It’s that time of year again. As of this writing there has only been one light dusting of snow, but the merchants have been promoting their super special Christmas offerings since sunrise on the day after Halloween. Unlike some other times of the year, when we are on a quest for community ensemble news, our mail bag is filled to the brim with information on Christmas concerts and other initiatives. By the time this issue is off the presses, alas, some of these will have already passed into the history books. Having said that, whether over or just ahead, several of these offerings represent a pronounced shift in the “same old” repertoire selected for the Christmas season, and are therefore worthy of comment.

bandstand daniel warrenThe Repertoire Bandwagon: While there are still some Christmas carols and more modern fare like Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman in these programs, there is much more depth in many, including transcriptions from the baroque and classical periods. There are also featured soloists on less likely instruments. Here are three early examples of this trend, one just over, two just ahead: thePlumbing Factory Brass Band (PFBB) from London (November 28), the Markham Concert Band (December 2)and theWellington Winds from Waterloo (also December 2). If their offerings are any indication of things to come in the community band world, they are most welcome. Bring on the seasonal concerts.

The feature number of the Markham Band’s December 2 concert is a modern concert band arrangement of The Nutcracker, complete with Kate Kunkel as guest harpist. If you are in a band looking for new repertoire, this arrangement is worthwhile, but not for the faint of heart. If the band doesn’t have at least one competent bassoonist, don’t consider this. The Markham Band also has the brass quintet from the Navy’s HMCS York Band as guests.

Rather than produce a Christmas concert per se, The Plumbing Factory’s director, Dr. Henry Meredith, has continued with his approach of thematic programming with “Dances of Many Times and Places.” Like one of his previous offerings of marches through the ages, this November 28 program featured a broad spectrum of dances. On the fast-paced side it included Smetana’s Dance of the Comedians and Manuel de Falla’s pyrotechnical Ritual Fire Dance, along with Rossini’s tarantella, La Danza, Chopin’s “Minute” Waltz, and Bizet’s Farandole from L’Arlesienne Suite #2. For a totally different perspective on “the dance,” The Plumbers also premiered two Victorian era Canadian dances with Ontario connections: The Burlington Polka and the Cayuga Two Step, published as solo piano editions in 1851 and 1906 respectively, and heard for the first time in over 100 years as arrangements for brass band by PFBB tuba player, Dave Pearson. One of their soloists was euphonium player, Terry Neudorf who brought his well-travelled vogelJoy ensemble to accompany his variations on My Grandfather’s Clock.

For their program on December 2 at 3pm, Wellington Winds have decided on a significant component of baroque music, but have chosen selections that are still seasonal. These include the Alfred Reed arrangement of Bach’s Wachet Auf, Phillip Gordon’s version of a Corelli Concerto Grosso, a Vivaldi Concerto in D major for Guitar and a Scott Amort transcription of Weber’s Concerto in F minor for Clarinet. More contemporary seasonal works include Holst’s Christmas Day (original for brass), the Robert Smith arrangements of Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves, and James Curnow’s Christmas Fancies.

More than a concert: Although we are looking forward to a concert of excellent music, the Wellington Winds afternoon will be much more than a concert. It will be the launch of a major initiative; the first of its kind that we have heard of anywhere in Canada. The band will be previewing their DVD/YouTube channel/online teaching guide project. Ultimately they hope to have as many as 100 Canadian band works on the site, some as full video, but most as sound only clips. The intent and hope is that this project will be a resource for all band people in Canada. They hope that the whole project will be as useful as possible for high school band teachers to engage their students in the conversation about making music performance a permanent part of their lives.

This project was achieved with the aid of significant public funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the foundation will see that not just the Wellington Winds, but all of our community bands, deserve similar funding from the foundation.

Our hats are off to the Wellington Winds for this remarkable initiative. I am looking forward to producing a comprehensive review of this project in the next issue of The WholeNote, after I have seen the presentation at the concert, watched the DVD, seen some of the YouTube content and browsed the teaching guide. In the meantime, ask Mr. Google to take you to the Wellington Winds home page, watch an interview with Howard Cable and sample some of the content already there.

