Saturday, 20 August 2011

My Horns No. 3 - Besson 700 series Cornet

After a break of many years, I recently decided to get back into the world of Brass Bands. When I was in my University years I played in an A Grade Brass Band here in Australia, and competed in a few contests. Now that I'm older and wiser (and busier), I didn't want to commit to the time and practice required for such a high level of banding, and so have joined a small local band, that is lots of fun to play in and is within my skills as a musician, if not as a marching bandsman!

When I played A Grade, the band gave me a lovely Besson Sovereign to play (the one known as a "Globe Stamp", which is also known as one of the better cornets ever made), but of course when I left I had to give it back. The band I have recently joined is in a small rural town, and their instrument collection is old and worn - most of the cornets are old Boosey & Hawkes Internationals, which have seen better days. So, the search was on for a horn of my own - requirements - it had to be relatively cheap, and be suitable for Brass Band use.

That put most new cornets out of the equation, as here in Australia new professional level cornets are $2,000 and over, and even new student cornets are around the four figure mark. Ebay can be less than helpful too, as it's packed with cheap and nasty instruments you wouldn't want to touch with a barge-pole. So it was off into the wilds of the Internets to see what was floating around.

Fortunately the friendly folk at Quality Brass came to the rescue, and a few short emails later, and for about a quarter the cost of a new pro cornet, the horn that is subject of this review winged it's way over the Pacific to me.

The Besson 700 series of instruments were an intermediate range that was made by Besson / Boosey & Hawkes in England up to the 1990s. The range included most Brass Band Instruments, and the cornet I now own is technically a Besson 723. Wiser heads than mine inform me it was made around 1992, so it's possible it's spent a lot of time in a cupboard, as it is still in very new condition.

As an intermediate model, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but does come with a third valve slide trigger, and is 0.462" bore, which is middling as far as short cornets go. Unfortunately this horn did not come with an original case, and was missing it's lyre, but apart from that it's a fantastic horn.

It exhibits the true British Cornet Sound, very mellow and fluid, and easy to work with. The upper register can be problematic at times with tuning and staying up there, but that is probably more down to my relative lack of "cornet chops" than any inherent flaw in the instrument.

A nice horn at a nice price - if you can find one in good condition, it's worth a look.





Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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