There is a story current in Yorkshire which sets forth that upon one occasion a Yorkshireman, staying at a fashionable hotel in London, and being requested to sign the register, saw on the page before him the signature of some proud person who appended to his autograph the letters "J.P., M.P." The Yorkshireman thereupon put himself down asólet as say Samuel Stubbs, and added to his scrawl, the mystic suffix, "B.B.B.B.B.B.B." much to the astonishment of the manager and his clerks, Asked to explain this strange title or degree, Mr. Stubbs said with great pride that it signified "Best Bloomin' Bugler in the Besses o' the Barn Brass Band," and walked away as if conscious of great and overwhelming dignity.
But it is only Yorkshiremen and perhaps a few Lancastrians, who can fully appreciate the importance of this story. There are two or three things about which your genuine Yorkshireman is profoundly interested. Horseracing is one; anything "doggy" is another; a third is "makkin' mewsic". The folk of the thickly-populated districts are very keen on anything musical, and I have heard a discussion as to certain points of Chopin and Grieg carried on very learnedly by black-faced colliers, who, when they had said all that they considered necessary, turned to the subject of rabbit-coursing with equal zest. In this matter of music some men's tastes turn to the concertina, some to the French horn, some to the cornet, but the man who attains the proudest eminence is he who joins a brass band.
The brass band is to country musicians what Paderewski is to the ordinary run of pianoforte players, and to belong to one, and share in its glories is a great thing. It is the fashion to hold brass band contests at Easter, and there was one held yesterday in a field near my house - the said field lying at the rear of a famous old sporting hostelry. I went down there an hour before the contest began, and I doubt if any other county in the world could show such a really curious sight. The bands - nine in number - were beginning to arrive, each playing its way through the High St., each attended by a crowd of enthusiastic admirers. Most of the bands came from colliery villages, and it was therefore not unnatural that the admirers should in any instances be accompanied by dogs, Indeed, the entire atmosphere was one of dogs, horses, and music, and it was somewhat difficult for an outsider to know which subject the company knew most about.
The quaint old parlours of the inn were full of men who had come to hear "t' band-lakin' contest," and their conversation ran in never ceasing ripples from the Lincolnshire Handicap of a fortnight ago to the virtues of Bill Brown as a performer on the euphonium, and from Johnny Reiff to the prospect of the band frow Hogley-in-the-Mud winning the first prize. There was, naturally, much consumption of ale over all these matters, and it was something more than ludicrous to hear two colliers, dressed in their Sunday best, and washed very cleanly, discussing Chopin as against Handel over their pots. "I tell thi 'at yon their Choppin couldn't ho'd a candle to owd Handel at makkin' fewneral mewsic - why, theer's nowt like t'Deead March in 'Saul,' in all t' world!" "Ger aht wi' tha! - Choppin's Funeral March is far an' away finer nor t' owd 'Saul' march - didn't they play Choppin when t'owd Queen wor buried? Handels out o' date nowadays." "Out o' dates, is he? Aw - happen t' Hallelewyer Chorus is out o' date, is it? And I'm teelin' thi' - t' Deead March i' 'Saul' ..."
When the last of the bands had arrived, and the contest was about to begin, nearly everybody adjourned to the enclosure, and it was quite in keeping with the spirit of the thing that one enthusiast immediately offered 4 to 1 on the band which hailed from his own village, and which had already won some dozens of first prizes. "They've noan gotten their uniforms on to-day, 'cos tha sees it lewked like rain, but nobbut wait till they get goin' and th'all hear some mewsic!" When the first band got to work one or two of the dogs began to whine, as dogs will, only to be fondly admonished by their owners with a "Ho'd thi wisht - doesn't to hear t' band lakin'?'' It was decidedly amusing to watch the faces, attitude, and deportment of the crowd. Here, a ruffianly-looking individual, with a seamed and scarred countenance, who held a most brutal looking bulldog by a chain, was listening with his head on one side, a sentimental expression in his eyes, and a profound appreciation of every nice point; there a little collier, who carried some sort of a toy pup in his arms, was so excited that he was beating time with foot and head or wagging the latter at his friends when the band executed some particular feat of execution. Even the dogs, catching the spirit of the thing from their owners, grew silent, and listened with respect.
The bands went on playing all the afternoon, and the folks who lived round about must have bad enough and to spare of "mewsic" made by instruments of brass. The audience, however, appeared to be full of the spirit of Oliver Twist. Occasionally small groups would adjourn to the inn, and discuss the last item on the programme over a "drop o' summat short." As the afternoon wore on it became evident that one band out of the nine was much preferred by almost everybody, and when each band performed its trial round, it was "odds" on it. Nobody was surprised when the first prize was eventually awarded to it. Then, just to show what it could do, the successful band burst into fresh strains. Every man inflated his chest with pride, the drummer banged his drum with new vigour. Everybody said, "Eh, but that's t'way to mak' mewsic!" Finally all the bands, massed together, played "God save the King." The dogs resented the terrible crash of sound bitterly - the effect of nine bands, all lakin' together, was more than they could bear. Then the proceedings came to an end pretty much as they had begun - music and dogs all mixed up together in a characteristic confusion which sent one away highly satisfied and amused with the entire performance.