Of the other concerts planned for the holiday season, that of the Festival Wind Orchestra in Toronto offers another departure from what we normally expect. Keith Reid, their conductor tells us that the theme is “Russian Christmas Music.” Again we have Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Their solo feature will be Rimsky-Korsakov’s Variations on a Theme of Glinka with Katrina Liddell as oboe soloist.

Rather than break with tradition, the oldest of the bands that we heard from, the Newmarket Citizens Band, is carrying on with a long-standing tradition that most “town bands” have abandoned. They are performing in no fewer than four Santa Claus parades and are also playing three concerts for residents of retirement or long term care facilities. Their commitment to these parades is strong enough that the band owns a complete set of well-insulated winter uniform jackets.

In the new year: After a recent recital by flutist Christopher Lee, I had a fascinating conversation with his accompanist, Simon Capet. In the months ahead this talented accompanist and conductor will be a globetrotting ambassador of music, conducting such groups as the Orchestra of Light and Hope in Cairo where all of the musicians are blind women, or the Calcutta Chamber Orchestra where all members are men from a single orphanage. While this certainly does not qualify as community banding per se, it definitely qualifies in the category of bringing communities and music together. Rather than attempt to do justice to this amazing venture in bringing peoples around the world together through music, I suggest a visit to Simon’s website: kicksimon.com. Learn about his plans for this year in Ghana, Egypt and Sri Lanka.

We rarely see tangible recognition of the many ways in which a local band may serve its community. I was fortunate enough recently to see tangible recognition of such service in a form one does not usually expect. At their annual Remembrance Day dinner, the Uxbridge branch of The Royal Canadian Legion did just that by inviting Steffan Brunette, conductor of the Uxbridge Community Concert Band as their guest speaker.

Back on the repertoire front again, I would like to report on my discovery of a daunting work for trumpet soloist. During a visit to America in the late 1800s, Jacques Offenbach wrote his American Eagle Waltz. Although originally written for trumpet and orchestra, there are now arrangements on the market for band as well. I wonder if Herbert L. Clarke might have performed this one. If your band is looking to shake up your trumpet section, this number should do it.

bandstand scarborough society of musiciansOther bands: The Brampton Concert Band will perform their concert “Christmas at The Rose” December 8. The Milton Concert Band will present their concert, “Home for the Holidays,” at the Mattamy Theatre in Milton on December 8 at 8pm (not in the listings) with a special performance of Twas the Night Before Christmas. They have also announced that their conductor Joseph Resendes is taking a leave while he assumes new duties at McMaster University for the coming year. During that period, the band’s assistant conductor, Sheena Nykolaiszyn will take over the baton.

Among the newer bands to appear on the scene in recent years, Resa’s Pieces is certainly prospering with over fifty regular members. However, Resa tells me that they could use another trombone and euphonium as well as some extra percussion including timpani.

Having not heard from them in a long time, it was good to hear that the Scarborough Society of Musicians have embarked on their fifth season. Formed by a small group of high school graduates who “wanted to stay involved in music and ensure an opportunity exists for new grads to continue exploring their talents,” they expect to play a number of retirement home concerts in the coming months. If interested, visit their website at www.continuingmusic.ca. Unfortunately, some of the press releases and posters sent to us by these groups were damaged and unreadable. Check the listings section for more details.

Argos: As I am writing this column, the 100th Grey Cup game and its festivities are dominating the news in Toronto. The Argonauts are in the game, but there is no official Argonaut band for the pregame or halftime shows. Few Argo fans are aware that the team did have its own official 48-piece professional band from 1957 to 1967. In fact, when I telephoned the Argonaut office not long ago, nobody could find any record of such a band in the team’s archives. The band played for all home games and some parades, but never got to play for a Grey Cup. How am I so sure? I played in that band for all ten years of its existence.

