2005_-_Beat_-_Bandstand_-_James_Campbell.pngWhile the wintry blasts of January have not abated much, there are signs, on several fronts, that community band activity has not been dormant and that behind-the-scenes efforts of winter rehearsals are due to spring into a variety of programs well before Mother Nature takes her own leap into spring. However, before talking about what lies ahead, it’s worth visiting a couple of recent events that I had the pleasure of attending which created a lasting impression.

Strings Attached: The first of these was a concert by the new Strings Attached Orchestra which I mentioned in a recent column. Billed as a “Friends and Family Concert,” it was for the most part the sort of program one might expect with an all-string orchestra. However, it had one unusual feature. Senator Nancy Ruth had been invited to play percussion in the concert. Apparently, she had always wanted to play in an orchestra, and here was her opportunity. When invited to participate in the concert, she had thought that she might get to ring the telephone in Pennsylvania 6-5000 and maybe play tambourine in some selections. What a surprise when she became an honourary member of the percussion section of the orchestra and was coached on all of the timing and nuances of her small part. After the concert she stated “I had a blast” Unfortunately no photos were available of this performance. We’re wondering what interesting wrinkles co-founder Ric Giorgi can come up with for their final concert of the season in June!

Hats off to Bethune: The second event, something I rarely attend anymore, was a school concert. With our special invitation in hand we arrived at Doctor Norman Bethune Collegiate in Scarborough. For such events I had been accustomed to a token audience of parents. Not here. We had seats reserved for us or we would have had to stand. No fewer than seven groups performed. The concert began with two selections by the 110-member Junior Band and concluded with the Senior Band. Having attended school concerts in the past, I was accustomed to hearing selections such as Harold Walters’ Instant Concert to demonstrate the musical prowess of the students. Not this time. The final selections by the Senior Band were Howard Cable’s Snake Fence Country and the Festive Overture by Shostakovitch. The future of school music is certainly in good hands here. Bethune’s music head Paul Sylvester certainly deserves special mention for having a band play at that level.

Seventh Horizon: It’s that time of year for the local New Horizons group to form yet another new band. By the time this is printed the seventh Toronto New Horizons Band will have begun rehearsals shortly after their Friday evening Instrument Exploration event. A year ago at this time there was a film crew there recording the attendees trying various instruments and making their selections. The film has now been completed with the title The Beat Goes On. Originally planned for broadcast on TV Ontario, the release has been delayed while the producers investigate its eligibility in the Canadian International Documentary Festival, better known as Hot Docs.

Wychwood: The Wychwood Clarinet Choir have announced that they will be having their second annual Clarinet Day on Sunday March 1 in Walter Hall of the Edward Johnson Building. There will be masterclasses with James Campbell, morning workshops with U of T faculty and a concert with both the Wychwood Clarinet Choir and the U of T Clarinet Ensemble. For information about registration go to their website: wychwoodclarinetchoir.com. They have also reminded us about their spring concert ”Swing into Spring” on May 24. It’s a safe bet that they will be performing at least one work written for them by “composer-in-residence” Howard Cable.

West End News: Some months ago I mentioned that a new concert band had been established in Toronto’s west end. That was in the fall of 2014; now that new band will soon be performing their very first concert. The Toronto Concert Band, as it is called,  has put down roots in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore district. Most members are from Etobicoke, but there are many members from all parts of Toronto. Weekly rehearsals at Lambton-Kingsway Junior Middle School have attracted more than 60 members from amateur to professional status. The band’s tag line is “We Love to Play!” and that has translated into an enthusiasm such that their premiere concert will feature works ranging from Percy Grainger and Vaughan Williams to Frankie Valli and the Beatles. Under the direction of founding conductors Ken Hazlett and Les Dobbin, they have opted to stage their inaugural concert in the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. In their words, selection of this venue “aptly reinforces the Toronto Concert Band’s mandate of serving not only Etobicoke but the entire City of Toronto.” I certainly intend to be there on Saturday, January 31 at 7:30. I would recommend readers attend, but I have heard that tickets are all sold. Congratulations. For information on this band, go to their website  torontoconcertband.com.

Wellington Winds: Many months ago I wrote briefly about a DVD titled Appassionato: The Wellington Winds Story released by that band. As described by producer Michael Purves-Smith, it is a collection of “performances, interviews and sectionals illustrating the life of a concert band.” In a recent email message Purves-Smith reports that they have done a lot with their project but still have a way to go. He expects to be in touch again in a couple of months. At that time we hope to publish a special detailed report of the results of their work on this project.

