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LP review: The Black Dyke Mills Band

Conductor: Arthur O. Pearce
EMI Records: 7EG
His Master's Voice: Extended play 45rpm



Listening to this recording you are reminded of archaeologist Howard Carter’s observation to Lord Caernavon after first peering into the unspoilt tomb of Tutankhamen.

“What can you see?”  his Lordship asked.

“Wonderful things,”  Carter replied with remarkable understatement.  

This is an aural equivalent - a tantalising glimpse into a lost world of brass band history.

Prime Minister

Black Dyke Mills Band in 1938 (the recording was released in early 1939) conducted by the frock-jacketed Arthur Oakes Pearce – not a Lord, but the Halifax born ‘Prime Minister’ of the banding movement; a teetotal, stentorian disciplinarian; a masterful conductor yet the humblest servant to the Queensbury band for nearly 40 years.     

And whilst this band would still have had to pay homage to the imposing Pharaohic rule of Foden’s during their 1930’s contesting dominance (they finished behind them on the podium five times at London from 1930-1939, although they never took to the stage against each other at Belle Vue) their ranks were filled with some of the great players of the era; Willie Lang, Rowland Jones, Jack Pinches, Joe Wood and Bernard Burns.  

Dyke was a busy recording outfit at the time - no less than twelve 10-inch recordings were made in 1938 alone, each avidly collected by Pondasher fans.

Black Dyke Mills Band in 1938 (the recording was released in early 1939) conducted by the frock-jacketed Arthur Oakes Pearce – not a Lord, but the Halifax born ‘Prime Minister’ of the banding movement; a teetotal, stentorian disciplinarian; a masterful conductor yet the humblest servant to the Queensbury band for nearly 40 years.  

Heat haze

Side 1 is filled by the sounds of ‘Abide With Me’, simply but effectively arranged by Pearce himself – played with an ensemble vibrato that shimmers like the heat haze of an Egyptian desert horizon. It is followed by a gloriously passionate rendition of ‘Deep Harmony’ – rich, ornate and moving. The compact ensemble moves as one though – testament to the conductor’s control.  

It is however the performance of ‘Poet and Peasant’ overture, arranged by the now long forgotten Jules Riviere (died 1900) that transports the senses. 

Contrasting character portraitures that could have come straight off Von Suppe’s operetta stage, it is packed to the gills with robust Bavarian bluff and splendour. 

The famous horn solo is delivered with consummate artistic flair, whilst the cornet section is a phalanx of power; hard and unyielding. It is like standing on the fireplate of a pre-War steam train; throbbing with life drawn from the fire in its belly stoked by Arthur O. Pearce at the helm. 

Subtle it perhaps isn’t. Simply wonderful it undoubtedly is; a glimpse of a lost world full of riches to behold.  

Iwan Fox


Side 1: 
1. Abide With Me (Monk arr. Pearce)
2. Deep Harmony (Parker arr. Broadhead)

Side 2:
1. Poet and Peasant (Suppe arr. Riviere)

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