- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
With Canada’s sesquicentennial year only one month away, municipalities and organizations all over the country are searching their archives for records of significant events over the past 150 years which could stimulate community interest in this year of reflection and celebration. Unfortunately, in the band world, there are few bands whose history goes back even half that 150-year time span. One band which does have some good material in their archives is the Newmarket Citizens’ Band. In a recent exploration of the band’s archives, they found a photograph of the band taken in the year 1883. With the sesquicentennial year approaching, what better time to show off this picture, to show the citizens of the community that their band has been there to provide music for town events for all but five years of Confederation.
At an evening meeting of council, several members of the band, wearing their red blazers, arrived for the presentation. In the announcement of their deputation to council, the band pointed out that “Since 1872, the Newmarket Citizens’ Band has been an integral part of the cultural and social landscape of the town of Newmarket.” To commemorate the opening of the newly restored Old Town Hall they presented a large framed photograph of the town band taken in August 1883 just a few weeks after the original opening of the Old Town Hall on July 1, 1883.
The photo of the band was taken during the Firemen’s Excursion to Niagara Falls on the Civic Holiday, August 8, 1883. An article about the event, including this photo, was published in the Newmarket Era of the day. Approximately 250 residents travelled by train and then steamship to Niagara Falls and the band went along to provide entertainment. It is a prime example of the band’s long involvement in the social and cultural life of the town. The write-up of the trip mentioned that the band, reinforced by two gentlemen from Sharon and Bolton, “enlivened the trip by music on the fore deck; good music is never so pleasing as on the water.”
A formal public unveiling of the photo was scheduled to take place at the band’s “Simple Gifts” Concert at the Old Town Hall on Botsford Street, Friday, December 2, 2016. (On a personal note, some 35 years ago, I played there for a few years in monthly concerts of The Newmarket Jazz Appreciation Society, and our small Dixieland group was known as “The Botsford Street Ramblers.”)
Since it is rare to find this much information about a band’s activities almost 150 years ago, it is worth including here some of the historical information about the band recently presented to the Newmarket mayor and council. “The band formed in 1872 with roots going back to as early as 1843. Walter W. Roe, son of the town’s postmaster and fur trader, William Roe, circulated a petition among the local business community to raise funds. The 12 band members contributed $5 each and along with 69 other contributors raised the sum $319 to purchase instruments.”
To quote the petition: “Whereas we, the undersigned, think it a disgrace to the inhabitants of Newmarket that they should have, on all festive occasions, to send to the small villages of Aurora and Sharon for a band, we have determined, with the consent and assistance of our fellow-townsmen, to form one of our own.”
The timing of the recent presentation could not have been better from a number of perspectives. For one, the band delegation met with the mayor and council within a few days of the reopening of the beautifully restored Old Town Hall, which is now destined to be a prime performance venue. For another, it has only been a few weeks since the band was informed that they would now have an excellent permanent rehearsal home complete with storage in a large town recreation centre. Wandering from place to place for rehearsals has been the norm since their former rehearsal space was destroyed by arsonists many years ago. Last but not least, it just also happened a few days after the band paraded, as it has for years, in the town’s annual Santa Claus parade.
New Horizons. By now it should not be a surprise, but I just received a note about yet another New Horizons group that we had not previously heard from. Lynda Shewchuk, music director of Lakeshore New Horizons Bands in Bowmanville, tells us that the band is now in its sixth year. She says that the thriving group is “not very large” with only 60 members! They have a senior band, intermediate band and a beginners class. They also have a small jazz band. She states that “our members are very active and enthusiastic, with many playing in two or even three bands. Quite a few of our members play two different instruments, one in each concert band.”
Recent Events: In early November the Milton Concert Band lost one of its long time members, Rev. Christopher Snow. On November 6 “A Memorial Concert for Chris Snow” was presented to proclaim “A life celebrated through music.”
On November 20 the Wychwood Clarinet Choir concert continued to amaze with their unique arrangements of works for orchestra and concert band. This time it was the Holst Second Suite in F for concert band. In the early 1920s the leaders of Britain’s Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall lamented the lack of larger serious works for concert band. Until then, if bands wanted to play longer multi-movement works they had to rely on transcriptions of orchestral works. They commissioned Gustav Holst to write two suites for concert band. Since then these suites have been part of the concert band repertoire. This transcription maintained all of the highlights and nuances contained in the original. Local composer Fen Watkin also contributed a fine version of Villanesca, Spanish Dance No.4 by Granados. In a conversation after the concert, Watkin mentioned that, for sesquicentennial year 2017, he might like to write some arrangements of Canadian works. I did not mention it then, but I would like to suggest Calixa Lavallée’s La rose nuptiale.
