Since we haven’t seen any snowflakes for two weeks, it is probably safe to assume that spring is here, and that summer won’t be far behind. But that being said, it is also true that this will be the last issue of The WholeNote until the September issue by which time fall will be looming. So there is a lot to cover here, and a lot that will likely fall through the cracks. While we frequently hear talk of the “paperless society,” it isn’t here yet, and probably never will be. For The WholeNote, as with any other paper publication, that means that there must always be a gap between the time when all of the final copy is written and the day when the first paper publication is available for our readers. A number of events will take place during that gap. I hope to attend several of them, but they will already be past history by the time you read this, and long gone by the time I report next. I will take notes as I go, though.

Innovations

In recent years there has been much talk about the demise of the “town band” insofar as the traditional concert in the park and/or parade of the town band. Yes! Developments in technology have certainly changed much of community music. On the other hand, some bands have embraced these developments to further their bands’ connection with their communities. Two such situations have come to my attention recently.

The Uxbridge Community Concert Band cnnecting to their community. Photo by Jack MacQuarrieThe first of these, by the Uxbridge Community Concert Band (UCCB), was an unusual way for a band to connect with their community. This band, a summertime-only group, had a unique way to contact citizens of Uxbridge. On the seasonal opening day of the town’s Summer Farmers’ Market, the band had a display stand with a dual purpose. One: Invite any potential members to consider joining the band. Two: Invite anyone passing by to attend UCCB summer events. One feature of their display was a laptop computer with a large screen and loudspeakers showing the band in one of its concerts. The photograph here shows the band’s membership chair, Terry Christiansen with her French horn and conductor Steffan Brunette with his computer.

Speaking of the UCCB’s Steffan Brunette, a couple of years ago, he took a year off from teaching and studied composition and this summer’s repertoire will include the premiere performance of a new composition of his with a very unusual inspiration. Brunette is recovering from major surgery and has appointed two assistants to conduct rehearsals at times when he may not be able to do so. Well, while recovering in the cardiology ward of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, he conceived this work. In his words: “The beeping of a specific heart monitor (on an F-sharp, in 5/4 time) throughout the day and night became the inspiration for the basis of a new piece.” This summer, audiences will be treated to the world premiere of Tachycardia.

The other town band innovation I want to mention here is by the Newmarket Citizens Band. The band has had a YouTube channel for about three years now, and have just announced that they currently have 43 videos posted on the channel – audio recordings of their performances from several of their various concerts that have taken place during that period. One, in particular, jumps out as having received exceptional numbers over a short period of time. Since being posted last August, The Lord of the Rings by Richard Saucedo, recorded at the Orillia Opera House, has had over 1200 views. That’s the most for any of their posted videos! 

New Horizons

I heard recently from Heather Engli about a big move on the horizon for her. I first met Heather many years ago when she was a music student and trumpet player at university. Years later, when we moved to Goodwood in Uxbridge Township, there was Heather, and she had stopped playing trumpet. A few years later, she was back playing and teaching trumpet. For some time now she has been my principal contact with The Silverthorn Symphonic Winds. Very soon Heather will be moving to Wolfville, Nova Scotia where she may even study more music at Acadia University, and she has already made contact with Dan and Lisa Kapp who moved there a couple of years ago, she informed me.

Dan Kapp, as regular readers of this column will know, was the driving force behind the first New Horizons Band of Toronto in 2010, when they started with one band made up of 19 adults, who had either never played music before, or who wanted to return to music after having played in high school. The qualifications for becoming a member were simple: you had to love music and be willing to do your best. “I will never forget my first practice” said Randy Kligerman, who is now president of NHBT. I too remember it well: a call from Dan Kapp, telling me that the first NH band did not have any trombones for their very first concert, I took action. I dug out, not one, but two trombones. One was for myself. The other I handed over to Joan, “the lady of the house,” and stated that “we are the trombone section.” I thought that Dan was being more than ridiculous to schedule that very first concert for a new beginner band to take place in the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. I was wrong. The concert was appreciated and applauded by a full-house audience.

