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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: Trouble Clefany clef that one can’t read: e.g. alto clef for most trombonists. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions. 

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

bandstand_jack_macquarrie_with_tuba_winter_2_1In last month’s column I speculated that many bands in our area would have a wide variety of events for the summer months. Nothing like the way it was,of course, when I started playing in a band many years ago, shortly after the dinosaurs had departed from the local scene. For us back then it was all about band tattoos in towns throughout Southwestern Ontario. There were the boys bands and the company bands (both now almost extinct) and the town bands. I remember well the Pressey Transport Company band, the Chatham Kiltie band and, most impressive of all, the White Rose Oil Company band from Petrolia, Ontario, in their elegant white uniforms. At the end of the summer it was, more often than not, the long bus trip to the Canadian National Exhibition to compete with other bands on the old North Bandstand. Local town band tattoos are now very rare, and the CNE no longer hosts such band events, but I had an inkling it would be a summer of relative plenty. So I sent a brief survey questionnaire to a number of bands located within an hour’s drive of Toronto. Are they travelling far afield for special events or are they hosting concerts on home territory?

Initially there was little response. So little, in fact that I started a “Plan B” column about a couple of events in which I was involved since last month’s column was written. The first of these was the York University Concert Band Festival. A series of individual workshops in the morning was followed by band workshops with coaching from a York University professor. This was followed by a reception where keynote speaker Bobby Herriot regaled the participants in his inimitable style. His very appropriate topic: Benefits of Being Involved in a Community Band. During the evening each of the participating bands performed short concerts with members of the other bands in the audience. The entire event was organized by York University music graduate students. Let’s hope that this will be the first of many such events.

The second event was a concert entitled “The Beat Goes On and on …” by the Toronto New Horizons Bands. Started in September 2010 with one daytime band, the local New Horizons program now has grown to two daytime and two evening bands. For their end of season event they returned to the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. In the formative stages I watched many people checking out various instruments to determine which should become their musical soul mate. Now, with over 80 members in the four groups, the spectrum of required instrumentation is well covered. Yes, they even have oboe, bassoon and bass clarinet, but alas the tuba has been neglected. So, you guessed it, yours truly was invited to participate as a guest. What an experience to play with each of the four groups individually, and then with all 80-plus members on stage. I didn’t see an empty seat in the hall. There were a lot of very proud family members in the audience that night.

So, what do our community bands do during the summer months?

Just as I was about to give up, the flood gates opened. From a new band less than a year old to one celebrating 140 continuous years of serving its community, they responded. Rather than risk any suggestion of favouritism, here is a synopsis in alphabetical order.

The Aurora Community Band, still in its first year of operation, has performances slated for the Aurora Farmer’s Market and a more formal concert at Trinity Church, Aurora.

The Brampton Concert Band and their companion Jazz Mechanics group have a host of special events in and around Brampton in addition to their regular Thursday Night Concert Series in Gage Park. As well as the regular concert series, the Jazz Mechanics Big Band will be playing at The Rex in Toronto and at the 24th annual Beaches International Jazz Festival. The Brampton Concert Band will also be hosting the Rocky Mountain Concert Band from Calgary. One of their last concerts will be entitled “O Canada: A Memoir” featuring the Pipes and Drums of the Lorne Scots.

The Clarington Concert Band has announced appearances in Port Hope, Orono and Bowmanville, so far.

The Columbus Centre Concert Band, now completing its second year, will be at Vaughan City Hall for Heritage Month on June 2, and then off to the Waupoos Winery in Prince Edward County for a wine and cheese celebration the following day. In July they will present a series of outdoor concerts at Villa Colombo in Toronto.

The Festival Wind Orchestra will present the final concert of its 15th anniversary season on Sunday, June 17, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis St., Toronto. We have not heard of any other events for the balance of the summer. The program, titled “Then to Now: Celebrating 15 Years of Music,” is a trip back and forth through time, featuring music that was relevant from 1997 and 1998, the orchestra’s first full season, up to the present day.

