Band Forays, Past & Ahead

1909 BandStandAs most readers will have observed by now, summer has finally arrived. I’m torn between duty and the desire for pleasure. The editor tells me that my deadline was yesterday, but my brain tells me that the vista of a cloudless sky has more appeal than the computer screen in front of me. However, it is time to reflect on a few of the musical happenings of the past month. For many in the band world it has been spring concert season, time to display to their audiences the fruits of their musical labours over the past dreary months. This year, for me it has been more as an audience member than as a band member.

The first of my visiting forays took me to Oshawa and a concert by the Clarington Concert Band and their guests, the County Town Singers. After an absence of a few years, this band is once again in the capable hands of Mr. Barrie Hodgins as director. The feature of the evening was a performance of a work composed and conducted by renowned Canadian composer Howard Cable. As an introduction to this work, Howard explained to the audience how he came to write it. During a visit to Alberta, he had been challenged by a rancher about many of his works with an “Eastern Canada” theme. Too much about Quebec, Newfoundland and other aspects of the East. Where were his compositions about the ranches and other features of the West? The result was McIntyre Ranch Country. For our pleasure it was conducted by the composer himself. As for other Canadian content, the band played an excellent arrangement by Eddie Graf of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, and the County Town Singers gave us Lydia Adams’ arrangement of We Rise Again.

 My next outing couldn’t have been more different. After a visit to a rehearsal of The East York Concert Band, I attended their Spring concert. What a contrast to any other band concert that I have ever attended. The concert was in the large, beautifully appointed hall of Saint Clement of Ohrid Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral in Toronto. When we arrived there were already a large number of people seated at tables at the rear of the hall enjoying food and drink prior to the concert. We sat near the front in a section without tables. Apparently, as part of the cooperation between the band and the cathedral, the ladies’ auxiliary of the cathedral do the catering for a broad spectrum of delicacies for the audience to enjoy with the music. In case you were wondering, there was a wide selection of drinks available with the food. Yes, beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages were being served and consumed in a church on Sunday. It certainly did not detract in any way from the imaginative program, titled “Once Upon a Tune.”

The atmosphere of the evening reminded me very much of cabaret-style concerts offered many years ago by the York Regional Symphony under the direction of the late Clifford Poole. These, billed as “Wine and Cheese Concerts,” were performed in several small communities throughout the York Region. Admission for a couple included a bottle of wine. There were cheese and crackers on each table. At each large round table, two seats were to be left vacant. There were a number of intermissions where orchestra members would go into the audience and occupy these empty chairs. The inevitable “what instrument do you play” was frequently followed by such comments as “what does it look like.” After each intermission these audience members would locate the instruments in the orchestra, and be more aware of the role each played. It was a great way to get the audience and players involved.

New Horizons: During the past month I had the opportunity to learn more of New Horizons’ activities in this part of the country. First it was off to Peterborough to experience a day in their lives. What a day, even as an observer without playing a note, it was almost non-stop. In the morning there were two large distinct bands preparing for concerts in two parts of the building. After an hour lunch break it was back observing two different, more senior, groups in rehearsal. Every once in a while, someone would get up from a seat in the band and move to the other room, pick up a baton and conduct that other band. All of this was in preparation for their final concert on May 30.

My hat, which I rarely wear, must go off to Dan Kapp of the Toronto group for his energy and commitment. From that beginning single small group, he has guided the organization, taught and conducted to the present situation with 160 members in seven band classes. He is looking forward to the next group of prospective members with this year’s “Instrument Exploration Workshop” scheduled for the evening of Friday, September 12.

One of the most impressive aspects of both of these New Horizons groups that I visited was the open door inclusion of many who would never ordinarily have the opportunity to play music in a group. Canes, walkers and wheelchairs are a common sight. Two people in particular are worthy of special mention. Randal Pilson of the Toronto band and Devon Wilkins in Peterborough are totally blind. Of all of the instruments that he might have chosen, Randal plays the bass trombone, while Devon plays flute. In Devon’s case, her guide dog, Vestor, lies quietly by her side throughout the performance. Devon also serves on the board of the band. When you see that in a musical group, you know that there is complete inclusion and acceptance. 

