Murray GinsbergA few weeks ago, when I first learned of the passing of trombonist Murray Ginsberg, I considered the possibility of writing an obituary. Although I had met Murray on a few occasions some years ago, I didn’t feel that I knew him well enough to do justice to such a project. I decided to do some research and come up with a more knowledgeable account of his contributions to Canadian music over his 70-plus years of performing.

Born in Toronto on October 4, 1922, his family history is worthy of a book by itself. In one of the stories which I have received there is an account of how his parents got to Canada. Murray was the son of immigrant parents from Russia and Lithuania. Were it not for a strange quirk of fate, the Murray Ginsberg story would never have happened. In 1912, having made their way across Russia and Europe, his parents worked their way through Holland and eventually arrived in Liverpool. There they boarded a ship headed for North America and a new life. Along with 300 other immigrants, they were simply placed in the hold of the ship for the trip. However, the ship was overbooked and they were ordered off. They had to wait for another one. As for that quirk of fate, the ship which they were forced from was the Titanic. We all know what happened to that ship.

Murray first discovered the trombone in the late 1930s. In January 1937, at the age of 14, he had his first formal lesson with Harry Hawe, then principal trombonist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Sir Ernest MacMillan. More about his amazing musical career later. As his health failed in his mid-80s, Murray moved to the Veteran’s Wing of Sunnybrook Hospital. In more recent years his dementia gradually worsened. Surrounded by his family, Murray left us as Blue Skies was being sung to him on October 18, 2018 at age 96.

Now for more about Murray’s musical life. Not that long after his first trombone lessons at age 14, he became serious about music. Within two years he was playing professionally, even though he was still a student at Toronto’s Central Technical School. Then, on August 20, 1942, at age 19, Murray joined the army, and was soon playing in Canadian Army Bands to entertain the troops in Europe.

Army Show Orchestra, February 1943After the war, he was back in Toronto, pursuing an amazingly varied musical career. He played under diverse conductors, performed on weekly variety shows, and was the house trombonist for CBC’s The Music Makers. At some point he joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and continued with the TSO position for almost two decades. Elsewhere, he played under many conductors in a wide range of musical performances from highly classical to “low down jazz.” As one person remarked: “He played classical music by day and jazz by night, with The Murray Ginsberg Orchestra.” For many years he was the Toronto Musicians Association’s business representative and later wrote a book called They Loved to Play in 1998.

I have been told that, when Murray was in a singing mood, his favourite song was When the Saints Go Marching In. As someone said after his passing: “Look out heaven – you just got one more Saint who’s marching in.”

Now for a couple of my own personal reminiscences: one of Murray’s key memories was about his first trombone lessons with Harry Hawe at the age of 14. Some years later, in the late 1940s, Harry Hawe was my trombone teacher. I remember well Harry telling me how proud he was of a couple of his students in particular. Murray and Teddy Roderman, the apples of his eye, both spent years in the Toronto Symphony. The last time I saw Teddy Roderman, I happened to bump into him on the street. At that time his health was failing and he was going South with his sailboat. As for Murray, I don’t remember where or when we last met, but I do remember receiving a copy of his book shortly after it was published.

Well, a few days ago, on one of the days when Mother Nature decided to bless us with a stay-at-home white day, I was poking around through my book collection when out popped They Loved to Play subtitled Memories of the Golden Age in Canadian Music. There, on the inner title page in Murray’s handwriting were the words: “To Jack MacQuarrie, December 16, 1999. From one trombone player to another, all the best for the future.”

Truth be told, I don’t recall any of the details about that meeting.

Shortly after rediscovering Murray’s book I came across the May 1994 edition of The International Musician, the monthly journal of the American Federation of Musicians. That was where Murray wrote his regular column Canadian Scene. Here again a memory was re-ignited. His lead story was that the 1994 JUNO Award had gone to the Rankin Family, and that the big event on the horizon was the 100th anniversary of the opening of Massey hall on June 14. That means that we will celebrate Massey Hall’s 125th birthday with the building closed, anticipating how it will look after its major renovations.

A few other glimpses into the 272-page treasure trove of anecdotes contained in The Golden Age in Canadian Music. One of the first to catch my eye was about Eddie Graf and his wife Bernice (Bunny). You may remember I wrote a bit about Bunny’s birthday party in my column in the October 2018 issue of The WholeNote. Well, in Murray’s book I learned that, when Eddie Graf married Bernice O’Donnell at 9am on New Year’s Day 1945. Murray was their Best Man. They had chosen to be married “at the earliest hour on the first day of a new year when the promise of a long life filled with joy and happiness was strongest.” That was the case until Eddie passed away a few years ago.

Earlier I mentioned two of Harry Hawe’s protégés, Murray and Teddy Roderman. There they are in his book, together in a photo, two teenagers, playing side by side in a group called The Modernaires at the Masonic Temple at Yonge and Davenport in Toronto. It was 1942, Murray was 19 and Teddy was 17.