Grand River New Horizons Music is another New Horizons group serving Kitchener-Waterloo and the surrounding area. They have far too many events to list here, but a few highlights deserve special mention. Saturday, June 23 is the Teddy Bear Parade in Listowel where they will play at the park as the teddy bears are marched up the street toward the park. Everyone is invited to join the parade with their teddy bears. Canada Day sees them at Doon Heritage Village dressed as an 1914 costume band with players wearing straw boater hats. Men will be in long sleeved blue and white striped shirts and baggy trousers. Women will be wearing white middy tops with blue trim and long blue skirts. The band will also be in 1914 costume in Palmerston for that town’s 100th anniversary of its Pedestrian Bridge.

The Markham Concert Band will be going to the Orillia Aqua Theatre once again this summer and also will be traveling to Fenelon Falls for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Fest. Last year, this band introduced a series of afternoon concerts on Markham’s Main Street with duties shared by several visiting community bands. This year there will be a similar series but they will shifted from the inflatable bandshell on Markham’s Main Street to the Unionville Millennium Bandstand.

The Milton Concert Band is gearing up for a busy June and July with several performances planned for both the concert band and their swing ensemble; Then the band will take a rest for the month of August. In addition to their free summer concert series at Victoria Park Gazebo in Milton, they will be appearing in the Burlington Sound of Music Festival at the Burlington Art Centre. On July 5, they play host to the Rocky Mountain Concert Band of Calgary, Alberta.

The Toronto New Horizons Band, after its successful concert at the Glenn Gould Studio will be gearing down somewhat. After one concert at Ryerson University, and a band party, there will be a few sporadic performances at retirement residences with ad hoc rehearsals as required. The band is already receiving calls from potential members wanting to know when the next new band will be starting. The beat does go on.

The Newmarket Citizens’ Band started this season off early with a parade for the opening of the local baseball season. As in past years, it will be participating in a variety parades and festivals and will make their appearance again at the Orillia Aqua Theatre. Early in June the band will be leading a “Stroll” down Newmarket’s Main Street to the town museum to herald the opening of an exhibit featuring the Band’s 140 years in the town. More anniversary events have yet to be finalized. In the meantime, if you are near Newmarket, drop around and have a look at the band’s 140 year history at the Elman W. Campbell Museum located at 134 Main St. S., Newmarket; hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to noon and 1pm to 4pm and admission is free; call 905-953-5314 for more information.

The Northdale Concert Band reports only two major out of town commitments, so far, for the summer: an evening performance at the Orillia Aqua Theatre and a Sunday afternoon concert at the Stratford Outdoor Theatre.

The Pickering Community Concert Band, with many members away for most of the summer, has chosen to close down for the summer with no performances after July 8.

The Richmond Hill Concert Band will be at a Canada Day celebration for Richmond Hill at Richmond Green Park, and at the Markham Summer Concert Series at Unionville Bandstand.

The Scarborough Concert Band has told us of performances at the Scarborough Civic Centre and at a festival in Port Union.

The Thornhill Community Band will be performing at The Taste of Asia Festival, in the Markham Summer Concert Series at Unionville Bandstand and at Mel Lastman Square.

The Uxbridge Community Concert Band, now in its 21st season, is a summertime only band and they have just had their first rehearsal. As in past years their first performance will on Decoration Day at Uxbridge Cemetery with subsequent concerts at Palmer Park in Port Perry and at Trinity United Church in Uxbridge.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Tempo Tantrum: what an elementary school band is having when it’s not following the conductor. 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

For many bands, this part of spring is the time for almost being able to shift gears. The fall and winter concert schedule is almost over, but not quite. As I write this, many have at least one more concert to perform. And although summer events are on the horizon, the music for them is not quite yet in the rehearsal folders.

Of the spring events I’ve already attended, two stand out, both for their musical excellence and their emphasis on young performers.