NHBT has since grown to approximately 260 members, with eight concert bands and two jazz bands, and offers a variety of mini-enrichment programs throughout the year. Initially they rehearsed in a studio space at Long & McQuade in Toronto. When they outgrew that, they were able to rehearse at the Salvation Army location at Bloor and Dovercourt. Again they have faced an enviable problem, many more people wanted to join NHBT and enrich their lives with music, but the bands had outgrown the space availability at their current Bloor and Dovercourt location. “We are a difficult tenant” said Kligerman, “ We have day and evening classes, require a band room with good acoustics and lighting, and many of our members prefer not to drive, so access from the Bloor Subway line is a priority. Not an easy thing to find in Toronto, especially at a rent we could afford.” After looking at numerous buildings and churches, Kligerman visited the Seicho-No-le Centre, at Danforth and Victoria Park. He knew this would be their new home as soon as he walked in. “The building is beautiful and has all the amenities we need, and our new landlords are welcoming and supportive of what we do with the community. Everyone is excited about what the future holds for NHBT, and most importantly, we can continue to grow as an organization,” said Kligerman.

NHBT now offers summer classes in beginner/advanced theory, beginner concert, sight reading and jazz, starting June 3. Their regular concert/jazz program starts up again in September. Read more about this on their website: newhorizonsbandtoronto.ca.

The Markham New Horizons Band is one that I had not heard of before, but met them for the first time recently. As a member of New Horizons International Music Association, the band serves as an entry access point to music making for adults, with or without musical background, and for those who have missed playing. They practise at Long & McQuade, Markham (9833 Markham Road) every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm. During my brief visit, it became apparent that they would love to welcome some “low brass” members. For information contact their conductor Soah Lu at markhamnewhorizonsband@gmail.com.

CBA

The Canadian Band Association (Ontario) just announced their next Band Weekend. It will take place from June 14 to 16 in Barrie and be hosted by the Barrie Concert Band. For those not familiar with these events, the CBA Weekend brings together musicians from community bands across the province to join together for a challenging, but fun couple of days of music making. Under a number of different guest conductors, attendees will rehearse all day Saturday. That evening is a time for people to socialize. Then on Sunday afternoon, all will come together as a massed band to perform in a public concert. If you or your band have CBA membership, you will receive all information needed to register.

Outdoor venues

Over the years we have usually received information on concerts at a number of outdoor venues in Southern Ontario. So far we only have information on the Orillia Sunday evening Concert Band Series. These all take place on the Orillia Aqua Theatre in a park on the shore of Lake Couchiching. If the weather is bad, the concerts are automatically moved to the Orillia Opera House. This year’s lineup: June 23 - Orillia Concert Band; June 30 - Baytowne Big Band; July 7 - Weston Silver Band; July 14 - Orillia Silver Band; July 21 - Newmarket Citizens Band; July 28 - Barrie Skyliners Big Band; August 4 - Muskoka Concert Band; August 11 - Mississauga Pops Concert Band; August 18 - Simcoe County Band; and August 25 - Markham Concert Band. So far we have not heard anything from The Millennial Bandstand in Unionville or the Civic Bandstand in Oshawa.

Humour

A community choir was plagued with attendance problems. Several singers were absent at each rehearsal! As a matter of fact, every singer in the choir had missed several rehearsals, except for one very faithful alto! Finally at the dress rehearsal for their big concert, the conductor took a moment to single out and thank the faithful alto. She, of course, humbly responded, “Well it’s the least I could do, since I won’t be able to make the performance!”