One of the most hilarious of the anecdotes in the book is about orchestra leader Luigi Romanelli. For many years Romanelli’s orchestra was the feature in the Crystal Ballroom of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. In this particular event Romanelli and his orchestra were booked to provide the music for the introduction of new model cars by General Motors in Oshawa. As was the custom, this was a major event, with politicians, corporate executives and entertainment personalities all dressed in their finest formal attire. The orchestra was onstage behind the curtain. When the house lights dimmed, the orchestra struck up a fanfare with Romanelli dressed in full formal attire with his long-tailed coat almost touching the stage. As the roll-up curtain began to rise it caught his coattail and wound it up with the curtain. Soon, much to the amusement of all of the dignitaries, he was dangling by his coattail a few feet above the stage. Needless to say, the orchestra members joined in the hilarity. When he got back down on the stage, he ordered all of the orchestra members to pack up and leave the theatre immediately.

Recent Events

With the almost unending bad weather, my attendance at concerts so far has been limited, but early in February I did manage to get to the Oshawa Civic Band’s “Polished Brass” concert. Unfortunately the terrible driving conditions kept many people away, but those who braved the ice and slick roads were treated to quite a variety of music. Except for selections from Mary Poppins and the Phantom of the Opera, the works were unfamiliar to me. That said, music director Rita Arendz led us through a fine evening of challenging music in the traditional all-brass band style. The Naval Band of HMCS York took their small ensembles to the Naval Club of Toronto again this year, but freezing rain and ice pellets kept me at home 60 kilometres away. I have heard that they provided one of their usual fine varied concerts.

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

MAR 2, 7:30PM: The Barrie Concert Band presents “Last Night at the Proms” featuring. Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, Vaughan Williams’ Folk Song Suite; Holst’s Nimrod from Enigma Variations, and other works. Collier Street United Church, 112 Collier St., Barrie.

MAR 3, 2PM: The Markham Concert Band will offer “Let’s Dance! Ballet, Waltzes and Swing” including Big Band Polka, El Bimbo, Flunky Jim and Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier. Flato Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd., Markham.

MAR 3, 3:30PM: The Wychwood Clarinet Choir will have “CC at the Oscars” with Gershwin’s An American in Paris; Mozart’s Adagio from Gran Partita; Bernstein’s Tonight from West Side Story; Arlen’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow; and Loewe’s I Could Have Danced All Night. Michele Jacot, conductor. Church of St. Michael and All Angels, 611 St. Clair Ave. W. Toronto.

MAR 31, 2PM: Resa’s Pieces Concert Band, reaching out well beyond their usual Toronto locale, travels to St. Catharines for a Sunday concert. We have no details about repertoire yet.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.

I have often claimed that procrastination was one of my hobbies, As I sit down to write this February column, though, I can honestly say that Mother Nature offers me no pleasant alternatives to sitting down at the keyboard. Today, with snow, ice and nasty cold temperatures, getting down to writing is by far the most pleasant of tasks. Welcome to real winter.

Looking back

In contrast to the weather, January was a very mild musical start to 2019, with no significant musical events on my agenda other than some rehearsals. Looking a little further back, however, in December I had the privilege of attending several entertaining seasonal concerts which were too late to report on in the December issue of The WholeNote.

The first of these was the annual Christmas Soiree of the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds. It was a short but very entertaining program of their favourite Christmas delights. The Wilmar Heights Event Centre is a small but very warm and inviting venue, particularly for that event, where audience members mingled with band members during intermission to overindulge in the many taste treats offered.

As for the Wychwood Clarinet Choir, now in is tenth season, their repertoire spanned a few centuries from Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri and Tchaikovsky’ Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy to Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. One of the highlights of the program was Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock featuring soprano soloist Christina Haldane and clarinetist Michele Jacot. Roy Greaves and Richard Moore deserve special credit for their excellent arrangements of these works for clarinet choir.

Covey of partridges

Highlights of several of the festive season concerts which I attended were performances of the Twelve Days of Christmas (the festive days starting on the evening of Christmas Day on December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). In each case audience members were asked to pick a number corresponding to their birth month. Those born in January were identified with one, February two and so forth. In one case, audience members were then asked to stand up while the verse for their day/month was performed. In another case, audience members were asked to take any keys from their purses or pockets, hold them up and jingle them when their number was called.

The Resa’s Pieces Gala, in which members of the combined band and string orchestra played on the floor with the choir onstage, had the most imaginative approach. Audience members stood for their month, but at each appropriate moment, 12 members in the front row of the choir, facing the audience, raised large red cards, with pictures representing the words for each of the days.

As to the origin of the song, it’s generally agreed that it arose in England, perhaps as a coded catechism song from the era when Catholicism was outlawed there (1558-1829), and that each line symbolizes a tenet of the Catholic faith. Setting aside the dozens of learned line-by-line interpretations, the truest meaning of this cheerful song for me is the opportunity it provides for audience involvement in music making.

Back to Bugles

My grumble in the December issue about bugle calls not being played on bugles, but on trumpets got quite a response, for and against my comments.

In my life I have heard many bugle calls, but never played on a bugle myself. My first association with the instrument was in high school where, one day a week, almost every boy in the school, dressed in the full kilted highland uniform of our cadet corps, was part of the bugle band (bagpipes being too expensive and too difficult to maintain). Since I was already a trombone player in a boy’s band, not associated with the school, however, I missed out on this glorious opportunity. Some years later, I served aboard HMS Sheffield, the Admiral’s Flagship of the American and West Indies Squadron. We had a Royal Marine Band aboard as well as a few buglers. All orders over the ship’s sound system were preceded by the appropriate bugle call.