The first was a mid-week musical evening presented by the Naval Reserve Band of HMCS York at the Naval Club of Toronto. The Naval Club is small, with no stage or other performance platform. In other words, no place for a full size concert band. The solution: small ensembles and soloists took turns. For those audience members less familiar with the tonal quality and capabilities of the various instruments it was educational as well as entertaining. The trombone quartet, in particular, evoked comments such as “so that’s how trombones can sound.” Those who had prepared themselves for an evening of reasonably qualified amateur music were in for a surprise. As an example, the aforementioned trombone quartet consisted of one undergrad, one bachelor’s degree in music, one master’s degree in music and one Ph.D. in music. The entire program was organized by one of the young reserve band members, with their music director, Lieutenant Jack t’Mannetje, standing proudly in the background. On another matter, if my memory serves me correctly, this band of HMCS York broke ground when they first enrolled a female member circa 1967. The present balance? It’s 60% female.

28_hannafordThe second recent concert with young performers as a highlight was the final concert of the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s annual Festival of Brass where the winner of the Hannaford Youth Rising Stars Solo Competition wins the honour of performing with the professional band in the final Sunday concert.

Jacob Plachta, a second year performance major in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music won the award for the second year in a row, this time performing his own composition, Sonata for Trombone and Brass. In the preliminary rounds of this competition, the young musicians play with piano accompaniment. On the Friday evening the three finalists then perform with full band accompaniment. Plachta composed both a challenging piano accompaniment for the first round and a complete brass band score for the finals.

Guest conductor for the final Hannaford Sunday afternoon concert, featuring trumpet showman Jens Lindemann, was tuba virtuoso and educator Patrick Sheridan who, as an added feature of this year’s festival, also gave a workshop on the Breathing Gym. This is a daily workout routine “for Band, Chorus and Orchestral Winds” developed by Sheridan and fellow tubist Sam Pilafian. I had the pleasure of attending this event, and obtained copies of the book and DVD. Once I have mustered up the will power to commit to a daily regimen with this program, I hope to report on my improvements in tone, phrasing, articulation and dynamics. I don’t expect to be transformed into a virtuoso, but hopefully I’ll rise above the “virtual oh so” level.

The term “mixed media” seems to be a trend as bands explore ways to attract and retain audiences, with the traditional fare of concert overtures, marches and show tunes giving way to a broad spectrum of sight and sound phenomena accompanying the music. One such group is the Milton Concert Band.

Musical director, Joseph Resendes, first came up with the idea of a “space themed” concert late last season: their December concert included a contemporary piece by Eric Whitacre called Cloudburst, a fun treatment on Frosty the Snowman and a Christmas medley featuring the use of “boomwhackers.” In Cloudburst, Whitacre uses finger snapping as a musical device to simulate rain, with the audience encouraged to participate, while the piece is performed against the image of a video clip that simulated rain. Taken together, the music, the video and the audience participation created magic. In Boomwhackers, a very traditional and simple arrangement of classic Christmas carols was “animated” by the use of non-traditional instruments and the reactions of volunteers. A group of local councillors, sponsors and several volunteers agreed to wear hard hats and sit on chairs facing the audience. Several band members stood behind them with their long plastic tubes (the boomwhackers). Essentially, the hard hats became a giant xylophone, with the boomwhackers as mallets. The audience was able to watch the expressions on the faces of the hard hat volunteers as they anticipated from the melody when it was their turn to be whacked!

Encouraged by audience response, Resendes planned an even more ambitious space-themed spring concert. Rather than a traditional emcee, recorded narration played as a voice-over between pieces to simulate being in a planetarium rather than a concert venue. This was supplemented by special lighting and a variety of video loops and other NASA images. Holst’s Jupiter, Mangione’s Land of Make Believe, and of course, the Star Wars and Star Trek themes were the backbone of the musical program.

Ironically, I missed this Milton Band concert, because I had prior plans to attend a very different space-themed concert. This was the Music of the Spheres: A Fusion of Music, Art and Science,” celebrating astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar’s 20th anniversary of flight in space. Performed at the Ontario Science Centre by the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers, the breathtaking images of Bondar’s photographs combined with the ethereal voices of the two choirs and Bondar’s commentary left the audience stunned.