Initiatives. Every once in a while, we hear of initiatives taken by bands to either help with their finances or otherwise enhance their relationship with their communities. In November, the Aurora Band held its annual holiday market where shoppers could find one-of-a-kind gifts from 38 unique local vendors. For their Canada 150 festivities, the band has commissioned a composition from professor Bill Thomas of York University. The band will give the premiere performance of this number at its concert on Canada Day, 2017.
On the fundraising front, the Strings Attached Orchestra has become a registered charity to provide some financial incentive for donors so that they may continue to bring music into the community.
Dec 5: Resa’s Pieces will present “A Tribute to the Beatles and Beach Boys,” 7:30pm at York Mills Collegiate.
Dec 6: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds present the next concert in their series, 59 Minute Soiree. These mini-concerts feature a variety of lighter music, perfect for unwinding after a day at work. At 7:30, Wilmar Heights Event Centre – Concert Hall.
Dec 9: The Aurora Community Band will present holiday entertainment like no other – its “Heroes and Monsters: A Holiday Concert” – at 7:30, Trinity Anglican Church, 79 Victoria St., Aurora.
Dec 10: For their annual holiday concert, “The Bells of Christmas,” the Milton Concert Band will not only include the traditional musical favourites but will feature, as guests, Eden Bells A-Peel, a long-established handbell choir from Eden United Church in Mississauga. In Victorian times, it was very fashionable to go carol singing with small handbells to play the tune of the carol. Sometimes there would be no singing, just the music of the handbells. Handbell ringing is still popular today and if you have never heard a handbell choir, then this is a concert well worth a visit: 8pm Milton Centre for the Arts, 1010 Main St. East, Milton.
Dec 11: The Clarington Concert Band presents their “Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” featuring singers Father Paul, Kelly Robertson and Lisa Heitzner, 2pm at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 127 Liberty St. South, Bowmanville.
Dec 11: The Strings Attached Orchestra presents their third annual “Friends and Family Holiday Concert,” 2pm at Congregation Ban’s Torah, 465 Patrician Ave., Toronto.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
- Written by Jack Macquarrie
- Category: Bandstand
This month’s story all started with a classified advertisement which I had placed in The WholeNote. I received a telephone call from a young man who expressed interest in an instrument which I had advertised for sale. Obviously he would want to try it out before deciding on whether it might be suitable for his needs or not. Where would be the best place for that? Either of our houses might have been possible, but they are a two-hour drive apart. Anyway, wouldn’t it be a better test if he could try it out while playing in his band? So off I went to my first ever rehearsal of the Burlington Teen Tour Band.
Dinner-hour traffic being what it is, I arrived late. The band’s rehearsal had started, but not indoors in their rehearsal hall. It was dark, but there was the band parading and playing on the roads adjacent to the Burlington Music Centre – well over 100 young musicians playing, without music, as they practised their marching drills. I have often said that I couldn’t play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star without the music in front of me, but there they were displaying a skill which I never learned.
While the band was practising their parade skills, I went into the music centre of the Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation. Yes, there was a fine rehearsal hall, but I was stunned by how many other rooms were dedicated to the band. There were offices for the music director and the music programs coordinator; there was a room where two volunteers were repairing uniforms; and another room with two others repairing band hats.
Rather than go on here, I would prefer to leave the topic of the Teen Tour Band for now, and return in another issue to talk at length about their many special events over the past ten decades and coming up in the near future. (As for the young man interested in my instrument, yes he liked it and is now the proud owner.)
Ensembles with a difference: Coming up on this month’s performance calendar are three ensembles noted for their excellent arrangements of music originally written for very different instrumentation. Unfortunately two of these concerts are on the same afternoon: November 20, we have performances by both the Wychwood Clarinet Choir and by Flute Street; then, on November 30, we have the Plumbing Factory Brass Band.
As their names imply they each have instrumentation restricted to a specific family of instruments. All are noted for innovative arrangements which interpret the music in ways that shed new light on the melodies.
The Wychwood Clarinet Choir will perform their fall concert, “Harvest Song,” at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. For me there are two numbers in particular on this program which I hope to hear. The first is the Overture to Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck arranged by Matt Johnston. The second is Gustav Holst’s great Second Suite for Military Band in F. This latter number, one of my favourites, is one of the standard works for concert band. If arrangers Richard Moore and Roy Greaves are up to their usual standard, this will be a memorable performance. The group’s artistic director and clarinet soloist is Michele Jacot.
Flute Street’s November 20 program at Christ Church Deer Park is suggestively named “An American on Flute Street” with works by Kelly Via, Russell Nadel, Melvin Lauf Jr., I. Page and Gershwin.
Whenever we receive news from the Plumbing Factory Brass Band we expect a broad mixture of clever programming, humour and, above all, first rate music. The first concert of their 22nd season, set for November 30, is no exception. The title, “He Said – She Said,” will, in musical terms, depict the wars of words and other battles between the sexes from time immemorial. Needless to say, it will purposely avoid any reference to the current events of our neighbours to the south.
