According to my calendar, spring has arrived, but the weatherman seems to disagree. However, I did see and hear two musical signals to indicate that spring should be along soon. My first was the song of a bright red cardinal high in the tree out front here. My other was Toronto’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. I must admit that I did not observe this parade from curbside. Rather, I watched and heard it from a 12th-floor balcony a short block away. Even so, one group stood out. It was not a fife and drum band and the members were not dressed in green. It was a front row of drums followed by a large band in bright red uniforms.

From my vantage point it looked for all the world like a typical U.S. college band. The only band that I knew of in this part of the country that I thought it might be was the Burlington Teen Tour Band. After a bit of research, I learned that it was the Philippine Heritage Band from Vaughan just northwest of Toronto. From their website ( I learned that they have a program not often seen. Primarily a youth band, it has, over the years, developed an adult concert band. From my experience, when members of a youth band grow to adulthood they usually move on to another adult group with little or no connection to the youth group. I hope to learn more of this in the months to come.


2007-JazzStories-Nabbss.jpgIn my September 2014 column I reported on the very first North American Brass Band Summer School (NABBSS). Based on well-established and successful models in the United Kingdom, last year’s summer school was to be a trial. If successful, consideration would be given to make it an annual event. Having attended that inaugural school, and having returned home after ten days of invigorating and challenging music making, I personally declared NABBSS 2014 a success. We have just learned that the organizers are of the same opinion. So, based on the success of the 2014 course, NABBSS will be running again this summer with additional tutorial staff, a new rehearsal base and an increased Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo cast. NABBSS 2015 will once again be led by Robert Childs, principal conductor and musical director of the famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band. This summer Childs will also be joined by no fewer than eight top notch instructors from Britain, Canada and the United States. I suspect that by now registrations will be filling rapidly. Anyone interested should contact Craig Roberts, administrative director, the North American Brass Band Summer School (

While on the subject of all brass bands, there is more good news. Having just returned home from their very first rehearsal, I’m pleased to report on the beginnings of a new brass band in the Newmarket area. As yet nameless, the band will rehearse Wednesdays from 7 to 9pm. For those who may have, at times, considered trying their skills in that genre, here’s the chance. For information contact

Again on the brass band front, we have just learned that the Weston Silver Band would be returning in mid-March to compete at the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) Championship in Fort Wayne Indiana. Now in its 33rd year the NABBA championship is the oldest brass band contest of its kind in North America. We haven’t heard yet how Weston Band did.

On the concert front

On Saturday April 18 at 7pm the Clarington Concert Band will present “A Salute to the British Isles” at the Harmony Creek Community Centre, 15 Harmony Road North, Oshawa. In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holland the band will feature a medley titled Songs That Won The War. For part of the program they will be joined by the Pipes and Drums of the Oshawa Legion performing such favourites as Highland Cathedral and Scotland the Brave. The poster for this concert mentions that their special guest will be “Conductor Emeritus” Bobby Herriot. I don’t know whether or not Herriot ever conducted the Clarington Band, but I do know that he will be displaying one or more of his many talents as conductor, composer, arranger and trumpet player. I’m sure though that we will be treated to his inimitable brand of humour during this evening of musical tributes to England, Scotland and Ireland.

On Sunday April 26 at 2pm the Pickering Community Concert Band presents their spring concert “Music from Around the World” at Forest Brook Community Church, 60 Kearney Dr., Ajax. They will be joined by the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Choir from Ajax. The program will include such Caribbean, Asian, European and Latin American favourites as La Paloma, Jamaican Sail-Away, Lord of the Rings, Hot Hot Hot, Downton Abbey and Ride on the Cherry Blossom Express. Also featured on the progam will be Fanfare and Celebration by local composer and saxophonist Kristie Hunter.

