A Means Of Enlivening The Community
Chapter 4 - The Rimmer Connection and Slaidburn
One of the most remarkable stories in Slaidburn Band's history is its connection with William Rimmer and the march composed by him that bears the village's name. It is a source of great surprise to bandsmen and women all over the country to discover that there is a village with the same name as this popular march and even more astounding that this village also has a brass band named after it. Many players are curious to know the story behind its composition, but first, a few details about Mr. Rimmer.
William Rimmer has often been described as the "king" of the brass band movement, involved with many of the top names in the band world - Fodens, Wingates Temperance, Shaw and Irwell Springs - around the turn of the century.
Rimmer was born at Southport in 1861 into a musical family. His father was bandmaster to a military band and encouraged both William and his brother Robert in their musical studies. At the age of 15 William joined the Southport Rifle band as a side-drummer and then moved onto the cornet, eventually becoming the bands principal cornet soloist. His prowess on the instrument became well known and he was engaged as a soloist by many of the best bands of the day, including Besses O' The Barn. He eventually gave up playing to concentrate on training and conducting bands and at the height of his fame conducted every winning band at both the Crystal Palace and Belle Vue competitions between 1905 and 1909. To many peoples surprise he retired from conducting in 1909 because of ill-health and concentrated on his other well-known role - that of composing and arranging music for brass and military bands. Many band libraries still contain his music - fine arrangements of operatic selections, overtures, songs, but above all he was a revered writer of marches, both for the contest platform and the countless road marches that bands needed whilst on the march. He continued to write and arrange for brass bands, often under pen-names, up to his death in 1936.
It would seem that ill-health plagued Rimmer for most of his life and he was recommended by his doctor after a particularly bad spell to take a holiday and recuperate. He and a friend (possibly the Mr. Aldridge mentioned in an earlier chapter) came to Slaidburn for rest. On his arrival his host informed him of the Slaidburn Band and asked if he would care to come and hear them at rehearsal. Although Rimmer was supposed to be resting it is probably fair to say that he would not be able to resist the invitation to hear a band! It is said that the members of the band, discovering who was listening to them, invited William Rimmer to conduct the rehearsal which he did. The occasion was spent in re-tuning the band and passing on Rimmer's considerable experience in band training so that by the end of the rehearsal the band's overall sound was much improved. This so impressed the players that they asked if he would compose a march for them to play. This request, and the hospitality of the village, so impressed Rimmer that he agreed and on his return to Southport he wrote the march "Slaidburn" which was later published by Richardsons for which Rimmer received 15 shillings. It became very popular almost immediately and was adopted by Wingates Temperance Band as their signature tune which gave it additional publicity. Even today it is still the No. 1 selling march with its publishers and is probably in every brass band's library of road marches. As has been said, it is a source of surprise to many players to find a place and a band with the Slaidburn name, and many have made the effort to come and play Slaidburn with Slaidburn at Slaidburn over the years! In addition the members of the Slaidburn Band have had the opportunity to perform the march on their recent trips into France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. The march was also heard recently being played by a band in Hong Kong when some local folk on holiday there heard it. Rimmer certainly helped put Slaidburn on the musical map!
Amongst the present Conductors archives is a facsimile of William Rimmer's original piano copy of the march, which, for the musically-minded, is composed in F minor concert-pitch and later transposed into G-minor for the brass band version.