It would appear that, after a few false starts, summer may have arrived. As we view the news of band activities for the next few months, there are all manner of concerts planned by bands throughout Southern Ontario, but they are almost without exception by individual bands.

This is in stark contrast to when I first started in boys’ bands. Our summer was filled with parades and many local multiple-band tattoos in surrounding communities. Outdoor band festivals are now few and far between in this part of the world. The most recent such event that I can recall in this part of the country was the Great Canadian Town Band Festival which was held for a number of years, ten years ago or more, in the small town of Orono. Throughout its existence, I was active in this festival. Its demise was not due to lack of interest on the part of participants or audiences. Rather, after a few years the organization and operation became too much for the small cadre of volunteers. Although there was consideration given to moving the festival to another larger community, this never materialized. Whether they are called band tattoos or band festivals, these kinds of outdoor events involving a number of community bands haven’t even been relegated to history books. They just seem to have passed into oblivion.

Not only were there tattoos in former days, but there was a wide variety of other outdoor band events, both amateur and professional. I can still remember the fascination of a circus band with a diverse array of performers parading down a city’s main street. In fact, for a time, one of my boyhood ambitions was to play in a circus band. It seems that the only large outdoor events with bands to be seen now are those overwhelming halftime shows of American football games with all of the extra non-musical hoopla.

NABBSS: You may recall that at this time last year our household was gearing up for a trip to Halifax and participation in the very first North American Brass Band Summer School (NABBSS). As part of this summer school we were also participants in the 35th Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. With many hundreds of professional-level participants from Canada, the United States and several European countries performing for ten days in a packed arena, this event is a far cry from the local amateur tattoos referred to earlier. Even these large-scale events are increasingly few and far between. I have not heard of single such event in Ontario for some years. While we are not able to participate in this year’s NABBSS, I am sure that it will be as rewarding as last year’s was. The school will run from June 26 to July 8. When I last checked, there were still openings. Inquiries should be addressed to

Further Reminiscences: For years a major attraction at the CNE was the featured guest band at the main bandshell. For a few summers I had the pleasure of operating the sound system on that main bandshell. In particular, I had the privilege of working for two weeks with Major F. Vivian Dunn, later Sir Vivian Dunn. Prior to every concert of the Band of the Royal Marines Plymouth Division, he would discuss all of the music to be performed and just which instruments were to be given proper microphone pickup.

By a somewhat strangely routed train of thought (but bear with me), this reminds me of a famous but rarely seen ceremony, called Beat the Retreat, the origins of which date back to the reign of James II of England (James VII of Scotland) in the late 1600s, a time when drums were a major means of communicating with troops. It was a time when wars were mostly carried out in daylight hours, and the beating of drums was the signal to retreat at the end of a day’s fighting. Over time, beating the retreat became a more elaborate ceremony, where the Captain of the Main Guard would have his drummers beat the signal which would then be repeated by drummers of each regiment. Many years later, of course, armies obtained more sophisticated means of communicating, but by then Beating the Retreat had been established as an important ceremonial event.

The Royal Marines in particular have retained the ceremony, along with saluting their ceremonial head who is bestowed with the title of Captain General. Most recently that has been His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh. Every three years the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, with some 200 musicians on parade, perform their Beat the Retreat ceremony at London’s Horse Guards Parade in celebration of the birthday of their Captain General.

That is where Major Dunn comes in again! The year after he and his band performed at the CNE bandshell, he wrote The Captain General march to honour then Captain General, His Majesty King George VI. Three years ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Saeculum Aureum, a 2CD set, performed by The Band of The Royal Regiment of Canada. The Captain General, a stirring march with amazing counter-melodies, was one of the finest selections on that recording.

Bandstand-Mario.jpgMario Canonico: The community band world has lost another of its most dedicated members. Mario Canonico, a longtime member of the Newmarket Citizens Band, passed away May 16. Born in the Aosta Valley in the northwestern part of Italy, Mario started his musical adventure on violin at the age of nine. He began playing saxophone in his early 20s and soon added the clarinet. From Italy the family moved to Ecuador for a few years before coming to Canada in 1967. Settling in Montreal, he worked as a barber during the week and spent his weekends as a jobbing musician playing a wide variety of events including weddings and bar mitzvahs. Moving to Newmarket in 2000, he soon had a regular spot in the clarinet section of the Newmarket band. Until about three months ago he was playing regularly in three other musical groups besides the Newmarket band, including a small ensemble called North of Dixie. In addition to music and family he had a passion for cycling, averaging 50km per day. His last bicycle ride was on a warm sunny day last October at age 82. Just a few weeks ago the members of North of Dixie went to his house to entertain him. Although gravely ill, Mario danced up a storm with his wife, Delfina, and with his daughter and granddaughter. This photograph was taken on that day by John De Fusco.

Coming Concerts:

June 4 at noon the Encore Symphonic Concert Band will present “In Concert: Classics and Jazz” at the Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

June 6 at 7:30 the Barrie Concert Band will present “Let’s Celebrate Barrie!” a multimedia concert celebrating Barrie’s history at Hi-Way Pentecostal Church, 50 Anne St. N., Barrie.