Briefly from Silverthorn: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds have announced that their next concert will be on Saturday, February 28 and that, intriguingly, the repertoire for this concert has been selected by band members. Many times in this column I have mounted my high horse to campaign for more member participation in repertoire selection. This was welcome news, and I hope to get more details soon.

Many years ago, a longtime friend of mine, Bob Plunkett, upon retiring as a high school music teacher as well as director of the naval reserve band of HMCS York in Toronto, moved to Orillia where he established the Orillia Wind Ensemble. Over 17 years ago, on Bob’s retirement from that band and subsequent passing, the directorship of the Orillia band was assumed by Roy Menagh. Now, Menagh has indicated that 2015-16 will be his “victory lap.” Band members have indicated that they would like to have a new person on board by this coming fall/winter season in order to plan a smooth transition to 2016-17 season. They will, of course, be setting up a search campaign to seek potential candidates. If any of our readers have any suggestions, they could contact the band’s president, Hugh Coleman at

Definition Department:

This month’s lesser known musical term is opera buffa: A musical stage production performed by nudists. 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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

Bandstand 34Ever since their inaugural days in Toronto, I have been a keen advocate of the New Horizons Bands in this part of the country. When I was invited to join the senior Toronto New Horizons band and sit in for one of their performances in early November, I was pleased and accepted. I thought that this was to be a typical fall band concert. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

I had been told that the concert was to be at the nearby Salvation Army Dovercourt location as a thank-you for the many times that the band had been able to rehearse there when their regular rehearsal space was unavailable. Since the title of the event was “A Night to Remember,” and since it was just a few days before November 11, I assumed that it would be a remembrance concert. However, in his planning, director Dan Kapp wanted something more respectful of the pain and suffering at home and with members of the forces during their times of separation.

Kapp’s research on the internet led him to a book titled One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa, 1940-1944.This is primarily a collection of letters written by Private Clarence O. Bourassa, of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, to his wife Hazel from March 1940 to July 1944, when he was killed, aged 30, in the Battle of Normandy. It was edited by Clarence’s son Rollie. While on leave in England, Clarence had established a friendship with one family, and letters from Dorothy Starbuck to Hazel have been included in this collection.Clarence’s letters reveal the complexity of the emotional life of the Canadian soldier far from his beloved wife and two children. Obviously, it would not have been possible to obtain any of Hazel’s letters to Clarence, but Dorothy’s letters provide much insight.

Once he had read the book, Kapp knew that he had the basis of what he wanted. In his words: “It was clear that this was all I really needed to tie the show together.” It would chronicle, with musical interludes, the many torments of the war for a young soldier and his family. (One extra tie-in was that, while in England, whenever he had the opportunity, Clarence played euphonium in a Salvation Army band.)

After discussion with Salvation Army Major Doug Hammond, the format for the event was agreed upon. Advertised as “A Night to Remember,” there would be no admission charged. Instead, audience members wwould be invited to donate to a charitable program in Zimbabwe sponsored by this Bloor Central Corps.

During World War I conductor Eugene Goossens put out a call for a fanfare to be played at the beginning of every concert in Britain during the war. It had been very successful. So, shortly after the United States entered World War II, Goossens, now in the U.S., put out a similar call. Of all of the submissions, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is the only one to have survived. It couldn’t be a more appropriate selection to open this remembrance program. In any war it is the “common man,” not the leader, who must carry on the fight.

The event that followed the fanfare was a multimedia look at the struggles of one such common man from small-town Saskatchewan. Private Clarence O. Bourassa was that common man. As the program progressed, between musical interludes, Ken Hodge, a member of the band, read letters from Clarence to his wife as a wide variety of war scenes and other images were projected on the screen behind. At other times Lisa Kapp, also from the band, read letters from Dorothy to Hazel.

Throughout the program no fewer than 120 photos or posters were projected on the screen. From a band member’s vantage point, even with no opportunity to see the images on the screen, it was a very moving evening. On speaking to some audience members who had the benefit of the combination of music, dialogue and images, they indicated that the impact was considerable. This format is one which could well be employed by school teachers when planning remembrance services in future years. Once again Dan Kapp deserves congratulations for making remembrance ceremonies more meaningful.