Yet another mixed media band event scheduled for the weekend just prior to the publication of this issue will be the Markham Concert Band’s Godzilla Eats Las Vegas where the band plays the accompaniment to a video presentation. Here again, the score is by avant-garde composer Eric Whitacre.

Something new in the local band world this year is the York University Community Band Festival scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 12pm to 9pm. This event is being organized by York University music graduate students with sponsorship by the York University Fine Arts Department, Yamaha and St. John’s Music. For information: Audience tickets are available online at

As for the beginners’ bands, the ones we have heard from are doing just fine. The four New Horizons bands in Toronto will be together for a combined concert entitled “The Beat Goes On … and On” at the Glenn Gould Studio, 7:30pm, Thursday May 17. Resa’s Pieces will present their 13th Gala Concert at the George Weston Recital Hall, June 12, 8pm.

Finally, and unfortunately, I must report the passing of a lifelong supporter of community bands in Southern Ontario. William “Bill” Askew passed away in Oshawa just a few days shy of what would have been his 92nd birthday. During World War II Bill served as a musician with the RCAF in England. On his return to Canada he was active for the rest of his life as a gifted euphonium soloist in a number of bands. He was co-founder of the Encore Symphonic Band and a regular member until health problems forced his retirement. He was a long time member of the Oshawa Civic Band which performed at a service of remembrance on April 3.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Spritzicato: an indication to string players to produce a bright and bubbly sound. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

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

As i sit down and stare at the blank screen, we have had our four beautiful days of summer complete with crocuses in the garden and it’s now back to the reality of spring. It’s time to come out from under the rocks and see what is happening in the band world. For many, it’s transition time from the more formal concert format of the fall and winter programming before the summer events begin. For others there is probably still a final spring concert looming first. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law seems to be working in our band world this spring. We have two significant major concerts the same date and time in downtown Toronto.

bandstand_hannafordThis leads us to the one big spring event in our band world. It’s the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s annual Festival of Brass 2012 version from Friday April 13 through Sunday April 15. It’s bigger than ever this year. As in past years, on the Friday evening there will be “Rising Stars” at the Church of the Redeemer where members of the Hannaford Youth Program will perform under the direction of Anita McAlister. This concert will also include the final round of their annual Solo competition. The winner of this will perform with the HSSB on the Sunday concert.

On Saturday afternoon it will again be “Community Showcase” where community bands from across Ontario and beyond will perform a wide range of repertoire. Some bands will also vie for the Hannaford Cup, the HSSB’s annual award for excellence. Individual members of some of these groups will compete in the band’s annual Slow Melody contest. The winner of this competition will perform with the HSSB on Sunday. On Saturday evening, the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army, under the direction of bandmaster John Lam returns to the festival. As soloist, tuba showman extraordinaire, Patrick Sheridan, will dazzle the audience with his virtuosity .

As in past seasons, the grand finale will be the Sunday afternoon concert, “Dreaming of the Master.” Here, Sheridan will switch roles from soloist, and make his debut as guest conductor of HSSB. In this concert there will be two soloists. Canadian trumpet virtuoso, Jens Lindemann, will return to the Hannaford stage in a performance of Canadian composer, Allan Gilliland’s Dream of the Master for Trumpet and Brass Band. The other soloist will, of course, be the winner of the Youth Band’s Solo competition.

As if this were not enough, this year HSSB has added some new features. On Thursday April 12 there will be “Education Concerts” for students at 11am and 1pm at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. We have heard rumours that the morning event is already sold out. The other new event will be a masterclass on Saturday April 14 at 9:30am at the Jane Mallett Theatre. This will be a free public event where Lindemann and Sheridan join forces to impart their wealth of musical performance expertise to all in attendance.

The Hannaford Street Silver Band is to be congratulated for its efforts in bringing the unique sounds of the brass band to a wider audience, and for its outstanding contribution to the enrichment of the musical lives of the participants in their junior bands.