Clarification: On another front, my memory has recently been challenged. In the March 2010 issue of this publication I referred to an early wax cylinder recording of a conversation reputed to be between Thomas Edison and Johannes Brahms. Recently I have been taken to task by a reader who questions the existence of such a recording with the comment: “There is no evidence, apparently, that Edison and Brahms ever met.” He has thrown down the gauntlet and asked that I now substantiate my statement in that 2010 column with proof. He states: ”A statement that does not stand up to inspection must not remain unchallenged.” Since all of my old cylinder recordings fell under my son’s jurisdiction a few years ago, they are not right at hand for me to check. If such a recording might be as rare and valuable as the reader suggests, I had better get after my son to track down all of those old cylinders. They could be worth a princely sum.  

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

In last month’s column I solicited responses on selecting band repertoire and programming. While I would still love to hear from more readers on these topics, the responses received to date were very welcome.

On the subject of who should have a say in these matters, most people indicated that they would like to have a greater voice, but had reservations on how to establish a decision making system. Fred Cassano from the Columbus Centre Concert Band pointed out that, in addition to other considerations, their library is influenced by their main sponsor and tailored to their main audiences. Since the Columbus Centre bills itself as “the heart of Toronto’s Italian community,” it is only natural that this band has a greater percentage of Italian music than other bands might have. In fact the band has already built a program for next year around the theme of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, and another to honour the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth. As for additions to our list, they suggest Neopolitan Overture, Verdi’s Nabucco and Grand March from Aida, Count Basie Salute, Souza marches, Dixieland Band selections (featuring soloists) and music from The Lion King.

Last month I also asked for some suggestions to add to a list of “hackneyed or over-performed works.” From responses to date, Harold Walters’ Instant Concert is a front-runner followed closely by his Hootenanny. However, as Fred Cassano also mentions, Instant Concert is a “crowd pleaser.” It’s a matter of reconciling the different preferences between performers and audiences. Personally, having had to play each of these works many times per year for the past 45 years or more, I would be happy to relegate them to the archives for a year or so. However, many audience members may have never heard them and are entertained by a bit of novelty.

When it comes to selecting new concert works written specifically for concert band, while the internet makes it possible to hear what these works might sound like, there is little opportunity to assess the challenges they may present to the performers. There is no relying on recalling familiar melodies. On the other hand, if the work is of good quality, not only are the band members rewarded with new reading challenges, but the audiences experience new music. Three works which fall into that category have come to my attention in recent months. Commissioned by the Kobe Symphonic Band in Japan, Tanczi (2006) is a set of three Russian dances by Belgian composer Jan Van der Roost. Not for the faint of heart, this is an ideal selection to provide rehearsal challenges to all sections of the band. Once mastered, it is a very rewarding number for the audience. Another good contemporary choice is Concerto d’Amore (1995) by Dutch composer Jacob de Haan. It is considerably less demanding, but still provides challenges and entertainment. Another is Transformations by American composer Robert Longfield (2003). Commissioned for a school music festival in Dade county Florida, this work develops a wide series of variations based on the musical notes DADE in honour of the county where it was first performed. While a good reading exercise, it is less entertaining for an audience than the other two.

As was mentioned in the September issue, the last weekend in September was designated as the third annual Culture Days weekend. My only foray was to accept the invitation of the Hannaford Street Silver Band to sit in and join them for an afternoon of music making. With a prior morning rehearsal elsewhere on trombone, I had a choice to make. Should I take the trombone and switch from bass clef to treble clef, or should I try something bolder. There was an instrument lurking in one of my closets which hadn’t seen the light of day for over 25 years; an E-flat horn.

Some call this E-flat horn an alto horn and some call it a tenor horn. By either name it is normally never seen anywhere but in a brass band. Here was my chance. So, in the space of a couple of hours, it was a switch from a B-flat slide in bass clef to a three-valve horn in treble clef. “Never fear” thought I, “the Hannaford folks will have simple music for us visitors.” The first couple of numbers were just fine. Hymns are always a good way to get the tuning settled. Then it happened. In rapid succession, we went through the two suites for military band by Gustav Holst followed by Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture. The parts for my newly adopted instrument were more challenging than I expected. The “peck horn,” as it is sometimes referred to with some derision, gained new respect from me. If the hospitable hosts of this worthwhile event do it again next year, I’ll be there.

