- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
When I first heard of a concert by the Hart House Symphonic Band, I was very surprised. I have been a member of Hart House continuously ever since my arrival at University of Toronto as an undergraduate student back when dinosaurs were roaming the campus. For those who are not familiar with Hart House, it is the elegant gothic style student union building with the majestic Soldier’s Tower which dominates the landscape of the main campus. When was this Hart House band formed and why had I never heard of it? On April 2 I had my chance. That was the evening of the band’s spring concert titled “Angels in the Architecture.” As I sat waiting to see what sort of ensemble might perform, no fewer than 65 band members entered and dominated the entire south end of the House’s Great Hall. This is not a band of students from the Faculty of Music. Membership is a mix of undergraduate students and alumni from a wide range of disciplines.
Different would probably be the best single word to describe the programming of this concert. The selections involving the entire band were almost exclusively by modern composers. However, the only contemporary selection which I recognized was the March from the Great Escape. The real difference in the programming occurred when the program switched to the first soloist. Melanie Warren from the trumpet section moved to the piano and performed one of her own compositions. After the applause for the performance of her Rondo No. 2 she returned to her seat in the trumpet section.
Immediately after this original composition by a band member, there was a dramatic switch to Five Pieces of Dmitri Shostakovich. Here again it was not the entire band, but a trio of violin, clarinet and piano. After the performance the violinist returned to the flute section and the pianist to the trombone section.
After a return to full band renditions of Robert W. Smith’s Star Trek: Through the Generations and Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium we had a dramatic shift to solo piano. This time, Duncan Kwan the band’s bass trombonist took centre stage on piano with Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor.
The final solo of the evening forced me to start digging for information as soon as I arrived home. This was the Fantasie sur un thème original by Jules Demersseman. Little known today, Demersseman was a French composer who lived in the mid-1800s. Renowned in his day as a flutist and teacher, he was a close friend of Adolphe Sax and composed many of the earliest works for saxophone and saxhorn.
Conductor Mark Saresky states that he has only been with the band for nine years and couldn’t say when it was first established. One thing is certain: he has an impressive spectrum of musical talent and imaginative programming! Stay tuned for their next concerts which are tentatively scheduled for December and next April.
Unfortunately the acoustics of the Great Hall vary considerably depending on the placement of the group performing. The acoustics are generally excellent when the group is placed close to the middle along the long wall. That would certainly not be feasible with a 65-piece band. With the band located at the south end of the hall the sound was at times overwhelming. Nonetheless, the performance was memorable.
More on Venues and Acoustics
While on the subject of venue acoustics, one of the finest performance venues that I have encountered recently was the auditorium of J. Clarke Richardson C. in Ajax. I attended a concert there recently by the Navy Band of HMCS York as part of the school’s sesquicentennial celebration. Unlike many modern schools which have only a cafetorium, this school boasts a true theatre. It has a large stage with a full proscenium arch. I would estimate that it has a seating capacity of about 600 in comfortable upholstered tiered seats where every audience member has a full unobstructed view of the stage.
As for unusual performance venues for small groups, in the next issue I hope to be in a position to introduce readers to a little known gem within a short driving distance from Toronto. Stay tuned for a visit to the Foster Memorial.
Other Recent Events
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the “Sesquicentennial Celebration Concert” by the Plumbing Factory Brass Band on April 19. A severe and painful shoulder injury made the multi-hour drive from home to London and back a non-starter. This was the concert which I had been looking forward to more than almost any other this season. Henry Meredith’s programming of an evening made up exclusively of 19th-century brass band selections was the sort of program that I have never heard before. With any luck they may have recorded it. If so, I’ll be first in line for a copy.
While school concerts are commonplace where students perform and parents applaud, I recently attended a school concert with a difference. On April 20, St. Andrew’s Junior High School in North York presented “Jazz @ St. Andrew’s.” This included several works by four different jazz ensembles including the Swingin’ Strings. That’s right. A large group of students from Grades 8 and 9, accustomed to playing Baroque and classical music showed their adaptation to the challenges of swing style with such numbers as Duke Ellington’s C-Jam Blues.
After these performances the program shifted to show how the love of performing music may continue after school life is over. The regular student groups were followed by the York Mills Titan Jazz Band, an extracurricular after-hours club open to anyone interested in playing big band music. That was followed by a few numbers by Swing Shift, a community big band which rehearses weekly in nearby York Mills Collegiate. Members range in age from the twenty-somethings to several retirees, drawn together to read through music of the big band era. I have been a member of this group for some years, but had to serve as an audience member because my shoulder complained when I tried to hold my instrument. Both of the last two groups were led by Bob Gray, a longtime music teacher in this area.
For students and parents alike this evening showed, in no uncertain terms, that musical skills do not end when school is over, but can be a lifelong avocation. In the comment section of the program, music teacher Mr. Corbett summed up the value of musical training with these observations: “Our students have all worked hard to prepare this concert for you and have learned so much about music and about themselves. They have learned about commitment, self-discipline and the rewards of hard work. They have learned to be effective leaders and followers, ignoring their phones for hours at a time.”
