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.
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.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
After a seemingly endless wait, spring has finally arrived, and with it a virtual explosion of band activity. Not only are there more spring concerts than usual to announce, but there are some anniversaries and even one unusual debut. Another most welcome sign is the number of messages from readers telling us about their bands’ activities.
Anniversaries: The first of the anniversaries that came to our attention was that of the Uxbridge Community Concert Band which is celebrating its 25th season. The UCCB is unique in that it is a summertime only band. Originally established to provide a band where students could remain proficient during the summer vacation period, now, 25 years later, band membership encompasses a spectrum from high school students to retirees in their 80s. They have two concerts scheduled for August. New members are always welcome and are urged to contact the band at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at uccb2016.webs.com.
At the end of each concert season UCCB band members are asked to vote on a selection from that season which they would like to have included in the repertoire for the following season. The music to Pirates of the Caribbean was the popular choice for this year. With that as a starting point, music director Steffan Brunette has come up with an imaginative theme for the 2016 season. The band will be “Sailing the High C’s.” As of this writing Brunette is still accepting suggestions from band members. Suggestions submitted so far include selections from the Sea and Sinbad’s Ship from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Handel’s Water Music Suite, Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore and others.
Messages: The first of our messages was from Brenda Leuschen Farkas. When she lived in Toronto, she played in the New Horizons (Intermediate) Band, Toronto, under the direction of Rob Mee. When she and her husband moved to their new home on a lake near Port Loring, Ontario, the hunt for a place to play was a priority. Soon she found the No Strings Attached Community Band in Sudbury. While it’s an hour’s drive to get to the rehearsals, she says that it’s worth it. Recently, the band was awarded a high silver at the Northern Ontario Music Festival and received an invitation to compete at the Nationals in Ottawa. Directed by its founder, Sandra McMillan, the band will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a concert titled “15 Years of Music.” The concert will be held on Sunday, May 29 at 2pm at Cambrian College Auditorium, Sudbury. For more information see
Another welcome letter recently received was from Theresa MacDonald, manager of the Weston Silver Band. As a member of Weston Silver Band, and frequent assistant with Hannaford Youth, she is a fountain of knowledge on the Brass Band movement in North America. In her message she pointed out “a bit of an oversight” in last month’s column regarding participation in NABBA competitions over the years.
Here is what she had to say: “Canadian bands have not [recently]participated in NABBA until we [Weston Silver Band] returned to the Championships in 2014 after an 18-year hiatus. We have just returned from the North American Brass Band Championships (April 2, 2016) with a second place finish in First Section (1.5 points off the winning band). We are and remain the only Canadian Brass Band at the Championships…We are currently ranked as one of the top ten brass bands in North America.”
New Horizons on Film: A few days ago we had the pleasure of attending a “pre-screening” of a new documentary film about the Toronto New Horizons Band. Directed by Sarah Keenlyside with executive producer Howard Fraiberg of Proximity Films, The Beat Goes On portrays the establishment and development of the Toronto New Horizons Band. The premiere on TVO is scheduled for June 8 at 9pm. After that date it will be possible to stream it from the TVO website.
While on the subject of Toronto New Horizons, their end-of-season concert is scheduled for May 27 at 7:30. As in past years this will be at St. Michael’s College Arts Centre, 1515 Bathurst Street, north of St. Clair Ave. It seems like only yesterday when I first heard of the prospect for such a group. Now it’s the end of their sixth year.
Dan Kapp: Last month I mentioned that Dan Kapp had resigned from his position in the Long and McQuade band department to devote more time to New Horizons activities. They have started to increase already. He will be running a beginner adult full-day band camp this summer from July 18 to 22, at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre as part of their Summer Institute for Creative Adults (SICA) program. It will be for adults who want to start playing again. In other words, participants will have to have some background in reading music. The New Horizons Band of Toronto Summer Band (Dan’s regular guys and gals) will be featured guests in an evening concert on July 21 at the Al Green Theatre (within the MNjcc) as part of the camp.
If all of that wasn’t enough to keep a retiree busy, Dan was recently invited to conduct at a two-day international music festival in Panama City. He was selected to conduct a 78-member Honour Band of students from grades 7 to 9 as one part of the festival. It’s an annual event sponsored by the International School of Panama. There will be international schools from five other Central American countries as well as schools from Panama represented at the festival. This festival is the only time many of the students get to perform in a large ensemble.
