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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

Well, the holiday season, with all of its almost overlapping rehearsals and concerts, is past history. Then, like mother nature (with the exception of her one or two nasty outbursts), the community ensemble scene lapsed into a tranquil, semi comatose state of inactivity. We have not heard of a single event scheduled for January or early February. Then, well after Groundhog Day and Family Day have past into history, we see the awakenings of a new season.

The first musical events for the season brought to our attention are not concerts, but are still events of considerable interest to members of community ensembles. Long and McQuade will be presenting no fewer than five free clinics on successive Saturday afternoons starting February 4. If you play clarinet, saxophone, trumpet or trombone, check for details at bloorband@long-mcquade.com. The two which particularly caught my attention were sax and trumpet. If you have never seen or heard contrabass, sopranino or soprillo saxophones, here’s your chance. The AllSax4tet will be performing on eight different sizes of saxes. As for the trumpet session, it will feature none other than the incomparable Doc Severinsen, leader of the Tonight Show Band for 30 years. Yes, he’s still actively performing.

The other noteworthy event is “International Horn Day 2012” presented by the York University Department of Music on February 10 at 7:30pm. This will feature Jacquelyn Adams with Clifton Hyde, guitar and Jeff Butterfield, drums, plus horn ensembles of all levels from across southern Ontario, including the Toronto Symphony horn section, Tafelmusik horns and more. See the listing section for details.

Two concert offerings which have come to our attention break with tradition in quite different ways. The first of these will be The City of Brampton Concert Band’s “Heroes and Villains” on Saturday, February 25. The concert will focus on the theme of heroes and villains in the broad sense of its many manifestations in life, history, nature, literature and art. Director Darryl Eaton has assembled a fantastic range of guest artists to help explore these concepts in musical terms. Perhaps the quirkiest will be William Snodgrass performing a whimsical version of The Flight of the Bumblebee as a percussion solo. For more details check their website at www.bramptonconcertband.com.

The second of these concerts with a different approach will be that of the Markham Concert Band. In a departure from more traditional programming, conductor Doug Manning decided to focus on works composed and/or arranged by Canadians. As an added feature, no fewer than four of these composers and arrangers will be in attendance. In the audience, to hear their compositions performed, will be renowned trumpeter Johnny Cowell and saxophonist Eddie Graf. As for the other two composers, they are band members Sean Breen and Vern Kennedy.

A long time member of the Toronto Symphony, Cowell also made his mark as a composer in the popular field. In fact, in the early 1960s Cowell had more compositions on the Hit Parade than anyone else. Two of his compositions were number one on the charts world wide. Walk Hand in Hand, now a wedding standard, and Our Winter Love are still popular today, almost 50 years later.

Graf was a band leader in Canadian Army shows in England and Europe during World War II. On his return to Canada, he led his own big band and was responsible for writing, arranging and conducting for many CBC shows. Now in his 90s, Graf is still playing and turning out fine compositions and arrangements.

Kennedy, composer and singer, had a long history with such CBC shows as the Juliette Show, Wayne and Shuster and the Tommy Hunter Show. In addition to playing trumpet in the band, Kennedy is a founding member of the Canadian Singers who will also be appearing in this concert. Originally an octet and now a vocal quartet, this group was established in 1994 with the goal of singing music by Canadian composers. They will sing works by both Cowell and Kennedy in this concert.

The fourth of the composers featured, and the youngest, is Breen. Still in his early 20s, Breen has been composing since his early days in high school. He plays baritone saxophone in the band, and will conduct his own Symphonic Overture for Winds.

29Featured soloist for this concert will be trumpet showman John Edward Liddle. An honours graduate of the acclaimed Humber College music programme, for the past 30 years Liddle has pursued a varied musical career. From principal trumpet and soloist with many orchestras and concert bands in the GTA to smaller chamber groups as well as latin, jazz and dance bands, he has explored all facets of the trumpet repertoire. In his spare time Liddle conducts the Etobicoke Community Concert Band, the North York Concert Band and the Encore Symphonic Concert Band.

Among other works, Liddle will perform Graf’s three movement Trumpet Rhapsody and Cowell’s arrangement of La Virgin de la Macarena by legendary trumpeter Raphael Menez. In Cowell’s original composition Roller Coaster, a work for trumpet trio, he will be joined by band members Kennedy and Gord Neill.