The Newmarket Citizens Band will be presenting their Canada 150 concert on May 26 at 8pm in Newmarket’s Old Town Hall on Botsford Street. Canadian compositions scheduled include Ten Provinces March by Howard Cable, They Came Sailing by Andre Jutras and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
Silverthorn Symphonic Winds 2016/2017 season concludes with their “Spring Celebration” on Saturday, May 27, 7:30pm at the Wilmar Heights Event Centre. The program will honour Canada’s 150 years since Confederation with works by Canadian composers and arrangers.
On Sunday, May 28, at 3:30pm The Wychwood Clarinet Choir presents their “Sounds of Spring - the Canadian Edition.” Whether or not my suggestions had any effect, they will be featuring: The Bridal Rose Overture by Calixa Lavallée, arranged by Richard Moore and Roy Greaves. This was one of my leading picks for Canadian compositions to be included in any group’s repertoire this year. I’m looking forward to hearing this new clarinet choir arrangement. Works by Howard Cable will include Point Pelee, Wychwood Suite, McIntyre Ranch Country and Canadian Folk Song Suite. Norman Campbell’s Anne of Green Gables Medley arranged by Fen Watkin will also be played.
In last month’s column I mentioned how Wynne Krangle, sitting at home in Whitehorse, had “virtually attended” Clarinet Choir rehearsals, took lessons using FaceTime, and ended up playing in the last concert. Will she be back? Yes, Wynne will be back, arriving in time for two rehearsals and then playing with the Choir for this performance with artistic director and clarinet soloist Michele Jacot at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels.
It is with great sadness that I report on the passing of Barbara Kissick. Barbara was a pioneer in establishing the idea that women should have an equal right to play in most bands where, traditionally, they were all-male organizations. As a student at Barrie Central Collegiate she became the first female band president. As I mentioned in this column a few years ago, when she was a physiotherapy student at University of Toronto, she rocked the boat again. The student council of the university actually convened a special meeting to debate whether or not a female student should be “PERMITTED” to join the Varsity Band. Barbara won. Years later, when we formed the university’s Blue and White Alumni Band, Barbara came down regularly from Barrie with her clarinet. When I learned of her passing I pulled out the CD we made with that band in May 1993, and there was Barbara’s name. My dilemma: what selection should I play? In the end it was Close to You.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
It all began in the spring of 1948 when a small research group at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, announced the development of a new electronic device which they named the “transistor,” initially more of a laboratory curiosity than a practical component of any electronic device. I recall a telephone call five years later in 1953 from a friend. He was an engineer in a research organization in Toronto and had just obtained “management approval” to purchase two transistors to try them out. Over the next few years the transistor became the successor, in most applications, to its much larger power hungry predecessor, the vacuum tube, invented in 1906. It only took till 1956 for the three researchers at Bell Labs to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work.
Now, 69 years after that 1948 announcement, smart phones, home computers, flat-screen TVs, GPS units and other compact electronic systems are homes to countless millions of much smaller transistors. Cable and satellite TV as well as Internet are the norm in most homes in this country. We listen to music on all kinds of devices from large home audio systems to hand-held smart phones. But how has this impacted on the activities that go into making music, especially as a collective social endeavour?
Obviously we are able to research titles and composers to assist in programming, but we may also go to YouTube sites to hear and watch performances of music to determine their suitability for possible performance. It is now common practice with many bands to send email messages to band members with a list of works scheduled for a rehearsal and YouTube sites to visit to get familiar with the music prior to a rehearsal. Some groups also send out recordings of rehearsals for members to review and determine ways to improve.
In fact, I know of one music director (who shall remain nameless) who became sufficiently technically savvy and innovative to electronically monitor the playing accuracy of individual band members and record each individual’s errors. Each member was then presented a personal report with a rating of their errors per minute. I don’t know whether or not that is still happening, but I certainly would have no interest in joining such an ensemble.
The most interesting example of constructive use of this rapidly evolving technology that I have heard of includes long-distance instruction and practice over the Internet. It all began when a woman in Whitehorse in the Yukon decided that she would like to learn to play clarinet. Wynne Krangle was in Toronto visiting her mother and decided to drop in to the Long & McQuade store. After she purchased her clarinet, she asked if they could suggest a clarinet teacher to visit for introductory lessons before returning to Whitehorse.
They gave her the name and number of Michele Jacot, conductor of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. The rest is history. Krangle emailed Jacot. They met by email, arranged to meet in person and managed to squeeze in two lessons before Krangle had to return to Whitehorse. As Jacot says “Wynne was quite the beginner.”