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

In my previous column I mentioned some anniversaries on the horizon. One of these will be a May 5 celebration by the Waterloo Concert Band of the 100th anniversary of the arrival in town of “Professor” Thiele, as he was known, by performing his newly discovered Festival Overture. This will be at Knox Presbyterian Church, 50 Erb St. W., Waterloo. Since mentioning the event last issue, I have been overwhelmed by information about Thiele from a variety of sources. From one friend I received a copy of a 130-page university thesis on Thiele’s life, work and contributions to Waterloo; and writer Pauline Finch, who plays piccolo and flute with the Waterloo Concert Band and others, provided far more information on Thiele than I could ever have discovered on my own.

Charles Frederick Thiele’s newly discovered Festival Overture. Photo by Pauline FinchCharles Frederick Thiele did not study or teach at any prestigious music school. He was largely self-taught and earned his renown through natural talent and experience. The title “Professor” (always in quotation marks) was an informal mark of respect often given to popular concert and show-band conductors during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It did not have any real academic connotations, but might well, in his case, equate to an honorary doctorate today.

Thiele was a self-employed freelancer like many in his day – holding multiple positions, often several at one time. As celebrated as he became in Canadian music during first half of the 20th century, he wasn’t a hometown boy either. When he arrived in Waterloo 100 years ago on April 1, 1919, hired to direct the Waterloo Musical Society Band, he was nearly 35, having been born in the Lower East Side neighbourhood of New York City to impoverished German immigrant parents. Despite their only son’s early aptitude for music, they were too destitute to provide him with lessons. However, the boy in question was also gifted with disciplined ambition, hints of a true leader’s charisma, and a shrewd instinct for business opportunities – qualities that served him well in his parallel careers as composer, entertainer, impresario and industrialist.

Well before the turn of the 20th century, and still in his teens, Thiele made his first money as a street photographer. With his earnings he was able to acquire a cornet. By 19, he’d married his 17-year-old girlfriend Louise (an accomplished singer, actress and instrumentalist in her own right). By his early 20s, he was finally able to afford regular cornet lessons and quickly made up for lost time, soon progressing to the rank of a steadily employed freelance musician, learning on the job, playing with numerous professional bands in parades, political rallies, lodges, social clubs, sports events, festivals, circuses, silent films, and just about any occasion where paid live music was required.

After answering the band’s advertisement in early in 1919, he travelled to Waterloo (which had only 5,000 people at the time) to meet his potential employers in person. He landed the job at a salary of $1,200 a year, roughly equivalent to $15,706 in 2019, supplementing this part-time income by teaching and freelancing, and wasting no time imprinting his legendary creative energy on his new hometown. As early as 1921, he’d founded the Waterloo Music Company as a sheet music mail-order business in a spare room of his house. The business began as a profitable service to silent movie houses throughout Canada; by the time “talkies” put an end to demand, less than a decade later, Thiele already had Plan B figured out – providing educational music for schools.

Thiele was actually the Waterloo band’s ninth bandmaster, but because he served in the post for 32 years, even some locals assumed he had founded the band. When radio came along just before the Depression, Thiele managed to have the Waterloo Musical Society Band chosen to play the first live band concert in Canadian broadcast history.

Worthy of further investigation, I also learned that Thiele was instrumental in the introduction of the Ontario “Band Tax Law” in 1937 which enabled many smaller Ontario town bands to survive during and after the Great Depression. I had never heard of such a law before, but, continuing to dig, discovered that somewhat earlier, in 1921, the State of Iowa had enacted the Iowa Band Law, municipalities in the state to fund town bands. In fact, in 1923, composer Karl King wrote a fine march titled (there are at least two versions of it on YouTube) to commemorate the law’s passage.

Michele Jacot and Roy Greaves with “Oscar” at their last concert when the theme was “A Night at the Oscars.” Photo by Paul BryanWychwood

The other previously mentioned May anniversary (May 26) belongs to the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. The choir’s musical director Michele Jacot responded to my inquiry about the concert with this: “Yes, it will be our tenth! A special show complete with cake and bubbly afterward. We are going to raise a glass to the first ten (if I may toot our own horn for a moment, very successful) seasons. The team is amazing. All I do is wave my arms around until the music stops and then turn around and bow.”