We usually don’t receive much news about the concerts or other activities of the reserve military bands in Toronto, but one event has come to my attention that warrants mention. It’s a special “Veterans Appreciation Concert” by the naval reserve band of HMCS York. My career in the navy, which spanned a good many years in a variety of roles at sea and ashore, had its origins in music. It so happens that, while still in high school, I was enticed into a naval reserve band with the exalted rank of “Probationary Boy Bandsman.” While my time in the navy after high school did not involve music, I have always had a soft spot for naval and marine bands. This concert by the HMCS York Band will take place on Saturday, March 3 in Ajax.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give an update on New Horizons Band activities. Locally, the Long and McQuade bands have now grown to four. Starting with one beginners group in September 2010, they have grown to two daytime and two evening groups for beginners and intermediate players now numbering 100 members. Now, under the umbrella of the University of Western Ontario New Horizons Band, a New Horizons Band Camp is scheduled for July at Brock University in St. Catharines. The intent is to bring together musicians from Canada and the U.S. as a way of celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. I’m sure that we’ll have more details in future issues, or visit

On a more serious note, it is with great sadness that we note the passing of Bette Eubank, a long time member of the Northdale Concert Band. In addition to playing as a regular member of the band’s flute section, Bette was always there when someone was needed to perform the many thankless non-musical jobs in the band. Bette also devoted much of her time to entertaining in seniors’ homes where she developed a special rapport with the residents. She departed much too early.

Definition Department

For the past couple of years we have featured a variety of wacky musical terms in this spot. For a change, this month’s is one that I encountered recently during a rehearsal. It is: Passissimo. I got no help from Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the Oxford Companion to Music or such websites as www.MusicTheory.org.uk or www.thefreedictionary.com. Can anyone help?

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

When contemplating this month’s column I had intended to dive right into reporting on the gathering storm of performances by community musical groups for the coming fall and winter season. However, four random recent events, each with some form of musical connection, have conspired to remind me just how pervasive musical influences are in my life, and to derail me from my appointed task.

The first of these was a paper recently published in the Journal of The American Psychological Association which compared the performance of a variety of tasks by musicians and non-musicians. Having been a volunteer subject over the past few years for this study at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Centre and the Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, I waded through the academic jargon. One phrase stood out:Despite the scant data on aging and musicianship, the picture emerging is that lifelong musicianship mitigates age-related decline in cognitive tasks …” In short, making music is good for you.

I could have told them that: One year ago, I wrote about how the New Horizons Band established at Long and McQuade had grown to 24 members by its third week. It’s now a daytime group and an evening group with total memberships of 42, and a new beginners’ daytime group of 22 is under way with another slated to begin in January.

In these startup groups the social rewards of playing in some form of musical ensemble have quickly come to the fore. As we see from the academic studies, making music with friends has many rewards beyond the pleasure of creating music. If you are not musically involved now, get on the bandwagon; it’s never too late.

Second sidetrack, the ultimate in serendipity, happened a couple of weeks ago on my way home from a rehearsal. Like so many Toronto streets at this time of year, my route was undergoing major repairs. To cut a long story somewhat shorter, as I stepped out of the car to locate the source of the clanking, a gentleman walking a dog called out “it’s your tailpipe.” Soon, in his driveway around the corner, he had supplied wire and tools and had my tailpipe secured for my trip home. At some point during his mission of mercy he spotted my instrument case and said “do you play trombone?” I asked how he had recognized the case, he informed me that he played guitar and cello, and naturally the conversation shifted to music. He is from Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, where he also sings and his wife directs a local choir. When I pulled out my wallet to buy a CD of his wife’s choir singing some of her original compositions, we had another jolt. On seeing the name Jack MacQuarrie, my name, he asked “How do you know him?” It just so happens that another Jack MacQuarrie (a distant relative whom I met many years ago) is a friend and publisher of the local Gore Bay newspaper. The beginnings of another musical friendship?

Third distraction along the way this month was hearing about a musical study by two meteorologists at Oxford and Reading Universities who traced prevailing weather phenomena in different parts of the world over the years and concluded that the content and style of many works of the classical repertoire could be directly linked to the prevailing weather in the region where the composers lived. With the help of my research assistant Mr. Google, I located not only that study, but an extensive, if less scholarly, article titled Weather in Classical Music by Richard Nilsen in the Arizona Republic. It is an extensive compendium of compositions catalogued by composer and title according to the seasons and various weather phenomena. Gives a whole new spin to the excuse of “being under the weather.”

Fourth and final digression? I was presented with an unusual opportunity to make music — the grand opening of a new municipal parking lot in a community north of Toronto. My musical zenith had arrived, I thought, and I would wait to tell you about it. I arrived in the area only to find an array of “Do Not Enter” and “No Parking” signs. You guessed it — there was no place to park. I arrived too late to play for this great event.

So, what is happening in the local music scene?

27_bandstand_christophergongosFor starters, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds (SSW) kicks off their 2011/2012 season with a free public music clinic, presented in conjunction with the Westmount Music Department and Arts Westmount Music. Led by 2010/2011 artist-in-residence Peter Stoll, clarinetist, “From Practice Room to Concert Hall” will provide tips on how to practise effectively and how to improve your ensemble playing. Not just for clarinetists, the clinic is geared toward high school instrumentalists and adult amateur musicians. For details, see this month’s Etcetera listings under “lectures.”(For the coming season, SSW has announced that its 2011/2012 artist-in-residence will be one of Canada’s most respected horn players, Christopher Gongos. In 1998, Gongos joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he holds the position of associate principal horn.)