In other words the band is setting the stage for differences of opinion. The opening fanfare will be Gounod’s Grand March from The Queen of Sheba. The Queen gets the first word, with her dazzling procession into the court of King Solomon, as portrayed by Handel’s non-stop music to depict the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Later, Leo Delibes also takes the feminine side with the lovely Flower Duet from his opera Lakmé, featuring in this case a soprano cornet and a flugelhorn, followed by the same composer’s more boisterous description of the Maids of Cadiz, narrated by a soprano cornet and a tuba!
The evening unfolds with too many great conflicts to mention here. Let’s just say that the women have the last word in a stirring finale provided by Wagner’s famous Ride of the Valkyries. But if you would like to listen to some rarely heard music for brass band, contrasting the tuneful and lyrical with the bombastic and exciting, then drive to London to hear these great musical dialogues.
It’s the Plumbing Factory Brass Band directed by Henry Meredith, Conductor on Wednesday evening, November 30, at 7:30 in Byron United Church, London.
My periodic rant! The phones might be smart; wish I could say the same for their owners! The prevalence of smart phones at concerts has become a serious annoyance for me. Most users don’t take voice calls, but their taking pictures can be very distracting. I like to watch as well as listen at a performance. I don’t want to see several bright screens obstructing my view. In a recent interview on radio, Renée Fleming and TSO conductor Peter Oundjian discussed this problem. She mentioned looking out at a sea of white objects aimed at her while she was singing.
While visiting a local band at a recent rehearsal, I noticed approximately 25 percent of band members were using them during rehearsal. The worst case which I ever witnessed was a few years ago during a concert. A French horn player in front of me during a few bars’ rest reached down and picked up her phone to check and/or send messages. My preferred rule would be simple. If any cell phone were to be visible in the audience during a performance, the user would be ejected immediately. No questions and no excuses.
New Horizons. The New Horizons movement is certainly thriving. When I tried to contact Dan Kapp, who is now devoting his full time to New Horizons, I couldn’t reach him for a week. He had been away in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at an NHB Camp. As for NHB Toronto, there are now eight groups with two beginner bands, two intermediate bands, two advanced bands, a jazz orchestra and a jazz woodwind choir. All groups are at maximum capacity – unless someone wants to join as a tuba player. Rehearsals are ongoing with classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Monday, Thursday and Saturday daytimes. As for concerts, the more advanced of these groups are now performing quite regularly.
The most notable that we have learned of so far will be on November 5 at Cambridge Street United Church in Lindsay: “A Time to Remember,” a reflective concert on the war as seen through the experience one Canadian soldier during WWII. This concert has been performed twice in previous years in Toronto. Look for the NHB December performances in next month’s issue.
The New Horizons movement has expanded geographically again. For the past seven years the only New Horizons Bands in the GTA have been operating in downtown Toronto out of the Long and McQuade main location. It was time for expansion into the suburbs. Under the direction of Doug Robertson, who has been conducting some of the Toronto bands for the past four years, there are now York Region New Horizons groups. After their first “Petting Zoo” in early October two new bands began the following week in afternoon and evening rehearsals on Thursdays. They are rehearsing in the excellent facilities of Cosmo Music in Richmond Hill. If you have wanted to join a New Horizons Band but were deterred by the prospect of driving weekly into downtown Toronto, here’s another opportunity. Check out the New Horizons Band of York Region.
New Contacts. The Rouge River Winds is a new community concert band based in the east end of Scarborough. After having spent five years rehearsing at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus under the name “University of Toronto Scarborough Alumni and Community Concert Band,” the band decided that it was time for a bit of rebranding. They are now calling themselves the Rouge River Winds, and have settled into a new home at Woburn Collegiate Institute. With this new beginning comes a number of new goals. A primary aim is to become known for a high standard of musicianship and a significant connection with the community.
The Rouge River Winds is an auditioned ensemble, and their repertoire is carefully selected to engage their members. They rehearse Thursday evenings 7:30 to 9:30 at Woburn Collegiate Institute, 2222 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough. They are currently accepting new members on all instruments, but are in particular need of: oboe, bassoon, baritone sax, tuba and percussion. For details on membership and their audition process visit their website:
rougeriverwinds.com. Their next concert, “New Beginnings” will be Friday November 18, 7:30 at 2222 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough, featuring works by Canadian composers including Suite on Canadian Folk Songs by Morley Calvert and Lyric Essay by Don Coakley. We have far more information about the band than we can include in this issue. Wait for more details in future issues.
The Stratford Concert Band is another band that we have not heard from before. On November 6 at 3pm they will present “In Remembrance: Canadians in Conflict.” They will be joined by the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums Band at Avondale United Church, Stratford.