Wychwood Clarinet Choir: Another recent musical event deserving mention was the “Wind Song” concert offered by the Wychwood Clarinet Choir this past month. Having awarded Howard Cable with the title of conductor-in-residence, or something similar, it was only natural that he would play a significant role in the choir’s recent concert. The name of the concert came from the name of one of Cable’s first compositions for clarinet choir when he was the civilian associate conductor and arranger with the NORAD Command Band in Colorado Springs in 1964. Wind Song was the opener for the second half of the program which featured Cable as composer, arranger and conductor. The program closed with his Wychwood Suite which was written to showcase the solo artistry of the choir’s conductor Michele Jacot.

A new group: While it isn’t a band, Strings Attached is a new community ensemble. As the name might suggest, the group is a Toronto-based, member-run string orchestra made up of adult, amateur string musicians. The orchestra was formed in the summer of 2014, when three violinists and a cellist got together with a plan to form a group that would suit their needs. Specifically, they wished to play a diverse repertoire of music arranged or written for strings, with a group of like-minded, dedicated amateur musicians. While, like other amateur groups, a primary objective is the personal enjoyment of making music, their goal is also to serve the community at large with performances at nursing homes, hospitals and similar venues. Interest in the project grew quickly and Strings Attached now has over 25 members and is growing.

Conductor Ric Giorgi is a Toronto jazz bassist, pianist and singer, with a broad history of composing music for film and television, as well as having conducted various local orchestras and ensembles including the Scarborough and Toronto District School Board Music Camps. Under his baton, Strings Attached meets every Monday from September to June in the Bathurst and Sheppard area.

It is unusual to hear a new group state that some sections are full, but that is the case here. They say that their cello section is full and the viola and bass sections are close to capacity. However, they are currently looking for more violins. Anyone with a background in playing a string instrument, and an interest in playing with a friendly, encouraging group, is welcome to visit their website or pay a visit to a rehearsal.

Concerts coming: Last month I mentioned that the new Toronto Concert Band had begun rehearsals in west end Toronto in September. Now, only two months after their first rehearsal, they have just confirmed the venue for their inaugural public performance. Rather than perform in a local location, they wanted to reinforce their mandate of serving the entire City of Toronto, and have selected the CBC Glenn Gould Studio for their first appearance on the local music scene. Under the direction of  conductors Les Dobbin and Ken Hazlett they will kick off their season on Saturday, January 31, at 8pm.

See the listings section for concerts by The Encore Symphonic Concert Band (Dec 4, Jan 8, Feb 5), The Festival Wind Orchestra (Dec 14),  The Pickering Community Concert Band (Dec 14) and the Flute Street Flute Choir (Jan 31).

Concert missed: By the time this issue is off the press, the annual “Seasonal Celebration” of the Markham Concert Band on Sunday November 30 will be history. Unfortunately the information on that concert wasn’t received in time. One work scheduled for that program was a composition by Louie Madrid Calleja, who came to Canada from the Philippines and holds a master’s degree from York University. The information received does not mention the title of the work. Perhaps it was his Soliloquy for Band Op. 40a which was well received at the CBA Community Band Weekend in October. Keep your ears open. We should be hearing more from this young composer in the future.

Definition Department: This month’s lesser known musical term is maestro: A person who, standing in front of the orchestra and/or chorus, is able to follow them precisely.

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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

As I sit down to write this, summer has past, Halloween is almost here and I have already heard bands rehearsing Christmas music. So what has been happening in recent weeks? For me the major event was the Community Band Weekend.

In recent years the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) has held these events in a number of communities in Ontario. This fall’s Community Band Weekend, billed as “A Musical Celebration of Community Bands,” was hosted by the Newmarket Citizens’ Band. After a meet-and-greet event at a local pub on Friday evening, it was all music Saturday and Sunday.

Throughout the day, Saturday, the massed band rehearsed under the direction of nine conductors from across the province. After a small practice session on Sunday morning the assembled musicians and conductors performed a varied concert to an appreciative audience in the excellent Newmarket Theatre. The program lists no fewer than 79 participants from 25 bands. There were even some from Potsdam, New York. As for local support, there were almost 40 members of the Newmarket Band participating. How often are you going to hear a concert band with four bassoons?

Repertoire ranged from works by Czech composer Julius Fučík (circa 1890) to contemporary Canadian composers including Bill Thomas and Howard Cable. Of special note was Soliloquy for Band Op. 40a conducted by the composer Louie Madrid Calleja. Calleja, who came to Canada from the Philippines, holds a master’s degree from York University. His works have been performed by such artists as singer Measha Brueggergosman and the Volga Band in Saratov, Russia.

