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

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

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

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

Coming Soon

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

In The Future

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

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

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

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

Colin Jones

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

Bandstand Quick Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

During 2017 it seemed that most community ensembles focused their programming on music which, in some way or other, related to the fact that it was Canada’s sesquicentennial. This year, when we took our usual WholeNote summer break for July and August, focusing on anniversaries seemed to have tapered off somewhat. Then, out of the blue, we learned of two very special anniversary-themed events in the region.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band

The first of these events was in Huntsville to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the arrival in town of Herbert L. Clarke to take on the leadership of the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band. The company, also known as the Anglo-Canadian Tannery, was, at that time, the largest tannery in the British Commonwealth. Charles Orlando Shaw, an American businessman who had built the Bigwin Island Resort, moved to Huntsville, bought the tannery and built it to prominence.

As it happens, Shaw, who had also been a keen cornet player in earlier years, discovered groups of tannery workers getting together to make music in their off time. For Shaw it sparked the idea of getting back to his playing cornet again after having abandoned the instrument for some years. Over a period of time a band gradually developed. After a while the tannery workers were given free musical instruction and time off to practise. Then at some stage, he purchased an old school building and had it converted to a band hall.

In those days many companies sponsored company bands, so it was not that surprising that Shaw, a keen amateur musician, would want a top company band. What was unusual was the lengths he was prepared to go to to improve the band. It is reported that within a few years, money was no object when it came to buying instruments or hiring instructors; as a result, 100 years ago, the Anglo-Canadian Band was considered the “best industrial band in North America.”

But Shaw wanted a big name in the music world in his band. In the early part of the 20th century it would be a rare band concert which did not include significant solos to highlight the dazzling talents of the soloist. Therefore, it was not surprising that Shaw, a cornetist himself, sought out a top cornetist for his band. Luckily one was close at hand.

In the decade from 1910 to 1920 one of the world’s most renowned cornet virtuosos was Herbert L. Clarke. Clarke’s father was choirmaster, organist and bandmaster of the band at Jarvis St. Baptist Church in Toronto. Clarke was a member of the band of the Queen’s Own Rifles, touring the world as a featured soloist with leading bands of the day. Yet, after many years as featured soloist with the band of John Philip Sousa in Washington DC, in 1918 Clarke was lured to Huntsville, Ontario by Shaw to be the leader and featured soloist with that band. The sum that Clarke was paid was anything but typical – amazing, in fact, for the year 1918 – rumoured to be somewhere between $15,000 and $18,000 per year!

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Clarke’s arrival in Huntsville, and as a tribute to the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band itself, two special band concerts titled “Brilliance” took place in late July. Since I had other musical commitments elsewhere, I was not able to attend, so I am deeply indebted to my friend Barrie Hodgins, who was there. Barrie provided me with more information about the concerts than I can do justice to here, including the program and a copy of a 40-page booklet about the history of the band, compiled in 1986, Huntsville’s centennial year, and containing many programs and photographs of the band from as early as 1915, and numerous reviews of the band’s performances from the Toronto Daily Star and The Mail and Empire.

This year’s 100th-anniversary program featured concerts on July 21 and 22 in Huntsville’s Algonquin Theatre, under the direction of Neil Barlow with a core group from the Muskoka Concert Band, augmented by some 30 talented musicians from other parts of Ontario and the USA.

Herbert L. Clarke’s personally annotated Arban Method BookAs one might expect, the featured solo number was for a cornet solo. In Clarke’s day the standard method from which brass musicians honed their craft was Arban’s Tutor. (Author Jean Baptiste Arban was a virtuoso cornetist and teacher in Paris.) To this day, over 100 years, later Tutor is still the preferred method book; and perhaps the most popular all-time solo work for cornet is Arban’s variations on the traditional Italian work The Carnival of Venice. Since Clarke was noted for his performances of Carnival of Venice, I thought that this might be the solo selection, but I should have realized that, at this concert, the solo work would be a Clarke composition. It was Clarke’s From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, performed by Robert Venables, one of the top freelance cornet and trumpet players in Canada, best known in the local band world for his work with the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army and with the Hannaford Street Silver Band.