Just down the road: Then there is the NABBSS. The North American Brass Band Summer School is a new venture jointly supported by the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo Society and the Buffet Group. The summer school is based on well-established models in Britain. Participants will receive tuition from a team of Buffet soloists on the traditional British all-brass band style, and will explore some of the newest brass band repertoire in a series of workshops and rehearsals. Although participants will not be doing any marching, they will be dressed in uniform and perform on the tattoo stage together with the massed bands. For those not familiar with it, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo has been an annual event in Halifax for 35 years and is billed as the “World’s Largest Annual Indoor Show.”

The camp will be under the direction of noted conductor Dr. Robert Childs, supported by a group of clinicians on all of the instruments of a traditional brass band. Among the instructors will be euphonium soloist David Childs, son of Dr. Childs, who was the featured soloist with the Hannaford Street Silver band a couple of years ago. It all takes place in Halifax from June 28 to July 8. Our household is already signed up and plans are well developed to get ourselves and our instruments ready for what promises to be an interesting new approach to our music making.

Looking ahead: Toronto is to have a new community band. To be located in the west end of the city, the Toronto Concert Band will rehearse Tuesday evenings in John G. Althouse Middle School, starting in September. With its tag line, “We Love to Play,” the Toronto Concert Band’s stated mission is “to create a positive and supportive environment in which to cultivate musicianship.” In short, TCB promises an enriched musical experience for its members. Everyone is welcome to join, including amateur community players, post-secondary students and professionals who want to play in the community. The founding conductors are Ken Hazlett and Les Dobbin, both with long careers in music education. For more information visit their website:
torontoconcertband.com.

Steve Fuller: It is with sadness and a sense of loss that we announce the passing of Steve Fuller, another longtime member of the band community in Toronto. A retired high school biology teacher, Steve’s life was focused around music. After open heart surgery some years ago, he worked hard at recovery and began active playing again. Then, about a year ago, he was back in hospital for some weeks. Shortly after his release, I was speaking with him and he was back playing and talking about reactivating his beloved saxophone quartet. I hadn’t heard from him for a while and was going to call when I received the news of his passing.

Definition Department

 This month’s lesser known musical term is: col legno: An indication to cellists to hold on tight with their lower extremities. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


What Do You Call Two Didgeridoos?

1908-BandstandFor the past two issues I have speculated on just when spring might arrive. It is now mid-April and, at time of writing, there is lots of that white stuff on the ground once again, so rather than jinxing things once again, let’s just say my seasonal optimism is being fuelled by the information arriving from readers. One such announcement is the annual rebirth of the Uxbridge Community Concert Band for its 23rd season. Unlike most town bands, this group only gets together every summer starting in late May  and ceases operation after their final summer concert in late August. That was not always the way in the town of Uxbridge, as I shall explain.

Today Uxbridge is noted for its broad spectrum of arts activities. From such events as Art in the Park, the Celebration of the Arts and concerts by three choirs to a constant stream of productions of plays and musicals in the town’s 100-plus-year-old music hall, there is no shortage of arts activities. For many years the town had a well-organized town band, but that disappeared. I am deeply indebted to Mr. Walter Taylor, former Town Clerk of Uxbridge for supplying the photograph here. Taken in 1925, it shows the Uxbridge Citizens Band in uniform on the steps of one of the local churches. It is particularly interesting because it shows a band in the very era when there was a gradual transition of many town bands from all brass band to concert band.

In the early part of the 19th century throughout Britain and much of Western Europe, brass bands began to be formed. While many of these were town bands, many were sponsored by employers as a form of recreation for employees. These bands adopted the same instrumentation as the Salvation Army bands which began to appear about the same time. Brass instruments were particularly suitable for outdoor performance since their sound could project well out of doors and they were not prone to damage should a rainstorm interrupt a performance. There was another great advantage for instruction. By transposing various parts into appropriate keys it was feasible to conduct group instruction on the various instruments of the band. When I joined my first boys band the instruction was in a group. From cornet to tuba the spectrum of instruments, with the exception of the trombone, all learned the same fingering.