For a very different kind of band music we have the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds and their concert offering of “Ballet, Broadway, and the Big Screen.” This concert will feature the world premiere of a new transcription of Sherwood Legend, for solo French horn and wind ensemble, by Canadian composer and oboist Elizabeth Raum. This transcription, commissioned by Silverthorn Symphonic Winds, will feature artist-in-residence Christopher Gongos on French horn. The concert takes place at 2pm, Sunday April 22 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. A free pre-concert talk with composer Raum and Gongos will begin at 1:15pm.

Another event of interest to band musicians offered by Silverthorn Symphonic Winds is a free public music clinic, in conjunction with the Westmount Collegiate Music Department and Arts Westmount Music. Led by Gongos, “Brass Boot Camp and Beyond” will provide tips on musicianship, technique and ensemble playing. The clinic takes place on Thursday April 12, 7pm, at Westmount Collegiate Institute, 1000 New Westminster Dr., Thornhill.

Brass musicians should bring their instruments to participate in an ensemble led by Gongos. Other musicians will also benefit from the clinic and are encouraged to attend as audience members. The content of the clinic will be geared toward high school instrumentalists and adult amateur musicians. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact This is the kind of effort which could, and should, be undertaken by more community musical groups. It is the sort of initiative that will frequently qualify for funds from granting agencies and will endear the band to the community at large.

The Royal Regiment of Canada, the biggest Reserve regiment in the Canadian Army, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year (which they didn’t tell our listings department about, alas). In any case, on Sunday, April 15, 2pm, the Regimental Band will present its “150th Anniversary Gala Concert” at Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory. The concert will feature the Band of The Royal Regiment of Canada, emcee Jacquie Perrin of the CBC, and special guests the Pipes and Drums of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, singer-songwriter Jon Patterson, vocalist Danielle Bourré, and a specially-formed Regimental Chorus composed of Afghanistan veterans and other serving infanteers. To dovetail with the concert, the Band of The Royal Regiment of Canada will be releasing a new double-CD, Saeculum Aureum (Golden Age), their sixth recording in the last 15 years. And there will be a pre-concert luncheon in Hart House on the University of Toronto campus.

Who said that community bands were dead? Last month I reported on the formation of the new Aurora Concert Band, and hope to visit them some Sunday evening soon. Now, a few days ago, I heard from a band that has been operating for over a year, but has just contacted us. The Columbus Centre Concert Band, under the direction of Livio Leonardelli was formed in November 2010 and has grown to more than 40 regular musicians. They performed five concerts in 2011 and have currently booked for five in 2012. Their diverse repertoire ranges from Verdi and Puccini through Count Basie and Sinatra, to Broadway musicals. They rehearse every Tuesday evening from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at the Columbus Centre and are particularly interested in attracting a few more low brass players. For information contact Fred Cassano at or at 416-828-3733.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is The Right of Strings: The Manifesto of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Violists.

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

With spring just around the corner, many community bands, even while still in the midst of rehearsals for spring concerts, are already contemplating and even planning for various special events during the summer months. What form will these take? And how will they differ from the events such bands participated in 50, 75 or 100 years ago? Will the same types of events that attracted audiences in those days be of interest in the year 2012?

27_BANDSTAND_MiltonCitizensBand_photo_by_A_PerrottWhen I first started playing in a band, we were almost overwhelmed with the number of summer events. My summers were filled with out-of-town band tattoos every weekend, frequent parades, occasional competitions and finally the trip to Toronto for the annual competitions at the Canadian National Exhibition. It was almost as busy for the adult bands. However, times have changed.

Five years ago in this column I stated that one of my hobby horses was to foster the recognition of bands in this part of the world as serious musical organizations. At that time, I quoted an author of an article on bands published about 20 years ago. In it, the author refers to “the Golden Age of band music that flourished during the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th.” In a later paragraph, this expert states an unequivocal fact: “As we all know, the original town band fervour has since gone the way of vaudeville and other populist art forms.”

