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Stretford Brass Band
The band was formed around 1840 as the St Matthew’s Church Band. Originally it was a pipe and drum band, its function being to lead church parades on Sundays. However over the years it evolved, first into a semi military band and then a brass band.
In 1844 the band was adopted by Stretford Council and became the "Civic Band" but it still rehearsed in the church hall for several years and always kept close connections with the church, the name was changed at the council’s request to the "Stretford Band".
The name was changed twice after that, first to the "Stretford Prize Band" when they started to win contests, and later to the "Stretford Silver Band" when they acquired a set of silver plated instruments.
By now the band was in great demand for engagements and it is interesting to note that the Manchester Evening News reporting on the opening of the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham railway said that the Stretford Civic Band was engaged to play in the first coach on the first train to run from Manchester to Altrincham.
As the band became more involved in contesting it began to engage the services of well known conductors such as Fred Mortimer (Fodens), Tom Hines, J.A. Greenwood (composer), Herbert Brooks, Reubin Hesford and many more whilst always managing to retain the best resident musical directors, the longest serving of whom was probably Ray Harris who also played soprano cornet with the Clayton Analine Band, closely followed by Don Shepherd who joined the band on trombone and ably stood in when the conductor, Wilf Walker was taken ill. Don also played in orchestras and big bands and insisted that the band modernise. Both Ray and Don served for over twenty five years and were sadly missed by all.
On the sixteenth of September 1933 the band in its role as the civic band attended the opening of the new Stretford Town Hall and it is mentioned in the minutes of a committee meeting held a few days later that there was some ill feeling on the job with certain members accusing others of being the worst for drink on the stand and proposing a total alcohol ban on band jobs. This came to a head at an A.G.M. shortly after when several ardent abstainers walked out and formed a rival band which they predictably named "The Stretford Temperance Band", later to be named "The Stretford Borough Band" and forty years later, "The Sale Band". The original band changed their name to "The Stretford Old Band" to denote that they were the first.
In 1919 the band was engaged to play at the first Stretford Pageant, a job which they did every year until 1933. Now as there were two Stretford bands, the organizers, trying to be even handed, split the job in half with one band leading the parade and the other playing for the crowning ceremony. This arrangement continued successfully until 1982 when the pageant finished due to lack of support.
The standard of the band has always been apparent in the fact that they have won over fifty prizes over the years including the first prize at the Belle Vue spring contest in 1908 and 1918.
Today the band is probably better known for its presentation of entertaining and versatile concerts ranging from Tchaikovsky to big band classics, and from church music to pop.
When the band left St Matthew’s (the exact date is not known) because the hall could not be made available as often as the band needed it, several venues were tried but all were unsuitable for various reasons. Finally, they were offered the use of a barn at the rear of the Bull Inn. They cleaned and renovated the hay loft and this became their home for many years.
Eventually, the barn was due for demolition and the band was about to become homeless again. It seemed impossible to find affordable or suitable accommodation in the Stretford area, but then the band’s secretary, Ray Roberts, was offered an arrangement by the Sale Sports Club. The band moved in and has enjoyed a thirty year association with the club.