 Normally, in a column such as this, the paper program would warrant little or no attention. The program for this event was a notable exception. The full-colour front cover, with the title “Under the Trading Tree” depicts the Newmarket Citizens’ Band assembled under a large elm tree in 1883. It is an artist’s rendition of an actual sculpture in the main entrance of the Newmarket town offices. The tree was referred to as the “trading tree.” It is believed that the original inhabitants of the area, the Huron Wapiti, used the location of the tree to conduct commerce with the European settlers.

beat - bandstand

Flute Street: Over the past few years there has been quite a spread in the range of musical activities and offerings of community instrumental groups. In September I had the pleasure of attending a concert by an all-flute ensemble called Flute Street. This 15-member group performed on just about all of the members of the flute family including one that I had never seen before. I had seen alto flutes and bass flutes before, but it was my first chance to see and hear Nancy Nourse perform on her contrabass flute. This instrument, which stands on the floor, was just slightly taller than the performer. I believe that it is the only such instrument in Toronto. The featured performer of the evening, from France, was Jean-Louis Beaumadier. Billed as “The Paganini of the Piccolo,” this man, with his pianist Jordi Torrent, dazzled the audience in their duets and in works with the Flute Street ensemble.

Clarington: In a totally different departure from concert band normality, October 25 saw the Clarington Concert Band present an evening of violin and flute music. The music of Beethoven and César Franck was performed by American violin virtuoso, Andrew Sords, and Canadian piano accompanist, Cheryl Duvall. Delaware native Sords is a concert violinist who has already appeared as soloist with more than 100 orchestras and has performed on noted recital series across the U.S. and internationally. Canadian-born Duvall was raised in Durham, is active as a soloist, as a collaborative pianist in the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society concert series and is the accompanist for the Oakville Children’s Choir. Also performing on the program were the Wildwind Flute Choir under the direction of local performer and educator, Lynda Shewchuk. In other words it was a musical evening that we normally would not expect from a community band.

Strike up the band! Last month I mentioned that a new community band was expected to begin rehearsals soon in Toronto’s west end. It has happened, and has surpassed all of the organizers’ optimistic expectations. The inaugural rehearsal of the new Toronto Concert Band was a resounding success. On September 9 nearly 50 adult musicians gathered in the music room at John G. Althouse Middle School to become founding members of this new ensemble. Musical directors Ken Hazlett and Les Dobbin were thrilled not only with the turnout at the first rehearsal, but also with the initial sounds emanating from this fledgling group. Over the years Hazlett and Dobbin have earned top reputations and long tenures leading the Etobicoke Youth Band. Many of those attracted to the new Toronto Concert Band are youth band alumni. In addition, an impressive range of community musicians of all ages have been attracted by the ensemble’s stated mission, “to create a positive and supportive environment in which to cultivate musicianship.” Their repertoire promises to be varied and of top-notch quality, as evidenced by the initial rehearsal material. While one might not be surprised to encounter a Beatles medley, some Simon and Garfunkel music or Scarborough Fair, throwing in the Vaughan Williams’ Folk Song Suite and Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque for the first rehearsal might be a bit of a challenge. Now a few weeks old, the Toronto Concert Band boasts a 60-member roster. New members are most welcome, especially bassoon and trombone players. For more information, visit torontoconcertband.com.

Ahead from Wychwood: The Wychwood Clarinet Choir begins its new season with a program entitled “Wind Song,” featuring special guest conductor Howard Cable. In addition to two original pieces by Cable, written for the choir, the program will include an arrangement of Elgar’s Nimrod, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro Overture, and Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette arranged by choir member Roy Greaves. This all happens, with artistic director and clarinet soloist Michele Jacot, Sunday, November 16 at 3:30pm, at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels.

Silverthorn: Too late for the listings, on Saturday, November 22, at 7:30pm Silverthorn Symphonic Winds begin their season with “Autumn Rhapsody,” a program of wind ensemble repertoire celebrating the many colours of fall. Highlights include pieces by two legendary bandsman, Alfred Reed’s Alleluia! Laudamus Te and, again, from the pen of Toronto’s own acclaimed composer, arranger and director, Howard Cable, Scottish Rhapsody . For something completely different, the ensemble sings and plays Jay Chattaway’s energetic and exciting Mazama. The concert takes place at Yorkminster Citadel, 1 Lord Seaton Rd., Toronto.