31-32-bandstand-hannaford-option-3While on the subject of the Hannaford Street Silver Band, they have a very special treat for lovers of brass band music. Their first concert of the season, “Trumpets of the Angels,” on Saturday November 3 at 8pm in the Metropolitan United Church, will feature the renowned British composer and conductor, Edward Gregson, leading the HSSB in performances of his brass band masterworks, Trumpets of the Angels and Rococo Variations. The HSSB will also premiere John Burge’s Cathedral Architecture, commissioned by the HSSB, with organ virtuoso William O’Meara, and the beloved overture, Fall Fair, by Godfrey Ridout in a newly authorized transcription by Stephen Bulla.

As for what is happening on the community band scene, I am happy to report that the new Brampton Youth Concert Band is now in full swing under the direction of their new music director, Susan Barber Kahro. If you live in the area and have a young musician in the family, here’s a great opportunity. For additional information, including how to join and membership fees, visit their website at bramptonconcertband.com. Also on the youth band scene, the 2013 National Youth Band of Canada will be meeting in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia from April 27 to May 5, 2013. Musicians 16 to 21 years of age are encouraged to audition by December 1, 2012. For more information visit their website at canadianband.ca.

Over the past few weeks we have received far more information on community band activities than can be included in this month’s column. On the New Horizons front, there are now six bands at three levels with over 100 regular members. This year, the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) held its Community Band Weekend in Richmond Hill on October 13 and 14, with host band, the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds. On the first day as many as 50 band members from various community bands across the province, along with the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds, rehearsed seven selections, each with a different conductor. The second day featured a concert at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

It may be rushing things a bit, but we are already getting information on Christmas concerts. The Markham Concert Band is presenting “A Seasonal Celebration” on Sunday, December 2, 2012. It will include Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite with guest harpist Kate Kunkel, as well as the Brass Quintet from the band of HMCS York, Toronto’s Naval Reserve Division.

DEFINITION DEPARTMENT

This month’s lesser known musical term is Articulosis: to be unable to play staccato. 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.

Although the weather man may tell us that fall has officially just begun, for most community ensembles the fall season is well under way. If the fall concert isn’t scheduled for October, it will be in early November at the latest. Before we know it the Christmas concert will be on the horizon. It may even be time to plan and select the repertoire for the spring.

Ah, the repertoire, what is it? That very academic sounding word conjures up many different images for many of us. Is it the next concert program, the music that’s in the rehearsal folder, what’s in the band’s library or ...? The Oxford dictionary defines repertoire as a stock of works that a performer knows or is prepared to perform. Webster defines it similarly. In other words, it isn’t all of that material in the band library that hasn’t seen the light of day for years. It’s the music that the band would be capable of performing with some reasonable rehearsal time.

For most bands, the die is cast for any performances bwetween now and the new year. What about music for 2013? Will it be the same old reliable chestnuts that are rotated regularly between the library and the rehearsal folder, or will there be some new material? For me, this triggers two potentially controversial questions. Who decides what should be in the library, what should be in the rehearsal folder and who plans the programs? My experience is that band members rarely have much say in concert programming. More about that later. Let’s start with the library and then the rehearsal folder.

What should be in a band library? Just about every band has its stock of hackneyed or over performed works, the names of which don’t warrant repeating here; we all know which ones fall into that category. Give them a rest. Put them in retirement for a year or more.

So, here’s where we are asking for reader participation. We are asking you to tell us what you would like to have in your band’s library. We hope to put on The WholeNote website a suggested possible basic library. As a starter, I have come up with 16 categories, with one or two examples of what I consider to be worthwhile repertoire in each category. (Feel free to disagree!) In any case, I invite you to send me your suggestions for what (else) you think should be included in a basic band library. If you have any new categories to suggest, please do so.