HMS SheffieldThe most interesting of the comments I received came from reader Robert Frankling. In his opening salvo he states in part: “The question you raised of the too-seldom use of bugles in military units has nothing whatsoever to do with the expense, but everything to do with an unjustified anti-bugle snobbery and laziness of trumpet players to practise on the bugle, a tough instrument to master.” In his message he mentions that he has played the trumpet since age 13 and the bugle since late middle age. Now, at 67, he tells me that he has done “a fair bit of bugling in the last 30 years mostly for military events and funerals.”

“Ultimately, the reason more trumpet players do not play on the bugle,” he says, “is because they can’t, and they can’t because they won’t practise on the bugle enough to master this tricky instrument. They just pick up a bugle, try it once and say it sounds terrible, but that is because of the performer, not the fault of the instrument. Due to their ignorance of the bugle’s history and their unjustified snobbery, [they] consider the bugle to be beneath their dignity ... something that only an unsophisticated rube would use!”

(Taking Mr. Frankling’s comments about the bugle being harder to play than the trumpet, into account, the title of Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday takes on a new meaning. Could it have been that buglers, tired of playing their more challenging instruments, were being offered a welcome day off?

Bugle from the Royal Montreal Regiment MuseumAs for the instrument’s venerable history, the modern bugle can trace its origins to the Roman bugle around the fourth century A.D. as early musical and communication instruments made from animal horns with a narrow opening cut at the tip. (The word bugle itself comes from buculus, the Latin for bullock, a castrated bull.) Just as in today’s instruments, the tone was produced by pursing the player’s lips against this narrow opening and producing a buzzing sound, with the horn acting as resonator of the sound, and the pitch dependent on the length of the air column in the horn. At some stage, someone decided to make a horn out of metal. A late Roman metal bugle, found in 1904 at Mont Ventoux in France, and now in the British Museum, is bent completely around upon itself to form a coil between the mouthpiece and the bell end. (In the case of this British Museum specimen, the bell end was broken off some time in the long and distant past).

The use of these instruments as signaling devices, particularly in military operations, goes back to its earliest days. The ancient Roman army used an instrument called the buccina. Centuries later, the purpose of the bugle was laid out in Niccoló Machiavelli’s 1521 treatise Libro dell’ arte della guerra (The Art of War), in which he wrote that the commanding officer should issue orders by means of trumpets because their piercing tone and great volume enabled them to be heard above the pandemonium of combat. The first verifiable formal use of a brass bugle as a military signal device was the Halbmondblaser, or half-moon bugle, used in Hanover in 1758. It first spread to England in 1764 where it was gradually accepted widely in foot regiments.

Bugles, and various types of trumpets or horns, without valves or keys, produce only limited notes (usually five) with the pitch of the lowest note being the resonant frequency of the horn, based on its length, and the other notes being harmonics of that.

Historically, the bugle was used in the army to relay instructions from officers to soldiers during battle. They were used to assemble the leaders and to give marching orders to the troops. During peace time the bugle call was used to indicate the daily routines of camp. When I served in HMS Sheffield, we had several Marine buglers, as well as a full Royal Marine Band, as befitting the Admiral’s Flagship. All routine orders throughout the day were by the specific bugle call for such times as “sunrise, hands to supper, lights out, sunset” etc.

Post Horn from the Grinnell College Musical Instruments CollectionOne of the most significant early peacetime uses of the instrument was the post horn, to signal the arrival in town of the postman with the mail. The original post horn had no taper until right at the bell and the tubing was straight and narrow. Its sound is so significantly different and appealing that many composers have written works for the post horn either as a featured solo instrument or to add an unusual voice in their composition.

Mozart composed his “Posthorn” Serenade in 1779. Another example of post horn use in modern classical music is the off-stage solo in Mahler’s Third Symphony. In the world of band music the Post Horn Gallop, written in 1844 by the German cornet player Hermann Koenig as a solo for post horn with orchestral accompaniment, is a favourite, if a post horn and player are available. Due to the scarcity of post horns (and competent players), music written for it is frequently played on a trumpet, cornet or flugelhorn. Which of course, brings us back to my original bugler’s lament in December, which got this thread going.

Over the years, the British Army has retained the bugle for ceremonial and symbolic purposes. In the Canadian forces, there was still the rank of “Bugler” until 1945, when the regimental trade of bugler was discontinued in the Canadian Army. Hence, bugle calls are now played on trumpets because the bugles went when the buglers went.

By the way, to see the most amazing array of bugles, horns, trumpets and their valved and unvalved relatives, developed over the ages, one would have to be lucky enough to be able to visit that portion of Henry Meredith’s vast collection in London, Ontario. Hopefully that collection will find a suitable museum as home in the near future.

New Horizons

So far we haven’t heard anything about the activities of the numerous Toronto New Horizons groups, but have received a fine update from Doug Robertson for the York Region groups. In an invitation for new members, he has suggestions for potential new members with references to Your New Year’s Resolution and Your Bucket List. He summarizes some of the many benefits, particularly for retirees, of learning to play an instrument in a group. He reminds people that it’s never too late, and it has the many advantages of remaining active, having fun with other adults, making new friends, and improving memory. Their group classes are on Monday evenings at Cosmo Music in Richmond Hill. For information, contact Doug Robertson,
nhbyrdirector@gmail.com or at 416-457-6316.

