How does one get started in banding? Nowadays, the most common way is through school music programs. Almost every secondary school in this part of the world has a music program, and many elementary schools do as well. It hasn’t always been that way though. When I went to school in Windsor, Ontario, we had no formal music program, nor did any other school in the city. The school had an excellent fully equipped auditorium with a balcony. It was the best auditorium in the city. When world renowned groups like the Russian Don Cossack Chorus came to town, that is where they performed. It was also home to many amateur productions like the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas where my parents first met.

1806 BandstandThings have changed. Most secondary schools have bands as well as choirs, and many have large string ensembles as well. As for my old school, it is now the major school for the performing arts in the region. How did young people get introduced to music performance back then? For boys there were a few boys’ bands, and girls were more or less left out. A recent short excerpt on CBC Radio triggered my thoughts on this subject. In the program B is for Brass Dave Pell, bass trombonist with the Hannaford Street Silver Band, related how he started. As a boy, Pell’s introduction began when he was given a euphonium in the Salvation Army band. He was soon in love with the instrument and its sound. However, it’s only used in bands. So when it was time to buy his own instrument, he wanted an instrument which would be found in a broader spectrum of ensembles. He chose the trombone.

My own case was very similar. My two best friends, Keith and Jimmy, played in a boys’ band sponsored by a local service club. I decided to try to join the band with them. I thought that I would like to play drums. There were no “openings” for drummers, so I was handed a euphonium and shown how to made a semi-musical sound. When that band ceased to operate, I was without an instrument. I liked the euphonium, but realized that there were many kinds of musical groups where the euphonium was not used. I wanted the option of being able to play in dance orchestras or symphony orchestras. Would it be trumpet with the same fingering or trombone with the same mouthpiece? Like Pell, I chose trombone. Also like Pell, I have retained my love affair with the sound of the euphonium and the counter melodies often written for it. When I meet young people who have embraced their particular instruments, a frequent question which I ask is: “Did you choose the instrument or did the instrument choose you”? In Dave Pell’s case and mine the euphonium chose us, then we chose the trombone.

Bands, their repertoire, their audiences and their performance venues have certainly evolved over the years. From the works bands of Britain and Europe to the early town bands in North America, much of the programming was military music or transcriptions of classical works. Prior to and throughout WWII the major events for bands were tattoos, with most groups parading before a reviewing stand. On the platform would be one featured band playing such works as concert overtures between various parts of the marching groups. But gradually, over the years the perception of bands and band music has evolved. The concert band has finally gained the respectability of performing in concert halls. The concert band that also participates in parades is a rarity today.

Not so splendid isolation: Before looking at what the bands in this area are offering this spring and summer, there is another evolving trend in the band world which is receiving mixed reactions in the banding community. I’m referring to the use of mp3 files for learning new works. Many bands are now posting recordings of their current repertoire on their bands’ websites or asking their members to sign on to their internet groups, to listen to a recording and follow it on their printed music. In some cases it is suggested that the members should play along with this at home. Is this a good idea?

Proponents are all in favour of using any means to achieve a better performance. But the first flaw is the assumption that all band members have ready access to a high speed internet connection with suitable sound reproduction capabilities. It also assumes that members are comfortable using all of this technology. Even if this unlikely situation were possible, and that there were no distractions in the home, is this the best way to learn a new work? There certainly would be no interaction with other band members. Those opposed to the idea consider it to be the community band equivalent of “paint by numbers” games for children. There is an output. But is it art? What will happen to the all important sight reading skills which are so valued? We would love to hear from readers on this subject. Have you tried it? Did it work for you and/or your band, or was it more of a distraction? Are there other aspects of modern technology having an influence in your band experience?

Upcoming: As for programming, so far we have heard from two bands with details of what they will be performing in the coming months. In both cases, in keeping with a popular trend, they are “theme” programs. The first is that of Henry Meredith’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band in London, Ontario, which always has imaginative programs. Titled “Our Home and Native Land – A Celebration of Canada,” the April 17 program will open and close with two different marches both called Bravura, a word which conjures up our national spirit of energy, pride and glory. Included will be Handel’s Coronation Anthem “Zadok the Priest” which was performed 60 years ago at our Queen’s coronation in 1953. The band will then take the audience on a musical tour of Canada with such numbers as Howard Cable’s The Banks of Newfoundland, an arrangement of several folk songs from our oldest, yet newest, province. Canada’s waterways will be portrayed by Herbert L. Clarke’s cornet solo The Maid of the Mist, named for the famous Niagara Falls tour boat.