Here’s my “Better Band Library” starter kit:

  • Suites for concert band: Holst Suite in E-Flat, Vaughan Williams Folk Song Suite.
  • Concert overtures: Egmont Overture.
  • Overtures to operas and operettas: Poet and Peasant, Light Cavalry.
  • Broadway and London musicals: Oliver, Annie.
  • Parade marches: The Middy, Invercargill.
  • Concert marches: Pentland Hills, Colonel Bogey on Parade.
  • Big band era arrangements: Big Band Favorites, Swinging Songs of Yesterday.
  • Canadian:Calvert’s Suite on Canadian Folk Songs.
  • Traditional: Grundman’s An Irish Rhapsody, Nestico’s All Through the Night.
  • Arrangements of operatic solos: Nessun Dorma.
  • Latin: Cha Cha for Band, Blue Tango.
  • Gentle calming: Ashokan Farewell, Frank Ericson’s Air for Band.
  • Arrangements associated with particular performers: As Performed by Sinatra or Eubie.
  • Film scores: Titanic.
  • TV scores:Mission Impossible.
  • Novelty numbers: Lassus Trombone, Bugler’s Holiday.

While many bands perform concerts with choirs and/or vocal soloists, there really is no significant recognized repertoire for such combinations. For now we will not include such categories in our basic library.

The rehearsal folder: So, now that we have our basic library, what should be in our rehearsal folder? Should the rehearsal folder only contain music that is being prepared for performance, or should there be some good rigorous material for the sole purpose of challenging the band members? Each such number could remain in the folder for a few weeks and then be replaced with something new. For some years, I have been playing regularly in a smaller group with a very extensive library. The contents of the rehearsal folder are constantly changing. At any time it contains about half old material and half new. Not a rehearsal goes by without at least one number never seen before and others that haven’t been looked at for a long time. The result is that everyone’s sight reading skills remain well honed. Certainly, some of the material may never be performed for an audience, but it serves a good purpose. I would suggest that it would be worthwhile for a band to have in its rehearsal folder at least one such number at all times with some regular rotation, say once a month. This should help to keep everyone’s reading skills at a consistently good level. Most of us don’t aspire to be renowned virtuosos, but we all enjoy the satisfaction of having played our part of that good music well.

Program selection: Who should have a say in program selection? In most cases this is the sole prerogative of the conductor with some input from the librarian. Who are the other parties whose preferences could, and perhaps should, be considered? Put another way, we might ask for whom is the concert planned? Is it primarily to please the audience, band members, the conductor or, even possibly, sponsors? I would like to suggest that band members should have a greater voice in programming. For most, they play in a band for the personal satisfaction of making music with other like-minded individuals. I would like to see a movement to campaign for band members to have a greater say in the planning of programs. Without their regular participation and devotion, the band would cease to exist. Get band members involved in programming. Even before that, start with the decision of what should go into a rehearsal folder.

Now that we have a library and a rehearsal folder, how about selecting a program. What are the capabilities of the band members who have to perform the material? If your band doesn’t have a hot shot bassoonist at the present time, obviously you don’t include anything with an important bassoon part. If it’s a minor part, some other instrument can play the cues to ensure that the part isn’t missing completely. As for solo parts within selections, who gets to play them? In many bands, the longest serving member in the section automatically gets the nod even though other members of the section may be equally capable, if not more so. Seniority of membership is not necessarily synonymous with level of musicianship. In some bands of my acquaintance, solo excerpts are shared by all section members unless some do not wish to be included. That’s another way to foster proficiency and build confidence.

In recent years many bands have taken to producing concerts with a “theme.” Perhaps it was all music of the movies, disasters, space exploration or something else? Is this what your audiences enjoy? Why not ask them to complete a survey form at intermission?

Do your audiences really enjoy such additions as video excerpts and slide shows or do they feel that this detracts from the musical performance? Put another way, is your band staging a multimedia presentation or a musical concert? What would the band members prefer?

