Born to Play Soprano

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Born to Play Soprano is the official autobiography of famed soprano cornet player, Peter Roberts. Originally released in 2003 under the title, A Legend in his Own Lifetime, this 2nd edition hardback print is the most up-to-date book available, with additional chapters added.


Born to Play Soprano is the official autobiography of famed soprano cornet player, Peter Roberts. Originally released in 2003 under the title, A Legend in his Own Lifetime, this 2nd edition hardback print is the most up-to-date book available, with additional chapters added.

It is an autobiography filled with stories, diaries and order of events as they unfolded for Peter Roberts, and although Born to Play Soprano predominantly charts his professional life, there are aspects of his personal life also laid bare.

Read Peter's preface to the book below:

From being an unplanned baby, to being born with two different coloured eyes, mother always knew I would be lucky, and so it has been. Although money was scarce, I cannot remember having to do without anything. We were a typically happy family. It was very fortunate to have the Lippeatts become neighbours, and Stan and I have been life-long friends. When I joined the junior band, both of my parents supported me, and have continued to do so. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. How many other villages have started a junior band, where so many players have gone on to be great players? I cannot think of another one. Why was I picked out to play the soprano cornet? Other boys in the band could play as high as me.

Why was there an opportunity for me to play in the senior band at such an early age? Is it fate, or is it luck? Why have I played with the winning band at the Open, the third time I have played at the three venues? Why did I play with the winning band on my 33rd appearance at the open? Why did I play with the winning band, the third time I played at the European contest? Why was the number 5 most prevalent, when YBS won its fifth European title? I do not have answers to any of these questions. There isn’t a quick fix in the art of soprano cornet playing. I will, however, give you my impressions:

In the armoury of a soprano cornet player, they need a strong will -- I was always single minded, although other people would call it bloody minded -- and be equally as dexterous as any principal cornet player.

They will need the ability to transpose (at sight) to Bb, and work out alternative fingerings, instantly. The ability to sight read anything is a distinct advantage, as when guesting with other bands, you are expected to read the most undecipherable parts. Most importantly is the ability to play in tune. Somewhere within the mentality of a soprano cornet player, is the in-built facility of nuance, which makes the difference between good and great. All the great soprano cornet players have had this facility, and that is why they stand out from the rest.

Time is the main factor. Time to get to know the instrument; time to build a reputation by playing well on concerts and contests. Other people then determine whether you are a soprano cornet player, or not. I have always been lucky in the fact, that when one door closes, another one opens.

When the pit closed, I went straight to college. When they made me redundant at Sellers, I went to YBS and enjoyed the most fantastic success. I then made a personal choice to join the world famous Black Dyke Band, where I joined a "family'', and everyone connected with the band had the same commitment and focus as I had. I enjoyed further success on the contest stage, but week in, week out, the concerts that we did were first class. Yes, the travelling from one concert to another is tiring and tedious, but I thought worthwhile. I have been privileged to play in the Championship section for most of my career, and during that time I played with some of the finest instrumentalists, who gave world class performances under contest conditions. I thank every one of these players for allowing me to be part of their success. Obviously, when I look back, there are some things that I would have done differently, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Who would have thought that a boy from the back streets of a mining community would go on and be hand-picked for a professional band in America? I still get a feeling of excitement just thinking about all the trips I made across the Atlantic Ocean. From the first in 1976, to the last (so far) in 2011. I will always be eternally grateful to Jim and Bill Gray, for allowing me to be part of the phenomenon that is Brass Band Battle Creek, and paying me for the privilege; John and Georgia Marsh for allowing me to stay in their wonderful home, especially at Christmas with all the decorations, and for reviving my undoubted skills at Cribbage. There have been so many memorable moments throughout my career, and I have met so many wonderful people, it is really overwhelming.

It would be churlish of me not to mention my first wife, Linda, as we had over thirty years together and had a son, Paul, together. Thank you. I met and married a wonderful woman, Ann, who actually liked brass band concerts and contests. We spent a lot of time together on motorways, both in the UK and America. When Ann retired from work, we spent a lot of time travelling abroad, on the continent of Europe, and in America. As for the golf, my handicap at present is 19.2, and I was the Senior Match play Champion in 2010 at Normanton Golf Club. Ann has taken up golf, and we play together both at the club, and other courses. I know it is a cliche, but I ended the book with Ann and me sailing off into the sunset. We thought this was totally fitting.

Finally, I would like to thank all the people who have helped me throughout my career. To list them all would be ambiguous, as I would forget someone. -- Peter Roberts (January 2016)

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Peter Roberts
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Hardback Book
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Dr Nicholas J. Childs