The selections for this show are a “best of” from those first ten seasons, featuring works by their “composers’ collective” and core group of talented arrangers. They have tried to include something by all of the members in that talent hub. Included will be Fen Watkin’s Anne of Green Gables Medley; Selections from Canteloube’s Chants d'Auvergne (arr. Moore); and a stellar arrangement of Gershwin’s An American in Paris by Roy Greaves.

As a prelude to the concert, on May 4, St. John’s Music, Toronto invites interested parties to take part in a Wychwood Clarinet Choir performance and reading session between 10am and 12 noon. Anyone interested should contact Ben McGillis at 416-785-5000.

Newmarket

Many bands tend to suffer from a lack of advanced planning, but not the Newmarket Citizen’s Band who have already initiated the planning process for their 150th anniversary in 2022. The band’s executive has started the process of identifying several projects intended to commemorate this very important milestone in their history, and to illustrate to the broader community, the band’s contributions to the cultural and social life of the residents of Newmarket and the surrounding area over the years. But circle May 1 2022 on your busy calendars for the launch at the Newmarket Old Town Hall of an exhibit of the band’s history!

Orangeville Community Band

It was very pleasing recently to receive an email message from Bernie Lynch of the Orangeville Community Band, who tells me the column has given him much pleasure for several years and goes on to say: “As a member of a band which is in its 12th year, I am asking for the opportunity to inform readers about our next concert on May 11, at 7pm, titled “A Celebration of Crooners, Canaries and Chorales,” including and other Irish selections,, selections from and more. It all happens at Orangeville District Secondary School, 22 Faulkner St.(back entrance), Orangeville.”

North York

On Saturday, May 11 at 7:30, the North York Concert Band’s Spring Bouquet, 2019 Gala Concert sounds entertaining! It will take place at the Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC; and under the direction of John Liddle, the band will present a variety of hits, some classic concert band repertoire and two special features. The first of these, , is a technical trombone solo, mixing the raw ragtime feel of the 20s with a laid-back rhythm of an early blues. Principal trombonist, Martin Hubel, will be there, we are informed, with “a trombone and a toilet plunger.” The other special feature is a new band commission by William R. Wilcox, titled inspired, they tell us, by the famous march. (In golf, a bogey is, of course, “one over par.”)

UCCB

It is a bit too early to report on the plans for this year of the Uxbridge Community Concert Band. This a summertime band which usually begins rehearsals in May. Since last December, Conductor Steffan Brunette has been dealing with a serious health crisis. Now on the mend, he and his committee are making plans which will include two standby assistant conductors to step in if needed. There are about 60 people on the band list, so they should be up and running soon, so stay tuned.

Other Recent Events

Before closing I feel compelled to report on three very different musical events which I had the pleasure of attending a week before I began this column. While none had anything to do with concert bands or their music, they all left lasting musical impressions.

The first event, in Uxbridge, was one of the most unusual concerts in my memory. It was officially titled “Chiaroscuro,” meaning “from light to dark into light.” The featured work was by Greek-born Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, a professor of composition at the University of Toronto. It was a work for choir, percussion, electronic audio effects and bass clarinet. The featured guest performer, on bass clarinet, was Jeff Reilly, senior CBC Radio producer of music production for the Atlantic Region, who has an international reputation as an innovative master of the bass clarinet.

The second event was a violin recital by Duncan McDougall. I first heard him perform as a child old-time fiddler at a summer event in a park in Uxbridge. This time it was a “Violin Recital” with selections from such as Mozart’s , Saint-Saëns’ , Mendelssohn’s and other works by Bach and Paganini. This Grade 11 high school student performed the entire program from memory with amazing stage presence. Now serving as co-concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, Duncan will be attending Morningside Music Bridge at the New England Conservatory this coming summer. He’s one to keep an eye on.