The Uxbridge Community Concert Band has taken a different approach to its theme programming. Last year band members were asked to vote on a single number from previous years that they would like to perform again. Their choice of previously performed music was a suite from The Firebird. From that evolved the theme of “The Elements” for an upcoming concert. It will all be music about earth, wind, air and fire. From the fast-moving Dancing in the Wind, the power of the sacred volcano Mazama and the gospel stylings of Wade in the Water, through the tumultuous Ritual Fire Dance to the grand finale of The Firebird, it should be quite a musical journey.

Down the road: The University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC) and the Ontario Band Association (OBA), are inviting interested groups to participate in the 2013 UTSC & OBA Chamber Music Festival. This is a three-day music festival that will take place from April 16 to 18, 2013, at the UTSC campus. Further information will soon be available at

We have not heard any more on the York University band workshop in May, mentioned in last month’s column, but expect to have more details well before the date. 

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

Retraction: In the March 2010 issue of this publication I referred to a collection of early wax cylinder recordings in my possession (picked up at a sale in a barn in Prince Edward County, by the way). Amongst them, I said, there was, to the best of my recollection, a conversation reputed to be between Thomas Edison and Johannes Brahms. Challenged repeatedly by a reader to substantiate my claim or retract it (since there is no evidence that Brahms and Edison ever met), I have stalled on doing so, in the hope that I’d get round to rummaging through more than half a century of “stuff.” Since, three years later,
I seem to be no closer to getting around to doing so, I hereby retract any claims made in this column as to the existence of such a cylinder.

Another year has arrived, and with it many happenings on the local musical scene. The information which has been tumbling in at an amazing rate is so diverse that this time the challenge of where to begin is more difficult than ever. Perhaps it’s best to simply pick up where I left off two months ago on the topic of programming. In the last issue I mentioned two out-of-town concerts I was looking forward to from groups with a reputation for excellent programming. I am happy to say they lived up to expectations.

The first was presented by London-based Plumbing Factory Brass Band. Skillfully crafted by its director Henry Meredith, this program, titled “Dance Music of Many Times and Places,” took us on a musical journey through ten countries spanning over four and a half centuries. We were even taken to outer space for a dance of “two heavenly bodies” to commemorate last summer’s transit of Venus, with Sousa’s march by that name. Polkas, waltzes, two steps, tarantellas and more were enhanced with demonstrations by dance historian Cathy Stephens. Even the printed program was a delight, containing a collection of photos and drawings which shed a light on the works.

The concert in Waterloo four days later by the Wellington Winds was equally imaginative, mixing traditional Christmas music, including gems like Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter, with transcriptions of stellar orchestral works including a five-movement concerto grosso by Arcangelo Corelli, a concerto for clarinet by Carl Maria von Weber and a concerto for guitar by Antonio Vivaldi.

At intermission the Wellington Winds introduced their “Appassionato” initiative with presentations by local dignitaries. The centerpiece of this project is a two hour-DVD “illustrating the life of a concert band.” I will have more to say about that extraordinary project in a later column. However, since our last issue, news of local band happenings has been pouring in, so it is time to move on to new topics.

bandstand  1Markham: Of great personal interest to me is the completion of the Cornell Community Centre and Library in Markham. A few years ago I had the privilege of arranging visits by members of the Markham Town Council and other interested parties to the band rehearsal facilities in Cobourg and Oshawa in the hopes of persuading local officials to incorporate musical rehearsal facilities into a community centre under consideration. That dream of the Markham Concert Band has now come to fruition. The band played their last rehearsal in their old rehearsal hall just before Christmas. The first rehearsal in January was in the spacious new hall with shadow-free lighting, storage rooms and two small practice rooms. Included in this room is a bleacher-type seating arrangement which folds out into the room to provide accommodation for a modest-sized audience when required. The official opening of the centre is tentatively scheduled for February 9.

