Full-Length Musical, Drama  /  5f, 8m, 2girl(s), 1boy(s)

Book, Music and Lyrics by Benjamin Till
Additional Lyrics by Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker
Commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre

Brass follows a group of Leeds residents from the outbreak of the First World War until the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    5f, 8m, 2girl(s), 1boy(s)
  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences
Licence details
  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.



Commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Brass follows a group of Leeds residents from the start of the war until the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The men, members of an amateur brass band, join up to the Leeds Pals regiment and their womenfolk decide to learn the instruments that the men have left behind to keep the spirit of the brass band alive and to play for them when they triumphantly return to the city after the war. We watch the women trying to learn the brass instruments whilst the men simply try to stay alive. It is an epic musical about love and survival.

The original cast recording is available to buy here.

Brass was commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War.

Principals: 9 Men, 7 Women


Private Alfred (Alf) Mabberley - (G2-C5): 22. Alf conducts the successful Hyde Park Brass Band. He lives for music. Handsome, mercurial, brave, a showman, he’s a natural leader of men, but he has a dark secret. Alf is gay and doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact; in fact, it tears him apart. Signing up for war is a product of him trying to run away from himself. He grew up with his older sister, Eliza, in a rambling vicarage on the edge of Leeds. 

Private Tom Button - (B2-G4): 21. Jewish. A third year language student at Leeds University, Tom plays euphonium in Alf’s band. Tom is an intellectual, a philosopher and a musical perfectionist. He is gentle and kind. He wears circular-rimmed glasses. He loves Hardy and adores Stravinsky. Tom is also gay. He has read a lot of French literature about the subject. 

Private Wilfred Gambles - (B2-F#4): 23. Wilfred joined Alf’s band as a percussionist six weeks before the war started. He comes from Coventry, but is an orphan and has spent years roaming the country doing a series of unfulfilling jobs, entering a series of fleeting relationships, unaware that he is desperate to find his female soulmate and settle down. He is chirpy and witty. A real live-wire. Everyone notices when he enters a room.

Private Harry Sparrow - (C#3-G#4): 22. A trainee solicitor. Harry is dapper and fashionable. He knows about the new dance crazes. He likes ragtime and Puccini. As a kid, you’d want to be in Harry’s gang. He is intensely loyal and always looks out for the underdog. He married his sweetheart, Emmie, whilst the Pals were in training. He plays trombone in Alf’s Brass Band.

Private Maurice (Morrie) Grimes - (B2-E4): 14. Morrie’s father died when he was 12, and Morrie was forced to grow up rather too quickly, lying about his age to get a job in a local mill. In many respects he remains a boy. His voice has plainly only just broken. He loves nature and war terrifies him. He plays horn in Alf’s band. His older sister, Tats, is a good-time girl.

Private George Tilley - (E3-D4): 29. A slightly jaded miner with blue scars on his face, George is stoic, wise and unflappable. He says little, keeps himself to himself and often seems a little aloof. He can’t read. He is not a member of the brass band, but finds himself, by chance, in D company, where all of the bandsmen have elected to be.

Lance Corporal Gideon Tibbets - (E3-G4): 38. A Salvationist, married to Peggy. Thin-faced, buttoned-up and somewhat aggressive. He is teetotal, short-fused and dour. He plays the cornet Alf’s band. Alf is his conductor in peace time and the age difference sits uncomfortably with him. In wartime, however, he is Alf’s boss. His Salvation army background made him an obvious choice for a “stripe.”

Lieutenant Clyde Bickerdyke - (C3-E4): 28. The second son of wealthy Yorkshire land owners. His sister, Rosaline, volunteers at Barnbow. He’s not a natural leader. He’s a good man who cares about his men, but is constantly compromised by his superiors. He is undermined by Alf, and the fact that the men look to him as a more natural leader. Bickerdyke’s accent and demeanour mean he’ll never naturally be one of the Pals.

Major Justice Wrigley - (C4-A4): 55. A fat, deeply arrogant Major, who has been transferred to the Pals Regiment against his will. He comes from Berkshire, fought in the Boer war, and has never been to Leeds.  Yorkshire folk to him are all grimy miners. He is a brutal snob and believes the Pals are merely part of a generation who were born to suffer. He’s done his time on the front line fighting another war. 

Other soldiers, recruiting sergeants and doctors to be played by the company.


Eliza Mabberley - (F3-D5):  23. A graduate from the University of Leeds. Eliza is Alfie’s beloved older sister. She is a feminist and fiercely independent. She spends her life in a dream world, which comes across as aloof and slightly uppity to the likes of Tats. Eliza’s hair is always an unruly mess. She’s resigned herself to a life of living “on the shelf.” A man would force her to compromise her beliefs. Scratch the surface, however, and it becomes clear that she is actually frightened of being in love. 