Robert VenablesThe Anglo-Canadian Leather Company band was officially formed in 1914 just before war broke out. For six years this band was the feature at the Canadian National Exhibition at a time when most feature bands were, more often than not, highly paid professionals. By 1926, Shaw realized that he would not be able to raise his great dream band to the even higher status he aspired to, and the band was broken up.

Rebel Heartland

In another form of anniversary event, over the weekend of September 22 and 23, the Newmarket Citizens Band will be joining in “Rebel Heartland,” a 2018 re-enactment of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, under the auspices of a committee, comprised of the Newmarket Historical Society, Heritage Newmarket and the Elman W. Campbell Museum. Some of the events will be in the downtown core and some at Fairy Lake Park.

Established in 1872, the band has a long history in the community and was thrilled to be asked to participate in this historic re-enactment in their hometown.

On Saturday morning, the band will be part of the drama on Main Street, where the rebels recruit followers at the Farmer’s Market and William Lyon Mackenzie makes a rousing speech encouraging armed rebellion against the colonial government. On Saturday afternoon a battle re-enactment will take place at Fairy Lake Park. This will be followed by the capture, trial and subsequent “hanging” of rebel leaders, Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, in front of the Old Town Hall.

On Sunday, social life in the colony will be on display at Fairy Lake. There will be demonstrations, church services, a boxed lunch social and entertainment. That’s where the Newmarket Citizens Band comes in again. Clothed in period dress, the band will host daily concerts showcasing music that would have been familiar to residents of the day. In addition, the concerts will also include smaller ensembles, to represent how music was commonly shared in the community in 1837. For more information go to newmarketcitizensband.ca

Seasonal Changes

Here it is almost fall, and that means seasonal changes for some bands. For the Uxbridge Community Concert Band, a summertime-only group, Saturday, August 25, was the final concert of their 2018 season. Last year the band’s founder and music director Steffan Brunett took a year away to travel and to study composition. With no one to take the helm, there was no band in 2017. Now, after a year’s hiatus, the band has a well-organized committee in place to share the administrative load. Brunett can now concentrate on his job as artistic director. As a simple but effective example: rather than place the whole load of collecting and filing the season’s music on one person, the band has an “End of Season Music Sorting Party”.

As previously reported, there are also seasonal changes in the air for New Horizons Bands. After many years at the helm, Dan Kapp, founder and director of the Toronto groups, has retired and moved to Wolfville Nova Scotia with his wife Lisa. Now settling in, he already has New Horizons plans for Wolfville, and also intends to study composition at Acadia University.

With his departure, the Toronto New Horizons groups now have an executive committee with Randy Kligerman, a member of the original Toronto NHB at the helm as president, and with a number of conductors. Head of education, and director of the senior band, is Donna Dupuy, who may be contacted at nhbteducation@gmail.com. As in past years, they will have an open evening for prospective band members. Previously billed as “The Instrument Petting Zoo,” this year the event is being called “The Instrument Exploration Workshop.” It will take place at Long and McQuade’s Bloor Street store on Thursday, September 13, at 6:30. These workshops are for those who have never played an instrument and for those who currently play an instrument, but would like to try playing a different one, bassoon to piccolo, in a fun, non-stressful environment. For more information go to newhorizonsbandtoronto.ca.

Having started a few years later than in Toronto, The New Horizons Band of York Region, with Doug Robertson at the helm as conductor, will be starting their season in a similar fashion. Their “Test Drive a Musical Instrument” event takes place on Thursday, September 6, at 7pm at the Cosmo Music store in Richmond Hill. Come out and “test-drive” 17 different instruments. Experienced players from the NHBYR as well as Cosmo Music staff will be on hand to help you get a sound out of any of the 17. Regular music classes begin the week of September 10. For more information contact nhbyrdirector@gmail.com.

Yet another band starting up, after a summer break, is Resa’s Pieces Band. Started 20 years ago by Resa Kochberg, Resa’s group’s evolution over the years has been different from that of the New Horizons groups. Rather than a number of concert bands rehearsing at different levels, Kochberg, over time, started different kinds of groups. Now, there are also the Resa’s Pieces Strings and Resa’s Pieces Singers, sometimes performing separately, and sometimes jointly. For more information on all these groups contact conductor@resaspieces.org.