With all of that, who gets to make the decision of what to include in a program? Why not prepare a questionnaire for members to complete? Certainly, some just want to come to the rehearsal and then go home, but others might just have some ideas with merit. I might even suggest a programming committee from within the band. Naturally, in the end, the final decision must rest with the conductor, but let band members provide some creative input.

That’s my two cents worth: Let’s have your comments along with selections to be included in The WholeNote basic library.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Vibratto: child prodigy son of the concertmaster. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Coming events: Please see the listings section for full details. 

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

It’s transition time. Our one month break from publication is over, and it’s time both to reflect on the past few weeks and see what’s ahead for the month of September. It has been an interesting few weeks since I last put “pen to paper.” On the personal side there have been many performances, mostly outdoors, and a few cancellations. I have also had a few more visits to the Baycrest Centre where I am participating in their studies on the influences of musical activity on cognitive function. More about that in another issue.

39 bandstand photo by jack macquarrieConcert band reflectionsOne of the most noteworthy developments on the community band scene has been the evolution of the Sunday evening concert series organized by the Markham Community Band and an organization called Unionville Presents. Initiated last year using the MCB’s inflatable bandshell in a parking lot in Markham, this year the series was expanded in scope and moved to the excellent Unionville Millenium Bandstand. With the exception of one concert, the rain held off; when I arrived to hear the North York Concert Band, the audience out front was limited to one solitary listener under a large yellow umbrella, but on stage there were two dozen or so listeners comfortably seated on each side of the band under the extended wings of the roof. As the concert progressed the rain departed, and by the end of the concert a good-sized audience was seated in front of the band. The crowd the following week was almost the same for the Richmond Hill Concert Band, with a dozen or so listeners also standing on a porch of a house across the road. For all the following weeks, with superb weather, the bands played to a full house of adults, children, dogs and even a trained cockatoo who added his gymnastics to the entertainment of those nearby.

Culture Days: Now for an update on Culture Days. This is a national event, now in its third year, which has obtained much less publicity than it deserves. Cultural Days is a coast-to-coast-to-coast federal government initiative to get artists and arts organizations out in the community and get the public aware of and involved with them. Thousands of activity organizers self-mobilize at the grassroots level to present and coordinate free public activities that take place throughout the country over the last weekend of September each year, this year September 28, 29 and 30. One Culture Days event of interest to community band members, that we are aware of, is an invitation to local brass players by members of the Hannaford Street Silver Band to sit in and join them for an afternoon of music making. Many members of the Hannaford audience are active brass players themselves, and so the Hannaford folks thought that it would be great to get together with them and make some music. The band will be in the sanctuary of the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto on Sunday, September 30 from 2pm to 4pm to play music, enjoy some refreshments, and welcome any and all brass players of any age or ability level to play with them. (For those who might like a practising edge, check back at the Hannaford website www.hssb.ca for updates on this event. They expect to have parts available for download from their website. See also listings section D, “The ETCeteras,” for other Culture Days events.

Happy 140th anniversary to you! A few years ago we made some comments in this column referring to “Canada’s oldest community band.” That sparked quite a response from a number of bands, each of which claimed to be “Canada’s oldest band” or “Canada’s oldest continuously operating band.” Rather than re-ignite that discussion, it is more appropriate to offer congratulations to the Newmarket Citizens Band as they prepare to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the band being recognized as the “Official Town Band of Newmarket.” While a band had been playing in the community prior to then, it was in 1872 that the band was officially recognized as the town band. At that time a petition was circulated amongst the local business community by three sons of the fur trader William Roe. One of the sponsors was Robert Simpson of the Simpson department store chain. The grand sum of $319 was raised to purchase instruments.

To celebrate their 140 years of continuous service in the community, the Newmarket Citizens Band are inviting everyone to a special free concert complete with balloons and birthday cake. They will present a musical journey through time at the Riverwalk Commons, 200 Doug Duncan Dr., in Newmarket, on September 30. Festivities will get underway at 2pm. Bravo to one of the few bands that still participate in parades including, a half dozen or so Santa Claus parades every year.