Plumbing Factory: The first concert of the season by London’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band, Henry Meredith, conductor, is set for November 19 at 7:30pm in Byron United Church, London. Titled “Historic Russian Concert Favourites,” the program will include Glinka’s brilliant and boisterous Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, the hauntingly exquisite Vocalise by Rachmaninoff and the mysterious Marche Polovtsiennefrom Borodin’sPrince Igor. The centerpiece of the evening will be the powerful and enigmatic Finale from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. For Christmas holiday music they will include movements from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, including the popular Miniature Overture and Valse des Fleurs.

A special feature of the evening will be a cornet trio, featuring director Meredith and solo cornetists Ern Sullivan and Skip Phoenix. They will perform Walter Smith’s Three Kings. While you might think that this has to do with the well-known work dealing with kings from the Orient, not so. The “Kings” in this case refer to a specific make of cornet designed and manufactured by H. N. White in Cleveland, As the owner of two King trombones, I am well aware of the King instrument reputation. The composer intended that his famous “monarchs” of the cornet world would perform the piece on three King Model cornets.

Continuing in the winter festive mode, the band will play Meredith’s Holiday Schottische Medley & Quodlibet. Several years ago I attended a presentation at a Masonic lodge titled “Mozart was a Mason.” That evening highlighted many famous musicians who were members of the Masonic Order. This arrangement by Meredith features melodies associated with well-known Masons as well as many other popular airs often played at the same time. The final number on the program will be Meredith’s arrangement of Prokofiev’s three-horse open sleigh piece Troika, written as part of his film music for Lieutenant Kijé in 1933. Being a stalwart fan of Henry Meredith’s programming, you can be assured that I will try to make the trip to London for that concert.

Cable: In case you haven’t noticed, the name of one composer/conductor is repeated here in the programming of several bands. That person is Howard Cable. It’s time we all learned more about Howard and his enormous contributions to Canadian music. Look for that here soon.

A passing: The band scene in the Toronto area has lost another member with the passing at age 66 of percussionist Jay Alter in mid-October. Jay, a former mathematics teacher, leaves his wife, a son and a daughter.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: l’istesso tempo: An indication to play listlessly; e.g., as if you don’t care

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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

BBB-Bandstand1Last summer, as you may recall, I wrote about travelling with the Concert Band of Cobourg to Plattsburgh New York to take in some of the celebrations around the annual joint Canada-U.S. celebration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, which ended the War of 1812. For many years The Concert Band of Cobourg has been the featured band in these celebrations: in their role as The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Association, this band has royal permission to wear the uniform of the Royal Marines on parade and in concert.

Many years ago I had the privilege of serving, on exchange duty for some months, aboard a large ship in the Royal Navy. Since our ship was the admiral’s flagship in a squadron of ships, we had a band of the Royal Marines as part of our crew. It was during that time that I developed a strong affinity for the appearance and musicality of Royal Marine bands and their ceremonies. So it is a special pleasure for me to see and hear this Cobourg band emulate those characteristics.

While attending the festivities last year, it was suggested that we must not miss this year’s events. Since that battle ended in 1814, the 2014 events were to be the most extensive ever, commemorating its two hundredth anniversary. We committed ourselves to attend and made our reservations early to ensure accommodation at the same hotel as the Cobourg band and their friends. In short we became groupies for the weekend.

As promised, this was a much bigger celebration with more events, a longer parade with more floats, more bands and more battle re-enactments. Unfortunately, there also were far more umbrellas. Whether or not there was rain during that battle 200 years ago, I can’t recall, but we certainly had our share. Most of the participants in their elaborate period costumes were soggy to say the least, despite the occasional surrender to modern technology, as in the case of a beautifully outfitted fife and drum band with their drums neatly protected in the latest plastic drum covers.

Fortunately there was sufficient time between the end of the parade and the concert for the Cobourg Band members to dry their uniforms and appear on stage looking resplendent as usual. As might be expected, this concert had a theme emphasizing the strong bond now existing between the descendants of that conflict 200 years ago.

Numerology: The Oxford English Dictionary defines numerology as the “study of supposed occult significance of numbers.” Looking at the numbers evoked by the Plattsburgh event, one might be excused for thinking there might have numerological mischief at work. The battle being commemorated ended in 1814. World War One started in 1914, and we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of its end in 2014. Then there are 9 and 11. It was on the morning of September 11, 1814 when opposing troops battled at Plattsburgh, with opposing ships in battle on Lake Champlain. Here we were, 200 years later, on September 11, gathered to celebrate two centuries of peace and harmonious relations. At the same time, we were reminded that on that date only 13 years ago the World Trade towers and other targets were struck with far more casualties than the Battle of Plattsburgh.