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

A few months ago I mentioned a trip to Ukraine by Bob Gray, a local band conductor, teacher and trumpet player. What he learned on that trip inspired him to pay another visit, with two primary goals in mind. The first was to investigate the feasibility of start-up brass bands in Ukraine during his eight-week stay in Kiev. The second was to be there for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Salvation Army’s ministry in Ukraine. In a recent email from Kiev, Bob reported on how things are going there, and unfortunately his first goal is not working out as easily as he had hoped. The idea was to investigate the feasibility of establishing new brass bands there. However, at present, there are no Salvation Army bands in Ukraine to use as models. Since there is no tradition upon which to build, there are no qualified leaders or instructors already active within the Salvation Army organization, making it difficult for some of the congregations to sustain and support the start and development of any band. Other setbacks: he has also learned that their music for worship in Salvation Army services differs greatly from the rest of the Salvation Army world. There are no brass band arrangements of the songs used there. Even for Christmas, the carols used in many places elsewhere differ from those familiar and popular in Ukrainian culture.

His second purpose for his extended trip will likely have a happier outcome. He will be there for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of The Salvation Army’s ministry in Ukraine. This event will take place on the weekend of June 8 to 10 in Victory Park and Hotel Bratislava. For this occasion, the Salvation Army band from Winton Corps, in Bournemouth, England will be participating. Bob has been asked to sit in with that band, as one of their cornet players is unable to make the journey to Kiev. It is the hope that the activities of this well-established band will stir some interest in resurrecting the brass band movement within the ranks of the Salvation Army in Ukraine. We wish him every success, and hope to hear of the establishment of new bands there in the near future.

Strings Attached

From messages about all-brass music thousands of miles away, we move to news about all-strings music right here in town. We have just heard from Ric Giorgi about the next concert of the Strings Attached Orchestra, their final concert for this year on June 3, again at the Isabel Bader Theatre. As usual, the program was designed to span a wide spectrum of music from such classics as Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6 to Ashokan Farewell and the Best of ABBA.

The Plumbing Factory

Speaking of all-brass bands, we also just had a message from Henry Meredith of the Plumbing Factory Brass Band where he referred to the “devastating and relentless winter” we’ve all just been through. Rather than paraphrase what he said, here is his musical response to Mother Nature, verbatim: “Because of the ice storms only a week before our ‘spring’ concert, and the snowstorm on the night of our dress rehearsal, the PFBB has now decided to expand our concert season into the late spring and early summer. It is hoped that this will make it easier on both us and our audience, not to have to battle the weather to prepare and enjoy our brass band music. So we have decided to keep rehearsing, and to develop a brand new concert for you, to be performed on June 27.”

In typical Henry Meredith style, he outlines the program in one of his poems.

This little rhyme will explain the reason
Why we established a new summer season
It also provides a few hints about
The music which you will enjoy, without doubt.

The concert, “Summertime Musical Adventures” (June 27, 7:30pm at Byron United Church, 420 Boler Rd., London), will include such band favourites as Ringling Bros. Grand Entry, Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, Bernstein’s Candide and The Whistler and his Dog by Arthur Pryor.

A Musical Movie

Something entirely new appeared on my radar screen recently: a Russian-Canadian film production company that is in the process of making a documentary about Benny Goodman’s historic tour of the USSR in 1962. Now, over 55 years later, this story is still alive in the minds of people who remember those concerts of the jazz orchestra of Benny Goodman, those “strange” but incredibly attractive American musicians. They remember the joy of buying scarce tickets and enjoying music, and screaming “encore” up to ten times. The whole world as we knew it was struck by the headline at the time. “The King of Swing Benny Goodman Plays Yankee Doodle Dandy on Red Square.” Certainly Russians had never seen anything like that before.

This full-length feature film, Trojan Jazz, will retell the events of the exchange of talented musicians between the US and the Soviet Union. The anticipated appeal is to jazz enthusiasts in both English- and Russian-speaking cultures. The concept of Trojan Jazz likens the Benny Goodman Orchestra to members of a Trojan horse that brought Western jazz culture into an isolated Eastern jazz culture. The impact was unpredictable. Jazz musicians of both cultures exchanged written ideas, which began a collaboration second to none.