Another group new to us is the Toronto Winds. On November 17 they will present their first concert: “Inspire,” a program including Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture; Dove’s Figures in the Garden; Beethoven’s Symphony No.1 in C (mvt.1); Gorb’s Symphony No.1 in C for 12 winds and double bass. Dylan Rook Maddix, a trumpet player, conducts at Array Space.
Other Band Happenings. Unfortunately, space limitations won’t permit providing full details here, but please check out the following concerts in the Listings section:
Nov 3: Encore Symphonic Concert Band;
Nov 6: Weston Silver Band;
Nov 19 and Dec 4: Barrie Concert Band;
Nov 26: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds;
Dec 2: Newmarket Citizens Band;
Dec 4: Caledon Concert Band.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
New Horizons. For the past several years this column, in the October issue, has reported on the progress of established New Horizons bands and the establishment of new beginners’ bands. This year the news is even better. As mentioned here some months ago, a documentary on the establishment and growth of New Horizons bands in Toronto was featured on TVO. At the time we all wondered how this might stimulate interest in prospective members; then came the annual Instrument Exploration Workshop.
I was unable to attend the event this year, but I hear it was a bigger success than ever. In the words of director Dan Kapp: “As for the past week, a whirlwind of happy ‘kids,’ it was busy, exciting and full of happy reunions as folks came back to band class.” It wasn’t just a reunion for past members though. New Horizons Toronto now has 90 new members. Of those, 80 are beginners in two classes. This year there were three couples who joined together, two siblings of existing members and a few friends of other members who joined.
Being a low brass player myself, I have often lamented the lesser interest in the lower instruments. For many starting out on a new instrument there seems to be a certain snobbery in that they consider that the instruments which usually get the melody are in some way superior. My standard response is to suggest that they look at all of the great cathedrals in Europe and show me one where the construction began with the steeple. None! None would exist if they did not have a firm solid foundation. In any band the tuba is that foundation. Without the tuba the structure would be flimsy and incomplete.
So I am happy to report that, finally, after seven years, there is to be a new tuba player in the Toronto New Horizons bands! A woman who attended the instrument exploration evening was concerned about her carpal tunnel syndrome. She asked for a suggestion and at the same time asked what the group needed. Kapp suggested the tuba. Once she gave it a try, she fell for it and immediately took the mouthpiece home to practice.
Beginning this year there are a few new membership policies. The most innovative is “One fee, play in as many bands as you wish.” Also, they now have had a few members at the advanced and intermediate level sign up for beginner classes on a second instrument. Another change is that, for the first time in their short history, they have had to cap classes for the remainder of the year for all woodwind, and high brass. They still have spots open for French horn, trombone, euphonium, and of course, tuba.
Finally, in previous years the band has produced a very special Remembrance Day program with a narrative based on letters from a soldier who was killed during World War II. They will be performing this concert, “A Time To Remember, “ in Lindsay this year. The show is being billed as “A moment to reflect on war and its costs through word, music and images.” More on the date and time when we have details.
Time for tubas. Having been involved with low brass instruments most of my life, my ears perked up recently when I heard the unfamiliar term “Tubatorium” on the radio while driving. (I have no recollection of the actual program I was listening to, but I was determined to find out about the Tubatorium. With the help of Mr. Google and other friends I began my exploration. Was this a dealer who sold tubas or a place to learn to play the instrument? No! This is a tunnel under some railway lines in Nashville Tennessee. A man named Joe Hunter, who plays electric bass in a couple of local Nashville groups, had routinely been frustrated while stuck in long traffic jams while driving through this tunnel at rush hours. One of the websites I visited shows Hunter, a young man with shoulder length blond hair, playing a sousaphone beside all of the cars inside the crowded tunnel. With his right hand playing the instrument and the left one holding a container for donations from motorists stuck in the traffic of the tunnel, Hunter plays selections from his repertoire. It’s not unusual to find buskers in unusual locations, but this was a new one. For many Nashville motorists the Thompson Lane Tunnel has been renamed the Tubatorium. If you’re interested in seeing this on the internet, the words “sousaphone in tunnel” yield several results.
Low brass. Quite by accident, while looking for Tubatorium information, I stumbled upon a fascinating website dedicated to low brass instruments. Hosted by Sean Chisham, this website, chisham.com, contains a wealth of information for any brass instrument player, not just for those interested in the tuba. Right off, after you look at the options on the opening TubeNet page, one of the first sections that you will see is a set of complete fingering charts for B-flat, E-flat, C and F tubas.
