In last month’s column I mentioned that the Concert Band of Cobourg would be making their annual trip to Plattsburgh New York once again this year. Having heard about this event many times over the years, and since a trip of that distance by a community band is rare, I decided to journey to Plattsburgh myself. What could be so special with this event that a large concert band would undertake a six-hour journey and stay for the weekend to perform in a parade and a concert? I wasn’t disappointed.

bandstandSpecifically, the many events were all part of the annual commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, the final clash of the War of 1812. After a full week of battle re-enactments, encampments and similar events, the Saturday afternoon parade included many Canadian and American bands. The theme of this year’s event was “The Canadian Connection.” In their role as the official band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Association, the Concert Band of Cobourg, along with the Cobourg Legion Pipes and Drums of Branch 133, were the headliners of the parade. Also on parade were the Pipes and Drums of the RCMP from Montreal, and the Sailing Masters of 1812, a traditional fife and drum corps dressed in sailing masters’ uniforms of the era.

On the reviewing stand, from Montreal, the Grand Marshals for the parade were 92-year-old Okill Stuart and his wife, Sylvia. Mr. Stuart, resplendent in his tartan kilt, displayed an array of medals earned between the time he landed on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944, and his return to civilian life after WWII. Everywhere we turned we were greeted by enthusiastic men, women and children dressed as they might have been 200 years ago. Tradition was certainly on display everywhere, but with an occasional modern twist. When I see the pipes and drums on parade, I usually expect to see the traditional husky drum major and pipe major. Not so with the Cobourg Legion Pipes and Drums. Their pipe major is a petite woman named Mary Ito.

On Saturday evening the Concert Band of Cobourg was featured in a concert in the beautifully restored 1920s-vintage Strand Theater. It was a full house with a of mix of local residents, band members’ families and friends from Cobourg, Peterborough, Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere.

Conductor Paul Storms and his team did a wonderful job so that, as far as any spectator could tell, everything went off without a hitch. Personally I am indebted to Paul Storms for providing all the information I needed before the trip and even reserving a hotel room in Plattsburgh. We walked into the hotel, stated names and were immediately recognized as members of the Cobourg contingent. The town of Plattsburgh was fully involved with a wide variety of associated attractions. Among other things, to acquaint us with all that was planned for this commemorative week, we received a 74-page book detailing all events. Personal chats with the mayor of Plattsburgh near the reviewing stand and with the mayor of Cobourg in his hospitality suite at the hotel certainly made us feel right at home. Next year will be the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh and we are already making plans to be there.

The evenings in the hotel provided a great opportunity to renew acquaintances with at least eight Cobourg band members with whom I had played in various groups over the years. In those conversations, many reminisced about their former conductor Roly White and their former drum major Tom MacMillan who just passed away on July 31 of this year. Not only did I hear about the pleasures of playing in this band, but as is common at such events I also heard stories of why people had left other bands — tales of discontent with repertoire, parting of ways with conductors, and many other issues, some avoidable and some probably not. Hmm, I feel another column coming on! All in all a memorable weekend where I came away feeling like an honourary band member. If I lived closed to Cobourg, I would be knocking at their door to become a member.

Uxbridge Revisited: Speaking of well-organized happy bands, it’s time to revisit the Uxbridge Community Concert Band. This is a summertime-only band, operating at a time when many members are liable to have conflicting demands on their time. Nevertheless, this band has managed to overcome obstacles tby having all volunteer non-musical positions well filled without grumbling. Early in the season a list of jobs to be undertaken is posted and members are asked to select the job of their choice. These range from the mundane, such as carrying percussion equipment and stage setup, to producing art work and program notes. I have not heard of any other band that played a concert on a Saturday and had CDs of that concert complete with very attractive cover art available free for every band member four days later at their Wednesday “Music Sorting Party.” Yes, the band members have a party with refreshments to sort all of the music. It’s a party, not a dull tedious job left for the librarian. If you are a band member, do your members pitch in for that job?

Legend: The term legend is grossly overworked in the world of music. However, if there is anyone on the local musical scene that deserves such an epithet, it is certainly appropriate for Eddie Graf. At the age of 92, Eddie still loves to play his alto sax and clarinet and is still actively working as one of the most respected musicians and arrangers in his field. From his days as a band leader entertaining troops in Europe during WWII, through his half century of CBC work, Eddie has been a tireless player, composer, arranger and band leader. By his side since her days as a dancer with Eddie’s Army Show band, his wife, lovely Bunnie has been part of the team. Now we have learned that plans are in the works to produce a documentary for television on the life and music of Eddie Graf dating back to his days with the Canadian Forces where he met Bunnie, also 92 years young.

The fall musical season is certainly in full swing now. Last month we were grasping for information on band activities. Not so now. We have been inundated. The Brampton Concert Band, under the direction of music director, Vince Gassi, begin their season with “Lights, Camera, Action: The Music of Jerry Goldsmith and Friends,”with performances by the Brampton Youth Concert Band and special guests, the Pipes and Drums of the Lorne Scots. For those not familiar with the name Jerry Goldsmith, he’s the one responsible for the musical scores for such films as Star Trek, Papillon, Chinatown, King Solomon’s Mines, Basic Instinct, Alien and Planet of the Apes among others. That’s Saturday, October 19 at 8pm.

The Hannaford Street Silver Band launches their 30th anniversary season with “Strike Up the Band,” on Sunday afternoon, October 20. This will feature Gregson’s monumental piece Of Men and Mountains and a new “cutting edge” commission by Vivian Fung.

On Sunday, October 20 at 2pm, the Markham Concert Band, with conductor Doug Manning, will present “October Pops” at the Flato Markham Theatre. Get ready for marches, show tunes, jazz and light classical selections featuring special guest vocalist Sharon Smith.

We were very pleased to hear from the Mississauga Pops Concert Band, and hope to pay them a visit in the near future. Their first concert of the fall season will be their “Hallowe’en Concert” on October 26 at St. John’s Dixie Cemetery & Crematorium. With an interesting twist, this concert will be geared towards families and will have costume contests and games for kids before the show begins at 7pm and again during intermission.

We hadn’t heard from them for some time, but we’re pleased to hear that the Scarborough Society of Musicians has started up its fifth year. The group rehearses alternate Saturdays from 11am to 1pm at Dr. Norman Bethune C.I., 200 Fundy Bay Blvd., Toronto. We haven’t heard of any concerts yet. For information, contact them at

In last month’s column I mentioned attending a very special event in support of trumpeter Carlo Vanini. Unfortunately, I have to report that Carlo Vanini passed away peacefully on the morning of August 30 with his family at his side. Over the many years that I knew Carlo I had the pleasure of playing in many groups with him. Looking at the many photographs at the visitation, I learned one other connection that I had not been aware of: Carlo’s high school music teacher had been my cousin. One event I remember fondly was when I was in the audience for the year-end concert of his daughter’s high school band. His daughter performed as conductor for one special number, her teachers played in the band and Carlo was the trumpet soloist. He will be missed.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is bar line: what musicians form after the concert.

We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions. 

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



Cobourg Goesto Plattsburgh

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