After she returned home they arranged to continue regular lessons using Skype and FaceTime as the primary means of communication until Krangle was able to visit Toronto again. As Jacot put it, “She certainly must have been highly motivated to faithfully practise regularly in her relative isolation.” There just aren’t that many playing opportunities for beginning amateur musicians in Whitehorse. On one of her visits to Toronto Krangle attended one of Jacot’s Wychwood Clarinet Choir concerts. It was then that Jacot suggested that she play every rehearsal. Yes, the idea was for Krangle to “virtually attend” Clarinet Choir rehearsals. She could sit at home in Whitehorse and observe the rehearsals in Toronto over the Internet. Progressing from that, the next step was to schedule a lesson every two weeks using FaceTime.
Last summer, Jacot suggested a challenge for Krangle. It was for her to learn all 11 pieces of music for the choir’s “Harvest Song” concert in Toronto in November. The idea was to use the scores and tapes from the weekly rehearsals and then come to Toronto to be part of at least two rehearsals and the performance. Krangle arranged to be in Toronto. She played in the final rehearsal before the concert and in the dress rehearsal. In her words, “I did just that and had an amazingly successful time integrating into the choir.” As for the future, she plans to be in Toronto and perform in the “Sounds of Spring” concert scheduled for May 28 at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels.
(While on the subject of the Wychwood Clarinet, like many other groups this sesquicentennial year, the choir is planning for a definite Canadian component for the spring concert. Composer-arranger Fen Watkin has written an arrangement for clarinet choir of selections from the musical Anne of Green Gables. The choir folks intend to add a visual component to their concert as well. They will be showing historical photographs of the Wychwood neighbourhood in Toronto where they perform. Hopefully, there will be pleasant surprises for the audience, not only regarding local history, but also of the history of the choir.)
A very different and very heartening example of the creative use of our rapidly evolving technology has just come to our attention. Many years ago, Jack Savage, a trombone player from Newmarket formed a swing band. Ever since he started the group his wife Joyce was their biggest fan. She never missed a rehearsal or performance. Even after her husband’s death in May 2016 she was still a devoted fan. However, her stars were not in alignment when she learned of a memorial concert for him scheduled for December 7 last year. She had broken her hip and was bedridden at Orchard Villa Long Term Care residence in Pickering. Her son Ken couldn’t see how he might get her to that concert, but was determined to find some solution for her to attend virtually. Then he learned of the Pickering library’s PPL Connect program. This is a part of their digital education program where free Wi-Fi hotspots are available for loan. Ken contacted Saul Perdomo of the library about the possibility of getting the concert to his mother’s bedside.
On the night of the concert at the Alexander Muir Senior’s Residence in Newmarket, Perdomo took an iPad tablet to the concert. At Joyce’s bedside he had located suitable computer equipment. During the concert there was Joyce, in her bed almost part of the action, and even able to interact with band members. This was the first request of its kind to the library. It not only let Joyce attend Jack’s memorial concert, but it also brought two retirement communities together. Sadly Joyce passed away a couple of months later on February 17 at age 89.
Not only is 2017 Canada’s sesquicentennial year, but it is also the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. While this was certainly not the only large-scale battle of World War I where Canadian troops fought, it is accorded a special recognition in Canada’s history because this was the first major battle where the entire Canadian force was under Canadian command. Several bands have already presented, or soon will present, some form of special Vimy concert. One of the most imaginative is that of the “100th Anniversary Vimy Trench Dinner and Band Concert” on the evening of April 4 at the Flato Markham Theatre. Organized by the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles Association, the concert is being advertised as “The Mayor’s Vimy Concert.”
The evening will begin at 5:30 with a sit-down dinner of typical foods of that era that would have been served to the men behind the lines. At 7:00 the audience will move into the theatre for the concert by two bands. The first band will be a composite group made up of members from the various regimental reserve bands of the Toronto Garrison. This band will be conducted by Lt. Nick Arrigo, director of music of the 7th Toronto Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery Band. This band will be joined by the Pipes and Drums of York Regional Police.
Periodically, throughout the concert, a narrator will read letters home from men at the front. The concept is very similar to that performed a few times in recent years by the Toronto New Horizons Band under Dan Kapp. In the New Horizons performances letters from Europe were actual letters home from a man who was later killed in action during WWII. Since this concert is about a battle 100 years ago, there would be little chance of finding suitable letters. For this Vimy concert, the letters will be historically accurate simulated accounts, carefully crafted by a history professor, from a soldier, here called George, his fiancée Sally and his grandson living in the present day. The letters will be read by actors as the band plays appropriate music softly in the background. Information and reservations are available at the Flato Markham Theatre box office: 905-305-7469.
It is with a heavy heart that I report the passing of Allan Calvert. One of four children born in Ottawa from Irish immigrants who came from Belfast in the 1920s, he moved to Toronto with his mother and three siblings after his father died. At an early age he learned to play various brass instruments and in Salvation Army Bands. Later he became music director and conductor of the Evangel Temple Brass Band in Toronto. I first met Al when we were both on the executive of CBA, Ontario. Al was the very diligent treasurer of that organization for over 25 years.
Odds and Ends
Every once and a while someone will come up with a clever title for a piece of music which strikes a chord. The opening number in the latest concert of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir was H2Overture by Jerry Williams. Yes, it was a medley of over 30 themes with reference to water in their titles.
