Historic buildings and landscapes would be instantly recognisable to many different generations in many communities and that applies equally in Kirkbymoorside.

Yet there is another defining feature – which sets the town apart from many others. It has a brass band with a history that can be traced back more than two centuries.

Although Kirkbymoorside Brass Band may have borne little resemblance to today’s ensemble in its early era, it has provided the heartbeat of the community through the generations.

From its early days, the band has represented the town, and North of England at local and national competitions, and in the last few decades has been placed in the National Brass Band Finals of Great Britain, consistently competing at the top of brass banding. 

Musical director Sarah Woodward accepts that some of the “heavyweight” names in brass banding might technically be better, but none has a bigger heart and to achieve the results they do with players drawn from such a small community is a remarkable feat.

In all, there are more than 130 active players across five bands, with players ranging from five to 80-plus: “If you want to make music, we have a place for you,” says Sarah. 

The band also has the James Holt Concert Hall, which is next door to the band room. Following fundraising and generous donations from the local community in September 2019, they were able to hold the first concert in their purpose-built 250-seat concert hall.

The training bands help to ensure a consistency that will help to carry the band forward into the future, with the training band recruiting from schools in the area and some parents, inspired by their children’s efforts, choosing to join the Community Band to play, too.

That means the band in all its guises is a strong part of the community, playing events like garden parties and local concerts as well as the competitions that help to account for the band’s high profile.

Sarah said: “We are lucky to have lots of support from within the community and have a busy year ahead of us. We have a really good committee, they are all players but are also there behind the scenes making things run smoothly.”

Keeping the band going through the pandemic had been tricky, she said, because social distancing had meant practice was difficult, though they had maintained online contact. However, unlike other bands that struggled to restart, Kirkby Band welcomed 48 new players to their family in the summer of 2021 and in March will be at the area finals, which could take them to national finals and potentially promotion to the Championship – the top flight of the brass league table.