This 1925 photo shows a band in transition. The E-Flat horns and B-Flat baritones are still there, but the cornets are dwindling. The back row has only two cornets, as is common in a brass band, but the rest of the back row has trumpets. As for woodwinds, three clarinets have managed to sneak in, an early harbinger of the modern concert band’s woodwind section with lots of saxophones, clarinets, flutes and perhaps an oboe and a bassoon. It was certainly too early for French horns; they hadn’t made it yet.

I wonder what happened to that particular Uxbridge band? It was probably the victim of the great depression. There are some remnants of that band’s music library in the town’s museum; I can tell you, the titles of some of the works listed would no longer be “politically correct.”

On the subject of correctness, when speaking about the smallest of the brass instruments, many people mispronounce the word “cornet.” All too often one hears the word pronounced with the accent on the second  “net” syllable rather than on the first “cor” syllable. That pronunciation is reserved for the “cornett,” a very different instrument. The cornet is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet, whereas the cornett is an instrument made of wood or ivory. It is a long tapered instrument with finger holes, similar in appearance to a recorder, with a cup mouthpiece similar to that of a trumpet. It was commonly used in orchestras of the 16th and 17th centuries. Its much bigger brother (up to seven feet in length in an S shape) was the serpent which was still in use in bands in the 19th century. Many years ago I had the pleasure of playing briefly on both such instruments. Anyone interested in seeing a cornett may view one in the splendid display case in the entrance to Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Recent Happenings: Now for a bit about what has been happening about town. Last year at the annual small ensemble concert of the band of HMCS York at the Naval Club of Toronto we had a photo of trombonist Leading Seaman James Chilton performing on his didgeridoo. At the time he mentioned that he was playing on a factory-made instrument, but was hoping to own a genuine native Australian instrument made from the trunk of  a eucalyptus tree, the core of which is hollowed out by termites. While he was back this year with his trombones, including a soprano trombone (sometimes referred to as slide trumpet), he was there with didgeridoos in hand. His wish has been realized. The factory-made instrument was there along with his prized original native instrument. With his wife Denise at his side, playing the factory instrument, we were treated to a new experience. This time we heard a didgeridooet!

Speaking of the HMCS York Band, conductor Lieutenant Jack t’Mannetje is hoping to gradually build up a history of the bands of HMCS York since WWII. If any readers have recollections of these bands over the past 70 years, please let us hear from you.

While it was not in the community band sphere, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a recent “Spring Fling Concert” celebrating 25 years of teaching by Jane Plewman. Jane teaches string instruments at her home at Chalk Lake northeast of Toronto. The delightful evening featured performances by players at all levels, from beginner to advanced, performing in a variety of ensembles. What was inspiring was to see toddlers performing with confidence alongside white-haired grandparents; the joy of making music together. From basic Suzuki melodies to works of Handel, Bach, Boccherini and Telemann, the enthusiasm was always there.

On the Horizon: On May 3 the York University Community Band Festival will take place all afternoon and evening. Each year four bands are invited to participate. This year’s contingent might well be described as the North Yonge Street group. The bands are from Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Aurora and Newmarket. During the afternoon there will be a massed band session followed by woodwind and brass tuning sessions and a percussion clinic. In the evening the bands will perform individually for adjudication. The following day, on May 4, I will have the pleasure of attending a concert titled “Once Upon A Tune,” the final event of the East York Concert Band’s 61st season. (I first met and wrote about their current conductor, Joseph Resendes, a few years ago when, as a graduate student in music, he assumed direction of the then new Milton Concert Band.)

Usually the Wychwood Clarinet Choir can be counted on to have an unusual treat in their offerings. This year is no exception. Their concert on May 25 at 3:30, titled “Spring Vibrations,” will feature guest vibraphonist Arnold Faber performing an original work which he wrote for the choir. The program will also include the first public performance of Canadian Folk Song Suite written by the choir’s assistant director Roy Greaves.

On May 30 the various New Horizons bands of Toronto will present their final concert of the season at St. Michael’s College School at 7:30. There will be a film crew there to complete the filming for the documentary planned for broadcast on TVO this coming fall. As for the New Horizons Bands in Peterborough, if the snow has finally stopped for a while, a visit soon with the prospect of clear roads seems imminent.