In the past, in this column, I have occasionally ranted about people with smart phones held up so that their bright images are in full view of the audience members behind them. So, it was time to take action. At the last two concerts attended, I took the risk of asking a few users to put their distracting devices away. Rather than any adverse reactions, I received apologies in all cases.
There’s nothing like authenticity when researching costumes for period productions. Being a longtime Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado, I was a bit perplexed to see an advertisement for this year’s Stratford Festival’s production of HMS Pinafore. There we see a man dressed as a sailor in the Royal Navy, but wearing the “Dixie cup” hat of the US Navy. Such integration!
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
In last month’s column I focused on concert planning and suggested repertoire for bands to consider to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial year. What a pleasant surprise to learn of the plans of a few groups which intend to incorporate some of those suggestions into their programs. One of my top preferences in last month’s column was Calixa Lavallée’s La Rose Nuptial (Bridal Rose). So, very encouraging for me was news from the Wychwood Clarinet Choir that they hope to have an arrangement of that work as part of the Canadian celebration in their May concert. Choir members, and skilled arrangers, Roy Greaves and Richard Moore are working on that. This year’s winter concert “Midwinter Sweets” will not be at their usual location, but at Knox United Church in Scarborough, on Sunday, March 5 at 7:30. The program will also feature Concert Piece No. 2 for Two Clarinets by Felix Mendelssohn arranged by Richard Moore and Roy Greaves, Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg arranged by Greaves, “Tonight” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein arranged by Steve Macdonald and No More Blues by Antonio Carlos Jobim, arranged by Macdonald. As usual, artistic director and clarinet soloist Michele Jacot will be at the helm.
Concert Band Composition for Canada 150: I’ve also just heard about another very encouraging project to celebrate this special year. It is by local Toronto musicians Tom Fleming and Vern Kennedy. About six months ago Fleming approached Kennedy, a longtime Toronto musician and composer of over 60 band and vocal creations, to compose a concert-band work to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial. In Fleming’s words, “I had written a brief note meant to stir Vern’s creative juices and inspire and challenge him to write something patriotic and inspirational that spoke to Canada’s vast geography and diversity. Vern responded by completing a composition for band that does exactly that. It’s a six-movement suite that takes the listener on a musical journey across Canada, ending with a stirring tribute to the whole nation that includes optional vocals in both official languages.”
Kennedy’s musical experience includes appearances on many CBC television music shows and he was the composer of Run Terry Run for the Canadian Cancer Society and In Love with an Island the official song for PEI’s centennial.
Now that the work is ready for publication, Fleming has persuaded a local band to rehearse in private and record it for demo purposes. In addition, he has engaged a copywriter, an art director and an online direct marketing expert to develop a program to market these pieces to community concert bands and post-elementary school bands across the country, at his own expense. When the recording is complete the intention is to post excerpts of the music online and invite decision makers from bands and music schools across the country to listen to the music and hear for themselves that it is enjoyable listening and eminently playable by most bands.
All conched out! Another sesquicentennial event is the “Canada Celebrates 150” concert by the Navy Band of HMCS York at J. Clarke Richardson C.V.I. in Ajax on March 4. This will feature the York full concert band with a combined Richardson Collegiate and HMCS York jazz set sandwiched in the middle. The program will also have students from the school’s Vimy Ridge trip giving a presentation during the concert about their trip to the Vimy Ridge 100th anniversary commemoration ceremonies. This concert is not only a celebration of Canada 150, but is also a veterans appreciation concert. Admission is free for all veterans.
A special treat will be the opening played by the band’s conch group, the only small ensemble from the band in this concert. YES! You read that right. They will be playing on conch shells. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing them in a concert at the Naval Club of Toronto where several small ensembles from the band entertained club members and any members of the community who wished to attend. This small group had its beginning last year when they played a fanfare for the visit of an admiral. The group consists of five different-sized conch shells which produce different pitches when the players move their hands in and out of the open end. Moving the hand in lowers the pitch and moving it out raises the pitch. To make these shells playable the tip has to be cut off and then they are basically played by buzzing into them like a trumpet. This special ensemble of five band members now has a name. They call themselves the Band Shells.
The Band Shells are the brainchild of Leading Seaman James Chilton, who is known in civilian life as James Chilton PhD. He is the man who, last year, was featured at the Naval Club event playing the didgeridoo. At this year’s event it was a duet with didgeridoo and tuba. He also performed on an instrument of his own design. It is a sort of “sliding didgeridoo” which is really played more like a trombone. He calls this one a “didjeribone.” Another selection which he played was done with a collection of variously pitched jaw harps and a looping pedal so that he could play them all at once.
Then there was the trombone quartet which performed a number of traditional sea songs. In some quarters you might find people who look upon military reserve bands as amateurs. Not so here. In that group, all four trombonists have degrees in music including one doctorate and two master’s degrees. The fourth member is working on a master’s degree. As for a name, members of this trombone quartet haven’t yet decided. Some like to be called the Tromboats and others prefer the Seabones.