To start their season this year, the Hannaford Street Silver Band once again joins forces with the Amadeus Choir under the baton of Lydia Adams for a performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. The work is a reflection on war and peace in a multi-cultural, global society. It draws its text from classical poets, biblical verses and traditional mass, as well as from Muslim, Hindu and Japanese sources. In the other portion of the programme on November 12, the band will be under the direction of Gillian MacKay. The HSSB will perform Kevin Lau’s Great North Overture and Barbara Croall’s remarkable Gi-Giiwe Na?, an allegory for brass and percussion inspired by Native soldiers. The men of the Amadeus Choir will join the HSSB to perform Harry Somers’ A Thousand Ages and Stephen Chatman’s hauntingly beautiful Reconciliation.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Articulosis: a chronic disability leading to fuzzy attempts at staccato playing.

We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Coming Events

Please see the listings for full details.

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

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

bandstand_roland_whiteIt 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”.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Schmalzando: a sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo Band. We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events

• 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 bandstand@thewholenote.com.

As i sit down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, the days are getting shorter and fall is almost on the horizon. There could be a temptation to do a bit of crystal ball gazing about what musical treats may be looming on the fall horizon. On the other hand, there are still several more weeks left before fall officially arrives, so let’s stay in the present for community music in the summer. For the most part, community orchestras take the summer off while for most community bands, public performance activity increases during the summer.

Having resisted the strong temptation to look at what may be on the fall horizon, I decided to get retrospective. How has the role of community bands evolved over the past century, and, in particular, how have their activities changed since I first produced sounds on an instrument out in public? Let’s look at performance venues, band activities, band membership, dress, influences of technology and repertoire.

Although concerts were a part of our activities when I first started in the band world, parades and tattoos were a much bigger part. During the summer months our band participated in many small town tattoos, but rarely mounted a stage for a concert. Local tattoos are almost a thing of the past, except for major ones such those in Quebec City and Halifax. With a few notable exceptions, most community bands today would decline any invitations to parade. They are “concert bands,” and many members would consider parading to be demeaning. So! Where do they perform their summer concerts? As for band membership, that has changed dramatically. My first band was a “boys’ band” as were most junior bands. As a rule, girls didn’t play in bands, but ours was an exception. We had two girls; it did help a bit that their father was the bandmaster.

A century ago most towns in this country had a town bandstand, most often in the style of a gazebo open on all sides. At some point some clever architect decided that it would be possible to focus the music and direct the sounds towards the audience. Eureka! The bandshell was born! When? I could find no literature on when or where the first bandshell was built. The earliest that I could find in this part of the world was opened in Cobourg in 1934. The most prominent bandshell in Canada, the great Art Deco structure at the Canadian National Exhibition, opened in 1936. It featured daily performances by the band of Knellar Hall, The Royal Military School of Music. With the exception of the years during WWII, daily band concerts on the shell were highlights of the CNE. During the 1950s and into the 1960s there were four concerts a day on the shell. Two of these were by featured bands from around the world and two each day were by local bands. That ended sometime in the 1960s. In the words of a CNE official, the role of the bandshell shifted to “pop culture.” This year, instead of four band concerts a day, there are only two scheduled for the entire period of the CNE. These, by a Canadian Forces Band, are for the opening ceremonies and on Warriors Day. Personally, this summer I performed at two shells and attended a concert at a third. The first of these was an afternoon performance in the town of Markham’s new portable, inflatable bandshell. Later that same day I travelled to one of the best known shells in Ontario, The Orillia Aqua Theatre.

bandstand_1The Markham event warrants special attention. The brainchild of Markham Band members Peter Ottensmeyer and John Webster, the “Sunday Afternoon Band Series,” referred to as “Concerts, Cakes and Coffee,” encourages people to listen to the concert and then stroll through the older Markham Village to visit the shops, galleries and restaurants. Full concert programs available at the shell include discount coupons and a map showing all participating merchants. The bright yellow and green inflatable shell was funded through an Ontario Trillium grant. From a performer’s vantage point, it was not possible to evaluate its acoustic properties but people in the audience spoke very favourably of the new shell.

bandstand_2Changing technology has transformed many aspects of the activities of a modern community band. Who could have imagined an inflatable bandshell when the Cobourg bandshell was erected? Now many bands not only have websites, they post recordings of their current repertoire so that members may practice at home by playing along with the recordings. Helpful perhaps, but how does that influence their sight reading skills? Alternatively, a concert that I played a week ago was recorded and is available for me as an MP3 file to download to see how we sounded. Finally, on the technological front, the Uxbridge Community Concert Band is having a video documentary produced that will focus on the preparation of a new work by local composer Don Coakley, commissioned to celebrate the band’s 20th season.

I had intended to take a look at the changes in how bands present themselves both in terms of dress and repertoire. However, the space limitations have caught up with me. That will be grist for the mill in a future edition.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Placebo Domingo:
a faux tenor. We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events
Please see the listings section.

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

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