June 12: A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending the premiere concert of the Toronto Concert Band. To wind up their inaugural season they will be returning to the excellent performance venue of the Glenn Gould Studio on Friday, June 12, at 7:30pm. Since their very first rehearsal less than nine months ago, founding conductors Ken Hazlett and Les Dobbin have set a high standard. This season-ending concert will feature an eclectic mix, from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals to Warren Barker’s Selections from Les Miserables with many challenging numbers filling out the program. The band’s tag line “We Love to Play!” should be spelled out musically at this concert.

June 14 at 7pm the Strings Attached Orchestra will be presenting their year-end concert at the George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place (just southwest of Koerner Hall). Among other things, they will be performing the orchestral premiere of Montreal a short work by former OECD head and Pierre Trudeau-era cabinet minister Donald Johnston. Also on the program will be Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso Op. 3 No.11 with soloists from within the group.

These are a few community ensemble events where we received some program details. There are too many more than can be mentioned here. Please see the listings section for the times and locations of these many other events.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: rubato: a cross between a rhubarb and a tomato. 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

A couple of weeks ago, having been lulled into complacency by a few warm sunny days, I was under the impression that spring had arrived. A few days later that illusion was shattered by the sight and sound of hail clattering on my windshield. Last night, on my drive home from a performance, I found myself humming the strains of Spring will be a little late this year only to have that confirmed when I drove in to a snow-covered driveway. Fortunately, through all of this, the community musical groups have been heralding spring in a variety of ways. I had the pleasure of attending a few of these.

Recent events: One such concert was “A Salute to the British Isles” by the Clarington Concert Band under the direction of Barrie Hodgins with the Pipes and Drums of the Oshawa Legion. What a variety. From the humour of conductor emeritus Bobby Herriot and the elegant vocal stylings of Donna Lajeunesse and Father Paul Massel to the stirring renditions of traditional Scottish melodies by the pipes and drums it was an evening to be remembered, MC’d by Colin Rowe.

With the  concert being billed as “A Salute to the British Isles,” there were questions as to how the Radetzky March, a march composed for the Austrian army by Johann Strauss Sr., qualified as British music. After all, this march was dedicated to Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz after his victory at the Battle of Custoza. It turns out that, over the 165 years since its first performance, this march has been adopted as their official march by several military units in various countries around the world from Chile to Sri Lanka. One of those military units just happens to be 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards in Britain. The Radetzky March is their official regimental march. Ergo: it’s British music.

Needless to say, there was the inevitable clapping and foot stomping by the audience. It turns out that this too has a long tradition. When it was first played in front of Austrian officers, they spontaneously clapped and stamped their feet. This tradition is kept alive today by audience members around the world from town band concerts to the New Year’s Concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic.

2008_-_Beat_-_BandSTAND.jpgFlute Street: If one were to hear the term “flute street,” one might be inclined to consult the town street guide to find its location. A visit to Google could not find any street by that name in this area, but there is a fine flute ensemble in Toronto by that name. Initially formed by Nancy Nourse and Allan Pulker in 2013, as the resident ensemble for Canada’s First National Flute Convention, the group has established a special place in the musical life of Toronto. While music aficionados are familiar with the concert flute and its baby brother, the piccolo, Flute Street has been introducing audiences to several other members of the flute family. I had seen and heard alto flutes and bass flutes before, but Flute Street’s recent concert, “And the Giant Began to Dance,” introduced me to the six-foot-tall contrabass flute. I not only saw two of these, but was introduced first hand to an even bigger member of the family. Guest artist Peter Sheridan presented us with the subcontrabass flute, which was taller than anyone present, Sheridan included.

As for the concert, we were treated to a wide range of offerings from solos to works including the entire ensemble. My personal preferences were numbers featuring Sheridan on the bass flute and the contrabass flute. His warm tone and melodic phrasing on the bass flute displayed the potential of this instrument better than I had ever heard. While the subcontrabass flute did add an interesting bottom end to the ensemble, it didn’t appeal to me as a melodic solo instrument except for its novelty value. Sheridan informed us that he has just recently introduced the ultimate low-register flute. I believe that it is called the hyperbass flute with a lowest frequency of 16 Hz. He admits that this is below the audible range of his wife and many other people, but given the right circumstances it can be felt physically if not heard.

Newly unusual: Before leaving the topic of unusual musical instruments, I feel compelled to report on a recent radio program on the CBC. It was a presentation of newly crafted unusual musical instruments. The one that sticks in my mind was a large wind instrument which required two players. In the demonstration, the developer blew into the mouthpiece and operated a slide while his wife operated a set of valves. While the sound was of questionable quality, the name had a certain quirky appeal. It has been named the Humungaphonium. I have yet to see a photograph.