Silverthorn: Back to those messages about upcoming events. Word from Heather Engli is that the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will be ending their season with a concert, May 28, appropriately titled “Sounds of Spring.” To whet the appetite of potential attendees they have scheduled a combination of some outstanding wind band repertoire along with some easy listening, fun stuff: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite, Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy and Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide along with such lighter fare as selections from Ain’t Misbehavin’, Big Band Salute and A Leroy Anderson Portrait. It is a program with wide appeal. It all takes place at the Wilmar Heights Event Centre.
And a deep debut: June 5, Flute Street will present their spring concert featuring the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D and a Sinfonia for Nine Piccolos. The highlight for me will be the debut that I alluded to earlier. A few months ago we had introduced to a Toronto audience for the first time a sub contrabass flute belonging to a guest performer from Australia. That instrument so fascinated Flute Street member Jeff Densham that he was determined to have one for himself. Yes, he purchased such an instrument, and it will have its Canadian debut at this concert in a duet for contrabass and sub contrabass flutes.
More Events by date
May 7 the York University Community Band Festival returns with a variety of attractions for band members. It all starts at 12:45 with registration in York U’s Accolade East Building. There is a massed band session in the early afternoon followed by workshops on Brazilian drumming, brass performance, woodwind tips and a jazz ensemble. This is followed by a reception with keynote speaker, Canadian composer Donald Coakley. The evening features a massed band concert where Coakley will conduct a number of his compositions.
May 8 at 2pm, the Markham Concert Band will present “Sneak Peek: Murder at the Markham Theatre,” a fun-filled afternoon, as band member Heather Wardell spins a tale of dastardly deeds unfolding before your eyes at the Markham Theatre. Great music melds with intrigue in the search for the Markham Theatre murderer. Between each piece of music more information will be provided about motive and opportunity for the suspects and at the end of the show the murderer will be revealed.
May 15 at 2pm, the Caledon Concert Band will present “Heroes from Fantasy and History,” including Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek Into Darkness and Pirates of the Caribbean.
May 15 at 3:30pm, the Wychwood Clarinet Choir (led by artistic director and clarinet soloist Michele Jacot) offers “Sounds of Spring” at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. This concert will feature McIntyre Ranch and other works by composer and conductor laureate Howard Cable and Immer Kleiner by Adolf Schreiner. The one work that I am looking forward to is Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E Flat as arranged by Matt Johnston. In the past I have been amazed at how well this group interprets such large works for full concert band with only the resources of the family of clarinets.
Also in the Listings
May 27: Etobicoke Community Concert Band. “Summer Prelude: Memories of the ‘Summer of Love’ at Woodstock,” featuring big band and Latin music. Works by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and others.
May 28:The North York Concert Band presents “Dancing and Romancing,” a composite of swing tunes, Latin music, show tunes and other music at the Al Green Theatre.
May 29: Mississauga Pops Concert Band presents “First in Films” with selections from The Lion King, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Phantom of the Opera and other works; Joseph Resendes, conductor.
May 29: North Toronto Community Band presents “Spring Rhythms,” with Keli Schmidt, mallets percussion, Cindy Sloane, vocals, Danny Wilks, conductor.
Sunday June 5 at 3pm, the Newmarket Citizens’ Band will present their “Spring Fling Concert” with special guests the Upper Canada Chordsmen Chorus, at Trinity United Church, 461 Park Ave, Newmarket.
June 7: Resa’s Pieces Concert Band’s “17th Gala Concert,” will range from Gustav Holst’s Jupiter from The Planets to Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Local trumpeter and composer Vern Kennedy’s Chandler Point Suite will add a local flavour. The band will be joined for part of the program by Resa’s Pieces Singers and Resa’s Pieces String Ensemble; Resa Kochberg, conductor.
Word is spreading through the music world of the passing of Howard Cable. Canadian music has lost a great composer and conductor. Much has been written in the media already, and next month The WholeNote will include a feature story about him.
For myself, in addition to playing much of his music over the years, more recently, I had begun talking with him about a special project. For some time I have wanted to write something about the process of music composition by looking into a specific work, following the processes and persons involved from the original concept to first performance of the piece. A couple of years ago I broached the idea to Howard after a concert of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir (with whom he had also developed a special relationship in recent years).
