Happy Birthday to a Pioneer

When talking about Pioneers who have been notable in developing and advancing a particular movement or industry, one thinks of names such as  Louis Pasteur, the Wright Brothers and Thomas Edison. In the world of music, names such as Bach (Fugue) and Haydn (Symphony) spring to mind, when discussing composition, but there are other figure-heads, or “movers and shakers” as we now like to call them, that are maybe not as well-known, but no less influential in their respective fields. On this day in 1935, saw the birth of trumpeter, conductor, composer and arranger Elgar Howarth. Howarth was brought up in a traditional brass band background (his Father was a conductor) and went on to study music at Manchester University and the Royal Manchester College of Music, alongside the likes of Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies. This collective would be later known as  New Music Manchester, promoting the composition and performance of new music. Howarth was a key figure in bringing brass band and symphonic (orchestral) brass ensemble repertoire in to the 20th Century and to a whole new audience. This audience however, included both performer and listener alike. Through his pioneering work with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, he succeeded in composing and arranging repertoire that brought these genres in front a whole new audience, making massive advancements in terms of instrumental combinations and blends of sounds. Within the brass band movement, Concerts and Entertainment Contests would now never be the same, following Grimethorpe’s ground-breaking performance in 1972, at the Granada Band of the Year Competition, where Howarth compiled a programme that would completely revolutionise how conductors would approach programming and presentation from therein. As for the PJBE, along with Philip Jones himself, the “standard” Brass Quintet format was born, consisting of 2 Trumpets, a French, Trombone and Tuba, plus the 10-piece Ensemble of 4 Trumpets, French Horn, 4 Trombones and Tuba. Repertoire using larger forces were to follow, making brass chamber music a vibrant and exciting genre, which would stimulate new works from composers such as Malcolm Arnold, Ray Premru, Stephen Dogson and many more. Many of his compositions were initially shunned by the brass band movement, being regarded as too avant-garde, but in time, works such as “Fireworks” and “In Memoriam RK” have been accepted in to the hearts of players and listeners alike. He also appeared under the pseudonym of W. Hogarth Lear, showing a much lighter and humorous side to his personality. Happy Birthday Mr. Howarth and thank you for your pioneering work and legacy! 220px-Elgar_Howarth%2C_Halesworth%2C_Suffolk%2C_December_2012

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