Tsar Trek: While miserable weather prevented me from attending their recent spring concert, the Plumbing Factory Brass Band warrants ongoing mention in this column for their imaginative programming. Following up on their previous concert, Henry Meredith crafted “Tsar Trek II – The Sequel” on their “Rousing Russian Repertoire Voyage.” Not only does this band perform to a high standard, they also set a standard which is hard to match in terms of programming of top quality music. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there.

Uxbridge: Italian composer, Luigi Boccherini has been quoted as saying that “Without the performer the composer’s work is useless.” It would be hard to dispute that, but performers can be assisted considerably by their own careful preparation and that of the conductor. An excellent example of how a conductor may foster good preparation has recently come to my attention. The Uxbridge Community Concert Band is a summertime-only band with activities from early May until late August. Two months before rehearsals were scheduled to begin, conductor Steffan Brunette started with those preparations. Not only did he send a complete list of the proposed repertoire for the season to every returning band member, but he provided internet links to performances of every work. As long as members had internet access they could go to every number in the repertoire and listen to quality performances as often as they might wish.

Music Alive: I had heard of Music Alive before, but must confess I wasn’t quite sure just what it entailed. Suddenly, a few days ago, I received a phone call: The Newmarket Citizens Band was to play at Music Alive that night; was I available to sit in and fill a gap? A few hours later I was treated to an unexpected musical event. Music Alive is an annual festival open to all school and community ensembles and soloists operating within York Region, including public and private schools plus community bands, orchestras, choral ensembles and individual musicians. For 2015 it has an incredible assortment of musical groups and performances. With over 15,000 participants and sessions stretched over ten weeks, Music Alive is one of the largest student music festivals in the country.

This is an adjudicated, but non-competitive festival. The evening that I was there, I was with the only adult group. The main group performance was by the “Area West Elementary Enrichment Band” made up of 80-plus elementary school students. In addition, there were numerous solos and small group performances by students from Grades 5 to 8. One particular number stood out for me. Girls on two flutes and a clarinet performed amazingly well on a well-known Handel selection.

Adjudicator John Phillips, a professor from the University of Western Ontario, provided helpful inspiring comments to all participants. After we (the adult band) played our two numbers, Phillips pointed out to the young elementary school musicians how our performance was an example of one way that making music can develop into a stimulating lifelong activity.

On the horizon: On Sunday, May 24, at 3:30pm the Wychwood Clarinet Choir will present “Swing into Spring.” The feature of the afternoon will be the induction of Howard Cable as composer and conductor laureate of the choir. Cable, a member of the Order of Canada, is one of the most significant and internationally recognized Canadian arrangers and composers. With a musical career spanning more than 60 years, he has had his works performed worldwide. Cable has been composing and arranging for the Wychwood Clarinet Choir since 2012. The program will feature a selection of swing favourites arranged by Cable for the choir and young crooner Michael Vanhevel. Also on the program is an all-clarinet rendition of Rhapsody in Blue, the premiere of Three Excursions, an original composition by Roy Greaves, and Clarifunkation by Paul Saunders. Artistic director and clarinet soloist is Michele Jacot. This all takes place at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, 611 St. Clair Ave, W.

On Saturday, May 30 at 7:30pm, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will conclude their 2014/2015 concert season with “Year of the Dragon.” Highlights include James Hosay’s dynamic Mayan Sports Festival, Philip Sparke’s virtuosic Year of the Dragon and Adam Gorb’s Yiddish Dances, a contemporary classic based on the klezmer tradition. The concert takes place at Yorkminster Citadel, 1 Lord Seaton Road, Toronto.

Bands we haven’t heard from for some time:

Friday, May 1 at 7:30pm the Oxford Winds Community Concert Band will be “Celebrating Heroes” at Knox Presbyterian Church, Woodstock.

Wednesday, May 6 at 7:30pm the North Durham Concert Band is having a “Springtime Serenade” at the Port Perry United Church.

Friday, May 8 at 7pm the Canadian Band Association presents “Windblown Art: Young and Old Masters.” This is a combined event with the Encore Symphonic Concert Band and the National Youth Band of Canada joining forces at Encore Hall, Wilmar Heights Centre, Scarborough.

Sunday, May 24 at 7pm the North Toronto Community Band presents “Spring Rhythms: Music from Bach to Big Band,” Danny Wilks, conductor, with Jonno Lightstone, saxophone; at Crescent School.

Sunday, May 31 at 4pm the Columbus Concert Band, with guest soprano Kira Braun, will present their First Annual Gala Concert, “The Best of the Columbus Concert Band,” consisting of classical, Broadway, Dixieland, marches and jazz at De LaSalle Oaklands College. One of their band members, Alex Dritsas, is a Canadian soldier who was severely injured recently in a hockey game in Toronto. Many of the 65-member band have been donating funds for his rehabilitation. This concert will be dedicated to him and band members hope that he may even be released from hospital in time to attend. This is the first time the not-for-profit band has had a fundraising event to support themselves as all previous concerts have been to raise funds for other charities in the city.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser-known musical term is pizzicato  (pronounced pissicato): Too much coffee – time to take an urgent mid-rehearsal break. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

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

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

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