Down the road: We have recently learned that a new concert band is in the works in Toronto’s west end this fall. So far there is no information on location, rehearsal days, etc.

Resa’s Pieces groups all have concerts scheduled for dates in June. We have received an interesting account of how these groups came into being, but it is too long for inclusion in this issue. We hope to have it posted on TheWholenote website soon.

Elsewhere in this issue there is an interesting classified advertisement by Emily Benedictis for the sale of many scores of band music owned by her late father, Mariano De Benedictis. Unfortunately this information arrived too late for me to find out more about the music and life of a Hamilton man who by all accounts had a rich community musical life.  More next time perhaps?

Definition Department: This month’s lesser known musical term is: Cantabile: To achieve a complaining sound, as if you have a sour stomach.

We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Less Than Springlike Still

paris ayr"Beware the Ides of March,” quoth the soothsayer. We all know what happened to Caesar when he ignored that warning. I didn’t really ignore that cautionary pronouncement, but was a bit cavalier when I ventured out on one of our less than springlike days just prior to the Ides of March and ended up in a thrilling battle to control a fishtailing car. Fortunately for all, the driver of a rapidly approaching vehicle chose to hit the ditch rather than hit my car. What has all of that to do with this month’s column? I began last month’s column with the plea “When will it end?” One month later, and officially into spring, it hasn’t ended. Winter is still here, but the music scene is warming up.

Clarinet Choir?: When I mentioned to my editor that I had the pleasure of attending a concert by the U of T Clarinet Ensemble and the Wychwood Clarinet Choir at “Clarinet Day,” he asked about the practice of using the term choir when referring to ensembles of like instruments. I embarked on a quest to determine how and when the practice evolved. Wikipedia was no help. The Oxford Companion to Music didn’t shed any light either. Nancy Nourse, whose Flute Street group uses both choir and ensemble as terms, told me that the first use of that terminology, to her knowledge, was the clarinet choir at the University of Illinois. If you have any knowledge of how this term came to be so used, please tell us; my editor would really like to know.

Plumbing Factory: As some readers may be aware, Dr. Henry Meredith’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band is one of my favourites. This is not just because it is a very good all brass band, but because “Dr. Hank,” as he is known to his friends, always comes up with very stimulating programs. Some months ago, in this column, I talked about themed programs and the pitfalls of establishing a theme and then having to select some “less than desirable” music in order to adhere to the theme. Dr. Hank’s response? “My process is to pick great music first and put it into a logical sequence for presentation. Then, the unifying concept solidifies in my imagination, suggesting additional pieces which can then fill out the program. I don’t usually start with a ‘theme’ in mind, but often major works or a mood or a general idea formulates a theme.”

For example, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is the centrepiece of their upcoming April 9 concert, so “A Little Night Music” seemed a logical choice for a “theme.” Other pieces by major composers serendipitously seemed to fit right in. These include Bach’s Arioso (as a serenade melody), Mendelssohn’s Nocturne, Karl King’s A Night in June, and Meredith’s own cornet solo, Stars in a Velvety Sky.

I certainly wish that I could attend that concert, but a prior commitment and the prospect of six hours of driving to and from London dissuaded me. The first thing that I did on reading the program was to rush to my CD collection and play a recording of Karl King’s A Night in June by The Great American Main Street Band.     

Medical misfortunes: In two completely disparate recent conversations I learned of two talented brass musicians who have been forced to stop playing for medical reasons. One was a case where an essential medication for a serious eye condition had a side effect of preventing the player’s producing a tone on the instrument. The obvious choice was to continue the treatment and cease playing. The other was a very different situation. The musician told me that his lips could no longer produce a tone due to a neurological condition known as focal dystonia. Dystonia refers to involuntary muscle contractions, and focal refers to the fact that the problem is localized in one part of the body. In this person’s case he is no longer able to control his lip muscles to produce a tone. In our conversation he mentioned several well-known musicians who developed this condition. One of the most notable cases is that of renowned concert pianist Leon Fleisher. In recent years Fleisher did regain some use of his right hand through botox injections, but he acknowledges that it is limited. There is no such treatment for brass players. I can’t imagine how someone could cope with the news that they could no longer continue their musical career. In this person’s case, he is now considering the clarinet as his instrument.

