the high-speed, hi-tech version of the Third World Tour and the pioneering, steamships images conjured up by the first two tours. Besses were then seen as one of the country's major ambassadors in a golden era of the British Empire. Next time around, they will no doubt be seen as ambassadors for British culture and commerce. It is anticipated that business leaders will be keen to help fund the Third Tour of the World early in the New Millennium. Those interested in potential sponsorship of either the Tour, individual concerts, or the day-to-day running expenses of this living gem of our national heritage should contact us!