By an Admirer
Just twenty-one years since, the local Press heralded the advent of a Brass Band for Upper Norwood, and predicted that it " would prove a great attraction to the district and in every way worthy of its birthplace."
The proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof, and the prophet, who is doubtless present on this auspicious occasion, may be pardoned for any excess of egotism he may display, as also the writer of these brief reminiscences.
For though the career of the Upper Norwood Prize Band may have been a chequered one, it has certainly been one of steady and consistent progress, the modest little suburban Brass Band of 1900, by dint of hard work and close application to the task set them twenty-one years ago, having reached to-day the proud position of Champion Band of the Southern Counties, and holders of the " Daily Express " Challenge Shield, the premier prize of the Second Division at the National Band Festival, which is open to all bands in the British Isles.
In its infancy the Band gave early promise of great things by securing a fourth prize at Tottenham Contest in the fourth month of its career. A long list of successes followed, including the Championship of the Southern Counties for two consecutive years, and culminating in the great victory of September last already referred to. This latter performance is the more meritorious by reason of the fact that no southern band has before achieved this distinction, and, furthermore, that the twenty-six competing bands hailed in the main from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and other North Country counties, which have the reputation of being the homes of brass bands.
The Band has a distinctive record of which the members are justly proud, the honours gained in band competitions totalling close on a hundred, including twenty challenge cups and shields, with innumerable medals awarded to individual soloists. It also had the distinction of leading the procession of the men of H.M.S. Terrible in their triumphal march through London in 1902 at the close of the South African War.
In 1911 a tour through Belgium and France was undertaken, and a Diploma of Honour awarded the Band at the Brussels Exhibition, while a similar honour was conferred on them at the Ghent Exhibition in 1913.
In September, 1914, the Band joined the local Volunteer Corps in a body, and ultimately gave twenty-nine of the membership of thirty- two at that date to the Regular Forces, over-age men being enlisted to enable the Band to continue its duties with the Home Defence Corps. During the period August 1914—March 1919 over 100 concerts were organised for wounded soldiers, almost every hospital within twenty-five miles of London being visited.
A word in conclusion as to the present personnel of the Band. Of the original members there now remain but three who have seen continuous service, and it is due to these stalwarts that their names receive special mention. They are :—Messrs. W. W. Grant (Conductor), Alfred Grant (Solo Cornet), and Fred Grant (Solo Baritone).
The majority of the men, however, are musical products of the Band, and with an average of ten years' service.
Upper Norwood has, therefore, every reason to be proud of its Band, and it is the sincere wish that the measure of support locally may be compatible with the exalted position the Band occupies in the musical world.