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

Phillip Smith. Photo by Chris LeeFEB 10, 3PM: The Hannaford Street Silver Band presents “From Russia with Brass” including The Festive Overture, The Procession of the Nobles, Polovtsian Dances and others. Philip Smith, conductor and trumpet soloist. Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

FEB 24, 3PM: The Weston Silver Band presents “Heart and Soul. R and B and Soul with a big brass spin.” Dan McLean Jr. and Some Honey. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

MAR 2, 7:30PM: The King Edward Choir will join the Barrie Concert Band in their “Last Night of the Proms” with Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1; Gilbert & Sullivan: Medley; Arne’s Rule Britannia; Handel’s Zadok the Priest, and Hallelujah. Oliver Balaburski, conductor. Collier Street United Church, 112 Collier St., Barrie.

MAR 3, 2PM: The Markham Concert Band presents “Let’s Dance! Ballet, Waltzes and Swing,” including Big Band Polka, El Bimbo, Flunky Jim, Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier and other tunes. Flato Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd., Markham.

MAR 3, 3:30PM: The Wychwood Clarinet Choir will have “WCC at the Oscars.” Selections range from Gershwin’s An American in Paris to Mozart’s Adagio from Gran Partita; Bernstein’s Tonight from West Side Story; Arlen’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow; and Loewe’s I Could Have Danced All Night. Michele Jacot, conductor. Church of St. Michael and All Angels, 611 St. Clair Ave. W.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.

The combined bands of the naval reserve divisions of HMCS York (Toronto) and HMCS Star (Hamilton) in the Cathedral Church of St. James, Toronto. Photo Jack MacQuarrieThroughout the year 2017 the programming focus for community musical groups was Canada’s sesquicentennial year, with concert repertoire focused on almost any music which might have some connection to the development of Canada during the previous 150 years. By the end of that year, most bands had pretty well exhausted their library assets for music sesquicentennial connections. Then came 2018 with no similar focus in the first part of the year, except the perennial question about repertoire for concert bands: “Who are we trying to please, the audiences, band members, the conductor etc.?”

There were the usual budding composers waiting to be heard and, always, old-time favourites which might attract the largest audiences to help swell the band’s precarious coffers.

The 11th day

Towards the end of 2018, though, many groups turned their attention to another significant anniversary in the year: November 11 of this year, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice to end the First World War.

Having spent some time in the Navy, it was only natural for me to gravitate towards a November 10 Navy band concert commemorating that occasion: the combined bands of the naval reserve divisions of HMCS York from Toronto and HMCS Star from Hamilton performing “A Festival of Remembrance” in the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto.

The program for this concert was one of the most appropriate that I have ever experienced. Every number was either music that might have been performed during that wartime period or was written to commemorate a significant event of the war. Since the WWI battle most commemorated by Canadians is the Battle of Vimy Ridge, it was fitting that the opening number was Thomas Bidgood’s march Vimy Ridge. Much of the program was divided between such works as Songs From the Great War, Boys of the Old Brigade and Abide With Me and major orchestral pieces by composers who were at their prime during the period of WWI. These included three composers who were British-born: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst.

There were also some other top-quality marches, which rarely get their due these days. Although community bands, in general, had their origins in town bands – which traditionally played in parades – many community bands nowadays have never played in a parade. In fact, with some bands, marches are considered somewhat beneath their dignity, and are never included in programs. Fortunately, in this concert, such was not the case. The marches included here, other than Vimy Ridge, were all composed by Kenneth Alford (1881-1945), often referred to as “Britain’s March King.” Each was chosen because it was written to commemorate a particular event in WWI. The Middy and On the Quarterdeck were both written to commemorate the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The Vanished Army was dedicated to the first 100,000 British soldiers lost in WWI, and Voice of the Guns was to honour the regiments of the Royal Artillery in the British army.

Alford and Dunn

The name Kenneth Alford was actually a pseudonym for Major Fredrick Joseph Ricketts, bandmaster of a Royal Marine Band. This was common practice because, in those days, members of the British Armed Forces were not permitted to earn any income other that their regular military pay. Some years after Ricketts left the Royal Marines his position was filled by Major F. Vivian Dunn, bandmaster of the Royal Marines Portsmouth Division.

When the Canadian National Exhibition first opened after WWII, the featured band on the main bandshell was that Royal Marine Band from Portsmouth with Major Dunn conducting. As a student with a very rewarding summer job, I was in charge of operating the sound system on the Main Bandshell. When I first introduced myself to Major Dunn, his first question was “Can you read music?” When I answered in the affirmative, before each of the two daily concerts Dunn would spend a few minutes with me, going over the scores to ensure that there would be proper microphone pickup. Shortly after, Dunn became Lt. Col. Sir Vivian Dunn KCVO OBE FRSA, principal director of music Royal Marines. After he left the Royal Marines, Dunn became conductor of a number of top orchestras in Britain.

A few days after that November 10 Navy Festival of Remembrance concert, I still had an ear-worm: I couldn’t get the melodies of Vimy Ridge out of my head. The cure was to play a recording of it. Having written a review for The WholeNote a couple of years ago of a CD containing Vimy Ridge, the remedy was at hand so I played it, only to find that the very next number on that CD just happened to have been written by none other than Major F. Vivian Dunn: The Captain General, written in 1949 shortly after his stint at the CNE.