On the April horizon: First on my calendar is a return of the Band of HMCS York on April 9 at 8pm to the Naval Club of Toronto. This is the fourth year in a row where the multi-talented members of the HMCS York band will showcase their various small ensembles. I can’t promise novelties like last year’s  duet for alto trombone and harpsichord or another didgeridoo solo. However, I can guarantee a stimulating evening of music. The location is 1910 Gerrard St. E. and the price is right. Admission is free and light refreshments will be served.

On the weekend of April 11 to 13 The Hannaford Street Silver Band will present their annual “Festival of Brass.” At time of writing I had no details of this event, but a visit to their website should help.

The Clarington Concert Band will present their Spring Concert on April 26, 7pm at Trinity Pentecostal Church in Bowmanville. Also, on Sunday, May 4 at 2pm the Markham Concert Band and the Pickering Community Concert Band will join forces to present “The Final Frontier,” a musical interpretation of space featuring guest performer bagpiper Ian MacLellan. They don’t say whether or not they consider the bagpipes as the last frontier of music. It all takes place at the Flato Markham Theatre.

Blythwood Winds is a group I hadn’t heard of. It is a traditional wind quintet which had its roots about four years ago with students at the Glenn Gould School, although only two of the original members remain. Sunday, April 13 at 7pm they will be at the Array Space, 155 Walnut Avenue offering a broad selection from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture arranged by their horn player Curtis Vander Hayden to a new work Extensions by local composer, Elisha Denburg. Personally, I hope to be there to hear one of my favourites: Darius Milhaud’s La cheminée du roi René. For advance reservations phone 416-999-6097.

Last year the group of New Horizons bands in Toronto spread their wings and formed a number of small ensembles. The finale of that initiative was an afternoon of short presentations by several of these ensembles. Another such afternoon of “Chamber Sweets” will be held in the Assembly Hall at Lakeshore Road and Kipling Avenue on Sunday, April 27 at 2:00 pm, with about 15 groups playing from the jazz and classics repertoire.

Finally, down the road we have two large scale events to announce now with details to follow: the annual York University Community Band Festival will take place Saturday May 3 from 1:00 to 9:00 pm; and from May 30 to June 1 the Canadian Band Association, Ontario Chapter (CBAO) will host the Ontario EAST Community Band Weekend in Ottawa.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: Cadenza: Something that happens when you forget what the composer wrote. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

  Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blasts Icy and Otherwise!

As I sit down to the keyboard to write this month’s column, there is one matter first and foremost in my mind. When will IT end? Having just come into the house after a liberal application of salt to the ice-coated sidewalk which followed several days of snow shovelling, I’m looking for an end to wintry blasts and white mountains of snow. I have been assured that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that it is not the light of an oncoming train.

International Horn Day: While the weatherman isn’t very reassuring, there certainly are many signs of spring in the musical world. The brightest musical light on the near horizon is the Toronto International Horn Day on Sunday, March 30. Founded in 2006 by Joan Watson and Gloria Ratcliffe, this year’s event will be held at Humber College, 3199 Lakeshore Blvd W, Toronto.

The inaugural International Horn Day event was held in Toronto in November of 2006. Since then, this has grown into a major annual event bringing together professional, amateur and student horn players to share their love and enthusiasm for the majesty of the horn. This year it will be an all-day event starting at 9am and continuing until the final concert from 4:30 to 6:30. For horn aficionados of all levels this is a must-attend event. Artistic director Ron George will be ably assisted by artistic advisors Joan Watson, James MacDonald and George Lloyd.

The day will begin with a Morning Warm-Up. Ron George, who is horn professor at the University of Western Ontario, will lead everyone through his daily maintenance routine which explores all aspects of horn playing. Then, from 11am to noon there will be Jazz Horn with James MacDonald, for all levels from beginners to seasoned jazz performers to learn the basic 12-bar blues form and the basics of improvisation.

