Ten-year-old Barry Trotter is an orphan who lives in the Yorkshire village ‘Lack o’ th’ Silverware’ with the Worsleys: his uncaring Aunt Begonia, horrid Uncle Virgil and spoiled Cousin Walter.
One day a letter arrives in his bedroom under the stairs where he is practicing on his cornet. Before he can open it, Uncle Virgil rips it up.
More letters arrive but his Uncle shreds them all and, in an attempt to avoid more deliveries, the Worsleys go to a miserable derelict band room on a remote island.
On Barry’s Birthday the giant Bandgrid arrives with a letter inviting Barry to join the Royal Welsh College of Drama and Music.
‘What about the College up North”, said Barry. Bandgrid laughs and waves his baton at Walter who is trying to hide Barry’s Cornet. Walter is instantly transformed into a second baritone player.
“All the major banding silverware is in Wales. Do you really want to be taught in a land barren of trophies?” Bandgrid explained Barry’s past. How the evil conductor Vivaldimort had brutally sacked his brilliant parents and sent them into banding exile and how he had struck Barry with his baton which explained the scar of a treble clef on his forehead.
“Barry Trotter – You’re a Wizard on that cornet” exclaimed Bandgrid…” There is only one place for you!” …and so, it was decided.
After an epic train ride from platform 9/8 he arrived at Cardiff Central and made his way to the magnificent RWCMD for his three-year BMus.
The students were split into four houses – Goffindor, Huffandpuff, Ravenswood and slydinaninch. Barry ends up in Goffindor after it was chosen for him by the mysterious talking high hat.
He makes friends with Don Keysley (from a pure brass banding family) and Briony Arranger, whose parents were ‘Buggles’ – (those that are non-banders). Barry also has an enemy in Shiek O’ PhallSoy an international student, and member of Slydinaninch.
Barry progresses becoming a rising star with his cornet virtuosity in QuidPitch the Colleges elite brass group. He is promoted to the principle seat in the College Brass Band by Professor Bob Styles (Professor of Brass Noteology and elder of the famous Styles dynasty).
Soon Barry and his friends are tricked into several challenges including one created by Professor Dick Flitstick (professor of chords and mirth potions) involving the challenge of the flying # and b keys to protect a sacred relic. Eventually Barry overcomes evil Lord Vivaldimort and saves the Philosopher’s Tone.
He goes to Music Alley and visits the world famous ‘Olibanders – makers of fine batons since 1821’ for the conducting section of his degree.
“Ah! Mr Trotter we meet at last,” said Olibander from the top of a ladder, descending with a selection of dusty boxes.
“Don’t forget Barry Trotter” said Olibander – “The baton chooses the maestro.”
“I quite like this one” says Barry lifting out the ‘Florent Torrent’.
There is a huge flash, a window breaks and Barry is sure he can hear snippets of La Marseillaise ringing around the shop.
“No, definitely not the one for you…far too Parisienne. Let’s try something closer to home.”
He hands Barry a very tall baton. As he waves it around nearly every box and baton in the shop start to rattle and glow green with envy. Olibander snatched it away.
“My mistake. You can’t have the ‘Master Harper’…one conductor winning everything in sight is quite enough.”
Eventually Barry holds a ‘Mortimer Maestro’ in his hand and a surge of energy rips through the shelves sending hundreds of batons flying.
“It appears, that you have been chosen. You could make big money conducting.”
“But surely I can make more money playing”.
Olibander roars with laughter.
“You must be kidding. Players don’t make money. Players finish their courses and teach in a school or on a zero hours peripatetic contract. No Mr Trotter, conducting is the way forward. They are the only ones who get paid in a brass band”.
Barry considered his academic life. Fraught with danger, trapdoors and ‘ne’er do wells’ at every corner – plus the players poverty!
He marched straight back to the College switched to the Master’s Conducting Course and promptly threw his cornet into the River Taff.