CBA Community Band Weekend: Another CBA Community Band Weekend is imminent. This year it will be held in Newmarket October 3, 4 and 5, and will be hosted by none other than the Newmarket Citizens’ Band. Why participate? As the CBA promotional material states: a) to perform in a massed band setting, learn new repertoire and work with inspiring conductors; b) to perform at the Newmarket Theatre in Newmarket, Ontario; c) to meet many wonderful musicians who share the same passion for band music as you do. NCB artistic director Joseph Resendes is well known as director of three community concert bands in the GTA. Conducting duties will be shared with no fewer than seven other conductors.

While many have already registered, if you still wish to attend, it’s not too late. Online registration is still possible at
cba-ontario.ca (follow the links). In the worst case, you could register at the door on Saturday, but there might not still be parts available for all of the music.

On the Friday evening at 7:30pm there will be a Meet and Greet reception at one of the town’s favourite meeting places: The Lion and Firkin at the corner of Leslie and Gorham in Newmarket. All day Saturday there will be rehearsals at the Newmarket Theatre, 505 Pickering Cres. On Saturday evening there will be an optional formal dinner for those who wish to attend at 8pm. The final concert will be at 2pm Sunday afternoon in the Newmarket Theatre.

New Horizons: Regular readers of this column know my thoughts about the importance of lifelong musical involvement. By the time you read this, there will have been another New Horizons Instrument Exploration Workshop on Bloor St. W. in downtown Toronto, with over 20 members signed up for the new beginners’ band. The first class for the new beginners’ group will take place on Wednesday, October 8 at Long and McQuade, 935 Bloor St. W. in Toronto. In addition to this new beginners’ group, the Bloor New Horizons organization will now have the previous five concert bands plus the jazz band. Total membership of these groups is now estimated to be close to 180.

New Horizons Periodically, when their regular rehearsal space is unavailable, the Downtown Toronto New Horizons bands rehearse at the nearby Salvation Army Temple. As a token of appreciation, artistic director Dan Kapp will take the groups back for a special remembrance concert. Saturday, November 1 at 7:30 will be “A Night to Remember” at 789 Dovercourt Road in Toronto.

The Toronto Concert BandLast month I noted that the new Toronto Concert Band was scheduled to begin rehearsals for the fall. I am pleased to report that the band is now rehearsing regularly every Tuesday evening; they had over 20 members with all major sections covered. However, they are a bit short of trombones. If that is your instrument and you live in Toronto’s west end, they would love to hear from you. Check their website, torontoconcertband.com.

An instrument orphanage

In recent months I have been contacted by two different organizations that have band instruments, surplus to their requirements, and are looking for homes for them. These aren’t necessarily top of the line instruments, but are still in good playing condition. Their owners are either looking for a nominal sum or simply want to find homes where the instruments will be played and appreciated.

During a discussion with publisher David Perlman the idea arose for an “instrument orphanage” or some other way of linking those needing instruments with those who have instruments to offer. If you have any ideas for such an enterprise (or know of people already doing this facilitating work), please contact us.

More on music and aging from Baycrest

You may recollect that I have written in this column from time to time about participating in ground-breaking studies at The Baycrest Centre. For the most part, the experiments in which I have been involved have focussed on cognitive function and aging, in particular on differences in cognitive function between subjects active in music and those with little or no musical experience. These have all indicated significantly better cognitive function amongst older people who are musically active.

It was no surprise to me, therefore, to receive an update on one component of their research which indicates much broader benefits at all stages of life for musically active individuals.  The update came from Stefanie Hutka who is a Ph.D. Student in the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. In addition to her work in this field, Ms. Hutka is an accomplished violinist with an ARCT. Rather than paraphrase the text of her message it is worth repeating verbatim here:

“Everyone can benefit from music training. A wealth of empirical, neuroscientific evidence supports the positive influence of music training on numerous non-musical brain functions, such as language, reading, and attention. Such benefits are seen in children and continue across the lifespan into older adulthood. Despite this evidence, music education is still often seen as a supplemental and expensive subject in schools, and often is the target of budget cuts. Increasing awareness of the real-world benefits associated with learning music, as well as making music training more accessible, are critical steps towards supporting the inclusion of this important subject in curricula.