True, bands and their activities have evolved, but town bands certainly have not gone as that author suggests. Just as the society we live in is constantly changing, so has the role of the town band. I would say that the primary role of these bands now is to provide a regular recreational outlet for those who love to make music, but not in isolation. They want an audience, and not just to pay a part of their expenses. Much of the satisfaction comes from performing for an appreciative audience. What is the magic formula? Bands don’t have the resources to get involved in sophisticated market research, but they still would like to know what will attract an audience and fill the seats.

Having taught marketing, and having been employed as manager of marketing communication for the Canadian subsidiary of a large multinational corporation, I would like to suggest some fundamental principles of marketing when planning a band’s special event. A standard starting point is defining “your goals, your product and your market.”

Your Goals: Define your goals for the event and the longer term goals for the band. In my opinion there might well be four stated goals. The first is the somewhat obvious wish to make music with like-minded friends. The second, equally obvious, is to entertain an appreciative audience. A third goal would be to acquaint the community with the band’s record over the years and to make all citizens more aware of the band’s potential to continue and to expand its role in the life of the community. The final, all-important goal would be to make everyone in town, especially the town council, aware of the band’s desire to have a home that they can call their own. Many bands rehearse in schools, and while they are grateful for the use of this rehearsal space, there are usually significant limitations in size, storage space and accessibility outside of rehearsal hours. There are a few notable exceptions to this last situation, reported on after a visit a couple of years ago: the Cobourg Concert Band and the Oshawa Civic Band have excellent homes of their own with great support from their communities.

Your Product: What are you selling? Is it concert entertainment, an outlet for persons of all ages to hone their musical talents with like-minded friends, or what? When the band was established and, hopefully, recognized by the town, what was its product then? If the band is over 100 years old, it probably started out as a major source of musical entertainment for the townsfolk. There was no radio, television, movies or records, let alone the plethora of portable music sources of the present day. If it started 75 years ago, there were probably still tattoos, but there would have been some competition from movies and a bit from radio. If 50 years ago, television was in the entertainment picture, with fewer channels than now, but in full force. What about the product in 2012 and beyond? The one attribute of the community band that has remained constant, is its ability to provide an outlet for the personal satisfaction of performing for an audience. What does your community band have to offer to its community in 2012, and in the years ahead?

Your Market: Define your market and your niche in that market. Remember that the role of the town band has changed drastically in the past 150 years — yes, there are town bands who can claim their service to the community for that long. We must recognize that “the town band” is no longer a principal source of musical entertainment in the town. For that matter, the “town,” in most cases, is no longer a town in the same sense it used to be. It may well be a city on its own. But for many of the populace, their town may be a bedroom community. They are employed elsewhere, and spend a significant portion of their time away from “the town.” Above all, recognize that the municipal council and the various funding organizations under its aegis are crucial components of your market. You must cultivate and nourish their perception of the band as a valued organization and an asset to the entire community. In most cases, without their support, the band’s very existence could be in jeopardy.

Proceed cautiously, you have time over the coming months to plan your events. Don’t commit to details in haste only to repent at leisure after the event. Consider your plans carefully and in meticulous detail so that you will be able to bask in the glow of a job well done next fall. Now for the big question: Who in the band will be doing the planning for these special events? Think about it.

For an example of a really worthwhile, well thought-out programme, take a look at the offering of London’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band for their March concert. It’s nothing but marches, but with nary a parade march among them. See “Beyond the GTA” listings for March 28.

As for new developments on the band front, we have just learned of the establishment of a new community band in Aurora. They rehearse on Sunday evenings. More details to come. As for the New Horizons music camp in July at Brock University, which was mentioned last month, it is now booked to capacity and has applicants on a waiting list.

Finally, a refreshing comment from a fellow musician. In a recent chat with jazz guitarist Gerry Mackay (who, by the way, has a regular solo jazz guitar gig at 8pm every Friday at Whitlock’s Restaurant & Wine Café Bar, 1961 Queen St. E.), he summed up his philosophy of performance quite simply: “Take your audience on a journey.” That should work well for the planning of any concert.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser-known musical term is Scrambelissimo: Do the best you can with this difficult section.

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

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