Julian Miklis (at left)Local concert clarinetist Julian Milkis, son of former TSO concertmaster Yasha Milkis, is cast as Benny Goodman. Milkis actually studied with Goodman while attending the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. He can be seen in a variety of ensembles recreating some of Goodman’s hit songs.

To illustrate the Goodman legacy of playing big band music continuing to this day in community groups around the world, the producers wanted to show such a group in rehearsal So, all of a sudden, one evening a few weeks ago, I and my bandmates found ourselves being bombarded by bright studio lighting and surrounded by at least a half-dozen cameras. The Toronto-based rehearsal band Swing Machine, of which I have been a member for many years, was chosen and filmed to exemplify this ongoing tradition. There we were many years later, still enjoying the performance of big band music. We haven’t heard anything of when or where this movie might be seen, but I am told a visit to https://firstjazztourinussr.com will provide more in-depth information as the project develops.

Mikhail Sherman

A few weeks ago, at a regular rehearsal of the Swing Machine Big Band, I looked across at the saxophone section. The usually very reliable baritone saxophone player, Mikhail Sherman, was missing. We later learned that he had decided to have a nap before leaving for the rehearsal, but never woke up.

Born in the USSR, Mikhail grew up with a love of music in a country famed for great classical musicians. After serving time in the army and playing in a military band, he went on to become the principal clarinet and saxophone player for the famed Moscow State Circus, City of Lviv, for seven years.

In 1979 he left and came to Toronto to pursue more opportunities. He started his life here as a refugee with nothing. He washed dishes and became a cook at the Windfields Restaurant. His love for music led him in another direction. It was here that he met Frank Fermosi and Rocco Nufrio, the owners of the then-successful Saxophone Shop. They quickly spotted Mikhail’s love for music. He, in turn, showed a keen ability to learn the trade of repairing instruments. They offered him a job and training, in which he quickly excelled!

In 1986, when the Sax Shop closed, Mikhail decided to would open his own shop in North Toronto. Still with little in his pocket, he started Mikhail Sherman Music Service, which was to become one of the most successful woodwind repair shops in Canada, servicing the educational system and many top professional musicians. Mikhail passed away peacefully and suddenly in his sleep on April 26, 2018. Many of the great musicians and music educators in the GTA will miss his quick response and expertise. A true rags-to-riches story.

Uxbridge Community Concert Band

After a year’s absence from the local band scene and some questions about the band’s rebirth, the Uxbridge Community Concert Band, with Steffan Brunette at the helm, has now had its first rehearsal. Steffan took a year off to study composition and to do some travelling. Rather than assume all of the many duties required to operate a band successfully, Steffan now has an executive team to help with the many details, but it is, once again, a superbly organized band. After their first rehearsal it became evident that a few more trumpets would be welcome. The band is a summertime-only group that rehearses in Uxbridge on Wednesday evenings. For information, email uccb@powergate.ca.

Toronto Summer Music Festival

On Sunday, July 29 at 2pm, the 2018 Toronto Summer Music Festival will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI with a concert titled “Reflections on Wartime” at The Bentway. This will include a full afternoon of events with a feature performance by theCanadian National Brass Project.” For those not familiar with it, The Canadian National Brass Project brings together many of the best brass players from professional symphony orchestras throughout North America, and each summer this all-star ensemble, led by conductor James Sommerville, joins forces and performs across the country. The program will include Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Mars from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Concertgoers can also take in the sights and sounds of the Fort York Guard, enjoy a demonstration of artillery firepower, and hear military music by the Fort York Drums. There will also be a “Musical Petting Zoo” for children to test out a variety of musical instruments. For those not familiar with it, The Bentway, 250 Fort York Boulevard adjacent to Old Fort York, is being described as Toronto’s most exciting new outdoor concert venue.

A few days later, on Thursday, August 2 at 7:30pm in Koerner Hall, TSM will present “A Big Band Celebration,” which will focus on music of World War II. During the darkest days of the war the big band music of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and others was a major source of entertainment for life on the home front. As the presenters suggest, these familiar tunes became a metaphor for the way of life soldiers were fighting to preserve. This promises to be a stimulating evening of the best of the big band era as interpreted by music director Gordon Foote and featuring JUNO Award-winning jazz singer Ranee Lee.