Something for next month: With the approach of fall, many bands indulge in a bit of retrospection and then plan for concerts, other functions and repertoire for the coming season. An excellent stimulus for that is to meet with members of other bands at the CBA Community Band Weekend. Every October the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) conducts such an event. This is an opportunity for community musicians to meet like-minded individuals, play a broad selection of music under the direction of leading Ontario conductors and perform in a joint concert on the Sunday afternoon with the host band and a composite band. This year’s weekend, hosted by the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds, will take place on October 13 and 14, in Richmond Hill. Check for further details next month.

Endings:Unfortunately, we must report on the passing of two long-time band community members.

John Evans was the drummer for the GTA Swing Band up until last year. Brother John, as he was referred to, also played with the Swansea Community Concert Band led by his brother Frank Evans. John was 90. There will be a memorial service held in the fall.

As an undergraduate at University of Toronto, Ed Nixon was a regular on tuba in the Varsity Band. Years later, when the U of T Alumni Band was formed, Ed was a charter member. I have fond recollections of an incident with Ed while we were both in the Varsity Band. It was back in the days when university football fans travelled to out of town games by chartered train. After a night of celebrating a victory over the Queen’s University team, Ed and I missed our train back to Toronto. The solution was simple: let’s hitchhike home. Wearing our blue and white uniforms and carrying our instruments, we headed out to the highway and raised our thumbs. However, there was one problem: Ed was carrying a sousaphone. We did get a ride in the open rumble seat of an old car. Two carefree happy students, one trombone and one sousaphone made it back from Kingston with just a bit of gawking by passing motorists. Wish I had a photo. Ed was 84.

DEFINITION DEPARTMENT

This month’s lesser known musical term is Vesuvioso: an indication to build up to a fiery conclusion. 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 staring at a blank screen wondering how to begin this final tome before the summer break, I’m faced with a dilemma: should I look back over the past few weeks, or should I look forward. It’s transition time in so many ways. Some bands are winding down their activities for the summer, while others are gearing up for a cornucopia of musical events. Since hindsight is easier to muster up than foresight in this hot weather, hindsight wins the toss.

On this, the longest day of the year, there is still not enough time to reflect thoroughly on the varied musical activity that I have experienced. I could use the expression “from the sublime to the ridiculous” to describe the spectrum, but that would be unfair to the somewhat less than orthodox performances. Let’s go from the smallest to the largest.

The first is a return visit to the Flute Studio in Markham with flutists Leslie Huggett and Flora Lim. In the 1970s the Huggett Family was synonymous with the revival of early music played on period instruments. Leslie Huggett, his wife, Margaret, and their four children were known across Canada for their tasteful interpretations of music from the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. In more recent years, while operating the flute studio, Leslie Huggett has held a series of Sunday afternoon reminiscences titled “Reflections of a Part-Time Optimist,”where his humorous recounting of past adventures and misadventures are accompanied by elegant music on piano and flute by Flora Lim.

Then from the intimacy of a pristine studio just off the main street to a very large country barn for an evening of “Bluegrass in the Barn.” I know, bluegrass music is quite common, but performed by a chamber choir? That’s different. It was quite a departure for the Uxbridge Chamber Choir to switch from their usual repertoire. They are more accustomed to Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn and the more modern works of Fauré or Orff. Accompanied by the Foggy Hogtown Boys, a well established true bluegrass ensemble based in Toronto, the choir seemed to be enjoying the music as much as the audience. The barn was filled to capacity with many audience members seated outside enjoying the music streaming through the open barn doors.

Now for the really big one. At the other end of the musical spectrum was Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 8, better known as the “Symphony of a Thousand.” In its first performance, with Mahler conducting, there were 171 instrumentalists and 858 singers for a total of 1,030 performers. While this recent Toronto performance didn’t have those numbers, with over 500 performers on stage or in the balconies above, it was an amazing musical experience. How often do we get to hear eight french horns, four bassoons and a contrabassoon competing for our attention with the assistance of three adult choirs and a children’s choir? If these events are harbingers of things to come, the dog days of summer should be soothed by the musical events on the horizon.

