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Blowing our own trumpets at UniBrass 2019

Durham University brass band

It’s my third year studying Music but I look forward to Monday evenings when I get a break from studying music academically, by playing my cornet with Durham University Brass Band. Primarily a singer and pianist, I came to university with no real intention to pursue my trumpet playing. However, it soon became apparent that the Brass Band provided the perfect opportunity for me to continue playing in a sociable and all-inclusive society, that prides itself on its high standards. Two years later, I am now the Publicity and Alumni Officer for the band and am delighted with all that we have achieved. The first term saw a joint concert with the Footscray Yarraville City Band, all the way from Australia, and a Christmas concert with the Durham University Concert Band.

This term, we have had lots of exciting opportunities to look forward to. For me, the highlight has been UniBrass.

Durham University brass band UniBrassUniBrass

Held annually since 2011, UniBrass is the world’s only inter-university brass band competition, welcoming conservatoires and universities from across Great Britain. On the 2nd February 2019, the Durham University Brass Band got up bright and early to travel to this years’ host, Bangor University.

Each of the 20 participating bands performs an individually chosen twenty-minute programme to the audience. Split into two categories, the more advanced ‘Trophy’ section and the ‘Shield’ section, the universities compete for points and a number of prizes. Members of the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators, judge each band for its musical execution and entertainment value.

A theme and a celebration

Durham University brass band UniBrassFor entertainment purposes, the band adopted the theme of ‘Graduation’, complete with Durham gowns! Firstly, Jublioso by Philip Sparke, served to reflect the joy of finishing a degree. Next, ‘Brindisi,’ from the drinking scene in Verdi’s La Traviata, represented the typical student experience of having drinks on a fun night out. Sean Moran, our principal conductor, arranged this work for cornet and euphonium solos, featuring Sam Musson and Laurie Wood respectively. After a night of celebrating the impending graduation, we turned to Debussy’s Reverie, a well-known piano work, also arranged by Sean Moran, to conjure the feeling of a well-earned rest. To represent the moment of graduation, Pomp and Circumstance followed. Taking off our gowns to reveal brightly coloured shirts, we concluded out set with the lively Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing) by Benny Goodman.   watch our performance  

… and relax…

Durham University brass band UnibrassFollowing our performance, we celebrated together by having lunch at the local pub. It was great to relax and spend time together after all the hard work we put into the contest. Following this, a few of us decided to explore the town of Bangor, located in the North West of Wales. A particular highlight of mine was wandering down to Bangor pier and glimpsing beautiful views over to the Isle of Anglesey.

Arriving back in time for the results, we were happy to achieve 9/10 in the ‘Trophy’ section, which is a real achievement given we are an all-inclusive, non-auditioned band. A big congratulations goes to RNCM and Chichester university for winning the ‘Trophy’ and ‘Shield’ sections respectively.


A highlight of the competition was the fantastic evening social hosted by Bangor University with live music from the band, Atomic Brass. It was an unforgettable experience to be surrounded by hundreds of other student brass players, socialising and dancing to the music.

It is safe to say the band had a great time, both in terms of our performance and the day as a whole. We look forward to returning to Bangor and participating in UniBrass again for the 2020 contest!

Read more blogs from students involved with other music societies, from orchestras to musical theatre, or visit the website for more information on student music at Durham.

Rosie Needham

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