When Luton Band was among the country’s top brass

Founded in 1883, Luton Brass Band played at concerts and in competitions the length and breadth of the country for nearly 120 years.

The Luton Band
The Luton Band

During its long history it was also known as the Ashton Street Mission Band, Deritend Luton Band and Luton Red Cross Band.

Luton Band’s finest moment came in 1923 when it won the national championship at Crystal Palace, the southernmost English brass band to achieve the honour.

This was largely due to well-known composer and conductor Harry Mortimer OBE (1902-1992) and his father Fred (1880-1953), who specialised in brass band music.

Harry was born in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, and when his family moved to Luton in 1910 he became cornet soloist in Luton Band.

He was conductor of Luton Red Cross Junior Band at the age of 14 and at this time his father conducted Luton Band, which raised their standard considerably.

Harry later conducted large-scale concerts, festivals and competitions and made many recordings.

He also brought back the Black Dyke Mills and Grimethorpe Colliery bands in the prestigious Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

Luton Band was London and Southern Counties champions on several occasions, but competed for the last time in 2002.

One of its great characters was Ted Carter (1885-1948), cornet and flugel horn player.

Ted said that if the band won the national championship he would throw his flugel horn under an oncoming train. So after the triumph of 1923, he did exactly that.