A Mock Audition will be conducted from 10:30am to noon followed by a Feedback Session from 2pm to 3:30. This will have participants performing a mixture of operatic and symphonic excerpts, plus a solo piece. There will also be a masterclass with guest clinician, Chris Gongos, a student horn ensemble with Gary Pattison, principal horn of the National Ballet Orchestra plus several options to perform in the concert and/or the grand finale.

The principal attraction for me would be the “Wagner Tuba Petting Zoo.” Scott Wevers and Bardhyl Gjevori from the Canadian Opera Company will be on hand to demonstrate the instrument and show some basics of how to play it.

There are simply too many opportunities for participants in this one-day event to detail here. For complete details visit the website at  hornday.ca.

Clarinet Day March 2: Not to be outdone by the brass folks, the woodwinds are having their special day as well. Sunday March 2 will be Clarinet Day at Walter Hall in the Edward Johnson Building of the University of Toronto. The day will start at 10am with clarinet workshops conducted by a number of clarinet clinicians. At 1:45pm there will be coaching sessions with James Campbell, the U of T Clarinet Ensemble and the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. At 7:30pm there will be a concert by the two combined ensembles. This time almost all of the many members of the clarinet family will be heard in performance. If you’re not familiar with the sounds of a contrabass clarinet or any of its small relatives, attend the concert for an unusual treat. As an added plus there is no charge for any event. The Edward Johnson Building is at 80 Queens Park Crescent. Visit wychwoodclarinetchoir.com for more details.

1906 bandstand1Having learned that Long and McQuade were having an Instrument Exploration Workshop to acquaint potential recruits for yet another New Horizons beginners’ band in Toronto, it was imperative that I pay a visit. When I arrived with camera in hand, I soon learned that mine was not the only camera there. The sizable group of prospects exploring potential instrumental companions was being filmed for TV. Filmmaker and journalist Sarah Keenlyside of Inkblot Media was there with her crew filming the action and interviewing band prospects for a proposed one-hour documentary on the Toronto New Horizons groups. The final production is slated to be aired on TV Ontario next fall. We discussed the evolution of these bands from the original beginners group to level 2 and level 3 groups and wondered how many group levels there might be. Sarah posed an interesting question: “Is there such a thing as graduation?” Good point!

While on the subject of New Horizons bands, I received an interesting phone call a few days ago. It was from a member of one of the Toronto bands who is contemplating a move to Peterborough. Could I put her in touch with the folks in Peterborough? Playing in a band is now an important part of her life and she doesn’t want to give that up if she moves.

As announced in last month’s column, the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) formally announced their campaign to promote public awareness of the activities of wind bands in Ontario. The campaign was officially launched by the Honourable Brad Duguid, the local MPP and Ontario Minister for Training, Colleges and Universities. Supporting Mr. Duguid at the event were noted composer and conductor Howard Cable and Mr. Jack Long of Long and McQuade Music. So far we don’t have any details on events proposed for this campaign, but look forward to receiving them in the coming weeks.

In a recent conversation with Chris Butcher, leader of the Heavyweights Brass Band, he told me of an interesting event taking place this month. They are inviting anyone who plays brass instruments or saxophones to join in a Street Brass performance on Thursday March 6 at 6:pm. By the time this issue is off the press there will have already been one rehearsal, with a second one scheduled for Saturday March 1. Rehearsals and the performance will all be at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W. If interested in joining in the fun, email Chris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

img 1029  copy Al Cheslo. It is with deep sorrow that I must report the passing of another stalwart from the community band scene. As is so frequently the case in the band world, I can’t recall when I first met Al Cheslo. When one joins a group it usually takes some time to get to know those other members who don’t play in one’s section. I just know that Al had been in many groups that I have been associated with for over 25 years. In both big “swing bands” and concert bands Al was a regular member. The last time that I spoke with him he mentioned that he was downsizing from a house to an apartment and would miss the following week ’s rehearsal. Rather than see him at our rehearsal in two weeks’ time, I attended his funeral service. We miss him.

Definition Department. This month’s lesser known musical term is: An Achoired Taste: An appreciation of choral music. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Banding Together

As is usual with the beginning of a new year we expect to hear of the spring concert plans and other initiatives by community bands. While there is lots of information on such individual plans in the in-basket, this is also the season in many quarters for news of much broader initiatives promoting banding in this part of the country.

