Although the weather man may tell us that fall has officially just begun, for most community ensembles the fall season is well under way. If the fall concert isn’t scheduled for October, it will be in early November at the latest. Before we know it the Christmas concert will be on the horizon. It may even be time to plan and select the repertoire for the spring.

Ah, the repertoire, what is it? That very academic sounding word conjures up many different images for many of us. Is it the next concert program, the music that’s in the rehearsal folder, what’s in the band’s library or ...? The Oxford dictionary defines repertoire as a stock of works that a performer knows or is prepared to perform. Webster defines it similarly. In other words, it isn’t all of that material in the band library that hasn’t seen the light of day for years. It’s the music that the band would be capable of performing with some reasonable rehearsal time.

For most bands, the die is cast for any performances bwetween now and the new year. What about music for 2013? Will it be the same old reliable chestnuts that are rotated regularly between the library and the rehearsal folder, or will there be some new material? For me, this triggers two potentially controversial questions. Who decides what should be in the library, what should be in the rehearsal folder and who plans the programs? My experience is that band members rarely have much say in concert programming. More about that later. Let’s start with the library and then the rehearsal folder.

What should be in a band library? Just about every band has its stock of hackneyed or over performed works, the names of which don’t warrant repeating here; we all know which ones fall into that category. Give them a rest. Put them in retirement for a year or more.

So, here’s where we are asking for reader participation. We are asking you to tell us what you would like to have in your band’s library. We hope to put on The WholeNote website a suggested possible basic library. As a starter, I have come up with 16 categories, with one or two examples of what I consider to be worthwhile repertoire in each category. (Feel free to disagree!) In any case, I invite you to send me your suggestions for what (else) you think should be included in a basic band library. If you have any new categories to suggest, please do so.

Here’s my “Better Band Library” starter kit:

  • Suites for concert band: Holst Suite in E-Flat, Vaughan Williams Folk Song Suite.
  • Concert overtures: Egmont Overture.
  • Overtures to operas and operettas: Poet and Peasant, Light Cavalry.
  • Broadway and London musicals: Oliver, Annie.
  • Parade marches: The Middy, Invercargill.
  • Concert marches: Pentland Hills, Colonel Bogey on Parade.
  • Big band era arrangements: Big Band Favorites, Swinging Songs of Yesterday.
  • Canadian:Calvert’s Suite on Canadian Folk Songs.
  • Traditional: Grundman’s An Irish Rhapsody, Nestico’s All Through the Night.
  • Arrangements of operatic solos: Nessun Dorma.
  • Latin: Cha Cha for Band, Blue Tango.
  • Gentle calming: Ashokan Farewell, Frank Ericson’s Air for Band.
  • Arrangements associated with particular performers: As Performed by Sinatra or Eubie.
  • Film scores: Titanic.
  • TV scores:Mission Impossible.
  • Novelty numbers: Lassus Trombone, Bugler’s Holiday.

While many bands perform concerts with choirs and/or vocal soloists, there really is no significant recognized repertoire for such combinations. For now we will not include such categories in our basic library.

The rehearsal folder: So, now that we have our basic library, what should be in our rehearsal folder? Should the rehearsal folder only contain music that is being prepared for performance, or should there be some good rigorous material for the sole purpose of challenging the band members? Each such number could remain in the folder for a few weeks and then be replaced with something new. For some years, I have been playing regularly in a smaller group with a very extensive library. The contents of the rehearsal folder are constantly changing. At any time it contains about half old material and half new. Not a rehearsal goes by without at least one number never seen before and others that haven’t been looked at for a long time. The result is that everyone’s sight reading skills remain well honed. Certainly, some of the material may never be performed for an audience, but it serves a good purpose. I would suggest that it would be worthwhile for a band to have in its rehearsal folder at least one such number at all times with some regular rotation, say once a month. This should help to keep everyone’s reading skills at a consistently good level. Most of us don’t aspire to be renowned virtuosos, but we all enjoy the satisfaction of having played our part of that good music well.

Program selection: Who should have a say in program selection? In most cases this is the sole prerogative of the conductor with some input from the librarian. Who are the other parties whose preferences could, and perhaps should, be considered? Put another way, we might ask for whom is the concert planned? Is it primarily to please the audience, band members, the conductor or, even possibly, sponsors? I would like to suggest that band members should have a greater voice in programming. For most, they play in a band for the personal satisfaction of making music with other like-minded individuals. I would like to see a movement to campaign for band members to have a greater say in the planning of programs. Without their regular participation and devotion, the band would cease to exist. Get band members involved in programming. Even before that, start with the decision of what should go into a rehearsal folder.

Now that we have a library and a rehearsal folder, how about selecting a program. What are the capabilities of the band members who have to perform the material? If your band doesn’t have a hot shot bassoonist at the present time, obviously you don’t include anything with an important bassoon part. If it’s a minor part, some other instrument can play the cues to ensure that the part isn’t missing completely. As for solo parts within selections, who gets to play them? In many bands, the longest serving member in the section automatically gets the nod even though other members of the section may be equally capable, if not more so. Seniority of membership is not necessarily synonymous with level of musicianship. In some bands of my acquaintance, solo excerpts are shared by all section members unless some do not wish to be included. That’s another way to foster proficiency and build confidence.

In recent years many bands have taken to producing concerts with a “theme.” Perhaps it was all music of the movies, disasters, space exploration or something else? Is this what your audiences enjoy? Why not ask them to complete a survey form at intermission?

Do your audiences really enjoy such additions as video excerpts and slide shows or do they feel that this detracts from the musical performance? Put another way, is your band staging a multimedia presentation or a musical concert? What would the band members prefer?