For many years when anyone spoke of symphony tuba players, the pre-eminent name was Arnold Jacobs of the Chicago Symphony. This website contains an immense amount of information from Jacobs who was considered the master of instruction for low brass instruments. Such topics as “Warming up,” “Play by sound not feel” and “Imitate others” are there complete with the sounds of Jacobs demonstrating. The most impressive component of this site is that of a complete 1973 masterclass conducted by Jacobs. Also on the site is extensive information on many famous musicians and their recordings
One final gem on the subject of tubas is the recent release in January of a new Concerto in B-flat Major by American composer Daniel Simpson. I have not had a chance to hear this work yet, but I have been told that the Finale: Tango movement is particularly impressive. Hopefully there will be more to report in a future issue.
CBA-Ontario Community Band Weekend. It’s that time of year again when the Canadian Band Association, Ontario Chapter, will be holding another of their Community Band Weekends. This one will be hosted by the East York Concert Band from Saturday, October 22, at 8am until Sunday, October 23, at 5pm. With a Social Meet and Greet scheduled for Friday October 21 starting at 7:30, this event accords an excellent opportunity to experience a weekend of music making with like-minded individuals who share a passion for wind band music. It all takes place at the Royal Canadian Legion, Brigadier O. M. Martin Branch 345, 81 Peard Rd., Toronto. If you are a band member, this is a chance to meet with members of other bands and share ideas as well as rehearse and perform new music with guest conductors from across the province.
Aurora Community Band. In the last issue of this column I challenged band members to send us information on their bands and their activities. Fortunately one band member responded immediately to tell us about her band. Here’s what Connie Learn, one of the band’s directors, had to say: “The Aurora Community Band is now entering its sixth season of ‘creating beautiful concert band music with and for the citizens of Aurora.’ With musical director Gord Shephard at the helm, the band’s membership continues to increase and we’re looking forward with enthusiasm to this year’s activities. The band rehearses in Brevik Hall at the Aurora Cultural Centre, 22 Church St., Aurora, on Sunday evenings from 7pm to 9pm. We would like to invite you to attend one of the band’s rehearsals and experience the exuberance of this lively group of musicians. Brevik Hall is on the second floor of the Cultural Centre but there is an elevator for assistance, especially if you choose to bring your tuba!” For Canada 150 festivities, the band has commissioned a composition from professor Bill Thomas of York University. The band will have the premiere performance of this number at its concert on Canada Day 2017. We’ll have more on this band’s activities in coming issues.
The Originals Band. We recently had a request from Ian Miles, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Concert Band, Branch 344, for any information on the history of that band. Many years ago, when Legion Branch 344 was located on Elm Street in downtown Toronto there was an active band. After the branch’s move to their present location on Lakeshore Blvd., many of us lost contact with that band. In its early years the band was known as The Originals. In his message Ian states: “The RCLCB has rebuilt itself over the last year, and is doing quite well, but only two long-serving members (ten-plus years) are still with us, and what is missing is a historical perspective of the band.” I personally remember well attending a farewell party for the conductor, Scotty Wilson, who was leaving to move back to Scotland. If any readers have any information on the history of this band, please contact us.
Band happenings. As reported on previous occasions the Newmarket Citizens Band spent years hoping for a new home after theirs was destroyed by fire. Over those years they had hoped to find a new home upon completion of the restoration of the old town hall. However, the restoration process took much longer than expected and finally about a month ago the band moved into its new home elsewhere. The irony of the situation is that, barely a few weeks after moving into this new home, they were invited to play at the opening ceremonies of the now-restored town hall.
Oct 11: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will present their “59 Minute Soiree” at Wilmar Heights Centre, Scarborough. Refreshments, conversation with the musicians and open rehearsal to follow.
Oct 16: Markham Concert Band will present “Road Trip!” In honour of their recent journey to Markham’s sister city Cary, North Carolina, they will present a tribute to great Canadian and American music: Broadway, jazz, marches and more. The concert will feature vocalists Solveig Barber and Bill Mighton.
Oct 18: The Barrie Concert Band will present “Veterans Salute,” a musical tribute to the veterans and service men and women in the Canadian Forces. The concert, at the Army Navy and Air Force Club, will include military-related themes and will feature the Base Borden Brass and Reed Band as guests.
Oct 23: Wellington Winds present “Moving Masterpieces for Winds”: Four Last Songs, Allerseelen, Der Rosenkavalier and other works by Richard Strauss; Amy E.W. Prince, soprano; Daniel Warren, conductor. At Knox Presbyterian Church, Waterloo. The concert will be repeated Oct 30 at Grandview Baptist Church, Kitchener.
Oct 28: The Etobicoke Community Concert Band will present “Aaarrr Matey,” music of sailors, pirates and adventurers at Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium.