On Friday May 1 at 7:30pm the Oxford Winds Community Concert Band nds Community Concert Band will present “Celebrating Heroes” at Knox Presbyterian Church, 59 Riddell Street, Woodstock. For more information go to

CBA Community Band Weekend

The CBA’s Community Band Weekend this spring will be hosted by Cornwall’s Seaway Winds Band from May 22 to 24. Rehearsals and the concert will be held at the St. Lawrence College Aultsville Theatre in Cornwall. For details go to to

New Horizons

On Saturday April 11 at 2pm the Toronto New Horizons group will present their “Chamber Suites” (which now appears to be an annual event) at 789 Dovercourt Road. In past years this has been where members of the various NH bands performed in small ensembles to an audience seated at tables. Previously, this was called “Chamber Sweets” because the audience had the pleasure of eating a wide variety of tempting delicacies while listening to the many small groups. With the name changed from sweets to suites, does that mean that the goodies have been discontinued? For a very nominal admission we can attend, enjoy the many musical offerings and perhaps enjoy Sweets. It’s always worth a visit and it is only a few steps from a subway station.

Fred Duligal

It is with deep sorrow that we report the recent passing of saxophonist Fred Duligal. While he often performed with the Canadian Jazz Quartet at Kama on King and many other local jazz groups, he was also known in the many “Rehearsal Big Bands” around Toronto. Over the years I often chatted with Fred when he appeared at one of my rehearsals. He will be missed.

Joan Watson

On page 64 you will find a remembrance of French horn player Joan Watson. Although I don’t recall ever playing in any formal musical group with her, I have fond memories of the many chats we had prior to and during the International Women’s Brass Conference at Humber College five years ago. In fact, I can say that I did play in a musical group with her at least once. We and many others played in an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records as having the World’s Largest Brass Band that Sunday afternoon in June 2010.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is pesante: An effect distinctly non-upper-class.

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

On more than one occasion in the past I have opened this column by grumbling about the weather. Unfortunately, Old Man Winter has interfered with plans once again. His relentless dumping of snow has kept me from attending a very special concert. I had planned to travel to Waterloo for the Wellington Winds concert February 22. However, mountains of snow and poor driving conditions forced us to cancel the 310-km round trip. The Wellington Winds were performing the Canadian premiere of Dutch composer Johan de Meij’s euphonium concerto with Canadian soloist Robert Miller. In part, this performance was in memory of former euphonium soloist Harvey Gleiser who played with the Winds for about 20 years. Gleiser met de Meij some years ago when de Meij first conducted the Wellington Winds.

De Meij studied trombone and conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, since then earning international fame as a composer and arranger. His work includes original compositions, symphonic transcriptions and arrangements of film scores and musicals. His Symphony No. 1 “The Lord of the Rings,” based on Tolkien’s bestselling novels of the same name, was his first composition for wind orchestra. Some years ago he received the Dutch Wind Music Award for his role in the worldwide advancement of wind band music. Besides composing and arranging, de Meij is active as a performer, conductor, adjudicator and lecturer. As a trombone and euphonium player he has performed with many major orchestras and bands in many parts of the world. In 2010, he was appointed regular guest conductor of the Simón Bolívar Youth Wind Orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2014, de Meij became principal guest conductor of both The New York Wind Symphony and The Kyushu Wind Orchestra in Fukuoka, Japan.

For those band members, especially euphonium players, who are not familiar with de Meij’s work, there is no better time than now to acquaint yourself and your band with his music. I have played a few of his works; they are challenging but very satisfying.

2006-Bandstand_1-Resa_Kochberg.jpgResa’s Pieces: When talking about Resa’s Pieces the question is where to start. Since Resa’s Pieces Concert Band was the first unit of what has grown over the years into a number of ensembles, that’s as good a place as any. Resa Kochberg continues as music director of this ensemble which she started some 16 years ago. The band welcomes  new members on an ongoing basis, and has a current membership of 56.

Some years after the concert band was formed and doing well, Kochberg decided to branch out and start a group where beginning string players could find a place to develop their skills. Thus Resa’s Pieces Strings was born. Now this group is thriving under its new conductor, Ian Medley. As a full-time professional string specialist with degrees in both education and musical performance, Medley brings new strength and experience to the group.

Once the string group was on its way, Kochberg decided that she just couldn’t discriminate against singers. Ergo, Resa’s Pieces Singers was hatched. Under the baton of Robert Graham, pianist, accompanist, vocalist and repertoire coach, the choir has grown to over 65 members.