The third event was a performance at Roy Thomson Hall of Gustav Mahler’s by the TSO, Amadeus Choir and The Elmer Iseler Singers. Going from a solo recital one evening to this massive work two days later was quite an experience. How often does one see no fewer than eight French horns in one orchestra? To top it all off, Juanjo Mena, who was supposed to conduct the three performances of this work, was suddenly taken ill. Matthew Halls stepped in at the last minute and made it look as though he had prepared for weeks. His athletic conducting style made him one of the stars. 

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

MAY 3, 7:30PM: Scarborough Concert Band. Spring Concert. Keith Bohlender, conductor. Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

MAY 5, 11AM: Mississauga Big Band Jazz Ensemble. MBBJE Live big band recording with guest vocalists Whitney Ross-Barris, Sam Broverman, Glenn Chipkar, Suzanne McKenney, Denise Leslie. Port Credit Legion, 35 Front St. N., Port Credit.

MAY 5, 3PM: The Weston Silver Band will have their “Afternoon at the Proms” with. Canadian and British repertoire. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St.W.

MAY 24, 8PM: Etobicoke Community Concert Band presents “On the Road Again,” with guest: Calvin Morais. Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium, 86 Montgomery Rd., Etobicoke.

MAY 25, 7:30PM: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds present “Masters of Music.” Cable: Scottish Rhapsody; Vaughan Williams: English Folk Song Suite; Hazo: Arabesque. Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

MAY 26, 1:30PM: Music at Metropolitan with the Metropolitan Silver Band . Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St. E.

MAY 26, 2PM: The Mississauga Big Band Jazz Ensemble. “Jazz at the Legion.” Port Credit Legion, 35 Front St. N., Port Credit.

JUN 1, 7:30PM: The Barrie Concert Band presents “150 Years – Let’s Celebrate!” featuring Mark Tetrault on tuba; Peter Volsey, music director; and former conductors of the Barrie Concert Band. Collier Street United Church, 112 Collier St., Barrie.

JUN 2, 3:30PM: The North Toronto Community Band. will have their “Spring Rhythms” with marches, classics, show tunes, big band and more. Danny Wilks, conductor; Phil Coonce, violin; Sharon Smith, vocalist. Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building, York University, 4700 Keele St.

JUN 2, 7PM: Strings Attached Orchestra. will have their “Family & Friends Annual Year End Concert.” Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W.

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

As this past winter dragged on interminably I started finding myself singing to myself Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year, and began to ask fellow musicians to play the tune, only to learn that I could not find anyone who had ever even heard of such a song, which was very popular some years ago. Such is progress! Finally, one day after the vernal equinox, a cheery robin said hello to me from a tree in the back yard. Had spring arrived? Yes, but only for a day. The snow and ice were back. So: what will the bands be doing this spring when it really arrives?

Anniversaries

Wee Big Band: It turns out that there are some spring programs on the horizon, but there are also a number of anniversaries. In fact, I have already had the pleasure of attending the first of these a couple of weeks ago when Jim Galloway’s Wee Big Band celebrated their 40th anniversary with a special performance at The Garage at the Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst Street. This was presented by the Ken Page Memorial Trust and WholeNote Media Inc.

Formed in 1979 as a repertory band specializing in the music of the great bands of the swing era, Jim Galloway’s Wee Big Band, with Rosemary Galloway on bass, continued until Jim passed away in December 2014.

In the recent concert almost all of the selections were arranged by Martin Loomer, the current guitarist and leader. On a number of occasions Martin mentioned, with fond memories, the performances of saxophonist Gord Evans who had been a member of the band until he passed away a few years ago. The first thing that I did when I arrived home after the concert was to play a recording of Gord playing Sammy Nestico’s Lonely Street on alto sax. That is my favourite number on a CD recorded about 20 years ago by a group that I was in. On looking over the list of members, at least six others beside Gord are no longer with us.