Oct 29: The “Festival of Remembrance Concert” commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Ontario Regiment begins at 2pm.at The Embassy Church, 416 Taunton Road, Oshawa. Bands will include the Pipes and Drums of Branch 43 Royal Canadian Legion, the Oshawa Civic Band, and the Band of HMCS York.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
It’s time for the September column already. Normally, at this time of year, I would try to focus on coming events. However, if there are interesting events in the band world coming in September, nobody has told us about them! There are a few anniversaries to comment on, though, starting with my own!
With this issue I am starting my 11th season writing this Bandstand column. It seems like just a few weeks ago when I sat with David Perlman discussing that first column for September 2006. On looking over that first column one event stands out. It was the announcement that: “As part of the opening ceremonies for the new Rose Theatre Brampton, on Sunday September 10, 2006 at 8pm The City of Brampton Concert Band will present 'A Tribute to Howard Cable.' As Guest Conductor, Dr. Howard Cable OC will conduct a new work commissioned for the occasion.”
Nine years and 11 months later, the major event in our band world one month ago was a “Howard Cable Memorial Celebration.” Toronto’s St. James Cathedral was packed to hear tributes from family members and many who had worked with Cable over his long, illustrious career. Some came from as far away as Halifax to participate in the tribute. A 50-member Howard Cable Tribute Band, composed of professional and semi-professional musicians performed a number of Cable’s compositions for band. Many then gathered at the nearby Moss Park Armoury for a reception.
Newmarket’s Good News: It’s always a pleasure to report on good news, and that certainly came to the Newmarket Citizens Band recently. Eleven years ago their longtime home at the Lions Club was destroyed by fire. The work of arsonists destroyed the building. However, much of the band’s library, stored in steel filing cabinets, survived along with some instruments and archival material. After 11 years as nomads rehearsing in a number of school music rooms, various clubhouses and church facilities they now have a true home. In early August the band held its first rehearsal in their room in Newmarket’s Ray Twinney recreation complex. They now have an excellent large rehearsal space complete with private storage for music and instruments immediately adjacent. At the first rehearsal in their new home, band members surveyed a few items which survived the fire that are now looking for homes. A very smoky bass drum with the band’s still visible art work may very well have become a coffee table since time of writing this!
Two WU-linked anniversaries: On the anniversary front there are two quite different ones to report on. However, they both have at least some of their roots stemming from the Western University. The first of these groups is Brassroots, a ten-member brass ensemble from London, Ontario. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary with the release of a CD titled Passion for Brass which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue. All members, except one, are WU graduates and all except one are music educators.
The other anniversary is that of Steffan Brunette who is retiring after 25 years as conductor of the Uxbridge Community Concert Band (UCCB). In the first summer after his graduation from high school, he wanted to continue with a band but couldn’t find one near home so he started this band. As a music student at WU he revived the band each summer. When he graduated and became a high school music teacher in the area, he kept the band running each summer.
When the band was first formed it served as a means for members to continue playing during the summer when school bands do not operate. Now, with many members returning year after year, members are no longer primarily students on their summer break. Now, members range from teenagers to a good many retirees.
Each year, after their final concert, band members vote on one selection from the season’s repertoire to be included in the next year’s programming. That, in turn, leads to the choice of the next season’s theme. The number chosen from last year was the music from the Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Hence, the theme for this season was to be music associated in one way or another with the sea. With a bit of a play on words the band then went “Sailing the High C’s” this summer. From Handel’s Water Music, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Songs, H.M.S. Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance to the Petty Harbour Bait Skiff, it was all about sailing musically. To bring the audiences into the present, the concerts featured a fine new work, By the River, composed by band member Kristie Hunter.
To celebrate their conductor’s 25 years of dedication, the band had a great BBQ and pool party after their concert in Palmer Park in Port Perry. Some band members even dressed as pirates with colourful artificial tattoos and even a parrot on the shoulder. Now that Brunette is retiring from the band at least for one season, members of the band are forming a “What do we do now?” committee.
New Horizons: Over the past six years there have been numerous mentions in this column of the growth of the New Horizons Band movement in our area. A few months ago we mentioned the airing on TVO of a documentary on the development and growth of the Toronto New Horizons Bands. Dan Kapp, director of the Toronto NH bands has just informed me that, as a direct result of that program, there are already 36 confirmed registrations for the next new band to start in September. There were also dozens of phone and email inquiries which will certainly lead to more new members joining. For anyone interested, the New Horizons Bands will have their annual “Instrument Exploration Workshop” at the Long & McQuade Bloor St. store Friday, September 9 at 7pm.
To the museum: On a number of occasions in the past I have also written about the great collection of vintage brass instruments amassed by Professor Henry Meredith at the Western University and the hope for the establishment of a proper museum to house and display this collection. On looking over my own collection of instruments which haven’t been played in years, I have decided that some of these deserve to be in that collection. As soon as we can arrange it, two trombones will be moving to their new home. The first is a Toronto-made Whaley Royce instrument dating back to the early 1900s. The other is my very first trombone. This Manhattan model by Selmer is the one which I played in a boys’ band all through university and six nights a week at a dance pavilion. There hasn’t been a sound from it in over 60 years. It deserves a decent retirement.