Emmie Sparrow - (B3-D5): 23. A deeply alluring woman, Emmie says she believes in women’s rights, but secretly has just one ambition; to live in a cottage with her husband Harry, and a cricket team of children! She is tall, extraordinarily brave, kind and down-to-earth. The other girls look to her as a sort of mother figure. She never falls out with anyone and glows from within.

Peggy Tibbets - (A3-B5): 34. Peggy is the wife of Salvationist, Gideon Tibbets. She is deeply religious and repressed, and looks (prematurely) like a 40-year old. There is, however, a raging tiger inside her and working at Barnbow has the potential to bring it out. She plays the cornet, and occasionally teaches Salvationist women how to play brass instruments… Just for fun, of course.

Tats Grimes - (G3-F5): 18. Earthy. Edgy. Irreverent. Loose. Feisty. A good-time girl. A joker. Tats spends the money she makes at Barnbow on fancy clothes and nights on the town. She’s Morrie’s sister and their upbringing was a shambles. Their father, a miner, died when Morrie was 12 and Tats was 16. As a result, both children went to work in the mill with their mother.

Titty Anderson - (B3-F5): 16. Tats’ innocent best friend who does anything mischievous that Tats tells her to do. Titty has a heart of gold which belongs entirely and unrequitedly to Alf to whom she sends anonymous love letters. She’s a Hyde Park Brass Band junkie and attends all of their concerts. She has been learning the horn to impress Alf in the hope of joining the band.

Rosaline Bickerdyke - (F#3-G#4): 26. Still, ladylike, a touch haughty. Sister of Clyde. Rosaline has been brought up with no real purpose in life other than to look pretty and engage men in intelligent (but safe) conversation. More radically, we learn that she also plays the cornet, (taught, in secret, by her younger brother who died at Loos.) She volunteers at Barnbow to do her bit for the war effort. 

Miss Myrtle Grimsby - (D4-E5): 40. A brusque factory over-seer with a stentorian voice. She has probably never been in a relationship. She is a Salvationist and knows Peggy and Gideon as a result. She expects the Barnbow lassies to uphold her own moral standards, and, as a result, often comes across as a killjoy. She plays the tuba as part of a fitness regime, but would never consider playing it in public. The girls think she’s boring at best.

Other munitions workers will be played by the female ensemble.

  • Time Period 1910s / WWI
  • Features Period Costumes
  • Duration More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Cautions
    • Gun Shots


“One of the finest ever pieces of British musical theatre.” – Musical Theatre Review

“Hugely emotional... packed with power and poetry.” – Anne Cox, Stage Review

“Nuanced... Emotive but thankfully devoid of melodrama, this is a compelling piece of theatre.” – Chris Omaweng, LondonTheatre1

“Benjamin Till... has created one of the finest ever pieces of British musical theatre.” – Craig Glenday, Musical Theatre Review


Music Samples

1. “Overture and Prologue”
2. “Barnbow Lassies”
3. “On The Shelf”
4. “Keighley”
5. “Billy Whistle”
6. “Forming A Band”
7. “Shone With The Sun”
8. “Brass”
9. “When You're A Pal”
10. “I Miss The Music”
11. “You'll Always Have A Friend”
12. “I Make The Shells”
13. “Could've Been”
14. “Scared”
15. “Letters”
16. “No Man's Land”

Trumpet 1/Cornet
Trumpet 2/Flugelhorn
Keyboard 1
Keyboard 2
Double Bass

  • Musical StyleCountry/Western, Contemporary Broadway
  • Dance RequirementsMinimal
  • Vocal DemandsModerate
  • Orchestra SizeMedium
  • Chorus SizeMedium


Music Rentals

Concord offers a full suite of resources to help you put on the show of a lifetime!
18 Libretto
18 Piano-Vocal
1 Trumpet 1/Cornet
1 Trumpet 2/Flugelhorn
1 Trombone/Euphonium
1 Tuba
1 Keyboard 1
1 Keyboard 2
1 Percussion
1 Violin
1 Double Bass
1 Full Score (in 2 Volumes)
18 Libretto
18 Piano-Vocal


Take a look below at how you can enhance your show!


Benjamin Till

Multi-award-winning composer and filmmaker Benjamin Till was born and raised in the Midlands. He studied music at the University of York before training as a theatre director at Mountview School.

Benjamin has worked professionally in theatre and TV for over 20 years. He has ma ...

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Arnold Wesker

Arnold Wesker, considered one of the key figures in 20th Century drama, is the author of 44 plays, 4 volumes of short stories, 2 volumes of essays, an autobiography, a book on journalism, a children's book, extensive journalism, poetry and other assorted writings. He was born ...

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Nathan Taylor


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