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.
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.
Shortly 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.