Plumbing Factory and Northdale: While on the subject of anniversaries and similar celebrations we have just learned, from the indefatigable “Dr. Hank,” Henry Meredith, that the Plumbing Factory Brass Band is planning an evening of “19th Century Brass Band Music” in April. Similarly, The Northdale Concert Band is planning well in advance for a Gala Concert and Banquet to celebrate their 50th anniversary during Canada’s special year. This won’t be until November 4, so we have lots of time to provide full details. As a teaser though, it is safe to say that the concert will feature Vanessa Fralick of the TSO performing two solo pieces on trombone. The band has also commissioned a special work by Gary Kulesha, in honour of their 50th year, to be performed in the same concert.
New Horizons: In last month’s column I mentioned that the North York New Horizons Band was being re-established, at Long & McQuade on Steeles Ave. just east of Keele St. We have now learned that the band is up and running under the direction of experienced music teacher Susan Baskin. Their branch of New Horizons is called: New Horizons Music North York, and they rehearse on Monday nights from 6:45 to 8:45 in the Long & McQuade, North York, Lesson Centre, at 2777 Steeles Ave. W. As is the case with all New Horizons bands NHM NY Concert Band welcomes all adult woodwind, brass and percussion players from beginners to advanced. They are especially interested in bass clarinets, saxophones, trombones, baritones/euphoniums and tubas. Remember the New Horizons slogan: “It’s never too late!” Their email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kiwanis Music Festival Toronto: It has been many years since I had any direct connection to the kind of music festival that was a part of my life while playing in boys’ bands many long years ago. It was time to see what they are like today. Where better to start than with the community bands? Unfortunately, the Columbus Concert Band and the Newmarket Citizens Band were the only two entries this year; still, that was better than last year when there were no community band entries. On the other hand, there were 150 school bands entered in that class. The Wind Symphony of Cardinal Carter Academy took top honours with a Platinum award of 96 percent. I dropped in on the performance of the Newmarket Citizens Band and had an opportunity to chat with the festival artistic director Giles Bryant and adjudicators Dennis Beck and Michel Fortin. After the band’s performance the adjudicators provided many constructive comments and each conducted sections of the music to suggest possible options for improvement. It was a very worthwhile evening, even for a spectator.
And speaking of concert bands, the Markham Concert Band will present their Symphonic Pops Favourites Sunday, March 5, at 2pm at the Flato Markham Theatre with a potpourri of familiar tunes. A special treat: the band will be joined by pianist Ellen Meyer in a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 with the full band accompanying.
Gilbert and Sullivan again: This has nothing to do with bands or band music, but once in a while I choose to digress a bit. For me, attending the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production by Saint Anne’s Music and Drama Society has been a longtime tradition. G&S has been in my blood since I was born. My parents met in a G&S production where my mother was “poor Little Buttercup.” For many years I played in the pit orchestra at Saint Anne’s. When I started, Roy Schatz was one of the leading figures in the production. His daughter Laura Schatz was a little toddler who had chances to walk across the stage. Some years later, as Laura grew up, she had singing parts. Fast forward to this year’s production of The Grand Duke. Roy was the Prince of Monte Carlo and Laura was the artistic director and the Baroness Von Krakenfeldt. To complete the cast Laura Schatz’s two teenaged children also sang in the production. What a family tradition with three generations on stage!
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
The year 2017 is upon us, and with it comes all of the hype that reminds us that this is Canada’s Sesquicentennial Year. Many say that it is Canada’s 150th birthday, while others remind us that there were only four provinces as signatories to the Constitution Act which announced Canadian Confederation in Charlottetown in 1867. The other six provinces plus the territories joined over the ensuing years. In any case, whether you are a supporter of the idea or not, most communities are planning on ceremonies. Many of these are to include parades with bands, not as easy as for the Centennial, fifty years ago. While there are many community bands across the country, few of them are marching bands. Similarly, most of the town bandstands or “kiosques de musique,” which were popular in the 19th century, have disappeared.
Speaking of the Centennial, while contemplating what I might usefully say here for community bands planning their works for this year, I thought of my own experiences 50 years ago during 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year. Truth be told, I was too busy that summer to learn or think much of what other musical groups might be doing. I just happened to be the officer in charge of a naval entertainment troupe consisting of a full band, a choir, a group of sailors in traditional garb dancing The Sailor’s Hornpipe and sundry other displays. During the months of July and August our troupe performed on 31 different occasions in Ontario, Quebec and upstate New York. I don’t anticipate anything on that scale for this year, but it seems that many groups are planning on some form of special recognition in their musical offerings.
Making My List: What form might that recognition take? I have heard of a few very tentative community plans for parades for July 1. As for concert programs, there seem to be at least four main themes emerging so far. One is to focus on works by contemporary Canadian composers, while another is to program works of any era by Canadian composers. A third concept is for works by any composers which, in some way or other, relate to Canada. The fourth idea is to feature the kind of music which might have been played by Canadian town bands of the 19th century, irrespective of the origins of the music. Personally, I don’t have a strong preference, but when thinking of what I might program, I came up with a few ideas.
