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British Open Coverage 2002:

Harry Mortimer - The record and memories
The 150th British Open Championships this year at Symphony Hall in Birmingham will also be paying tribute to one of the greatest men ever to grace the brass band movement - Harry Mortimer, who was born 100 years ago this year.

Mortimer’s life has been well chronicled yet it should be remembered that his immense contribution to the movement started as a player, and conductor before he branched out to become the charismatic figurehead and “Man of Brass”.

With this in mind therefore, we have taken the opportunity to look at the great mans record, and with the considerable help of Allan Littlemore we have been able to give you the details of his achievements. It is doubtful that they will ever be beaten.

Harry MortimerThe Cornet Player:

In the National Championships, Harry Mortimer made his playing debut in 1913, at the age of 11, when for the first time the test piece, “Labour and Love” was the commissioned work.

With the Luton Red Cross Band he won four prizes:

1920 - 4th
1921 - 6th
1922 - 2nd
1923 - 1st

1923 was, and remains the only time that a “Southern” band has won the National Championships of Great Britain.

He moved to the Foden Band in 1924 (December the 29th - and a band practice night!) - he was not yet 23 years of age.

With Fodens he gained 10 more prizes at the Nationals:

1925 - 6th
1928 – 4th
1930 - 1st
1931 - 6th
1932 - 1st
1933 - 1st
1934 - 1st
1936 - 1st
1937 - 1st
1938 - 1st

Mortimer has been the only Principal Cornet player to lead a band to a “Double” Hat trick of wins at the Championships.

At the British Open Championships, he led Fodens to four successes:

1925 - 3rd
1926 - 1st
1927 - 1st
1928 - 1st

The Conductor:

As a conductor he had an amazing record at the British Open, National Championships, and the Regional qualifying contests.

Regional Qualifying Contests:

Championship Section Positions:

1945 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1947 - North East - Black Dyke - 1st
1947 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1948 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1949 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 1st
1950 - North West - Fodens - 1st
1951 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1951 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 1st
1952 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1952 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 2nd
1953 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 2nd
1953 - North West - Fodens - 1st
1954 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1954 - London S/C - Morirs Motors - 2nd
1955 - North East - Black Dyke - 1st
1955 - Midlands - Ransomes and Marles - 2nd
1955 - Midlands - Munn and Feltons - 1st
1955 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 1st
1956 - North West - Fodens - 1st
1956 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 1st
1956 - North West - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1957 - North West - Fodens - 2nd
1957 - London S/C - Morris Motors - 1st
1957 - Midlands - Munn and Feltons - 1st

Summary: 16 First places and 9 second places

The National Championships:

1945 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1946 - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1947 - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1948 - Black Dyke Mills - 1st
1949 - Black Dyke Mills - 1st
1949 - Fodens Motor Works - 2nd
1950 - Fodens Motor Works - 1st
1951 - Fodens Motor Works - 2nd
1951 - Fairey Aviation - 4th
1952 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1952 - Fodens Motor Works - 2nd
1952 - Morris Motors - 5th
1953 - Fodens Motor Works - 1st
1953 - Fairey Aviation - 6th
1954 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1954 - Fodens Motor Works - 3rd
1955 - Munn and Feltons - 1st
1955 - Black Dyke - 5th
1955 - Morris Motors - 6th

Summary: 8 First places, 5 Second places, 1 Third place, 1 Fourth place, 2 Fifth places, 2 Sixth places.

The winning test pieces he conducted were:

1945: Overture for an Epic Occasion
1948: On the Cornish Coast
1949: Comedy Overture
1950: Pageantry
1952: The Frogs of Aristophanes
1953: Diadem of Gold
1954: Sovereign Heritage
1955: Blackfriars

The British Open:

1936: Luton Red Cross - 3rd
1937 - Baxendales - 5th
1937 - Luton Red Cross - 6th
1940 - ICI (Alkali) - 4th
1941 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1941 - ICI (Alkali) - 6th
1942 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1942 - Brighouse and Rastrick - 4th
1943 - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1943 - Brighouse and Rastrick - 4th
1944 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1945 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1945 - Bickershaw Colliery - 3rd
1946 - Bickershaw Colliery - 1st
1946 - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1947 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1947 - Bickershaw Colliery - 5th
1947 - Black Dyke - 6th
1948 - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1949 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1950 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1951 - Fairey Aviation - 6th
1952 - Fodens Motor Works - 2nd
1953 - Fairey Aviation - 2nd
1953 - Fodens Motor Works - 5th
1956 - Fairey Aviation - 1st
1957 - Fairey Aviation - 6th

Summary: 9 First places, 5 Second places, 2 Third places, 3 Fourth places, 3 Fifth places, 5 Sixth places.