(The honorific “Captain General,” by the way, is the title bestowed on the ceremonial head of the British Royal Marines. This particular march was written to mark the occasion in 1949 when then Captain General, none other than His Majesty King George VI dined with Royal Marine officers at the Savoy Hotel in London. Since then the appointment has been held by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and, since May 14, 2018, Prince Harry.

Bugler’s Holidays

The evening before writing this column I attended a concert in London by the Plumbing Factory Brass Band under Henry Meredith, very curious to hear the three tubas performing Leroy Anderson’s famous Bugler’s Holiday. My reactions were mixed. As for technique, the performance by the three tubists of the band was excellent. As for personal enjoyment, I would still prefer to hear the staccato components of this music with the crisp attack of a trumpet rather than the broad tonal base of a tuba. It was also, as usual, a great example of the theatrical imagination that “Doctor Hank” Meredith brings to his programming.

One selection on the program tied in well with my comments earlier about marches: Le pére la victoire (Father of Victory), written by French composer Louis-Gaston Ganne (1862-1923) during the Napoleonic Wars. Ganne was a leading composer and conductor at that time. His Marche Lorraine written in 1892 for national gymnastic games became a battle song for the Free French during WWII.

Still on the topic of bugles, though, the recent Armistice ceremonies have triggered one of my occasional grumbles, namely the butchering of bugle calls. In the week prior to, and on Armistice Day itself, I heard many “bugle calls,” but none played on a bugle. They were all played on trumpets. A trumpet has the same pitch as a bugle, but certainly does not sound like a bugle. A proper bugle has a unique mellow tone which cannot be simulated by a trumpet. This may sound a bit strange to some people, but to me it does not work. To me, using a trumpet to substitute for a bugle is akin to using a motorcycle to substitute for a horse in a dressage ceremony. Proper bugles are not that expensive. Why can’t each military unit (and similar organization) obtain just one bugle to be used on such occasions?

Shifting into Christmas mode

Now that Armistice ceremonies are over for another 11 months, most bands are shifting into Christmas mode, a shift that brings them into close alignment (and in many cases joint concerts) with some of our top community choirs. There is a natural continuum between bands and choirs: from the pure pleasure of the process to the thrill of performing to high levels of professionalism.

There will be several such joint concerts in the coming weeks. Look for them in the listings and in the Band Quick Picks below.

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

DEC 2, 3PM: The York University Wind Symphony directed by Bill Thomas present a concert of various classical works at Tribute Communities Recital Hall, York University.

DEC 3, 7:30PM: Resa’s Pieces, all three ensembles in “Holiday Concert” at York Mills Collegiate.

DEC 7, 8PM: Etobicoke Community Concert Band “Classic Christmas” with Jean Augustine, reader; Andrew Scott, guest MC. Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium.

DEC 8, 7:30PM: University of Toronto Wind Symphony in concert. Fucik’s Florentiner March; Weinzweig’s Deep Blues from Out of the Blues, Glazunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone in E-flat Op.109, Tull’s Sketches on a Tudor Psalm, Ticheli’s Postcard, and other works. MacMillan Theatre.

DEC 8, 4PM: Weston Silver Band’s annual “Yule Sing!” Sing along with Timothy Eaton Memorial Church’s Choir School and Sanctuary Choir. Timothy Eaton Memorial Church.

DEC 8, 7:30PM: The Barrie Concert Band A Christmas Fantasy”. Do They Know It’s Christmas?, Huron Carol and film music from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Polar Express, and Nightmare Before Christmas; Collier Street United Church (Barrie).

DEC 11, 7:30PM: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds “Christmas Soiree”. A one-hour program of favourite Christmas delights. Free refreshments and conversation with the musicians after the concert. Wilmar Heights Event Centre Concert Hall.

DEC 11, 7:30PM: Hannaford Street Silver Band’s “Christmas Cheer” with host and tenor soloist Ben Heppner and the Elmer Iseler Singers. Metropolitan United Church.

DEC 15, 7PM: The Salvation Army North York Temple Band, joined by the Amadeus Choir, present their “Christmas Spectacular”. Works by Willcocks, Rutter, Venables, Graham, Balantine. Tyndale Chapel.

DEC 16, at 2PM: The Borealis Big Band will stage “A Big Band Family Christmas Concert”. Seasonal favorites along with jazz charts by Brubeck, Lopez, Toombs, Stevie Wonder and others. Gord Shephard, conductor. Newmarket Old Town Hall (Newmarket).

DEC 16, 2PM: The Festival Wind Orchestra. “A Fireside Christmas”. Big Band Showcase, Mary Poppins Medley, Argentum, Gypsy Dance from Carmen. Also seasonal favourites and a Christmas carol sing-a-long. Isabel Bader Theatre.

DEC 22, 4:30PM: Christ Church Deer Park & North York Temple Salvation Army Band present “Joy to the World: A Community Carol-Sing”. Christ Church Deer Park.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.

In last month’s column I made reference to the upcoming Rebel Heartland celebration at Fairy Lake Park in Newmarket. Ergo: now we can report on what took place. As a starter, the weather could not have been better with a moderate temperature and a bright blue sky. Fairy Lake Park’s three gazebos (one large with two smaller ones immediately adjacent) provided an ideal location for musical performances. On the large gazebo we had the current Newmarket Citizens Band, somewhat scaled down to fit within their venue. On the smaller gazebos, three different ensembles made up of members of the main band performed. One was a brass ensemble roughly representative of the early 1800s. The other two were a flute ensemble and a clarinet group, including alto and bass clarinets.