In my mind I envisioned some town band commissioning him to compose a concert overture to commemorate an anniversary of the band. We would then discuss the many steps involved as the ideas went from the composer’s brain to printed page and on to a public performance. We had agreed on a tentative format and, always ready to look ahead, Howard suggested that we get down to it this spring. Alas, it will not happen in quite that way now.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Last month, you may recall, the Canadian Band Association, Ontario had just held its first "Community Brass Band" weekend, which got me going in this space, on the subject of the characteristics of the brass band, the British Brass Band Style, Company Bands and Brass Band Contests.
There’s a whole other story to tell about how brass bands in the British tradition, sometimes sponsored by employers, began to be established on this side of the Atlantic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But first let’s look at an upcoming event which encapsulates not only what the brass band community is all about but also how far the brass band genre has come.
Hannaford Street Silver Band’s Festival of Brass: Just as there are few, if any, professional concert bands in Canada there are few professional brass bands. The notable exception is the Hannaford Street Silver Band, established some 30 years ago by a group of Toronto professional musicians who wanted to give the full virtuosic range of brass band idiom a voice and showcase in Toronto. Their concerts have consequently explored a much wider range of music than would usually have been considered part of the brass band repertoire. A recent example: with guest artist Fergus McWilliam, they presented the Strauss Horn Concerto No.1 this past February 21. Here was a top musician from the Berlin Philharmonic performing with a brass band on the only major brass instrument that is not part of the usual brass band instrumentation. Also note, the HSSB commitment to broadening the repertoire has gone beyond rearranging standard repertoire into a vigorous commitment to commissioning new Canadian works.
Another important outgrowth of the HSSB’s activities has been their youth program. In 1999 they launched the Hannaford Street Youth Band under the direction of Anita McAlister. In 2005, another youth band was created for beginning brass players known as the Hannaford Junior Band. Soon a third, intermediate, band known as the Hannaford Community Youth Band was also formed. All three bands, under the same director, provide musical growth opportunities for young musicians ranging in age from 11 to the early 20s.
So, for devotees of the Hannafords and brass band fans in general, the HSSB’s annual Festival of Brass (this year on the weekend of April 15 to 17) is a must. This festival will be packed with almost every form of brass music. Friday evening will feature “Rising Stars” where the finalists of the Hannaford Youth Solo Competition will be judged on their performances by Alain Trudel and Stéphane Beaulac. The winner will perform with the Hannaford Band in the Sunday afternoon concert. Saturday will be devoted to a master class in the morning followed by a series of performances by “Festival of Brass” participating bands. On Sunday there will be an open dress rehearsal in the morning and the “Entre Amis” concert in the afternoon. This year, Stéphane Beaulac, formerly principal trumpet with Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal, now with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be the featured soloist. He will perform Canadian composer Johnny Cowell’s Concerto in E Minor with the band, under the direction of another Hannaford distinguished visitor, Alain Trudel.
Crossing the Atlantic: Now back to our previous topic. Certainly the geography of Canada, with large distances between communities, made some aspects of the British Brass Band tradition, such as regular contests, impractical. On the other hand, relative isolation and lack of other recreational opportunity may have assisted with other aspects, such as the company band. Certainly, into the 20th century there were still a few distinguished company bands around, including the Taylor Safe Works Band, the Heintzman Piano Company Band, where the famous Herbert L. Clarke was featured, and the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band in Huntsville, Ontario where Clarke was the conductor from 1918 to 1923. Originally trained on the viola, Clarke was smitten by the cornet and began practising on his brother’s instrument. He then joined the band of the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1882 at age 14, in order to obtain his own government-issue cornet on which to practise.
Few, if any, company bands are still operating in Canada. There are still a number of Salvation Army bands, but the total number of British-style brass bands probably does not exceed 30. Most of these are in Ontario, operate as recreational or “community” bands and have long histories going back over a century in some cases. The most well-known include the Oshawa Civic Band, the Whitby Brass Band, the Weston Silver Band and the Metropolitan Silver Band of Toronto. Professor Henry Meredith’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band in London is one which has risen in stature in recent years.
