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Here Comes The Band

The Cambridge University Brass Band have it all: pancakes, costumes and Uptown Funk.

  • Interview
    Lucy Jolin
  • Photography
    Adam Lawrence
- 2 minute read

The Cambridge University Brass Band (CUBB) has won the ‘Most Entertaining’ category at the national UniBrass competition for two years running. Talk to members and it all makes sense.

“I played the Post Horn Galop this year – on the post horn, of course – wearing an inflatable horse costume,” says flugelhorn and trumpet player Jonathan Ford, a second-year Johnian who is reading maths. “Though, to be fair, it was only the lower half of the horse, as I had to have my hands free to play. “The post horn is basically a long metal tube with a bell on the end, and to make it lower we had another band member sticking a hosepipe into it at intervals!” This was just one element of the 20-minute concert, which also included Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and a cover of Meat Loaf’s seminal work, Bat Out of Hell. The inclusion of a horse costume makes perfect sense when you consider that the previous year’s entry included balloons and a rip-roaring cover of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk (complete with shades and a lightsaber fight).

Being in a brass band demands musical excellence, of course. But there’s more to it than that. Traditionally, they’re strongly connected to their neighbourhoods, and are tight-knit, friendly communities in themselves. CUBB is no exception.

Indeed, the social aspect is a big part of what makes CUBB special, Ford says. Their ‘Brassed Off and Pancakes’ event does what it says on the tin: on Shrove Tuesday, the band gather to eat pancakes and watch Brassed Off (naturally, every brass player’s favourite film). And the annual formal dinner in the Easter term usually sees plenty of alumni and current members in attendance – there’s an active alumni organisation, Friends of CUBB.

Some alumni left the band 20 to 30 years ago, says Ford, and still join the band on their annual tour, one of the year’s highlights. CUBB is part of the University community, too, playing at Wolfson College’s garden party and at its ‘Music and Madeira’ evening in return for practice space.

A no-auditions policy helps to keep the band welcoming. “Everyone is here to have fun,” says Ford. “Not turning people away helps us to have this very friendly, social atmosphere – and it means we have a bigger band, too. “We’re all busy working and we want to wind down in the evenings. It’s nice to feel that there’s a place for everyone.”

Find out more about the Cambridge University Brass Band 

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