Unless the organizers had been prepared to spend enormous amounts of money to ensure absolute accuracy and authenticity of all costumes and displays, this event inevitably was going to have some items that could not qualify as characteristic of the period. There were interesting anomalies, some more apparent than others. First was the makeup of the band: well-dressed in a wide range of period costumes, almost half of the band members were women, something town bands in the 1830s would not have permitted. In general, women were not allowed to play in such bands until the mid-1940s. I remember well when the first girl was permitted to play in the University of Toronto Band in 1947. It was some years after that when the first female player appeared in a military reserve band in this country.

Other anomalies: some distance from the band there was an encampment of tents with all the occupants in period costumes. Immediately adjacent were all of their late model automobiles, with nary an 1837 model in sight! Also, whereas at such a concert in the park any time in the 1800s people would be sitting close enough to the band to hear well, that was not necessary here. A powerful sound system with speakers located throughout the park made it possible for the audience members to select a listening location of their choice.

Perhaps the most interesting anomaly for me was a gentleman dressed from head to toe in the greatest of sartorial splendour including an elegant top hat, an elegant impression that was a bit shattered when I noticed that he was speaking to someone on a 2018-model cell phone and had a modern plastic water bottle close at hand.

Anomalies or not, it was an excellent day to be reminded of some very important times in our history.

“Perhaps the most interesting anomaly for me was a gentleman dressed from head to toe in the greatest of sartorial splendour including an elegant top hat, an elegant impression that was a bit shattered when I noticed that he was speaking to someone on a 2018-model cell phone and had a modern plastic water bottle close at hand.” Old Instrument Donations Enrich Young Lives

In recent months I have been hearing of a number of varied programs to provide musical instruments for children in various parts of the world, including Canada. In a number of cases I am still waiting for responses to my requests for information, but here’s an interesting one.

Local bass clarinet and saxophone player Michael Holdsworth grew up in suburban London (England) in the austere 1950s, attending a secondary school with an extremely limited music program and a budget to match, and no band. In his words, when the music teacher proposed starting a small brass group, there was only enough money for one trumpet and one trombone.  As luck would have it, there was another high school nearby, which was not under the same monetary restraints, that was replacing all their old pre-war instruments, and were happy to give them to Mike’s school.

Their senior shop teacher took on the repair challenge and soon the euphonium, baritone and tuba were ready to play. Mike took the baritone. “It was the start of a lifetime of musical adventures,” he says. “The door had been opened, and I learned firsthand that those with the tenacity and desire to help others and share their love of music can indeed make a difference.”

After a move to Canada, and a 20-year hiatus from music, his musical interest was rekindled and he now plays in several musical organizations in the GTA, from concert bands to symphony orchestras and musical theatre. In his words: “Making music has been the most rewarding pastime I have had in my life, and all this started with a secondhand old B-flat baritone horn.”

Over the past few years, Mike has been able to spend a few weeks each winter in his favourite Mexican destination, Puerto Vallarta. A few years ago, he decided to take his clarinet with him. Somewhere, he reasoned, there would be a group of musicians who would welcome a stranger into their midst. In the centre of Puerto Vallarta is a small square with the rather grand name Plaza de Armas (Parade Ground). In the centre of that square there is a bandstand where the Municipal Band of Puerto Vallarta entertains the public two nights a week.

One evening, while listening to a concert, Mike noticed that there was a man in the band who looked like he was a bit of an outsider, not the least because he was not dressed in the all-white uniform everyone else was wearing. When Mike spoke with him, he discovered that this man, Bob, was from Ontario! Bob introduced Mike to the band leader Raul, and, just like that, Mike was invited to play with them. He soon discovered what an incredibly talented group they were; all are professional musicians and music school graduates. From them he also learned of the importance of music to the community. “The City of Puerto Vallarta, and, as far as I can gather, Mexico generally, is committed to encouraging all young people to take part and to put public money into these efforts.”

Next thing that caught Mike’s eye was a March 8, 2018 article by writer John Warren in the Vallarta Tribune, an English-language newspaper, about an upcoming performance of the Puerto Vallarta Orchestra School (OEPV), in which Warren wrote “Now in its fifth year, the OEPV has transformed the lives of many children in Puerto Vallarta. The aim of the cultural project is to reduce social problems, crime and addiction by providing free musical education and social development to children who would otherwise be unable to afford it.” The results have been impressive. “The International Friendship Club (IFC) has supported the OEPV since 2014 as part of the club’s emphasis on helping Mexican children reach their potential. Altogether, the OEPV is teaching almost 300 children the joy, teamwork, discipline, concentration and co-operation that come from learning music and, at the same time becoming good citizens.”

One of the major challenges facing the Puerto Vallarta Orchestral School is obtaining musical instruments, and this is where things came full circle for Mike. “The cost of labour in Mexico makes repairing things far more viable than in, say, Toronto” he says. “Many instruments that we might discard because of the cost of repair here in Canada can be repaired and reused in places like Mexico.”

Mike’s primary focus so far has been aimed at the more affluent schools in the Greater Toronto Area, and thanks to a generous donation of instruments by Upper Canada College, the process has begun. “Anyone with old instruments in the attic or garage that they know will never realize any real cash might wish to consider donating them to the children and young members of OEPV.” 

