The perfect winter warmth of a brass band performance in a small-town community centre | Jack Marshall's column
Everything is warm. It’s cold outside but, in here, it’s cosy, the atmosphere like a blanket. There’s a humming murmur of relaxed chat hanging over the roo. And the thing we’re all here for, the music, is warm as well.
Brass bands aren’t usually my cup of tea, mostly because the music can err towards the melancholic, as if every performance is Remembrance. But, with three family members playing in a recent show, myself and my brother were invited along.
We said we’d think about it and were then informed of the cheapness of the drinks. We said we’d be there.
A pocket sanctuary away from the dipping temperature outside, there was such a welcome small-community feel to the event, an atmosphere only emphasised when the music started, the fireside glint off the brass adding to the warm rolling crescendos of the instruments.
There’s a lovely old smell to brass, a smell of times gone by; of persevering tradition and of the dry and oft-thumbed pages of yellowing sheet music. Save for taste (we’ll get to the beer in a moment), all the senses were consumed by things charmingly archaic and nostalgic.
The place itself had a strangely welcome smell to it, too - a curious cross between the mildew-and-old-wood of a church and the ancient cigarettes of indoor-smokers long-passed, the fumes lingering on fading carpets and ‘90s upholstery.
The band were conducted by a charmer with a winning smile and an arsenal of dashing banter. He knew his audience, ribbing members of the audience he recognised and flashing handsome smiles as he introduced each song. And the musicians were very, very good.
Their livery was matching: a shine of polished buttons catching the light like the slick lizard-tongue trombone slides. Emblazoned and formal and splashed with colour at the hems, the uniforms sat in direct contrast to their distinctly un-grand aluminium folding chairs.
And so, to the drink, which was indeed cheap. The choices were some deservedly-obscure Scottish lager or pale Budweiser, its thin fizziness boldly advertised by tall correspondingly-branded glasses. C’est la vie. We had six pints between us and left with change from £15.
Everything about the evening was comforting. There was something innately lovely about people being there because they liked playing music, because they liked hearing it, and because other people they liked were there too. There’s just a lot to be said for that.