“Our NeuroEducation Across the Lifespan laboratory is directly targeting an increase in awareness and accessibility of music training. On the awareness side, we are heavily involved in public outreach such as the Brain Power conference, which presents accessible information about neuroscience findings on music to scientists, educators and parents. On the accessibility side, we have studies supporting the benefits of music, including via short-term training on software ... In one 2011 study, school-aged children used music training software called Smarter Kids, developed by our Lead Scientist, Dr. Sylvain Moreno. After only 20 days of training, improvements on measures of verbal intelligence were observed. We are currently extending this theme of accessibility, creating software using music to train the aging brain, with very positive preliminary data.”

As I said, it’s no surprise! We’ll keep you updated.

Definition department: This month’s lesser-known musical term is espressivo: Used to indicate permission to take a coffee break. 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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.


Here we are; it’s September, summer is either almost over or hasn’t started, depending on who you talk to. Summer and music mean different things to different community band members. Some bands close down for summer, some are busier than ever with various outdoor performances, and some, like the Uxbridge Community Concert Band, are summertime-only bands. As for band members, many are away on vacations or at cottages, but a few get more deeply involved with music by attending music camps or summer music schools. The latter is what happened in our household. We had been involved in the administration of music camps some years ago, but going to school was different. This year we decided to enroll as participants in a music summer school.

bbb - bandstandNAbbSS: If you have not previously heard of the North American Brass Band Summer School, that’s because it had never happened before. While the all-brass band movement has its devotees in Canada and the U.S.A., the devotion to that musical genre has nowhere the following in North America that it has in Britain and in parts of Western Europe. Several leading figures in the brass band movement decided that it was time to start a summer school of brass band music somewhere in North America, at least on a trial basis. So, what better time and place than Halifax during the 35th anniversary year of the world’s largest indoor music event?

Thus was born the North American Brass Band Summer School (NAbbSS), established in association with the Buffet Group of British and European instrument manufacturers and with the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo Society. Based on well-established and successful models in the United Kingdom, one very special additional element was added, described in the initial publicity thus: “In addition to receiving expert tuition from a team of Buffet soloists, led by the renowned Dr. Robert Childs, participants [will] also feature in the cast of the world’s largest annual indoor show, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, performing to over 60,000 people alongside artists of the highest calibre from a variety of different nations.”

(An aside: when speaking with friends and acquaintances ahead of the event, I was shocked by the reactions of many. The vast majority thought that I was talking about going all the way to Halifax to have some form of visual “art” inscribed on my body. When I loftily suggested that they consult Mr. Google regarding “musical tattoos,” I was even more dismayed to only find dozens of websites describing body tattoos showing musical symbols. There was nothing to describe this type of event. So, for your information: Canada’s Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is the largest annual indoor tattoo, each year featuring over 2000 performers from around the world. It is unique in that it is a full theatrical production, comprising costume designers, props designers, full wardrobe staff, and is presented as theatre-in-the-round. The show is intensely rehearsed over a two-week period and is a wholly combined military and civilian production. The Nova Scotia Tattoo was the first tattoo to receive royal designation on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th Birthday in 2006.)

Two to tattoo? After some serious deliberation in our house, the decision was made to apply. Needless to say, there was some trepidation. I hadn’t played in an all-brass band in almost 30 years. As for Joan, her major instrument, the flute, has no place in a brass band. As an instrumental music teacher, she had taught all of the brass instruments, but a good solid working embouchure might be another matter. Her instrument choice soon narrowed down to either a baritone horn or an E flat horn (variously called an alto horn or tenor horn). After a few warm-up tests, the E flat horn was selected as the best choice to develop a suitable embouchure with minimum discomfort. That decided, off went our registrations along with the measurements for our uniform jackets. Yes, uniform – we were going be performers in the great tattoo.

With a tuba and a bass trombone included in our instrument inventory, flying to Halifax was not an option. Since I have a cousin living in Northern Vermont, we travelled through the northern U.S. states, and if it hadn’t been for heavy rainstorms and major highway construction, it would have been a pleasant picturesque trip. Arrangements were in place for all participants in the summer school to stay together in the modern student residence at Saint Mary’s University, a far cry from the two- or three-story residences that I lived in as a student. This was a modern 20-storey building with tidy Spartan rooms and a fine all-you-can-eat per meal cafeteria. Our check-in went like clockwork and we were soon mingling with others arriving from all over North America for the first of its kind, in Canada, brass band summer school.