With all of that, who gets to make the decision of what to include in a program? Why not prepare a questionnaire for members to complete? Certainly, some just want to come to the rehearsal and then go home, but others might just have some ideas with merit. I might even suggest a programming committee from within the band. Naturally, in the end, the final decision must rest with the conductor, but let band members provide some creative input.

That’s my two cents worth: Let’s have your comments along with selections to be included in The WholeNote basic library.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Vibratto: child prodigy son of the concertmaster. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Coming events: Please see the listings section for full details. 

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

It’s transition time. Our one month break from publication is over, and it’s time both to reflect on the past few weeks and see what’s ahead for the month of September. It has been an interesting few weeks since I last put “pen to paper.” On the personal side there have been many performances, mostly outdoors, and a few cancellations. I have also had a few more visits to the Baycrest Centre where I am participating in their studies on the influences of musical activity on cognitive function. More about that in another issue.

39 bandstand photo by jack macquarrieConcert band reflectionsOne of the most noteworthy developments on the community band scene has been the evolution of the Sunday evening concert series organized by the Markham Community Band and an organization called Unionville Presents. Initiated last year using the MCB’s inflatable bandshell in a parking lot in Markham, this year the series was expanded in scope and moved to the excellent Unionville Millenium Bandstand. With the exception of one concert, the rain held off; when I arrived to hear the North York Concert Band, the audience out front was limited to one solitary listener under a large yellow umbrella, but on stage there were two dozen or so listeners comfortably seated on each side of the band under the extended wings of the roof. As the concert progressed the rain departed, and by the end of the concert a good-sized audience was seated in front of the band. The crowd the following week was almost the same for the Richmond Hill Concert Band, with a dozen or so listeners also standing on a porch of a house across the road. For all the following weeks, with superb weather, the bands played to a full house of adults, children, dogs and even a trained cockatoo who added his gymnastics to the entertainment of those nearby.

Culture Days: Now for an update on Culture Days. This is a national event, now in its third year, which has obtained much less publicity than it deserves. Cultural Days is a coast-to-coast-to-coast federal government initiative to get artists and arts organizations out in the community and get the public aware of and involved with them. Thousands of activity organizers self-mobilize at the grassroots level to present and coordinate free public activities that take place throughout the country over the last weekend of September each year, this year September 28, 29 and 30. One Culture Days event of interest to community band members, that we are aware of, is an invitation to local brass players by members of the Hannaford Street Silver Band to sit in and join them for an afternoon of music making. Many members of the Hannaford audience are active brass players themselves, and so the Hannaford folks thought that it would be great to get together with them and make some music. The band will be in the sanctuary of the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto on Sunday, September 30 from 2pm to 4pm to play music, enjoy some refreshments, and welcome any and all brass players of any age or ability level to play with them. (For those who might like a practising edge, check back at the Hannaford website for updates on this event. They expect to have parts available for download from their website. See also listings section D, “The ETCeteras,” for other Culture Days events.

Happy 140th anniversary to you! A few years ago we made some comments in this column referring to “Canada’s oldest community band.” That sparked quite a response from a number of bands, each of which claimed to be “Canada’s oldest band” or “Canada’s oldest continuously operating band.” Rather than re-ignite that discussion, it is more appropriate to offer congratulations to the Newmarket Citizens Band as they prepare to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the band being recognized as the “Official Town Band of Newmarket.” While a band had been playing in the community prior to then, it was in 1872 that the band was officially recognized as the town band. At that time a petition was circulated amongst the local business community by three sons of the fur trader William Roe. One of the sponsors was Robert Simpson of the Simpson department store chain. The grand sum of $319 was raised to purchase instruments.

To celebrate their 140 years of continuous service in the community, the Newmarket Citizens Band are inviting everyone to a special free concert complete with balloons and birthday cake. They will present a musical journey through time at the Riverwalk Commons, 200 Doug Duncan Dr., in Newmarket, on September 30. Festivities will get underway at 2pm. Bravo to one of the few bands that still participate in parades including, a half dozen or so Santa Claus parades every year.

Something for next month: With the approach of fall, many bands indulge in a bit of retrospection and then plan for concerts, other functions and repertoire for the coming season. An excellent stimulus for that is to meet with members of other bands at the CBA Community Band Weekend. Every October the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) conducts such an event. This is an opportunity for community musicians to meet like-minded individuals, play a broad selection of music under the direction of leading Ontario conductors and perform in a joint concert on the Sunday afternoon with the host band and a composite band. This year’s weekend, hosted by the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds, will take place on October 13 and 14, in Richmond Hill. Check for further details next month.

Endings:Unfortunately, we must report on the passing of two long-time band community members.

John Evans was the drummer for the GTA Swing Band up until last year. Brother John, as he was referred to, also played with the Swansea Community Concert Band led by his brother Frank Evans. John was 90. There will be a memorial service held in the fall.

As an undergraduate at University of Toronto, Ed Nixon was a regular on tuba in the Varsity Band. Years later, when the U of T Alumni Band was formed, Ed was a charter member. I have fond recollections of an incident with Ed while we were both in the Varsity Band. It was back in the days when university football fans travelled to out of town games by chartered train. After a night of celebrating a victory over the Queen’s University team, Ed and I missed our train back to Toronto. The solution was simple: let’s hitchhike home. Wearing our blue and white uniforms and carrying our instruments, we headed out to the highway and raised our thumbs. However, there was one problem: Ed was carrying a sousaphone. We did get a ride in the open rumble seat of an old car. Two carefree happy students, one trombone and one sousaphone made it back from Kingston with just a bit of gawking by passing motorists. Wish I had a photo. Ed was 84.


This month’s lesser known musical term is Vesuvioso: an indication to build up to a fiery conclusion. 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 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

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