In last month’s column I decided to get retrospective. Now it’s time to shift gears and look at the year ahead. For most community musical groups, their year begins sometime in September when most vacations are over and the kids are back in school rather than at the beginning of the calendar year in January. For many groups, in addition to planning the musical content for the coming concert season, the fall may also mean electing a new executive, recruiting volunteers (conscripts) for the various non-musical chores and selecting music to add to and/or delete from the rehearsal folders. And for most groups it is also the time to welcome new members.
Take the plunge
What about you, dear reader? Are you actively involved in one or more ensembles, or are you a faithful concert attendee who has often wondered what it might be like to play regularly in a musical group? Perhaps you are a would be band member, but haven’t yet mustered up the courage to tackle a new challenge such as learning to play an instrument. Did a particular instrument attract your attention in a school band, or did you attend, as I did, a school with no music program? If you already play an instrument, perhaps you might like to try a different one.
If you have never played an instrument, now is the time to start. Both the New Horizons programs and groups like Resa’s Pieces are geared to such returnees and absolute beginners. Recent medical research studies have demonstrated some very clear benefits to playing a musical instrument. Interpreting all of those strange musical symbols on a piece of paper and manipulating the intricacies of your chosen instrument, in the company of like minded friends, keeps the brain functioning at its highest level.
Food for thought
Many years ago the York Regional Symphony, conducted by the late Clifford Poole, performed a series of “Wine and Cheese Concerts” in smaller communities throughout York Region. These provided an excellent means for people to learn more about orchestral music in an entertaining non-threatening way in their home community. The format was unlike any other concert series I have ever known. Audience members sat at large round tables which could accommodate ten people. Admission included wine of your choice with cheese and crackers on each table.
Two chairs at each table remained vacant while the orchestra performed. Rather than having a single intermission, these concerts had two or three breaks during which orchestra members would circulate and join audience members at their tables. During such breaks an audience member might meet with a bassoonist and a cellist, learn a bit about the instruments and then be more aware of their part in the music after each break. I enjoyed playing in those concerts and meeting the many people whose curiosity was aroused by them. I know of no such concerts now, but if you are involved in a band it’s a format worth considering.
Best laid plans
My personal gear-shifting resolution for this season was the same as in past years. I vowed to take on fewer concert band performances at outdoor venues on tuba or euphonium. To take up the “slack” in my musical activity I planned to get reacquainted with my trombone and the music of the big swing bands. Traditionally, these groups take an annual summer break. In both the concert band format and the smaller groups the shift would mean the opportunity to renew long standing friendships and perhaps meet a few new like minded souls.
Those were my plans, and I will still pursue them. However, a new venture suddenly loomed on my horizon. A re-enactment of a long past musical event suddenly took over and I found myself a hundred years in the past. The little hamlet of Goodwood, where I reside, is located in the Township of Uxbridge where there is an amazingly active and diverse arts community. Now, this year’s three week long annual “Celebration of the Arts” added one new musical component. It just so happens that the Uxbridge Music Hall is celebrating its 110th anniversary. What better way to celebrate such an event than to recreate as closely as possible the program performed on stage there in 1901? Local publisher, editor and sometime impresario, Conrad Boyce, dug through the archives of the local museum and obtained a copy of the program for that event. My gear shifting was put on hold!
The musical part of the program deviated only slightly from the original in that there was a band and choir, whereas the 1901 performance included an orchestra, band and choir. It included such chestnuts as Rossini’s Overture to Tancredi, Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana and The Anvil Chorus from Verdi’s Il Trovatore. (For this number, local choral conductor Joan Andrews performed as guest anvilist.)
Costa and Bucalossi?
The interesting numbers in the Uxbridge program, for me, were works by Costa and Bucalossi, two composers that I had never heard of. The Oxford Companion to Music was little help, but Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Music shed some light on them. Michaele Agniello Costa, son of a Spanish church composer, was born in Italy and settled for life in England. He wrote numerous operatic and ballet works and was much in demand as a conductor. He conducted the London Philharmonic, the orchestra at Covent Garden and, from 1848 to 1882, the Birmingham Festival. His second oratorio Naaman was written for the Birmingham Festival in 1864; With Sheathed Swords from Naaman was performed. He was knighted in 1869 and in 1871 “Sir Michael” was appointed “director of the music, composer and conductor” at Her Majesty’s Opera.