The following day our bus took us from the residence to the Halifax Metro Centre, a large modern hockey arena. There, we learned of our schedule for the rehearsals, classes, concerts and ten days of the tattoo. Except for sleeping and playing in a couple of outdoor concerts, our rehearsal room in the Metro Centre was to be our home for the rest of our stay. From our location about two-thirds of the way between the waterfront and the top of Citadel Hill, any excursions out of the centre meant walking up or down the very steep hill.

Mornings began with rehearsals of two groups of music. First there was the music, all on small march-sized cards, which we would play in our carefully crafted segments of the tattoo. Then there was a collection of challenging brass band works, new to most of us, which we would be performing in our outdoor concerts. These included a number of solo works to be performed by our guest clinicians, a veritable who’s who of the brass band world, under the direction of Dr. Robert Childs (formerly principal euphonium and bandmaster with the Black Dyke Band). I cannot possibly do justice to the staff by trying to compress the information on their qualifications within space limitations here. Fortunately, detailed information on all of them may be found on the website nabbss.com.

The school part of our sojourn was quite straightforward: expert instruction, well-organized rehearsals and satisfying concerts. The real challenge for all of us participants was the integration of our contribution into the tattoo. The overall tattoo show consisted of many acts on the main floor of the arena augmented by musical contributions on the main floor and in a number of higher positions surrounding.

In the almost total darkness between scenes, we had to position ourselves for each of our different playing segments, climbing up the various parts of the sets and positioning ourselves in the dark, then, when the lights came up, rapidly shifting focus back and forth between a conductor a couple of hundred feet away and the music on an instrument lyre six inches away.

Our days all started at 7am. After breakfast in the residence, our bus took us to the Metro Centre at 8:30am, then brought us back to the residence shortly after 11pm. So fair warning, if you might be considering enrolling for the 2015 school; it is not for the faint of heart. Exhausting, but fulfilling.

As for the participants, it was an amazing cross-section. Just about 50/50 men and women, they ranged from students, to retired professors, lawyers, accountants and just about any occupation you care to mention. Canadians came from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. The U.S. was represented by people from Washington, California, Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts and others. There certainly weren’t any beginners on their instruments. In fact, many of them were top flight performers.

The day after the final performance, as we were all saying our good-byes to our new friends, one somewhat large gentleman was asked if he would come back with his tuba next year. His reply: “Yes, I would, but I would want to lose about 100 pounds.” This year was a first time trial for this summer school. The organizers had to ask the question: was the idea of a music school in conjunction with a tattoo a good one? Like any new venture it had teething problems, but overall it was excellent. It will be back, and they are already accepting registrations. If interested visit their website.

Something New: It isn’t often that we get the opportunity to report on something very unusual in a community band concert. That happened just days ago in the season’s final concert of the summertime-only Uxbridge Community Concert Band. The concert featured the premiere of a work for veena and concert band. The work, Arria, written by conductor Steffan Brunette and played by Ryerson University student Arrabi Gugathasan, layers the plucking sounds of the veena onto the subtle chords of the concert band. The title is a bit of a play on words with the musical term aria and the name of the performer. This particular instrument, a Saraswati veena, is one of several variations of the veena, a traditional Indian member of the lute family.

CBA Community Band Weekend

Each year, in early October, the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) holds its annual Community Band Weekend, where community band members from across the province get together to share ideas and make music. This year the weekend will be hosted by the Newmarket Citizens Band on October 3, 4 and 5. The final day will feature an evening concert by the “massed” band, directed by a number of top-rated conductors. For details and to register visit the website: cba-ontario.ca.

A New Band

Earlier this year I mentioned the possibility of a new start-up band for the west end of Toronto. We now have more details on the new Toronto Concert Band. Over the summer, members have been signing up, and with all sections covered, rehearsals will begin Tuesday September 9, 7:00 pm in the strings room at John G. Althouse Middle School, 130 Lloyd Manor Road, Etobicoke (near Kipling and Eglinton). Carolyn McGee informs me that more new members will be welcome. For information visit their website,

Hannaford Youth Bands

The Hannaford Youth Bands have announced that their auditions will take place Saturday, September 13. For youths between the ages of 10 and 24, these bands provide excellent opportunities to develop musical skills in the brass band world. Visit their website at hannafordyouth.ca.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is con sordino: An indication to string players to bow in a slashing, rapier motion.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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.


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