THIS has been one blast of year for brass band music in York.

First came Brassed On! York 2012, a weekend of open-air concerts in the Museum Gardens in honour of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee ; next, composer Christopher Madin incorporated a brass band in his music for the York Mystery Plays 2012, as can be witnessed in their regular appearances on stage until Bank Holiday Monday.

Now, in the space of four days, brass has shown its diversity in two settings. Last Friday, the national champions, the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band accompanied north eastern folk group The Unthanks in the Minster’s Nave, playing to a full house.

On Monday night, as a high point of the York 800 celebrations, the Shepherd Group Brass Band and York Railway Institute Band united on the Mystery Plays thrust stage for a one-off Proms.

The Minster is a difficult beast to tame sonically, even more so when a 35-piece brass band is let loose and so there were grumbles about reverberation and echo in the back half of the Nave.

That is the nature of taking on the vastness of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral, and maybe you just have to lump it – Durham Cathedral on the very first night of this musical union was no less challenging – because much of the music was still a magical, mournful tribute to the mining industry.

Conductor Chris Davies could rein in the brass forces when accompanying the haunting harmonies of Rachel and her deeper-voiced sister, Becky, and the combination was particularly affecting on Trimdon Grange Explosion and Newcastle Lullaby, while the sisters’ a cappella “girlified sea shanty” from the Windward Islands was stunning and the champion band showed their dazzling technical brilliance in the very familiar Floral Dance.

Best off all was the new work, The Father’s Suite, written by Unthanks pianist Adrian McNally – with a little closing help from his father – in a celebration of birth amid the darker mining recollections.

There were new works aplenty too in Monday’s Proms in the Gardens, before a second half of the usual suspects from The Last Night Of The Proms (and the rousing addition of The Grand Old Duke Of York).

Guided by a very convivial compere, York actor Andrew Dunn , the first half took a journey down 800 years of York history, with a piece, refreshed or new, for each century.

David Lancaster opened and closed this Celebration Through The Centuries by evoking the past in Sounds of St Mary’s/Sumer Is Icumen In and looking to an optimistic future in City of Kings; Bruce Jackson’s new cornet duet arrangement of Purcell’s Trumpet Sonata was played beautifully by Mark Durham and Sam Lovatt; and 18-year-old Jack Capstaff brought all the brass band resources into play in his premiere, The Minster.

What a talent is emerging here, aptly followed by Darrol Barry’s Best Of Bond tribute to that wunderkind of York, John Barry.

The Shepherd and Railway bands now go on to compete in the national championships next month. Best of British luck to them both.