1808-bandstandIt all started with a very nasty accident but with an outcome that, as I witnessed, was anything but accidental, namely a well-crafted concert by a rarely heard form of musical ensemble. As for the accident, it happened a few months ago. After one of their regular rehearsals, members of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir saw a woman riding her bicycle getting tangled with the streetcar tracks and being thrown to the pavement. Immediately, those choir members sprang into action like a well-practised team. They rendered first aid and took the victim back to her home at the nearby Christie Gardens retirement residence.

Over the ensuing weeks, those choir members and the victim, Bruna Nota, remained in touch and developed a strong bond of friendship. As her recovery progressed, Nota suggested that it might be appropriate for the choir to perform a concert for the residents of Christie Gardens. I had the pleasure of being a guest at that concert, my introduction to the work of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir, their director, Michele Jacot and several excellent arrangements for the ensemble, several by choir members.

Jacot grew up in Toronto in a house where there was constant good music. I asked her one of my usual questions: “Did you choose the clarinet or did the clarinet choose you?” Apparently the clarinet chose her, when she began music studies at Oakwood Collegiate. After undergraduate studies in music performance at the University of Toronto and a master’s degree from Northwestern, she returned to Toronto and embarked on a career of performing and private teaching. Now in its fourth season, the Wychwood Clarinet Choir was the brainchild of Jacot and a few of her adult clarinet students. It now numbers 20 regular members including her former teacher at Oakwood.

To acquaint audience members with the many diverse voices of the six members of the clarinet family, a sextet consisting of one of each instrument performed a very clever arrangement of What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor by choir member and former teacher, Roy Greaves. This was followed by one movement of a transcription of a Mozart serenade for wind octet also arranged by Greaves.

In the planning for this performance and their spring concert, the hunt for suitable arrangements led to another “happy accident.” It turned out that choir member Katherine Carleton knew renowned Canadian composer Howard Cable. Might he have written or arranged works for such a group? Yes he had. He hadn’t seen them for quite some time, but with a bit of digging, he provided two works. The first was an original 1964 composition, Wind Song, which he wrote for members of the Band of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs. The other was an arrangement of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from the 1940 Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical Pal Joey. So Cable was there to guest conduct these two works, mentioning that he had not heard either work in 50 years.

As a surprise for Cable, two former choir members, Harry Musicar and Sydney Gangbar, were invited to this performance. They were both schoolmates of his at Toronto’s Parkdale Collegiate and played with him in the school orchestra under Leslie Bell (who later achieved prominence as conductor of the Leslie Bell singers). In so many ways this concert really clicked for all concerned.

If you have never heard a clarinet choir with its many voices, it’s time to do so. Wychwood will be performing their spring concert at 3:30pm, May 12 at the Church of St. Michael-and-all-Angels in Toronto. While Cable has a prior commitment which will preclude his attendance at that spring concert, a bond has been formed with the choir. Rumour has it that he has already written a new work which will feature Jacot as soloist. We’ll be looking for him and that work at their fall concert.

Hannaford: April also saw the great Hannaford Street Silver Band’s annual three-day festival. The winner of this year’s Hannaford Youth Rising Stars Solo Competition was Jonathan Elliotson from Orangeville who has just finished second year in the performance program at U of T’s Faculty of Music. He played Jubliance by William Himes on cornet from memory. Elliotson has been the end-chair solo cornet in the Hannaford Youth Band this past season. The Hannaford Youth final concert of the season will be May 11 at 2pm at the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto. It will feature Andrew McCandless, principal trumpet of the TSO as guest soloist.

Speaking of Hannaford, at last year’s Hannaford Rising Stars competition, Jacob Plachta, now in third year trombone performance at U of T, won performing his own composition Sonata for Trombone and Brass. At this year’s HSSB festival, the Youth Band premiered Plachta’s new work for brass band titled Celebration. Another Youth Band member, Adrian Ling, has written a three-movement work titled Progressions for Brass Band, with one movement for each band of the Youth Program: Junior, Community and Youth. These three movements will be performed at their spring concert with the three bands set up in different locations in the church. Ling is a first-year composition student at U of T and started with the Hannaford Youth Program seven years ago. At the Junior Band’s Christmas concert, they performed a piece called Elf Factory composed by nine-year-old percussionist James Muir, about the elves complaining about working for “the man” who is of course Santa. It even has lyrics that are sung in the middle by the band members. At the Community Band’s February concert, they performed a piece written by grade nine tuba player Blaise Gratton called The Perfect Storm. This has lots of rhythm and percussion with lots of notes for the tubas. Who thought that composition was only for the old fogeys?