Topping my list would be at least three works, by Canadians, written as part of the Centennial Project 50 years ago. These would be:
Newfoundland Rhapsody by Howard Cable. This is one composer who certainly needs no introduction here. It would be foolish to list all of Cable’s compositions which might qualify.
Suite on Canadian Folksongs by Morley Calvert, which includes She’s Like the Swallow. Among other musical accomplishments, Calvert founded McGill University’s Concert Band which he conducted for ten years. Calvert’s Thameside March could also be a candidate if one were able locate the music.
Century of Progress by Ron McAnespie. This latter work won the prize as the best march in the Centennial Project. After six years as a musician in the Canadian Navy, McAnespie obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music. Although lesser known than the others, he was very active in the Toronto musical scene for many years.
Other “musts” on my list of Canadian composers would be Calixa Lavallée, Charles O’Neill and André Jutras. Lavallée, composer of O Canada, is an obvious choice. There is a fine concert-band arrangement of his La rose nuptial (Bridal Rose) which is readily available. Jutras’ They Came Sailing is one which frequently appears in concerts by bands in this part of the world. O’Neill was the first director of Quebec’s Band of the Royal 22nd Regiment and held many other significant musical positions over the years. His Tout à Vous is a fine concert number, but he also wrote some worthy marches.
Other marches worth considering would be Vimy Ridge by Thomas Bidgood and Men of Dieppe by Stephen Michell. While Bidgood, the composer, was not a Canadian, this number celebrates a most notable Canadian victory 100 years ago. Michell, a former trombone player with the Royal Regiment of Canada, was taken prisoner at Puys during the Dieppe Raid. To add a bit of lighter air to a program, one might include Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. There is no evidence of the origins of the title, but since the maple leaf is a significant Canadian symbol, this precursor of ragtime music could be used to light up any program.
Kudos to the Scarborough Phil: While one would not normally think of the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra as being part of the Bandstand community, their latest venture certainly merits accolades. On February 4, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday the SPO will launch A Canadian Panorama, its first commercial CD. The launch concert will feature music from the CD, a group of Canadian compositions that the SPO commissioned two years ago for a wind ensemble of 13 players. This group features two flutes (including a piccolo), two oboes (including an English horn), two clarinets (including a bass clarinet), two bassoons, two horns, one trumpet, one percussion player and a string bass. All told, seven of the pieces in this concert come from Canadian composers. While there will be some Mozart and Beethoven on the program, the emphasis will be on the Canadian works. These will include: Howard Cable’s McIntyre Ranch Country, based on Canadian cowboy folk songs from central Canada; Alex Eddington’s Saturday Night at Fort Chambly, based on French Canadian folksongs; Chris Meyer’s Fundy, a tone poem, inspired by the Bay of Fundy; and East Coast Celtic music and Jim McGrath’s Serenade for Solo Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. This CD launch concert will be at the Salvation Army Scarborough Citadel, 2021 Lawrence Ave. E.
Plumbing Factory: While their next concert isn’t until April 19, Henry Meredith’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band, (PFBB), as usual, has a fascinating program in the works. In honour of Canada’s Sesquicentennial the program will consist entirely of 19th-century brass band music. While the program will include some traditional works such as Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra and Franz von Suppé’s Overture to the Beautiful Galatea, there will be a lot of light-hearted numbers rarely heard nowadays. These will include such gems as The Burlington Polka, The Helicon Schottische, the Stolen Kisses Galop and the Ontario Quick March. The program will also include Calixa Lavallée’s Tempo di Marcia from his comic opera The Indian Question.
In past columns I have mentioned Henry Meredith’s vast collection of brass instruments and his hope of establishing a museum where this collection could be properly displayed. Some months ago I decided to make a contribution to this collection. As a start, during the last concert of the PFBB, I donated two trombones and a French horn. Of the two trombones, one was the very first instrument which I owned. This Selmer Manhattan was a model that Henry had never heard of before. The other trombone was a silver model Whaley Royce, Toronto circa 1900. See photo.
Community Band Festival: Once again, it’s time for the York University Community Band Festival, but there will be significant changes from the format of previous years. There will be no workshops or keynote speaker as in the past. The conductors of each of the participating bands will rehearse one piece of music with the Massed Band. The concert will include performances by each band and then the Massed Band pieces will conclude the festival. It should be a challenging but enjoyable day of performing for all participants. That’s on Sunday, February 26, with the Massed Band rehearsal from 10am to 12pm and the concert from 1:30pm to 3:30pm.