South of the border: About the same time brass bands were springing up in Canada similar bands were forming in the US, principally in the New England States. It wasn’t long, though, before brass bands caught the attention of one John Sullivan Dwight in Boston. Ordained as a minister in 1840, Dwight had abandoned the ministry and developed a deep interest in music, in particular that of Beethoven. By the 1850s music was becoming a big business in America and Dwight was soon to become the country’s first music critic, launching frequent tirades against the popular music of the day, particularly the brass band. In one memorable instance he wrote: “All at once the idea of a Brass Band shot forth: and from this prolific germ sprang up a multitude of its kind in every part of the land, like the crop of iron men from the infernal seed of the dragon’s teeth.”
NABBA: Dwight notwithstanding, by 1983 the desire for some form of umbrella organization to coordinate the activities of bands and to further the brass band movement had resulted in the establishment of the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) with stated aims to “Foster, promote and otherwise encourage the establishment, growth and development of amateur and professional British-type brass bands throughout the United States and Canada.”
Cautionary note: if you decide to ask Mr. Google for information on this organization, type in the full name, not NABBA, or you will learn more than you ever wanted to know about the National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association. (Unless of course you are a tuba player and need some muscle toning.)
While some Canadian bands have participated in NABBA competitions over the years, the most recent highlight was in the summer of 2014 when the North American Brass Band Summer School (NABBSS) was first held in Halifax as an integral component of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. We were participants in that first school and in the tattoo. We would not have missed it for the world. The 2015 event was equally successful and enrollments are well on the way for this coming summer.
Other Brass Band news from the GTA: I was very surprised and pleased recently to receive a copy of a new history of the Metropolitan Silver Band. As the title says, it covers “80 Years of Music-Making at Metropolitan United Church.” This history was written by the band’s longest-serving member, Ken Allen, who has been in the band for 71 of those 80 years, 43 of them as its manager. He was fortunate in having access to meticulously maintained records over the years by a fellow band member.
Elsewhere I have mentioned, on various occasions, those revolutionary times when a female musician was “permitted” to join a band. For the MSB, this occurred in January 1981, when Bill Martyn, a member of the cornet section and a high school English teacher, invited one of his students to join the band. Now, 35 years later, Michele McCall is still in the band and has been the band’s manager since 2005, when she took over from Ken Allen. Another milestone was in 2002 when the band appointed its first woman conductor. Fran Harvey is still the conductor after 14 years at the helm. The history includes a good selection of pictures, all with dates and identification of all band members. As I scanned these pictures, lo and behold, there I was during those years when I was a band member in the 1970s and 1980s. Late last year the band released a new CD to celebrate its 80-year association with Metropolitan United Church. Titled Amazing Grace-A Gospel Celebration, it is a compilation of traditional hymns including one selection, My Lord What a Morning, featuring a solo by none other than 71-year veteran Ken Allen.
Salvation Army bands have long been a mainstay of the brass band movement, so it was good to hear of an SA concert coming up later in the month. Featured will be the Ontario Central East Divisional Singing Company (Junior Choir) conducted by Elizabeth Colley, Divisional Young Peoples’ Band – Blood and Fire Brass under bandleader Bob Gray, and Divisional Reservists’ Band – Heritage Brass also led by bandmaster Gray. The concert will take place Saturday, April 23 at 7pm, in the Agincourt Community Church of The Salvation Army, 3080 Birchmount Rd, Toronto. A freewill offering will be received during the concert.
Startups are always a good sign of the resurgence of interest in brass band music, and here’s another one. They are inviting other brass players to join them. They rehearse Wednesday evenings in Newmarket and would particularly welcome cornet and tuba players. If you play a brass instrument, and are interested in exploring that genre, contact Peter Hussey by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Horizons: From time to time I have reported on the activities of the many New Horizons groups since their introduction into Canada about six years ago. The number of groups in Toronto alone has grown to the extent that the original conductor, Dan Kapp, has relinquished his duties at the Long & McQuade main store to channel all of his energies into the many New Horizons groups. With the title of creative director, Dan will oversee the operations of all Toronto bands, as well as conduct two or more. While on the subject of New Horizons, a few days ago I learned of a New Horizons group now thriving in Sudbury. Where will the next NH group spring up?
Obituary: Unfortunately I must report on the passing of Alex MacDonald a long-serving member of the Metropolitan Silver Band. I first met Alex when he and I were living in the same residence at university many years ago. We played together in the U of T Varsity band. On one occasion Alex startled us all. We were rehearsing Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, but we didn’t have anyone to play the piccolo part. Alex tucked his euphonium under his arm and pulled a slide whistle from his inner pocket. Suddenly we had a piccolo.