Ensemble time: It was gratifying this month to learn of a number of concerts by small ensembles. There is nothing like playing in a small group to hone one’s timing, tuning, phrasing and sense of cohesion with fellow musicians. This month, Western University professor Henry Meredith told me about a student concert set up to do just that, with pieces featuring students with like instruments, in ensembles with such clever titles as the “Majestic Trumpets,” the “Trom-Bonus” and the “Horn-Utopia.” Meanwhile, members of the four Toronto New Horizons bands organized an afternoon of “Chamber Sweets” where at least 17 small groups performed while audience members indulged their sweet tooths on the assortment of goodies provided. On May 25 the Milton Concert Band will present “Maytoberfest.” That’s their version of Octoberfest in May, complete with a full-course German dinner and a special musical treat: the guest small ensemble will be the Alphorn Choir of the Ein Prosit German Band of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Kudos: Our hats are off to the Newmarket Citizens Band for their performance at the recent Music Alive festival. This is a non-competitive adjudicated festival, and they were awarded the highest possible Platinum rating for their efforts. It takes lots of confidence to start off an adjudicated performance with a number like Amparito Roca to establish your credentials. 

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

BandstandBefore tackling the challenge of writing this April column, I would normally look out the window in anticipation of signs of spring and then settle down to report on spring concerts and festivals on the sunny horizon. However, even though my calendar says that spring is now due, mother nature disagrees and has decided to hide any indications that spring might be in the offing. Everything is covered with a white blanket. Unfortunately, several bands that we usually hear from are keeping their spring events hidden under a blanket of silence. In short, there is a dearth of news from the community band world.

Let’s have a look at what we have heard to date. For details of locations, times and ticket prices see the listings section. The first event on our band calendar is the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s annual Festival of Brass on the weekend of April 5, 6 and 7 at the Jane Mallett Theatre. The festival begins, as in previous years, with “Rising Stars.” This will feature finalists in HSSB’s annual Young Artists Solo Competition at the Church of the Redeemer on Bloor St. in Toronto. The winners of this competition then have the honour of performing their selected solos with the Hannaford Street Silver Band in the final concert of the festival on Sunday afternoon.

Rumour has it that Jacob Plachta, winner last year and the year before, may well be on the scene again this year. Last year Plachta not only won the competition, but did so performing his own composition Sonata for Trombone and Brass. Although we have no details in time for publication, I have heard that a number of members of the Hannaford Youth Band have now been bitten by the composing bug and have several compositions in the works. Plachta has apparently written a new work this year but we don’t have any details yet.

On Saturday, after masterclasses in the morning, it’s the “Community Showcase” where brass ensembles from the GTA and beyond compete for the annual Hannaford Cup. In past years there have been participating groups from as far away as upstate New York and Ottawa. On Sunday it will be guest conductor Alain Trudel on the podium for the grand finale of the weekend featuring winners of HSSB’s annual Young Artists Solo Competition and Festival Slow Melody contest performing with the HSSB. The show will conclude when the Hannaford Youth Band joins in for a massed band finale.

Of particular interest will be the North American premiere of Breath of Souls by the young British composer Paul Lovatt-Cooper. Having not heard of this composer before, it was time for a little research with the aid of such authorities as Google and associates. Coming from a Salvation Army family, he studied music at the University of Salford. After a stint as a percussionist with the renowned Fairey Band he is now “composer in association” of the Black Dyke Band. In recent years several of his compositions have been recorded by leading brass bands in Europe and the UK. His composition The Dark Side of the Moon was selected as the test piece for the third section of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain 2008 regional contests. The same piece was selected as the test piece for the third section of the 2008 Dutch National Brass Band Championships at Groningen. Breath of Souls was selected as the test piece for the Championship Section of the 2011 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain held at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in October. The following is a quote from a respected British source: “Ever since a young composer called Paul Lovatt-Cooper came to prominence following the world premiere of Earth’s Fury at Symphony Hall in 2004, the banding world has increasingly taken notice of his unique blend of fresh, inventive and downright enjoyable music making.”

On April 14 Wellington Winds, under the baton of Daniel Warren, will present “Jokes and Riddles,” a program of works by Strauss, Elgar, Ives, Rossini, Bach, Rauber and even P.D.Q. Bach. Guests will be the WW Brass Quintet. This will be at Knox Presbyterian Church in Waterloo. The program will be repeated April 21 in Kitchener.