New Horizons: As sure as spring will follow winter, with the new year come more members to the New Horizons bands. As a precursor to the new season, the Toronto NH bands held their first Holiday Potluck Dinner Party on Friday, January 13. As guests, we enjoyed a great evening of food, music and lots of humour. Membership in the Toronto New Horizons bands is now up to 260, with eight bands rehearsing over the course of a week. There isn’t space here to go into detail of their activities, but a visit to their website will provide lots of information. Go to newhorizonsbandtoronto.ca. They do have a band festival coming up on Saturday, January 28 at St. Simon-The-Apostle Anglican Church, Sherbourne and Bloor. The festival starts at about 1:30pm, with the Guelph new horizons band attending as a guest performance group.
In the Toronto area there is a new NH band forming in Richmond Hill at Cosmo Music. For information contact Doug Robertson, Director, New Horizons Band of York Region at
firstname.lastname@example.org. We have just learned that the North York New Horizons Band is being re-established at Long & McQuade on Steeles Ave. just east of Keele St. Classes will begin on Monday, February 5, starting at 6:30 For more information, people can call Dan Kapp at 647–201–8780, or they can contact the Long & McQuade North York store and ask for someone in the band department.
Other band activities: News from the York Brass Band is encouraging. They are now sufficiently well established that they have a new logo and are planning on producing banners for their music stands. Anyone interested in playing in an all-brass band should drop in at a rehearsal. They rehearse on Wednesdays at 7:30pm at Chartwell Park Place Retirement Residence, 15055 Yonge St., Aurora.
Feb 2: On the first Thursday of each month the Encore Symphonic Concert Band presents their monthly concert at Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.
Feb 2: At 7:30pm, to celebrate ten years of making music, the Milton Concert Band are inviting people to “Sit In & Play or Sit Down & Listen.” Woodwind, brass and percussion players are invited to sit in with the band and play along. Spectators are also welcome. That’s at Milton Baptist Church, 900 Nipissing Rd., Milton.
Feb 14: At 7:30pm, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will present one of their 59-Minute Soirees. “A Valentines Soiree” will be at Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.
Feb18: At 8pm, the Milton Concert Band presents “Music Through the Decades” in MinMaxx Hall at at the Milton Centre for the Arts located at 1010 Main Street E., Milton.
Feb 25: At 7:30pm, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will present “Musician’s Choice” with selections from Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Belgian composer Bert Appermont’s Saga Candida: 7 Impressions of a Witch Hunt; Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi, selections from Holst’s The Planets and other works. At Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.
Feb 26: At 3pm, the Stratford Concert Band will present “Remembering a Friend” with Edward Payne as guest commentator. Avondale United Church, 194 Avondale Ave., Stratford.
Mar 1: at 7pm, the Stratford Concert Band will present Bandarama 2017. Bands from area high schools will perform as guests. Northwestern Secondary School, 428 Forman Ave., Stratford.
Mar 5: At 3pm, Wellington Winds will present “In the European Tradition.” Works include Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique for Trombone, First Movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 as well as works by Mendelssohn, Tull and Arnold. Rachel Thomas, trombone; Daniel Warren, conductor. Knox Presbyterian Church 50 Erb St. W., Waterloo.
Mar 5: At 7:30pm, the Wychwood Clarinet Choir; Michele Jacot, director will present their Spring Concert at a new location for this event, Knox United Church, Agincourt 2569 Midland Ave., Scarborough.
- Written by Jack MacQuarrie
- Category: Bandstand
With Canada’s sesquicentennial year only one month away, municipalities and organizations all over the country are searching their archives for records of significant events over the past 150 years which could stimulate community interest in this year of reflection and celebration. Unfortunately, in the band world, there are few bands whose history goes back even half that 150-year time span. One band which does have some good material in their archives is the Newmarket Citizens’ Band. In a recent exploration of the band’s archives, they found a photograph of the band taken in the year 1883. With the sesquicentennial year approaching, what better time to show off this picture, to show the citizens of the community that their band has been there to provide music for town events for all but five years of Confederation.
At an evening meeting of council, several members of the band, wearing their red blazers, arrived for the presentation. In the announcement of their deputation to council, the band pointed out that “Since 1872, the Newmarket Citizens’ Band has been an integral part of the cultural and social landscape of the town of Newmarket.” To commemorate the opening of the newly restored Old Town Hall they presented a large framed photograph of the town band taken in August 1883 just a few weeks after the original opening of the Old Town Hall on July 1, 1883.
The photo of the band was taken during the Firemen’s Excursion to Niagara Falls on the Civic Holiday, August 8, 1883. An article about the event, including this photo, was published in the Newmarket Era of the day. Approximately 250 residents travelled by train and then steamship to Niagara Falls and the band went along to provide entertainment. It is a prime example of the band’s long involvement in the social and cultural life of the town. The write-up of the trip mentioned that the band, reinforced by two gentlemen from Sharon and Bolton, “enlivened the trip by music on the fore deck; good music is never so pleasing as on the water.”
A formal public unveiling of the photo was scheduled to take place at the band’s “Simple Gifts” Concert at the Old Town Hall on Botsford Street, Friday, December 2, 2016. (On a personal note, some 35 years ago, I played there for a few years in monthly concerts of The Newmarket Jazz Appreciation Society, and our small Dixieland group was known as “The Botsford Street Ramblers.”)