While on the topic of getting our attention, I had the misfortune to be sitting adjacent to people who can’t stand to be separated from their “personal smart devices” for any significant time. At the Mahler concert the man in front of me was playing a Sudoku game on his device until conductor Peter Oundjian mounted the podium. As for the lady to my left, she didn’t stop texting until the baton was raised. The final chord before intermission, one nanosecond before the applause began, was her cue to start texting again. No, these were not teenagers, they were both in the ranks of the baby boomers. However, these distractions were in some ways more acceptable than those encountered at the bluegrass event. Having selected the seat of my choice, there was one seat vacant to my right. Enter a woman with a child. What better way for the child to clean her dirty boots than on my pants. A move to a vacant seat just outside of the barn doors seemed to be a good choice. The lady and her small boy who occupied the adjacent seat were quiet and well behaved. I was, however, somewhat distracted as this doting mother decided to explore in precise detail the entire precincts of his scalp for lice or other invasive species.

Every once in a while I have the pleasure of reviewing new CD releases for this publication. Last week I was accorded the opportunity to conduct a review of a different sort. How does one review a new transcription for band of an orchestral work by a well-known Canadian composer? Why not take the complete set of parts to the rehearsals of two or three bands for a read through and critique? Off to a rehearsal I went, and handed out the parts to the various sections and the conductor’s score to the music director. Things were going well until the conductor turned a page. Suddenly the band members were not playing what he saw on his score. It turns out that the conductor’s score was missing all even numbered pages. Then, conducting from one of the instrumental parts, the director managed to work through the piece enough to say it is interesting. As soon we get the rest of the conductor’s score, it will be off to the bands again. Then the title and composer will be revealed in our review.

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of being a volunteer subject for the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Centre in Toronto. A major component of their current research activity is in the study of how musical ability may influence cognitive function and brain activity in general. Next week both members of our household are slated to participate in this latest round of experiments which will be quite different from previous ones. There are new studies being initiated all of the time, and they are always looking for participants. If you have attained a reasonable level of musical proficiency and would be interested, give them a call.

Last month, I mentioned the very successful year end concert of the four New Horizons Bands in Toronto and the busy summer schedule ahead for the Grand River New Horizons Music in Kitchener. Shortly after, I was chatting with a man who had just recently retired and expressed interest in fulfilling a long held desire to take up a musical instrument. However, he lives between these communities and was looking for a group closer to home. Within days of that discussion I learned of another New Horizons Band planned for Burlington. If you live in that area and have that same desire to make music, the new group is slated to begin in September. For information phone 905-637-4992.

While on the subject of new groups, I had the pleasure of attending the end of year concert of Resa’s Pieces Strings. As with the other groups which started last year, they have progressed. This year’s performance included a violin duet and had a guest trumpet soloist performing Leroy Anderson’s Trumpeter’s Lullaby. Congratulations on their second season.

If the former town of Markham (it officially becomes a city July 1) is any indicator there will be lots of outdoor music. At the Unionville Millennium Bandstand, no fewer than seven community bands will be performing at 7 pm on Sundays over the summer. We can expect similar offerings at the Orillia Aqua Theatre, Mel Lastman Square, Earl Bales park and a host of other venues too numerous to mention. Please check the listings section for details.

As for what lies ahead on the personal agenda, if the coming Sunday offers any clue, there won’t be much time for relaxation. That day begins with a “Decoration Day” service in a cemetery and ends with a concert in a park. Sandwiched in between those two performances are two end-of-season parties for groups which are knocking off for the summer. Otherwise, there isn’t much to do that day. Last month I stated my intention to explore The Breathing Gymprogram of exercises for wind musicians. With a weather forecast calling for a humidex of 40° C or 104° F, those exercises will have to wait.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: Trouble Clefany clef that one can’t read: e.g. alto clef for most trombonists. 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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