The life of Ernesto Bucalossi is not as well documented. The only information I could obtain about him was that he was an Italian composer who also settled in England until his death in 1933. He was, for a time, conductor of the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. He is described as a “writer of popular dance and descriptive orchestral music such as La Gitana Waltz and Hunting Scene.” It was in that latter composition where we had the most fun. After a slow, somewhat sombre introduction, followed by a few call and answer trumpet sounds, members of the band and chorus join voices to sing “A hunting we will go, A hunting we will go,” etc. Then after several bars of a frantic gallop, the music has two bars rest with the note “Bark: Arf Arf.”
At the final rehearsal, producer Boyce was accompanied by his almost constant canine companion, Lacey. It was suggested that Lacey could provide much more realistic barks than the band members. With suitable prompting she did in fact deliver beautiful sonorous barks. However, it was decided that if she were on stage in performance she might be excited and bark at inappropriate times. We were left to provide the barks ourselves.
Remembering Roland G. White
It is with a heavy heart that I report the passing of Roland G. (Roly) White, former Director of Music of the Concert Band of Cobourg. Roly served for many years in the Royal Marines Band Service in Britain, first as a musician and later as a conductor. On leaving the Marines in the late 1960s he moved to Canada and settled in Cobourg. He soon learned that, for many years, there had been a town band in Cobourg. Latterly known as the Cobourg Kiltie Band, the group had disbanded for lack of interest shortly before Roly’s arrival in town.
Roly soon took the initiative, and under his direction the band was revived in 1970 under the name the Concert Band of Cobourg. Drawing on his extensive experience he began moulding the band in the style of Royal Marines bands. In 1975, the band accepted the invitation to represent the Royal Marines Association of Ontario and donned the distinctive white pith helmets and red tunics of the Royal Marines for parades and tattoos. With the approval of the Town of Cobourg and the Royal Marines School of Music in the U.K., the band was honoured to add the distinction of The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Association, Ontario, to its name. Roland G. White retired in 2000 with the title director of music emeritus, after 30 years of dedicated service.
Of my many chats with him over the years, one story remains fresh in my memory. Roly conducted with his left hand. While working under Sir Vivian Dunn, then the senior band officer in the Royal Marines, he was chastised by Dunn and advised to switch to conducting right handed. Roly complied. Shortly after, when enrolled in his bandmaster’s course, his professor commented on his awkward conducting style. Roly explained that he was really left handed. His professor, Sir John Barbirolli, said “I conduct left handed.” Roly switched. On his return from this course, Dunn immediately noticed and commented on his change back to his left hand. Roly’s reply: “Sir John conducts left handed”. End of discussion; he never conducted right handed again.
A memorial service was held, Saturday, September 3, in Cobourg.
A Special Event
Too late to make it into the listings section, here’s an event worth noting: The Oshawa United Services Remembrance Committee will be presenting a “Festival of Remembrance” on Friday 28 October at 7pm at the Regent Theatre, 50 King Street East in Oshawa. The programme will feature the Oshawa Civic Band, the band of HMCS York, the Pipes and Drums of Branch 43 Royal Canadian Legion, the Durham Girls’ Choir and guest soloists. Honourary Colonel (Retd.) Dave Duvall C.D. (formerly CTV weather man) will act as master of ceremonies. Tickets are available from the theatre ticket office 905-721-3399 Ex. 2. All proceeds are destined for the “Poppy Appeal Fund”.
This month’s lesser known musical term is Schmalzando: a sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo Band. We invite submissions from readers.
• October 23 2:00pm: Markham Concert Band kicks off its theatre concert season with “October Pops,” an introduction to the world of light concert band music. Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd., in Markham.
Please see the listings section for other concerts.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.