On April 17 at Byron United Church, London’s own Plumbing Factory Brass Band will present “Celebrating Canada — Our Home and Native Land.” The program will open and close with two different marches both titled Bravura — a word which conjures up our national spirit of energy, pride and glory. Conductor Henry Meredith’s own salute to the Queen’s jubilee celebrations is his fanfare version of God Save the Queen, based on a 19th century harmonization with words describing “Our Native Land, Fair Canada.” Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest follows — it was performed 60 years ago at our Queen’s coronation in 1953. Howard Cable’s The Banks of Newfoundland is an arrangement of several folk songs from our oldest, yet newest, province, and the flora and fauna of Canada is depicted by Laurendeau’s Land of the Maple and Grumble’s popular Chanticleer Rag. Canada’s waterways are then portrayed by Clarke’s cornet solo The Maid of the Mist (named for the famous Niagara Falls tour boat) plus a world premiere performance of a composition commissioned by the Plumbing Factory Brass Band. Called On the Thames, the work by PFBB cornetist Kyle Hutchinson reflects the river Thames in London, Ontario, and its namesake in London, England. In April, Canada’s cold winter should be just a memory, so the band will be thinking of warm breezes when it plays Bach’sAir from Suite No. 3, and looking forward to such summer activities as weddings, jazz festivals and circuses. Representing those summertime events are the rarely heard Sousa waltz song, I’ve Made My Plans for the Summer, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro overture, an arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s multimetric Blue Rondo a la Turk, in memory of the great jazz pianist who passed away last December, and Duble’s circus music, our second Bravura march for the evening.

In its program titled “Fiesta,” the Milton Concert Band will be exploring the many exciting facets of Latin culture brought to life in classical and contemporary music, on April 20 in the Milton Centre for the Arts.

On April 21 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, it will be “Silk, Spice and the New World” for the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds, with conductor Andrew Chung, as they explore music from the ancient Silk Road route. This program will celebrate the music of Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean. Camille Watts on flute and piccolo will be their guest artist. Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts,

Unlike most of the other community bands we have heard from, the Pickering Community Concert Band’s April 21 spring concert in Ajax will not be a “themed concert.” Conductor Doug Manning has selected quite a spectrum of works from Toronto arranger Eddie Graf’s arrangement of Clarinet a la Mode to the great British classic Mannin Veen. Paul Schwarz will be their guest vocalist. One week later at the Flato Markham Theatre on April 28, Doug Manning will be at the helm of the Markham Concert Band with a themed concert. “The Best of Broadway” will include selections from The Sound of Music, Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys and others.

More on the trend to themed concerts: In a recent issue I made reference to a trend to program what I referred to as themed concerts. Proponents of the concept argue that a theme is a way to attract an audience. Opponents argue that a “slavish” adherence to a theme can place significant restrictions on suitable repertoire. Personally, I have mixed reactions. Some of the best concerts I have heard in recent times have been skillfully crafted on themes. On the other hand, some of the worst have resorted to second rate selections to adhere to the theme. When I discussed the matter with one conductor, he admitted that he had found himself restricted by programming to a theme and then stated: “You end up servicing a concert with an arbitrary motif.” We would like to hear from readers, particularly band members. What are your thoughts?

More on changing technologies: In the past, much of the information we received on band activities arrived by email. It was almost always in the form of a straightforward press release from which it was a simple matter to extract much of the information. Recently, we have seen a significant change. Several of the submissions that we have received lately have been difficult, if not impossible, to deal with. We now frequently receive PDF files of posters. It is not possible to extract information from these. We could print them and then type in what we read, but this can be very time consuming. Even worse is a simple email message suggesting that we visit one or more websites to hunt for information. One recent submission had suggestions to visit no fewer than ten different websites. There was really nothing to indicate what we might find if we did so.

A different perspective: For someone like myself, steeped in the more traditional forms of music, it is interesting to hear the very different roles assigned to different instruments in the more popular genres of the day. In a recent CBC Radio One program reviewing the latest “Music Industry” awards, the reviewer, commenting on the performance of one “contemporary” group, stated: “They even had a trumpet. It was a nice little touch to have a trumpet.” How would that go over in the band world? 

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

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 onband.ca/cmf.

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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

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, bellman@rogers.com.

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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

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.

Back to top