Community Bands: Periodically, in this column we ask that our community bands let us know what they are doing. In the past few months, since the last issue of The WholeNote, we have not heard a word from any band about their activities. Community bands should do more to promote themselves. Otherwise, how do we know what you are doing? Please keep us informed.
Anthem Butchery Cup: A few months ago we established the Anthem Butchery Cup (ABC) (a handsome Spode Thundermug)to award those people who choose to display their talents (or lack thereof) by modifying our national anthem to suit their particular level of musical talent. In the past it has always been a solo performer who has distorted the melody. A few weeks ago at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game a new benchmark was established. One member of a quartet of tenors, without telling the others, decided to substantially change the lyrics of Canada’s national anthem. Remigio Pereira stunned his three cohorts and his audience with his new words. The last we heard, the four Tenors had morphed into the three Tenors. Mr. Pereira succeeds Nellie Furtado as ABC title holder.
Roland Hill: We were sad to learn of the passing of Roland Hill just shy of his 74th birthday, on July 2, 2016. He had served for 32 years as music director of the Whitby Brass Band until 2012. He will be missed.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
People’s given names saddle them with epithets that tend to remain with them throughout their lives. The name Jack, for example, endows or burdens me with more than my share. A few of the more obvious: Jack be nimble, Jack Sprat could eat no fat, Jack was every inch a sailor, Jackass, and Jack of all trades, but master of none. The last of these, “Jack of all trades,” particularly rankles when I hear it applied to musicians willing (and able) to switch from their usual instrument to another to fill in for some other missing instrument in a band. (The disdainful critics are, generally, those who would not be able to do so.)
A more complimentary term than “Jack of all trades” might be “A man of many hats.” I can’t think of anyone in the music world more deserving of that title, sometimes quite literally, than Henry Meredith of Western University (Doctor Hank as he is affectionately known) who displays his amazing array of talents with the aid of his Plumbing Factory Brass Band (PFBB). I had the pleasure of attending their most recent concert in London where, demonstrating several of the many period instruments from his vast collection, he donned the style of hats that might have been worn by musicians of the period.
This concert was a perfect example of what I have often described, and encouraged, as “Music Education as Entertainment.” The title of the concert was “Meet the Plumbers,” but would have more accurately described the scope of the concert if the title had been expanded to include “and Meet Their Instruments.” After the opening number, performed by the entire band, the audience was introduced to all of the members of the family of modern brass instruments and many of their predecessors including parforce horns, valveless trumpets, saxhorns, and the ancient cornett. In many of these smaller ensemble numbers all the musicians wore hats of many eras from Doctor Hank’s colourful hat collection.
The concert’s grand finale began with the introduction of the vuvuzela which could be described as a type of primitive klaxon. Its modern offspring, the plastic vuvuzela, came into prominence (notoriety is perhaps a better word) a few years ago when thousands of them were sounded during football matches at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In 1930 composer Henry Fillmore wrote The Klaxon March where he introduced the sound of early car horns into the work. At this concert, a few members of the audience were given vuvuzelas to produce the appropriate sound and then cued by Meredith whenever the music called for the klaxon. I can proudly report that this Jack of all trades added to my repertoire by displaying my musical skills on a bright green plastic vuvuzela.
Doctor Hank is truly “a man of many hats,” and he displayed his many talents as conductor, instrumentalist, curator and entertainer, simultaneously educating and entertaining his audience. After enjoying works of four centuries spanning the era from Samuel Scheidt in the early 17th century to Henry Mancini and Paul McCartney, we all had learned as we listened. We went home with memories of a great concert and some newly gained knowledge of some of the many aspects of music.
Wychwood Clarinet Choir: The next major event on our musical calendar was the “Sounds of Spring” concert of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. This was a very special concert dedicated to the memory of Howard Cable, who had been their composer and conductor laureate in recent years until his passing in March. In addition to the performance of two of Cable’s works from the 1960s there was a special tribute section in the printed program with photographs with choir members in recent years. During the intermission Bobby Herriot, trumpeter, conductor, composer and long-time friend of Cable spoke about their friendship and working relationship over the years. Cable’s two daughters and one son were in attendance and, after the concert, spoke of a few initiatives under discussion to recognize their father in one of Toronto’s parks. (We were also treated to a fine arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile from the String Quartet Opus 11 by Cable’s friend, distinguished arranger and musical director Fen Watkin who was also in attendance.)
