Tuning Up

Derbyshire Life|December 2019

Tuning Up
As we deck the halls and belt out Christmas carols, Peter Naldrett explores what this time of year means for Derbyshire’s brass bands
Peter Naldrett

It’s that time of year again, when we wrap presents, freak out about cooking a posh dinner and stress about the relatives coming round to play silly games.

When I think about ‘what Christmas means to me’, without getting all Stevie Wonder, it’s about the smell of the pine tree, tasting mulled wine, the appearance of decorations I’ve not seen for 11 months and, most of all, the joyous singing of carols.

Now, there’s singing carols and there are singing carols. The difference between different caroling experiences may be subtle, but it’s important. And the ultimate evening of singing While Shepherds… is when the lovely, haunting melodies of a brass band accompany the crisp, winter voices.

Christmas is a vital time for brass bands; not only is this the time of year when most people engage with them and have a nice sing-along, but it’s also crucial for fund-raising.

Peak Cavern in Castleton is famous for hosting underground caroling events in December that feature several Derbyshire brass bands over the season.

Whitwell Brass Band is one. Coming from over on the eastern edge of the county, they bank on Christmas carols pulling in much-needed money over the festive period and play a number of gigs in addition to the cavern.

Reliant on donations and grants to buy much-needed equipment such as jackets and outdoor coats, as well as pay for room hire and other necessities, the Christmas fund-raisers can pull in as much as three-quarters of their annual income.

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December 2019