Ranee LeeComing Events

By the time this issue is available in print, some of the events mentioned below will have taken place, but for the record and for online users, they are included here. Now that summer is close at hand, Resa Kochberg’s three musical groups have announced their current concert plans:

On Sunday, May 27 at 7:30pm, Resa’s Pieces Concert Band will perform at the Flato Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd., Markham.

On Sunday, June 3 at 7:30pm, Resa’s Pieces Strings Ensemble will be at St. Basil College School, 20 Starview Ln., North York.

On Monday, June 4 at 7:30pm, Resa’s Band will present another concert at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto.

On Monday, June 11 at 8pm, Resa’s Singers Ensemble will perform at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue, 100 Elder St., North York.

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

Last month’s column began with some comments about the fact that spring had officially arrived, but that Mother Nature was not agreeing. Now, one month later, what do I see when I look out the window? I see my neighbour, large shovel in hand, trying to remove large quantities of some white material from his driveway. At the side of the house I see a delightful, but unusual sight. Yes, there was a beautiful bright purple crocus surrounded by glistening white crystals. The snow is still here. So it is with this month’s column that we stay with the same theme. Last month we were talking about bands in transition evolving one way or another. Here we are with more stories.

Uxbridge Community Concert Band

The Uxbridge Community Concert Band (UCCB) is another band in transition. This time, rather than some gradual change, we have a one-year interruption. Founded by Steffan Brunette in 1992, the UCCB has been silent for a year. Brunette, a high school music teacher, took a year off from his teaching to study composition and do some travelling.

Steffan BrunetteSince its founding in 1992, the Uxbridge Community Concert Band has been a volunteer organization from its director down to its youngest player. Its original intention was to allow school musicians to bridge the gap between their spring concert ending the school year and their first rehearsal at school in September. Over the years the UCCB became a band where adult musicians could rediscover their love of playing music as a member of an ensemble.

For most of the first 25 years of its existence, the UCCB was run solely through Brunette’s leadership. To encourage new growth and new directions, the band is rebuilding itself with the assistance of a new executive committee. Since the band only rehearses during the months of May through August, committee members are currently planning the recruitment drive, promotional strategies and laying out the performance plans for the coming summer season, all the while learning the processes which were normally overseen by only one. Brunette is no longer jack of all trades. He is now artistic director.

It is hoped that by bringing in additional people, the range of talents and skills for running a musical organization will also grow and allow the UCCB to grow as well. Committee members are taking over publicity, membership, logistics, venue booking, transportation, music folder preparation, uniform distribution and concert planning.

The UCCB is currently recruiting members for its 26th summer season, set to begin on Wednesday May 23 at 7pm in the music room of Uxbridge Secondary School. Rehearsals will continue every Wednesday until the end of August. The band performs two major concerts in Port Perry and Uxbridge at the end of the summer. The ensemble is non-auditioned and welcomes players who have had at least two years’ of playing experience, so students as young as Grade 9 and adults as old as 90-plus are encouraged to come out and join. For those interested, the band now has a Facebook page; it is simply Uxbridge Community Concert Band. For more information, contact Terry Christiansen at uccb@powergate.ca.

Resa’s Pieces Band

Resa’s Pieces first came together in the year 2000. The creation of what has evolved into a very special group was a dream born out of Resa Kochberg’s life experiences, and it was many years in the making. When she was growing, up there was nothing else that she ever wanted to do but study music. As a little girl she would watch her eldest brother wave his arms around as if he were a virtuoso conductor. She says that she could feel the music radiate and come alive visually through his passionate motions. Her very first album of recorded music was Peter and the Wolf. She says that she loved listening to the different instruments mimicking the sound of animals, Peter, the grandfather and the hunters. 

Resa Kochberg. Photo by Atira Frankel.At an early age her mother gave her some choices for after-school activities. She chose piano lessons. As it turned out, that decision determined her career. After studying piano and playing flute during her high school years, She knew that the only thing she wanted was to study music at university. After graduation with a bachelor of music degree from U of T, she taught music for the Scarborough Board of Education until she put her school teaching on hold to raise three children.