As for the repertoire, there were two standouts for me. The first of these was a novelty number, with a very catchy melody, named Immer Kleiner by 19th-century composer Adolf Schreiner and transcribed by George S. Howard. For those not proficient in German, the title means “Always Smaller” and that is exactly what happened to Michele Jacot’s clarinet. After a brief interlude, she stopped, removed the bell of her clarinet and then continued playing. After another melodic interlude, she stopped again and removed the lower joint which is the bottom half of the keys of the instrument.Then on with the next section of the music with only the upper joint keys, then without the barrel until she was left with only the mouthpiece. It was all very melodic, well performed and hilarious to witness.
The second standout was a transcription of Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E-Flat for band. Many years ago I read, in a scholarly publication, that this composition and Holst’s Second Suite in F had been written as commissions from the Royal Military School Music, Kneller Hall. It was reported that directors of the school lamented the fact that almost all serious concert works played by British military bands were transcriptions of orchestral music. In a recent check of possible sources, I have not been able to verify that. However, I was able to confirm that this suite was premiered at the Royal Military School Music in 1920. This acceptance that the military band was a serious form of ensemble prompted other composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob, to write serious band music.
A Special High School: It isn’t often that I report on high school band concerts, but I must make an exception this month. For a number of reasons the music department of Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. deserves special mention. Among many other selections in their “Spring Music Night” were a new composition and a fine transcription. In honour of the school’s founding principal, Robert Thomson, whose school nickname (presumably affectionately) is “Thor,” the school commissioned J. Scott Irvine to write a suitable composition. So it was that the school’s wind ensemble gave the world premiere performance of Irvine’s stirring Mjolnir, The Hammer of Thor. Another outstanding number by the Wind Ensemble was a transcription of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 “The Titan.” This arrangement by the school’s director of music, Paul Sylvester, was part of his master’s thesis.
A New Band: For my third concert in four days I was thrust into a different role. I was not in the audience this time but playing in the first formal concert of the fledgling York Region Brass. Yes, we did have to have a couple of ringers to fill in, but all went well. One of these ringers brought a very special surprise for me. Jonas Feldman reminded me that I had been his teacher many years ago. As is customary, teachers and students usually lose contact after the students move on. However, every once in a while our paths have crossed, and in this instance we were sitting beside each other for the band’s end-of-concert photograph. In the interim since we first met, Jonas just happened to have earned bachelor and master’s degrees in music. Another surprise: although I had been rehearsing with the group for several weeks, I had no idea that there was a composer in our midst. Then we played the new Lavender March by euphonium player Eugene Belianski. If you play a brass instrument and live within driving distance of Newmarket, the York Region Brass would love to hear from you. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elsewhere: As mentioned last month, the Uxbridge Community Concert Band has just started another season. They would love to hear from potential members. If you would like to try a new band for the summer months, contact the band at email@example.com or visit their website at uccb2016.webs.com.
By the time that this issue is published the Toronto New Horizons Bands will have wound up their sixth season with a concert by 195-plus members in six bands plus a jazz orchestra. Rather than take time off, NHB Director Dan Kapp has announced that he will be offering what he calls “a jump-start camp” for people returning to playing after not having played for a while. There will be experienced staff for daily workshops, band classes, interest sessions and ensembles. This will all take place at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre at Bloor and Spadina from July 18 to 22. Their website is mnjcc.org/camps. And a reminder: as mentioned in last month’s issue the documentary film about these New Horizons Toronto bands will be aired on TVO, June 8 at 9pm. After that it will be streamed on the TVO website.
Getting June off to a flying start, on Sunday, June 5 we have no fewer than four concerts by community instrumental groups, two of which will be performing with choral groups:
At 3pm the Newmarket Citizens’ Band will be performing in their “Spring Fling Concert” with the Upper Canada Chordsmen Chorus at Trinity United Church, Newmarket.
At 7pm the Strings Attached Orchestra, with music director Ricardo Giorgi will present their “2016 Friends & Family Year End Concert” at Tribute Communities Recital Hall, York University. This will be another concert with an interesting adaptation. The Vivaldi Concerto for Two Trumpets will be performed but with two violins playing the solo trumpet parts. As mentioned earlier, this seems to be the season for original compositions and this concert will be featuring two. The first, with the whimsical title, Overture for a Puppet Show, is by Ric Giorgi himself. The other, Cassiopeia by 16-year-old Adam Adle, is the winner of the orchestra’s Young Composers Initiative 2016.
Also at 7pm the Northdale Concert Band will be joined by the choirs of Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, Grace Church on-the-Hill and Christ Church Deer Park for “Last Night of the Proms,” an evening full of British pageantry fit for royalty at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church.
At 8pm Resa’s String Ensemble will hold their spring concert at Crescent School.
Finally, on Tuesday June 7 at 8pm, Resa’s Pieces Concert Band will perform their spring concert at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
Jack (of all trades) MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.