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The Top 10 Euphonium Players of All Time

You’ve been a patient lot waiting for our list of who we think have been the best euphonium players of the banding movement, but now the time has come to reveal our list.

We did not go about this blindly and therefore we asked one of the most respected, and in his own time, one of the most brilliant euphonium players himself, to give us his verdict. There were no rules that we set, but our adjudicator thought that to be as fair as possible, he would choose players who he felt were the best of their era – from the beginning of the 20th Century to it’s end. They are therefore in chronological order and not as a reflection of any one player being better than another.

These players are therefore the choice of Geoffrey Whitham, ex principal Euphonium of Black Dyke Mills Band, and the player who’s performance at the 1959 National Finals on “Le Roi d’Y’s” is still spoken with in awe.

Phineas Bower

Phineas Bower was born in Queensbury (the home of the Black Dyke Band) and was the most famous player of his time. He was the solo euphonium at Dyke from the age of 20 in 1867 – a position he held until 1894.

Such was his talent that at the 1873 Belle Vue Contest that he won both the solo prizes for euphonium and trombone – a result that led to the rule change to stop players performing on more than one instrument at a time on the contesting stage.

In 1895 he started the Black Dyke Junior Band after becoming in 1875 the bandmaster at Dyke itself. The first true superstar player of the banding world.

Herbert Scott

At a time when in terms of numbers, brass bands were at their peak, the Besses O’ th’ Barn band embarked upon World Tours, such as in 1907 when they visited Australia. The solo euphonium was Scott, the first stand up solo plying euphonium the banding world had really ever seen.

His impact was immense, as his style of playing owed much to what he had heard of famous singers of the time such as Caruso, and his lyrical playing and beautiful full tone were a revelation. He was born around 1880 in the Boarshurst area and died in 1932 – his reputation sealed and intact. A picture of him is to be seen at the Boarshurst bandroom to this day.

Bert Sullivan

Sullivan was born in Glasgow and for the period of the 1920’s onwards was considered the finest player of his generation. He was also one of the hardest men ever to pick up a musical instrument, as he had been a very successful amateur boxer – so much so that he had over 80 fights and was regarded as one of the best lightweight boxers of the period.

His upbringing was poor (he had no shoes on his feet until well into his teens), but his playing was as rich in quality as anyone before or since. He had periods playing with many bands, including the famous St. Hilda’s Colliery, the Gwaun cae Gurwen band in Wales, Horwich RMI and of course with Munn and Feltons, where he combined working as a no nonsense foreman with his euphonium playing.

Alex Mortimer

Like both of his brothers and his father, Alex Mortimer’s name will ever be associated with amazing achievements within the banding world. Born in Hebden Bridge, he first came to prominence as a player with the Luton Band that won the 1923 National Championships.

With the family already moving on to better things at Fodens, he joined them in 1924, replacing Percy Shaw (a very fine player in his own right, who left for Black Dyke). With Alex on euphonium and his other brothers in a band conducted by their father, the rest is history.

He went on to become a leading conductor, winning prizes galore with Black Dyke and CWS Manchester.

Harry Mather

Mather was born in 1919 near Wigan, and although he started out on the cornet and was a fine exponent on that instrument he became a baritone and then euphonium player towards the end of the war.

He played with CWS Manchester and then Fodens, where he won the 1950 Nationals and had spells Cresswell Colliery, John White Footwear, Black Dyke (after not playing for a couple of years!) and Cammell Laird, before retiring in 1972.

He produced one of the finest sounds ever heard on the instrument and played to great acclaim wherever he went – including an amazing dep job under the baton of Sir Malcolm Seargent in London in 1950. He remains one of the most respected players ever to have picked up the euphonium.

Lyndon Baglin

The modern era of banding has seen many great players, but there must always be a standard bearer from which all others take their marker. That man was Lyndon Baglin. Born in the Forest of Dean, he became the finest player of his generation by combining sound, technique and musicality into a package as a player that was years ahead of it’s time.

He came to prominence with many of the best bands of the period, including legendery spells with CWS Manchester, Brighouse and Rastrick, Fairey’s and Stanshawe. He even had a short spell on Eb bass with Black Dyke! As hard a task master on himself as he was with fellow players, his standards never dropped and he performed with memorable musicality in his later playing days with the Cory Band, first as soloist and even today as a second euphonium. A truly great player.

Trevor Groom

One of the nicest men ever to play the instrument, Trevor Groom was for over 30 years one of the best euphonium players in the country, first with the Kettering Citadel Band and then with the GUS Band, with whom he won two National titles, a World title and a British Open.

He is possibly best remembered though as the man who gave the first performance of the Joseph Horovitz Euphonium Concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in 1972 (thankfully recorded for posterity), an occasion that for the general public at last showed that the euphonium was a solo concerto instrument to be treated in the same way as a trumpet or trombone. It was an achievement of epic proportions and led the way for other composers to be attracted to the instrument. It is something all the banding world should be grateful to him for.

Billy Miller

It is difficult now when child prodigies are the norm in every aspect of life, to believe the impact the young Billy Miller had on the banding scene.

At a time when the euphonium players were considered to be in their prime in their mid to late 30’s, along came a this 15 year old to play better than anyone else on the contest or concert stage. He was British Solo Champion, appeared on Blue Peter and played with bands such as Wingates, Hammonds Sauce, Grimethorpe and Versatile Brass and played with such artistry and musicality that he was simply breathtaking to listen to.

Today he is a most respected teacher and soloist with the Leyland band, yet every time you listen to him play you are reminded just how good a player he has been.

Nicholas Childs

For years euphonium players were marked out as being great players by the way they produced their sound. Tone was everything. Then appeared Nicholas and Robert Childs, and euphonium playing changed forever.

Both were taught by their father, John, in Tredegar South Wales, but both moved north to further their playing careers. Within a matter of a few years they had revolutionised euphonium playing with leaps in the standard of technique that were for the most part mind boggling. Nicholas in particular had a sense of musicality that added to his prodigious technique made him sound unlike any other player, and his time with Grimethorpe and Fodens in particular was studded with performances of near perfection.

It’s the most difficult of all decisions to put him above his brother, but in a shorter playing career, he had it all. However, both were amazing.

Stephen Mead

The last in the line of the truly great players of the 20th Century. Mead has carved out a career as a soloist by sheer dent of talent and hard work, as he has taken his instrument around the world in a concerted effort to show the value and virtues of the euphonium as a serious solo instrument.

His single-mindedness has meant that he has not moved away from his chosen path to conduct or compose; yet he has brought a wealth of new music, serious compositions and transcriptions to the euphonium repertoire. He has remained close to his roots in the banding world, playing with distinction with bands such as Desford and CWS Glasgow and has forged his soloist reputation far and wide.

So that’s our list. You may of course disagree with the lot of it – but we did ask a man who knows more than a thing or two about playing the Euphonium to give us his opinion.

If you think you’ve got a better line up, then drop us a line and we’ll let everyone else have a look.

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