To this point Mike has received instrument donations including nine clarinets, six flutes, two bassoons, one alto sax, one tenor sax and one French horn (from Upper Canada College). An additional two flutes were received from individuals not associated with the school. Beyond donations of instruments, though, shipping costs are also a significant challenge. The total cost of shipping this first batch was $900 which was donated by a friend who also spends time in Puerto Vallarta in the winter. The initial shipment went directly using UPS and was $600. It arrived in three days. The other two shipments went using Chitchats Shipping and in total cost $300. It took four weeks but arrived intact.

For Mike it’s simple. “You can help improve a life through music!” he says. If you have any questions, comments, or, in particular, appropriate contacts in GTA schools, you may contact Mike at instrumentsforoepv6@gmail.com. For information regarding the OEPV, check their Facebook page – facebook.com/oepuertovallarta/ or website – oepv.org/web.

As mentioned earlier, I am still waiting for responses to my requests for information from a number organizations with similar projects. I know someone who is working on a similar project for South Africa, and have heard of another person collecting old instruments for children in Cuba. Stay tuned.

Prize for playful programming

November 21, 7:30pm. Henry Meredith of The Plumbing Factory Brass Band, sent the following: “In their 23 years of entertaining Southern Ontario audiences, the Plumbing Factory Brass Band has been noted for performing eclectic repertoire that exemplifies all kinds of brass music, ranging from A to Z,” he writes. “However, this concert will focus on a single letter of the alphabet – the letter B! That is ‘B is for BRASS.’” As an example of their diversity the band’s Basses, also known as the Tuba Mirum Trio, will be featured playing Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday. I certainly don’t want to miss hearing three tubas perform that trumpet number. ... BEautiful, BEguiling and BEdazzling Music to BE presented by London’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band at Byron United Church , 420 Boler Road (@ Baseline), London.

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

NOV 4, 3PM: The Hannaford Street Silver Band presents “Cascades” with guest Carol Jantsch, tuba; Jean-Michel Malouf, conductor. Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts,

NOV 5, 7PM: The Toronto Artillery Foundation presents “Lest We Forget.” Toronto Artillery Foundation Band; John McDermott, tenor. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.

NOV 24, 7:30PM: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds open their season with “Out of This World.” Their musical journey will include Astronaut’s Playlist, Superman and Moonscape. This takes place at Wilmar Heights Event Centre – Concert Hall, 963 Pharmacy Ave, Toronto.

NOV 25, 3:30PM: The Wychwood Clarinet Choir will celebrate their tenth season with “Clarinet Bells Ring.” Highlights will include Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock featuring Michele Jacot as clarinet soloist, Appalachian Folk Carol with guest soprano Christina Haldane and Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite.

NOV 30, 7:30PM: The Newmarket Citizens’ Band will combine with the York Harmony Chorus for the finale of their “Comfort and Joy” concert.” The theme for the evening will be “Christmas on Broadway.” Old Town Hall, Newmarket.

DEC 7, 8PM: The Etobicoke Community Concert Band presents “A Classic Christmas.” Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.

As I sit down to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) the darkness outside does not mean that it is bedtime. In fact, it is only just after dinner. The reality is that the autumnal equinox is upon us. It is time to reflect on the musical happenings of the past few months and peer into our crystal ball for details of what’s ahead in our musical world. As for the past few months, with few exceptions, no outstanding musical activity took place which was not mentioned in our September column.

Rebel Heartland: one exception will have passed into history by the time this issue of The WholeNote is available for reading but is worth revisiting. It was the participation by the Newmarket Citizens Band in Rebel Heartland, a 2018 re-enactment of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, in which the Town of Newmarket played a vital role. The re-enactment, like the writing of this column, just happens to have been programmed for this equinox!

The Bayham-Richmond Band, part of the Baseball and Brass Bands exhibit at the Elgin County Museum until December 22. COURTESY OF ELGIN COUNTY MUSEUMBaseball and Brass: Another noteworthy event which will be over before the end of September was a concert of period brass music on authentic instruments by the Cottonwood Brass, relating to an exhibition called “Baseball and Brass Bands,” which will run all the way to the December 22 solstice! Not surprisingly, Henry Meredith of Plumbing Factory Brass Band fame had a hand in things! Working over the summer with Michael Baker, the curator of the Elgin County Heritage Centre, they have mounted an exhibition featuring lots of period brass instruments, photographs of area brass bands, plus other materials from Meredith’s collection and from the Elgin County archives. Included is a PowerPoint presentation about Meredith’s involvement in providing the instruments for Disney’s movie remake of The Music Man, along with a filmed lecture demonstration about all kinds of musical instruments, particularly lip-vibrated aerophones.

Swing Patrol: One very special recent event for me was a small birthday party for Bunny Graf: not a band event, but with very important band connections. During World War II one of the army entertainment groups in Europe was called Swing Patrol. One of its key members was musician and arranger Eddie Graf; one of the dancers was a young lady named Bernice O’Donnell, known by her friends in the show as “Bunny.” At some stage in their travels through Belgium and Holland, Eddie and Bunny discovered each other, and they were married on New Year’s Day 1946. When released from the army they settled in Toronto where Eddie continued his musical career as an arranger and big band leader. His musical talents came to the fore with such programs as The Juliette Show. Bunny became a dedicated stay-at-home. This party was hosted by son Lenny Graf who has followed in Eddie’s footsteps as a band leader, soloist and children’s entertainer.