In case you might be wondering, yes, there is now going to be a Resa’s Pieces Symphony Orchestra. For their inaugural concert, wind players from the band will join the string orchestra to perform a few orchestral selections. As music director of Resa’s Pieces, Kochberg guides all ensembles in all music-related details and sticks by her foundational mantra of: “Just do your best and have fun”!

So what’s next for Resa’s Pieces? Might it be a banjo band or a ukelele ensemble? I doubt if it will be a pipe band, but I wouldn’t bet on it. All of Resa’s Pieces groups will be performing their concerts in June. Watch for their listings in your favourite music magazine.

2006-Bandstand_2-An_Ophicleide.jpgPlumbing Factory Brass Band: From time to time, in this column, I have referred to Henry Meredith and his Plumbing Factory Brass Band. How did this band come by this name? Well it turns out that Dr. Hank (as he’s affectionately known) is a collector of brass instruments. I stress the term collector and not the derogatory word hoarder. Over the years Dr. Hank has amassed somewhere around 6,500 instruments. “Plumbing Factory” is the term that was originally bestowed upon his home because of the ubiquitous brass instruments that live alongside Meredith, his wife, Victoria Meredith, associate dean at Western’s Faculty of Music, and their dog Nema. This amazing collection of brass instruments inspired Meredith to establish the Plumbing Factory Brass Band in September 1995.

With the collection growing, Meredith recently has focused more on quality than quantity. An example is his 1830s ophicleide, a conical brass instrument in the bass register with woodwind-like  keys. Probably his oldest and most valuable instrument is a valveless hunting horn in D that was made for King George I by John Harris in 1717. On July 17, 1717, Handel’s Water Music accompanied the king’s excursion on the Thames, and, as horns in both D and F are called for in the score, this instrument is likely one that was played during the premiere performance of Handel’s famous composition. The band’s next concert, bearing the clever title “Tsar Trek” (Meredith is good with titles!) takes place April 15 at Byron United Church. It’s the continuation of their November performance of the “Rousing Russian Repertoire Voyage,” a performance  I had also hoped to attend, but once again the weatherman had different ideas for me. For the April concert we can look forward to the music of Kabalevsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and more.

A real pressing goal, is the need to establish a museum for this amazing collection of instruments and related paraphernalia. Once the weather improves, and a trip to London becomes reasonable, I hope to visit with Dr. Hank and come back with enough information on this treasure for a future feature article in The WholeNote.

Toronto Concert Band: In last month’s issue I mentioned that I hoped to attend the inaugural concert of the Toronto Concert Band. Usually when I attend the first concert of a newly formed band, I am fully prepared to overlook the usual varied problems of a fledgling group which has not yet developed the cohesion of a group which has been together for a few years. There was no need for such at this concert. A well-polished performance by a tightly knit ensemble delighted a full house at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. Congratulations. Here’s to many more concerts.

Long and McQuade: With the resounding success of their many New Horizons bands, Long and McQuade have recently announced the establishment of the new Ontario Pops Orchestra for those who would like to learn a string instrument and play in a group. This is yet another example of the growing trend for adult community musical ensembles at the novice level. Perhaps people have been reading about the benefits of musical participation in later life. An article on this subject from the Washington Post and another in a recent issue of the journal of the Retired Teachers of Ontario indicate that more and more studies are proving that such benefits are significant.

Recently, I learned of World Fiddle Day which will be coming up soon. There are preparatory practices now underway in Toronto leading up to the big day. Toronto participants will all be together playing at historic Old Fort York in a few weeks time. Now how about world trombone day or world euphonium day? Let’s campaign for that.

Uxbridge Community Concert Band: The Uxbridge Community Concert Band is a summertime-only band which was formed years ago to provide a group for students during the summer months. Initially the band was made up mainly of students, but over the years has evolved to include a wide range of members from high school and university students to all ages and occupations. This year, their 24th season, they will begin rehearsals on May 20 under the direction of conductor Steffan Brunette. For information email him at

Definition Department: This month’s lesser known musical term is pastorale: The beverage to drink in the country when listening to Beethoven with a member of the clergy. 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

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: 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

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 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

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

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

Back to top