Wychwood: Another anniversary coming soon is that of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. On Sunday, May 26 they will be celebrating their tenth year of concerts. Founded and led by clarinetist Michele Jacot, they now have over 200 pieces in their music library and over half of those are their own contributions through their “Composers’ Collective.” Over the years the choir had a wonderful relationship with Howard Cable who became their “Composer and Conductor Laureate.” Howard had never heard of the choir when they first contacted him to ask him to conduct his two previous compositions for clarinet choir. He was so impressed that he wrote a brand new three-movement work, the Wychwood Suite, for the choir with Michele Jacot as soloist. Howard continued to work with the choir and arrange other works for them until he passed. The choir now presents three main concerts per season with a solid and growing audience base. Special kudos should go out to Roy Greaves, one of the founding members and arranger extraordinaire. On checking their last program, of the 11 selections performed six were arranged by Roy.

Waterloo: Another anniversary of a very different sort takes place when the Waterloo Concert Band performs on May 5 at Knox Presbyterian Church in uptown Waterloo. Rather than an anniversary of the band’s founding, this will celebrate the upcoming centenary of the arrival in Waterloo of Charles Frederick “Professor” Thiele. So far I have not been able to find much information about Thiele before his arrival in Waterloo. I do remember well the name though: from my days playing in a boys’ band eons ago. At that time boys’ bands and adult bands regularly went to tattoos and many other events where they were adjudicated by “Professor” Thiele. I hope to learn more about this man soon.

A newly discovered manuscript of a previously unknown composition by “The Professor” couldn’t have come along at a more opportune time for the Waterloo Concert Band. The discovery of an undated work called Festival Overture gave a natural impetus for programming this into the concert celebrating the anniversary of Thiele’s arrival in Waterloo. The band’s director, Trevor Wagler, now has the task of transforming the fragile paper artifact into individual parts, adapted to the keys and clefs that today’s musicians use.

Trevor Wagler, Waterloo Concert Band director, with C.F. Thiele’s score. Photo by Pauline Finch.An accomplished digital transcriber, as well as a busy freelance French horn player and co-owner of Waterloo’s Renaissance School of the Arts, Wagler estimates that it will take about 20 hours to complete the task. The photograph shows Wagler at an oversized vertical computer screen in his office as he gently converts the yellowed sheets, each covered with dense but precise handwritten notes, into the individual parts.

As Wagler explains: “We’ve been including a lot of Thiele’s music in our repertoire during the past few seasons because more and more is coming to light, and so much of it is of very good quality. We couldn’t let this year go by without doing something special to celebrate the huge presence he had.”

Other Bands

Richmond Hill: In the good news department, we have just heard from a band that we hadn’t heard from directly before. Connie Learn, president of the Newmarket Citizens Band, put us in touch with Joan Sax of the Richmond Hill Concert Band (RHCB). Joan told us about RHCB’s new York Region Band Concert Series taking place this summer. This series has been tentatively called “Sundays at the Amphitheatre,” until the band finds a naming sponsor for it. The series is aimed at an audience of families, and will be held at the amphitheatre in Richmond Green Park, at Elgin Mills Road and Leslie Street in Richmond Hill.

The series will consist of five concerts, on Sundays from July 14 to August 11 inclusive, beginning at 1pm as follows: July 14, Aurora Concert Band; July 21, Richmond Hill Concert Band; July 28, Markham Concert Band; August 4, Thornhill Community Band; and August 11, Newmarket Citizens Band. The concert series is supported by the Town of Richmond Hill’s Cultural Grant, and a yet-to-be-named sponsor. They are also partnering with the Richmond Hill Food Bank to collect food for this worthy Richmond Hill organization.