Coming Soon

The Canadian Band Association (CBA)-Ontario have just announced this fall’s Community Band Weekend. It is being hosted by the Nickel City Wind Ensemble in Sudbury over the weekend of October 13 and 14. These Community Band Weekends offer attendees an opportunity to meet musicians from many bands and to experience a fun-filled and challenging weekend practising music all day Saturday. Some of the music will be familiar, and some not. Then on Sunday afternoon, all attendees will perform in a massed band concert. For information go to: cba-ontario.ca/cbw

In The Future

Barrie Concert Band: Looking into the future, there are a few more bands which have plans for anniversary events of various forms. One of these is the Barrie Concert Band, under the direction of Peter Voisey. They have announced their plans to celebrate the band’s sesquicentennial in 2019. Founded in 1869, the 55-member band claims that theirs is the longest running musical organization north of the Golden Horseshoe. Beginning with its 16th annual “Veterans’ Salute” on October 16, the band will present various concerts throughout the coming year, in Barrie and across Simcoe County. Their 2018/2019 subscription series will begin with “A Christmas Fantasy” on December 8, and will continue with their “Last Night at the Proms” on March 2. Winding things up, in collaboration with the King Edward Choir they will present “150 years – Let’s Celebrate!” Saturday, June 1. In this final offering of the series, a number of previous conductors will share the baton with Mr. Voisey, directing the band in numbers which had personal significance to them at the time they were at the helm. In that performance internationally acclaimed tuba player, Mark Tetrault, will make a guest appearance and Rick Pauzé, the band’s immediately previous conductor, will conduct a work of his own, commissioned by the band for this anniversary year.

Icing on the cake, the band will also host a special 2019 spring CBA Community Band Weekend June 14 to16. The band conferred with the CBA for permission to hold it in June 2019, as part of their 150th celebrations. They are hoping to hold the Sunday afternoon concert portion of the CBA weekend outdoors, and reasoned that October would be too cold to do so. So the Sunday afternoon concert will take place at Meridian Place, Barrie’s newly designed and refurbished public space in the heart of downtown Barrie on the waterfront. For more information go to the band’s website: barrieconcertband.org

Waterloo Concert Band: Another significant anniversary event now in the planning stage for 2019 is one by the Waterloo Concert Band. The year 2019 will be the centenary of “Professor” C.F. Thiele’s arrival in Waterloo and his legendary three decades of leadership of the Waterloo Concert Band (formerly Waterloo Musical Society). My personal recollections of Professor Thiele go back to the days when I played in a couple of boys bands in Windsor. During the summer months we were off to play in a small town tattoo or similar event almost every weekend. Many of those included some form of competition where we played before one or more adjudicators. Of those, Professor Thiele was the adjudicator whom we feared most.

So far, what we know is that The Waterloo Concert Band has plans underway for a major historically focused public concert on May 5, 2019. Included in those plans will be at least one new musical commission. There will also be a number of, as yet undefined, other retro events around this occasion. As Pauline Finch, our contact with the band, says: “We’re aware of growing interest in band history in Ontario and especially in pivotal figures like C.F. Thiele, who built the foundations of band culture across Canada.” Hopefully we will have much more detailed information on these anniversary events as we get closer. In particular, we hope to have much more information on Professor Thiele’s legacy in Canada’s community band world. When he arrived in Waterloo a hundred years ago the Waterloo Musical Society was already well established, having been performing since 1858. So, this celebration is not a band anniversary, but a Professor Thiele celebration. In the mean while we will be paying some visits to the band’s website:
waterlooband.com.

Colin Jones

I am very saddened to report on the passing of euphonium player Colin Jones. Although I originally met Colin through our joint association with the Royal Naval Association, over the years I learned much more about him through the band world. Colin joined the Royal Navy in Portsmouth in 1950. Although most bands for British naval establishments and ships were Royal Marine Bands, there were a few Navy Bands. Colin served in one such band, The Bluejacket Band, in Portsmouth as well as aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable and the battleship HMS Vanguard. He left the Navy in 1955 and arrived in Canada in 1958. He played for a brief stint in the Cobourg Kiltie Band. In 1970 he joined the Concert Band of Cobourg and was a stalwart member until the time of his passing. To quote words from his obituary: “As a fantastic euphonium player his contributions were enormous musically.” He also gave freely of his time to make sure that the band hall was always in tip-top shape physically. He will be missed. 

Bandstand Quick Picks

OCT 14, 2PM: The Markham Concert Band presents “Heroes and Villains.” Flato Markham Theatre. Blvd., Markham.

OCT 16, 7:15PM: The Barrie Concert Band presents “Veterans’ Salute.” Royal Canadian Legion Branch 147, Barrie.

OCT 26, 8PM: Etobicoke Community Concert Band. It’s “Don’t Look Under the Bed.” Music for Halloween at Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium.

OCT 28, 2PM: The Orillia Silver Band presents “Fall Harvest.” Gravenhurst Opera House.

OCT 28, 3PM: The Peterborough Concert Band has their “160th Anniversary Concert” with Peter Sudbury, music director. Market Hall Performing Arts Centre, Peterborough.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com

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