As a stay-at-home mom, after so many years of playing music and being surrounded by music every day, the only music she listened to was on the radio. For 23 years her flute never came out of its case. One day she realized that she missed the camaraderie and the excitement of playing music with other people, and the joy of musical expression. She knew that somehow she had to get music back into her life. So in 1998 she returned to teaching, and after that 23-year hiatus, she finally took her flute out of its case and joined the North York Concert Band.

Although quite rusty, after putting her daily routine behind, she would concentrate on the music. As she says, she was once again surrounded by like-minded people, all of whom wanted to create music together. She soon loved the challenge, the frustration and the sense of accomplishment, as she continued to improve with practice and support from new music friends.

With the resurfacing of her “musical urge” she thought of the many others in similar situations. In her words: “I realized that there were so many others who had also temporarily abandoned their instruments due to life circumstances, and I saw this as an opportunity to create a fun-filled, social atmosphere where people could return [as she had] to playing music. I hoped that by creating such an environment it would also give others the same joy and pleasure while also providing the opportunity for them to learn and then share their accomplishments with each other. My ultimate goal, which has been realized, was to have members of the band learn repertoire, perform to audiences and share their expression of music within the community.”

That’s how Resa’s Pieces was born. Then, as Resa put it, “one magical day” in late 1998, it actually began. Resa says that one day, she was talking to the music director at the Koffler Centre of the Arts about her idea for a band. The response that she received couldn’t have been more encouraging. “Resa,” she said, “I don’t like your idea – I love it!” Then and there Resa knew that it would happen. “When would you like to start?” the director asked. “How about next September?” That would give her enough time to spread the word and recruit. How many people would join? She was hoping for 18 as it’s a symbolic number for life, and music is so much part of everyone’s life. A few weeks later, while at a party, she took advantage of this great opportunity to announce her idea, and it became the buzz of the evening. Surprisingly, those interested didn’t want to wait until September. 

Shortly afterwards, with the 18 names gathered, and long before September, they held their first rehearsal at the Jewish Community Centre on Bathurst Street. They began with a basic review of the names and values of the notes. Then all of the fundamentals were reviewed, such simple facts as how to hold the instrument and make the first sound. Everyone left excited and eager to practise. In June 2000 they held their first concert. The band could now play eight notes and seven songs. Seventy-five people sat in the audience, the concert was 25 minutes long and the band got a rousing standing ovation at the end.

In Resa’s words: “Members are guided by the mantra, do your best and have FUN.” As for the band’s name, it was chosen by the band members.

Resa’s Pieces is now an active diverse group of amateur musicians who range in age from their 20s to their 90s, and who come from all over the GTA with the common goal: “Reawaken that Talent – Rediscover making Music.”

Then what? The birth of Resa’s Pieces Strings began. After one band concert a violinist approached her and asked to join the band. She felt terrible having to say “no” because stringed instruments require a different approach and, other than a double bass, there is simply no place for them in a concert band. As more and more string players approached, and walked away disappointed, she decided to start a string group. Thus, Resa’s Pieces Strings began in September 2010, not coincidentally also with 18 members.

A few years later Resa began wondering about all of those people who’ve never played an instrument but who love to sing? Is it fair that they should be left out of the FUN? No! She knew in her heart that a vocal group had to come next! So, after a successful trial run in the spring of 2013, Resa’s Pieces Singers began. Under the direction of Robert Graham, the ensemble is now in its third season of weekly rehearsals with growing membership and more smiling faces.

As is not uncommon for community bands, as they prepared for their “Spring Concert Band Gala,” they found themselves short of people in a couple of spots. Suddenly, I found myself joining Dan Kapp, of New Horizons renown, to play euphonium. If that wasn’t coincidental enough, as we looked over our shoulders, we saw our two spouses. (Or should that be spice?) There they were, two accomplished flute players, playing percussion.

So, on Sunday, May 27 at 7:30pm they will present their Concert Band Gala, featuring a wide range of music from rock ‘n’ roll, classical, jazz standards and marches. That’s at the Flato Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd. in Markham. As for the String Ensemble Gala, it will take place on Sunday, June 3; the Singers Gala will be on Monday, June 11.