The Richmond Hill Concert Band, formed in 2010, is a charitable organization that provides musical service and cultural support to their community, and education for band members. They perform annually at Richmond Hill’s Canada Day celebration, and in the Richmond Hill Summer Park Series. In addition to their public concerts, the band also performs concerts at seniors residences and hospitals.

Uxbridge: It’s much too early to talk much about that remarkable summer band, the Uxbridge Community Concert Band (UCCB), but this year is different. Founder and leader Steffan Brunette appears to be on the road to recovery from a serious medical situation, and is already talking about rehearsals. As one member of the band’s executive put it: “He is planning to be well enough to run the band this summer, but may have some stand-ins for conductors in the beginning as he might not be strong enough to listen to us play wrong

notes for two full hours!” Their theme for the 27th season is: “Inspired by Bach,” and they have a new website: uxbridgeccb.webs.com.

Big Band Scene

Aside from my remarks earlier about Jim Galloway’s Wee Big Band, we have some other news from the big band scene. We have just been informed by Lawrence Moule, of the After Hours Big Band, about a unique concert to take place Saturday evening, April 13, at the Aurora Cultural Centre. Music students from Sir William Mulock Secondary School in Newmarket will be presenting their first-ever public concert, a jazz program in collaboration with the After Hours Big Band. As Lawrence states: “The idea here is that an established band is helping to encourage youthful players, and possibly pointing the way toward future opportunities.” Aurora’s Town Council is studying plans to redevelop a portion of the town’s core into an entertainment and cultural complex, with the working title of “Library Square.” Plans include a new professional concert venue with 250 seats.

 Meanwhile, existing concerts are held at the Cultural Centre (the former Church Street School, where Lester B. Pearson taught). It’s a professional venue but its concert hall, called Brevik Hall, is quite small. The organizers hope that this could be a model for future events at Library Square, once that development affords an expanded showcase for arts and culture in Aurora. Talented young local performers will be able to join forces with veterans to produce musical entertainment that will be unique to Aurora.

The After Hours Big Band got its start when some members of the Newmarket Citizens Band wanted to get together to play “big band music.” Those people stayed behind after the regular concert band rehearsal. Now, years later, this group, still mostly members of the concert band, have rehearsals on a different night at a different location.

I recently had unusual unplanned visit with another big band. I had been invited to visit a rehearsal of the York Region Brass Band. When I arrived at the venue, I was stunned to see a couple of saxophones. As it turned out I had been given the wrong date. I was just in time for a regular rehearsal of the Borealis Band of Aurora. Since I knew a few of the members of the band, I stayed until after intermission, and enjoyed a bit more big band music.

Murray Ginsberg

Shortly after last month’s column about Murray Ginsberg, I received a lovely message from Barby Ginsberg, Murray’s youngest daughter. Along with her thanks about comments in that column, she was very curious about where I had obtained some of my information. In particular, she said that someone would have had to be at his funeral to have known, as I wrote, that “someone said after his passing: ‘Look out heaven - you just got one more Saint who’s marching in.’.... That someone was me! That was how I ended my eulogy!” (Unfortunately, at this juncture, I can’t recall my exact sources.)

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

APR 6, 7PM: The Mississauga Big Band Jazz Ensemble will present “Best of Big Band Open Mic.” Cooksville United Church, 2500 Mimosa Row, Mississauga.

APR 27, 7PM: Toronto Duke Ellington Society. Annual Concert. Ellington: Suites (excerpts). Sophia Perlman, vocalist; The Brian Barlow Big Band. Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto.

APR 28, 2PM: The Mississauga Big Band Jazz Ensemble will present “Jazz at the Legion.” Port Credit Legion, 35 Front St. N., Port Credit.

MAY 3, 7:30PM: Scarborough Concert Band. Spring Concert. Keith Bohlender, conductor. Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

MAY 5, 3PM: The Weston Silver Band will have their “Afternoon at the Proms” with. Canadian and British repertoire. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

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

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.

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