The winning test pieces he conducted were:

1941: Choice of three - Unknown
1942: Lorenzo or Pageantry - Unknown
1944: The Tempest
1945: Pride of Race
1946: Salute to Freedom
1947: Henry V
1949: Rhapsody in Brass
1950: Resurgam
1956: Tam O’ Shanter’s Ride

Harry Mortimer was also the Guest Conductor at the Grand Festival Concert following the National Championships in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1981.

As a recording star he also has an amazing record:

With the following bands he produced recordings as a player:

Luton Red Cross - 7 records - 1 as soloist
Fodens Motors Works - 56 records - 14 as soloist
Orchestra - 4 records - 4 as soloist
As an alias “Mark Foden” he made 2 records as soloist
Massed bands - 28 records

Total: 97 records - 21 as soloist

As a cornet Soloist he appeared at the Grand Festival Concert in 1924 playing “Shylock”, 1930 playing “The Warrior”, 1931 playing “Romanza and Warblings” as well as a Command Performance at Windsor Castle for the King and his family, 1938 playing “Alpine Echoes”.

Recording as a Conductor:

Harry Mortimer formed the “All Star Concert Band” in 1951 and conducted them on a total of 17 78’s and 16 45’sfollowed his “Men O’ Brass” whom he conducted on 28 LP’s between 1958 and 1978.

In his impresario role he organised the brass band movements tribute to Her Majesty the Queen for her Silver Jubilee in 1977 with a Massed Band Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and was for many years the proprietor of Midland Music. He directed operations behind the British Open Championships from 1976 to 1991 and when he died he had been awarded a Doctorate, CBE, Hon D. Lit and was a FRNCM.

Harry Mortimer was born on April 10th 1902 and died on January 23rd 1992. He was 89 years old.

4BarsRest.com is indebted to Allan Littlemore for the details for this article. Much of this information appeared as an article by Allan Liittlemore in the Brass Band World Magazine of April 1991.

And the memories...

“Mortimer played in an almost identical style to Edwin Firth - alike as two peas in a pod” - Albert Coupe

“Harry was a real tasteful player but he hadn’t the staying power of Jim Thorpe” - Hubert Shergold

“Without a doubt the best musician I’ve ever heard is Harry Mortimer. You can’t take it away from him; he’s the complete artist” - Fred Berry

“Harry Mortimer could get more music from a single crotchet than anyone I’ve ever heard” - Bill Skelton

“He could strike a note so beautifully it could make you cry” - Bill Skelton

“After Epic (1938) he played less and less with the band. If he felt he wanted some help for an imminent high note he would signal to me by brushing the side of his head with his left hand and I would cover him with my soprano - he left nothing to chance” - Charlie Cook

“He used to play so musically - he could almost make a cornet sound like an orchestral instrument - a violin or an oboe” - James Scott

“Harry’s almost legendary reputation as a virtuoso performer on the cornet rests not simply upon his surpassing technique but also upon the distinctive quality of singing tone which he commanded and the sensitivity and artistry which marked his playing” - Jack Oliver

“In the bandroom he used to get the cornet out and say “This is how you do it. Never mind what it says on there - this is how you do it.” So everybody in the band used to play like him; well a bit like him” - Kenneth Dennison

“He’d never had won any prizes as a conductor - to look at him he was dreadful. He conducted with his elbows, but it didn’t matter because it sounded great” - Kenneth Dennison

“As well as a great cornet player, Harry Mortimer was a very great conductor. I do not believe that the brass band movement has produced a greater stick artist in my lifetime” - Bram Gay

“Harry became a supreme band trainer and the most charismatic conductor; a master of colour, flourish and the dramatic gesture” - Roy Horricks

“Fred was left handed, jerky and a man of few words - Harry was right handed, flamboyant and a charismatic showman. Their styles were as different as chalk and cheese, but the result was just the same” - Joe Moores

“His long career as a soloist, teacher, adjudicator, administrator and conductor is one of the outstanding chapters in the story of brass band music” - Jack Oliver

All the quotes come from people who knew Harry Mortimer personally - from the time he played with the Fodens Band - many come from the players themselves.

All come from the fantastic book by Allan Littlemore on the history of the Fodens Band entitled, “Foden’s Band - One hundred years of excellence” published to commemorate the bands centenary. Caron Publications Ltd. published it.

For further information on the book you can contact Allan Littlemore on 01270 763906

Further reading on 4BR:
Harry Mortimer by David read - more...

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