Strings Attached

After not hearing from him for some time, we just received information from Ricardo Giorgi, conductor of the Strings Attached Orchestra, about their final concert of the year, scheduled for Sunday, June 3 at 7pm, again at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre. With an impressive and varied program planned, they intend to show how they have grown bigger and better over the past year. With that, of course, they are anticipating that they will attract a larger audience. They may have sprung up as a small fish in a very big pond, but it’s time to support them and attend this concert. It’s not possible to list their complete program here, but it varies from Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 to The Best of ABBA and Pirates of the Caribbean. For more information go to www.stringsattachedorchestra.com

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

Looking out my window, Old Man Winter is still with us, but according to my calendar, spring has officially arrived. However, the fact is that this is the time of year when community bands frequently experience transition, if not evolution. Organizations, just like humans, age, and have growing pains or other disruptions which require timely attention. With the passage of time every band will have changes in membership, leadership, sponsorship, rehearsal locations and performance venues. Similarly, some new groups will arise while a few may not survive another season. In some cases, if a group prospers and grows, much of the administrative workload must be delegated to a broader crew. So it is with that in mind that I decided to see how some such transitions are in progress this spring. If you are a member of a musical group and have not gone through the problems of some sort of transition, be patient. Your day will come.

New Horizons

Currently the most dramatic of these is New Horizons Band of Toronto. When Dan Kapp first started the New Horizons Band of Toronto, little did he know how many adults were looking for places to learn and play music. They started their first year with only 25 people of varying degrees of musical experience, and a small executive of five people. Through Kapp’s dedication, expertise and enthusiasm for music, the program has grown to seven concert bands and two jazz bands, with six music directors, as well as a number of other New Horizons Bands in surrounding communities.

I remember well their very first concert in the Glenn Gould Studio. When I first heard that this startup amateur band, with many who had never played a concert in their lives, was scheduled to present their very first offering in this prestigious venue, I questioned the sanity of leader Dan Kapp. As would be the case with any such startup group, a few vacancies had to be filled with ringers. In retrospect I can now say that I am proud to have been one of those ringers. How did it go over? To my surprise the hall was packed.

Almost immediately the year-end showcase concerts became a major goal to work for. The next performance step other than full band concerts was the establishment of small ensembles which provide an excellent practice mode for developing musical skills, particularly the skill of listening to the other members of the group. Soon came the Chamber Sweets program, which features ensembles from all band levels playing in concert for family and friends. These have become great social gatherings around the GTA, particularly at holiday times, and include a large array of tasty treats in addition to the music, hence the name.

As is the case with any organization, growth comes with its challenges. One man, now with nine bands and six music directors, can’t be expected to assume the multitude of responsibilities. To ensure their future success, last year the entire association was registered as a not-for-profit organization and established a formal board of directors. Randy Kligerman, one of the original band members, was named as president and Dave Barnes, another early member, as secretary. Soon after, Donna Dupuy, conductor of the most senior band, was contracted to be head of education for NH Bands in Toronto. 

Next year they are planning to offer sectional masterclasses to members, thereby providing further support to enhance their learning and playing experience. This appears to be the first time that this type of program will be will be offered in a community band environment. As the numbers grew they required larger, reliable rehearsal space; they were fortunate to get a long-term commitment for the use of the Salvation Army Hall in Toronto at Dovercourt Rd. and Bloor St. W. in central Toronto. They have been able to lease space to store their equipment and hold practice five days per week. They would never be able to run such a program without this help.

As for Kapp, director since the band’s inception, he is moving on. During a vacation trip to Nova Scotia last summer he and his wife Lisa fell in love with the town of Wolfville. They purchased a home there and will be moving this summer. Consequently, he announced his retirement from New Horizons Band of Toronto, as he and Lisa prepare for their big move. I understand that their reputation precedes them, as the New Horizons Band and local theatre/music groups in Wolfville have already been in contact with them. They may well be busier than ever. As they leave, their legacy will continue, as NHB Toronto starts preparing for next year’s registration. Toronto’s loss will be Wolfville’s gain.

For those not familiar with New Horizons, the Toronto band is a member of a much larger group, New Horizons International Music Association. (Their website is newhorizonsmusic.org.) Roy Ernst, a professor at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, founded the New Horizons movement in 1991, emphasizing entry and reentry points to music-making for older adults. His motto of “Your best is good enough – no auditions required” has inspired over 6000 people in approximately 200 bands across North America to get involved with music.