Since it is rare to find this much information about a band’s activities almost 150 years ago, it is worth including here some of the historical information about the band recently presented to the Newmarket mayor and council. “The band formed in 1872 with roots going back to as early as 1843. Walter W. Roe, son of the town’s postmaster and fur trader, William Roe, circulated a petition among the local business community to raise funds. The 12 band members contributed $5 each and along with 69 other contributors raised the sum $319 to purchase instruments.”
To quote the petition: “Whereas we, the undersigned, think it a disgrace to the inhabitants of Newmarket that they should have, on all festive occasions, to send to the small villages of Aurora and Sharon for a band, we have determined, with the consent and assistance of our fellow-townsmen, to form one of our own.”
The timing of the recent presentation could not have been better from a number of perspectives. For one, the band delegation met with the mayor and council within a few days of the reopening of the beautifully restored Old Town Hall, which is now destined to be a prime performance venue. For another, it has only been a few weeks since the band was informed that they would now have an excellent permanent rehearsal home complete with storage in a large town recreation centre. Wandering from place to place for rehearsals has been the norm since their former rehearsal space was destroyed by arsonists many years ago. Last but not least, it just also happened a few days after the band paraded, as it has for years, in the town’s annual Santa Claus parade.
New Horizons. By now it should not be a surprise, but I just received a note about yet another New Horizons group that we had not previously heard from. Lynda Shewchuk, music director of Lakeshore New Horizons Bands in Bowmanville, tells us that the band is now in its sixth year. She says that the thriving group is “not very large” with only 60 members! They have a senior band, intermediate band and a beginners class. They also have a small jazz band. She states that “our members are very active and enthusiastic, with many playing in two or even three bands. Quite a few of our members play two different instruments, one in each concert band.”
Recent Events: In early November the Milton Concert Band lost one of its long time members, Rev. Christopher Snow. On November 6 “A Memorial Concert for Chris Snow” was presented to proclaim “A life celebrated through music.”
On November 20 the Wychwood Clarinet Choir concert continued to amaze with their unique arrangements of works for orchestra and concert band. This time it was the Holst Second Suite in F for concert band. In the early 1920s the leaders of Britain’s Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall lamented the lack of larger serious works for concert band. Until then, if bands wanted to play longer multi-movement works they had to rely on transcriptions of orchestral works. They commissioned Gustav Holst to write two suites for concert band. Since then these suites have been part of the concert band repertoire. This transcription maintained all of the highlights and nuances contained in the original. Local composer Fen Watkin also contributed a fine version of Villanesca, Spanish Dance No.4 by Granados. In a conversation after the concert, Watkin mentioned that, for sesquicentennial year 2017, he might like to write some arrangements of Canadian works. I did not mention it then, but I would like to suggest Calixa Lavallée’s La rose nuptiale.
Initiatives. Every once in a while, we hear of initiatives taken by bands to either help with their finances or otherwise enhance their relationship with their communities. In November, the Aurora Band held its annual holiday market where shoppers could find one-of-a-kind gifts from 38 unique local vendors. For their Canada 150 festivities, the band has commissioned a composition from professor Bill Thomas of York University. The band will give the premiere performance of this number at its concert on Canada Day, 2017.
On the fundraising front, the Strings Attached Orchestra has become a registered charity to provide some financial incentive for donors so that they may continue to bring music into the community.
Dec 5: Resa’s Pieces will present “A Tribute to the Beatles and Beach Boys,” 7:30pm at York Mills Collegiate.
Dec 6: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds present the next concert in their series, 59 Minute Soiree. These mini-concerts feature a variety of lighter music, perfect for unwinding after a day at work. At 7:30, Wilmar Heights Event Centre – Concert Hall.
Dec 9: The Aurora Community Band will present holiday entertainment like no other – its “Heroes and Monsters: A Holiday Concert” – at 7:30, Trinity Anglican Church, 79 Victoria St., Aurora.
Dec 10: For their annual holiday concert, “The Bells of Christmas,” the Milton Concert Band will not only include the traditional musical favourites but will feature, as guests, Eden Bells A-Peel, a long-established handbell choir from Eden United Church in Mississauga. In Victorian times, it was very fashionable to go carol singing with small handbells to play the tune of the carol. Sometimes there would be no singing, just the music of the handbells. Handbell ringing is still popular today and if you have never heard a handbell choir, then this is a concert well worth a visit: 8pm Milton Centre for the Arts, 1010 Main St. East, Milton.
Dec 11: The Clarington Concert Band presents their “Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” featuring singers Father Paul, Kelly Robertson and Lisa Heitzner, 2pm at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 127 Liberty St. South, Bowmanville.
Dec 11: The Strings Attached Orchestra presents their third annual “Friends and Family Holiday Concert,” 2pm at Congregation Ban’s Torah, 465 Patrician Ave., Toronto.