While on the subject of the Markham Band, they will be presenting their first concert of the year on Sunday afternoon, March 3, in the Flato Markham Theatre. “Stories and Legends” will feature excerpts from Disney’s Fantasia, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. One regular feature that the Markham Band includes in every concert program is a profile of a band member. Over the years these profiles have provided audience members with an insight into the diversity of the people behind the instruments. They learn of the occupations, hobbies and perhaps even eccentricities of the music makers on stage. As was pointed out to me recently, they also serve another very useful purpose. They help band members get to know each other. Most rehearsals leave little time for socializing, and these profiles help to shed a bit of light on the person behind that familiar face in a section on the far side of the band.

Brampton: On Saturday, February 23 at 8pm, the Brampton Concert Band under the direction of new music director, Vince Gassi, will be presenting “A World of Music” in a special tribute to retiring music director Darryl Eaton in the Rose Theatre. Darryl has been at the helm since 1999.

CAMMAC: Would you like to improve your sight-reading and performance skills? CAMMAC’s Wind Band Workshop might be for you. The workshop will focus on key performance skills such as dynamics, articulation, balance and blend in a hands-on learning experience. This tips and tools session will be conducted by Fran Harvey, a music educator and conductor who holds degrees in music and education. Since 2003, Fran has been the conductor of the Metropolitan Silver Band. The workshop will take place on February 23 at 2pm at the Northern District Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd., Toronto. For more information, contact Gerald Martindale, 416-551-5183,

York University:While on the subject of workshops, York University has recently announced that they will be conducting another band workshop similar to the very successful inaugural one last year. We don’t have many details yet. However, this isn’t taking place until early May. As soon as more details are received, they will be posted in this column.

CBA Award: We have just received word that Matthew Donnelly, 26, of New Hamburg, Ontario, has been named winner of the Canadian Band Association’s 2013 annual award for the best original score by a new Canadian composer. Donnelly, who plays clarinet, as well as acoustic and electric bass in the 60-member Kitchener Musical Society Band, was inspired by the beauty and history of the local Nith River when he started work more than a year ago on a composition titled River Valley Sketches. After trying out draft versions on fellow musicians at KMSB rehearsals, he entered his score in the competition. His composition topped a field of 27 submissions from musicians coast to coast. The first place honours also come with a $1,000 cash prize.

Resa’s Pieces:A little news item from Resa’s Pieces tells us that the band has added quite a few new members this year and is getting close to the 60 mark. They are gearing up now for their 14th gala on June 11 in the George Weston Recital Hall. More details will follow in a later issue.

Honours: Just in, here’s an item of interest to brass players. Former Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen was recently surprised with an unexpected honour. Minutes before Severinsen’s second-half appearance in a recent Koerner Hall concert, Peter Simon, president of the Royal Conservatory, named the trumpet virtuoso an Honourary Fellow of the Royal Conservatory.

While on the subject of honours, we have just learned that Christopher Lee, principal flute of the Toronto Philharmonia, has been invited to be the guest of the Los Angeles Flute Guild for their Flute Festival 2013. In addition to giving a masterclass, he will participate in a recital with other luminaries of the flute world. Congratulations Chris.

Roy Schatz:Their final performance will have passed by the time this issue is published and its not even a band event, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the 50th anniversary season of the St. Anne’s Music and Drama Society, at the forefront of Gilbert and Sullivan productions in Toronto since its inception. My parents met in a G & S production where my mother sang the role of Buttercup in HMS Pinafore. As a child I was brought up on G & S. As an adult, I played in the St. Anne’s Orchestra for many years and got to know its director, Roy Schatz. In recent years Roy has turned the directing reins over to daughter Laura, but he will be on stage singing in his 50th consecutive year in this year’s production of The Gondoliers in the role of His Grace, The Duke of Plaza-Toro. How many performers can match that? Performing in same group’s annual presentation for 50 years without a break must be a record for Guinness to consider. Congratulations Roy. 

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

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: 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 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

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 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

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.


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

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

Back to top