New president Kligerman says: “I felt very lucky to have met Dan seven years ago, as the band has been a truly enriching part of my life.” Three years ago Kligerman became a member of the NHIMA board, so that he could “further help spread the word of this amazing opportunity to learn music, to anyone looking to enrich their lives through music.”

Having not had much contact with the Toronto New Horizons groups for some time, I decided to visit the most senior group with which I have had contact over the years and also to visit their jazz band. After I introduced myself to the jazz band’s director Patricia Wheeler, I was invited to sit in. Since they did not have a bass trombone in their group and I had one in the car, I was soon holding my own at the bottom of the band. I was very impressed at how Wheeler helped instill the concepts of the jazz idiom into those new to that type of music. After that rehearsal I stayed to listen to the newest of the many groups. This was a woodwind choir with a difference; it consisted of three flutes, four clarinets and one bass clarinet but augmented by piano, bass and drums, similar to their jazz band. The key was to make a different form of music.

My next visit, a few days later, was to the rehearsal of the concert band. Still with several members of that original band, which began seven years ago, the band is now under the direction of Donna Dupuy. Here again, band members don’t just sit down and play the notes from the printed page. They are challenged to get comfortable with the finer aspects of the harmonies and rhythms to produce a distinctive quality performance.

(from left) Donna Dupuy (concert band conductor); holding euphonium, Randy Kligerman (president, NHB Toronto); Bill Condon, who gifted the euphoniumShortly before it was time to wind up that rehearsal there was a visit by Wheeler and her husband Bill Condon. In a brief ceremony Condon was there to present the surprise gift of a euphonium to the NH bands. My timing couldn’t have been better: a rehearsal, the most senior band, the president, two conductors and a generous friend of the band. What better instrument to receive as a gift! When prospective members attend a session to learn about band instruments, more often than not the euphonium is the one instrument they have never heard of. After this brief ceremony I was granted the honour of being the first to make sound on this euphonium. With great flair, the band members heard a B-flat major chord on their new instrument.

Anyone interested in learning more about New Horizons Band of Toronto can contact them at newhorizonstoronto.ca. Remember their motto: “It’s never too late!” Or you can contact Randy Kligerman directly, at randy@jaragroup.org.

Other news

Although I wrote quite a bit about Johnny Cowell last month, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent Celebration of the Life of Johnny Cowell, which took place on March 12 at Scarborough Bluffs United Church. With friend and colleague Stuart Laughton acting as MC, we heard not only reminiscences from many, but an amazing musical program. There were recordings of Johnny’s performances, as well as a wide spectrum of live performances of his compositions, from the song Walk Hand in Hand to a number of works for trumpet. The most stirring moment for me was a flugelhorn solo by Jens Lindemann, who came to Toronto specially for the occasion. Normally, the tune Amazing Grace is close to the top of my dislike list, but Lindemann’s rendition was so emotional that I was speechless. I have never heard that number or the flugelhorn sound so wonderful.

From time to time we hear of unusual instruments arriving on the local scene. A couple of years ago it was Jeff Densham with his subcontrabass flute from the Netherlands. He first saw such an instrument when a visitor from overseas played one with the Flute Street ensemble. Now, Nancy Nourse, director of Flute Street, is showing off her new contr’alto flute, also from the Netherlands. In her words: “It has such a rich, flutey baritone voice, capable of reaching well past the tenor range into the mezzo-soprano.”

This instrument’s very first outing with Flute Street will be on April 6 in Reston, VA in the Washington DC area, at the First International Low Flutes Festival (lowflutesfestival.org). Flute Street is one of a number of invited ensembles, amidst groups from Hungary, USA, England and Japan. Then on Sunday, April 15 at 7:30pm, Flute Street will present the same program, including a special contr’alto flute feature, at Christ Church Deer Park in Toronto.

Speaking of new groups, Borealis Big Band, mentioned last month, has risen to local stardom, in a recent edition of snapd Aurora. For those interested visit https://aurora.snapd.com/events/view/1118828. 

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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