CBA (Ontario): The most notable of these is an initiative by the Canadian Band Association (Ontario). On Thursday, February 6, the Ontario chapter of the CBA will announce a bold campaign to promote public awareness of the activities of wind bands in Ontario. Their pre-announcement states: “The event is the formal launch for our campaign to promote public awareness of the activities of wind bands in Ontario, including, especially, adult concert, swing and brass bands, and the role they play in the arts, in life-long learning and in supporting community-building.” The slogan for this Concert Band Celebration is “If You Play, You Rock.”

This province-wide campaign celebrates the rich tradition of community bands and the important role they play in enriching community life. In the words of Graziano Brescacin, president, Canadian Band Association (Ontario), “Community bands are great to hear and rewarding to play in. This new campaign is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the diverse music of our bands and highlight their role as contributors to the culture and vitality of communities across Ontario.” Several provincial and city politicians, among them the Honourable Brad Duguid, the local MPP and Ontario Minister for Training, Colleges and Universities, as well as dignitaries from the world of bands, have been invited to the launch ceremony which will take place Thursday, February 6 at noon at Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Toronto. The launch will be followed by a one-hour free concert by the Encore Symphonic Concert Band under the direction of John Edward Liddle.

Here is the CBA(O) manifesto in support of this initiative:
1. Contribution to community-building. Wind bands take live music, for free and/or very affordable prices, to people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to hear live music played by a large ensemble. Wind band concerts can be a big support to individuals, both in the bands and in the audience. It is not uncommon for audience members to speak to friends who are band members to say how personally important and moving it was for them to hear these friends play. They state that listening to music makes us better citizens by giving us a common cultural understanding, and that listening to music together has been scientifically shown to increase how empathic we feel toward our fellow human beings. Making music together is about being friends and family on the same team; it’s the only team sport in which the entire family can play together.
2. Contribution to the arts. Wind bands have a unique sound, different from any other ensemble. It’s a great sound, and there is lots of music being written for them including much by Canadian composers. Wind bands perform the classics as well as music from the popular repertoire. These bands also innovate what and how they perform, in true artistic fashion.
3. Contribution to lifelong learning. Playing music is good for our brains. Playing music lets us learn about the particulars of the pieces being played, as well as the technical requirements of the instruments. For students, playing music with adults sets them up for success at school and later in life. Many young people have had the experience of playing in a wind band, giving them a productive focus at a time in life when, otherwise, they might have drifted.

New Horizons: Over the past few years I have mentioned many times the activities of the Toronto-based New Horizons bands. This month, I had the good fortune to receive an email message from Harlene Annett who is in charge of membership for the New Horizons bands in Peterborough. While I had known that there was an active group in Peterborough, I had no idea of the extent of their activities.

Since its inception this organization has grown significantly. They now have five bands, all with distinctive names, performing at different levels with the Odyssey band as the highest. They also have at least ten regular small ensembles. The Green, beginners’ band started in September 2013 and has 45 members, with 40 people waiting for the next band to begin next September. Membership in the bands is not limited to very basic instrumentation. In fact there are oboes in all bands and bassoons in three. All five conductors are university-trained in music and all perform regularly in other bands.

With the aid of a Trillium Grant they have been able to purchase several instruments including two tubas and two bassoons. They also have the distinction of having the only conch shell band in Canada!

Far-fetched? Well, I went off to the internet and can report that I have now received my first lesson on “how to blow a conch shell.”

There is so much to learn about their operations. If you are involved in the organization or administration of any band, a visit to their website at nhbpeterborough.com would be well worth the time spent.

Experienced beginners: While there is certainly healthy interest on the part of beginners, there also seems to be a growing interest in some band members to take up another instrument and/or to join another band. I have recently spoken to a baritone player taking up bassoon, a French horn player going for the euphonium, a violinist starting on trumpet and a saxophonist trying out the French horn. Are you considering a new instrument or looking for a second band? Let us hear from you.

Definition Department:This month’s lesser known musical term is Cadenza:  Something that happens when you forget what the composer wrote.

We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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