Sam B. Wood & our Signature Tune
If Brighouse and Rastrick Band had been given a pound every time they played their signature tune, the March ‘West Riding’, written by Sam B. Wood in 1943, they would have accumulated quite a healthy bank balance by now. In the last, now almost 30 years, the band has been more popularly associated by the general public with that well known adopted ‘Yorkshire’ folk song, ‘The Floral Dance’, that they gained fame for in the 1970’s. But since 1943 almost every concert the band has performed, which averages over 30 per year across the UK and beyond, has opened with the first few bars of its official signature tune, the March ‘West Riding’. Based on the well known Yorkshire Anthem ‘Ilkla’ Moor Bah’t’, it quickly conveys to the audience exactly where the band originates and forms part of its proud identity.
In November 1999, the Brighouse and Rastrick Band contributed to a Centenary and Armistice Celebration Concert held in Pudsey Civic Centre, not only celebrating the 100th anniversary of Pudsey being declared a borough, the last such charter Queen Victoria granted, but also celebrating the life and music of Pudsey born Samuel Balmforth Wood, the composer of ‘West Riding’.
Samuel Balmforth Wood. Mus.Bac. (Dunelm) FVCM, FTSC, FRSA, was a prolific composer and arranger of more than 400 published works. Sam B., as he was affectionately known, was born on the 5th August 1896 and raised in a family immersed in music. His father, John Wood, was a professional musician and a Cooper. By the time Sam B. was five years old he had been taught to play the cornet. At ten years of age he performed at the Theatre Royal in Leeds and was a King’s Trumpeter. He played the cornet seasonally at Ilkley and Morecambe when he was a young teenager.
During the First World War Sam B. served in Egypt and France, where he served as a stretcher-bearer in the trenches during some horrendous battles. He joined the band of the 2nd Bradford Pals as solo cornet. When the ‘Pals’ were disbanded, the band was transferred en-bloc to the 8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. On the eve of his 21st birthday he became the youngest bandmaster in the British Army. Whilst serving in the Forces he composed several marches and a suite called ‘Bucquoy’. At the end of his military service he was offered promotion to Brigade Bandmaster but preferred to return to civilian life.
After the 1914-18 War he played in cinema orchestras. He was also the musical arranger for the New Victoria Broadcasting Cinema Orchestra in Bradford. With the demise of cinema orchestras he established several dance bands, one of which was the very popular ‘Dutch Boys’. During this time he was also a timpanist in a symphony orchestra. Sam B. was also a music writer and arranger for Banks Publishing, Leeds and Blackburns of Bradford. He studied music in Leeds under Sir Edward C. Bairstow, MusD. of York Minster for eight years and later obtained his degree of Bachelor of Music at Durham University on the 6th February, 1934 (No. 527).
Sam B. composed more than 2,000 pieces of music, including forty signature tunes, the most famous being the march ‘West Riding’ which was especially written for and dedicated to the Brighouse and Rastrick Band. Many of his compositions were used as test-pieces by brass band contest promoters, not only in Great Britain, but also in the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.
Several of Sam B’s pieces have been heard on the radio and TV and he did take part in broadcasts on numerous occasions as a conductor and instrumentalist. During his lifetime he could adapt himself to any wind or percussion instruments. He had several nom-de-plumes; Duncan Macleod being his favourite, which he used for ‘Faith’ played by Sandy Macpherson on the BBC theatre organ each Sunday morning in the 1950’s radio programme ‘Chapel in the Valley’.
During the Second World War he coached the Bradford Military Band, in addition to his own Yorkshire Copper Works’ Brass Band, which was later to become the Yorkshire Imperial Metals Band. Always encouraging young people, he also coached the Drum and Fife Band at Pudsey Grammar School. His occupation at this time was teaching at Belle Vue Boys’ High School, Bradford. Although a very busy person, he was also an active member of the local hospital committee.
While still residing in Pudsey, Sam B. became an Independent Councillor but lost his seat in the 1945 Labour landslide. This defeat and the poor health of his wife, Agnes, made it an easy decision to move to live near the seaside at Morecambe.
Whilst being employed as music master at Morecambe Grammar School he still kept himself busy musically being associated at one time or another as musical director of three local amateur societies. He was also Musical Advisor to Morecambe and Heysham Corporation and was responsible for organizing their annual brass band contest and concerts played by many famous bands, including Brighouse and Rastrick, at the Harbour bandstand.
Following his retirement he was Principal of the Victoria College of Music in London and accomplished his great ambition when he adjudicated at the Royal Albert Hall National Brass Band Championship Final. His last piece was written for the Leeds Fire Brigade Band in which he incorporated two notes of the fire station alarm. He died in 1977, aged 81, leaving his only son, Barrie and a fine collection of his music.