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Brass festival hits the right note with record-breaking crowds

Published July 22, 2019 4.04pm

Record-breaking crowds have experienced the excitement and diversity of 21st century brass thanks to County Durham's liveliest music festival.

Brass round up 1

Mr Wilson's Second Liners dance with youngsters at the Big Brass Bash in Crook

More than 40,000 people experienced this year's Durham BRASS, a ten-day musical extravaganza which culminated in a free open-air party at Wharton Park in Durham last night (Sunday).

Wharton Park Meets the West End was just one of an action-packed programme of free outdoor performances taking place in towns and villages across County Durham as part of our festival. There were also ticketed events featuring world-class musicians at the Gala Theatre, Durham Town Hall and Durham Cathedral, along with performances in schools and care homes.

In total, 42,442 people joined in with the festival, including almost 16,000 pupils at 82 schools.

For pictures from this year's festival and to keep up to date with the latest news, follow 'Brass International Festival' on Facebook or @DurhamBRASS on Twitter and  Instagram, or visit the BRASS: Durham International Festival website.

Diverse programme

From salsa, swing and big band, to choral masterpieces, dance music and Afro-beat, the festival catered for all tastes and ages and celebrated the rich history and versatility of brass music.

The launch event, Promised Land by Mr Wilson's Second Liners, was a perfect example of just how diverse modern brass can be. Located in a secret Durham City venue only revealed on the evening of the performance, the gig was inspired by the impromptu parties of the 1990s, with a set list of club classics and atmospheric lighting.

Brass round up 2

Back Chat Brass entertain the crowds in Wharton Park in Durham

Streets of Brass, meanwhile, saw street bands from all over the world descend on Durham City for two days of free musical mayhem. Thousands of people gathered in the Market Place and other locations to enjoy performances by crowd-pleasing acts including Loud Noises, Back Chat Brass, Artistas Del Gremio and Oompah Brass.

The Big Brass Bash and Big Brass Bus, meanwhile, brought the party to the people in Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe, Crook, Shildon, Trimdon, Lanchester, Chester-le-Street, Spennymoor and Stanhope. There was also a special performance in Peterlee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Pavilion, while the Big Brass Party provided another opportunity for people to enjoy a picnic and live music at Wharton Park.


Other highlights included Oktoberfest, which saw Durham Town Hall transformed into a lively bierhalle for an evening of German food and music marking the 50th anniversary of Durham's twinning with Tübingen; and Verdi's Requiem, a thrilling new transcription of the classic choral masterpiece at Durham Cathedral.

Austrian eccentrics Mnozil Brass' sold out Cirque Show wowed audiences at the Gala Theatre; Strictly Come BRASSing brought together dancing and big band music; national brass band champions Brighouse and Rastrick Band left audiences in no doubt over why they have won the title ten times; and Global Brass Live harnessed cutting-edge technology to present a joint concert by two bands 560 miles apart.

Investing in culture

Brass round up 3

Three little girls enjoy the music during the Big Brass Bus' visit to Trimdon

Cllr Joy Allen, our Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: "Over the last ten days the excitement and magic of brass has spread to towns and villages across the county and I have been blown away by the response we have had.

"It has been wonderful to see people of all ages - from young school children to older care home residents - being uplifted and inspired by brass music.

"The free parties in streets and parks brought communities together, while also attracting visitors and boosting the economy. That is why investing in the arts is so important; it raises aspirations, creates a sense of civic pride and builds on County Durham's reputation as a cultural destination."  

The theme of this year's festival was Brass and Health, and a day of workshops and discussions around the topic gave brass players and anyone interested in the physical and emotional benefits of music the chance to find out more.

Community outreach

Our community arts team also joined forces with Beamish Museum and the Alzheimer's Society for a special project called Dance Hall Days. People living with dementia and their carers attended special workshops where they looked at old photographs and records, and discussed the role music has played in their lives. The memories this provoked inspired a concert at Beamish's new 1950s Welfare Hall.

BRASS is one of an unprecedented number of cultural events taking place in County Durham in 2019. To find out what else is going on and how to get involved in the #Durham19 campaign, visit the #Durham19 page.

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