Wow – what a week! If this were a concert review column, it would be overflowing with superlatives for two very diverse concerts I attended in the past week. The week began with the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s first concert of the season with euphonium soloist David Childs. Promotional material billed this concert as “Child’s Play.” What Childs did with his instrument was anything but child’s play. The feature work was a concerto for euphonium and band by contemporary Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. Playing with no music, this young virtuoso dazzled his audience not only with his technical skills, but also with amazing musical sounds never before heard from this instrument.

If that wasn’t enough, at the end of the week, we were treated to an even more amazing performance by the Interpreti Veneziani at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall. The performance of this nine-member string ensemble from Venice prompted one very experienced and knowledgeable friend to proclaim it the best concert they had ever heard. They received no argument from me. From our vantage point in the best seats in the house, we not only heard their remarkable music, we saw them communicate with each other by knowing glances and a host of subtle gestures in the creation of their masterpieces.

Using no music throughout the first half, or during his dazzling solo rendition of a fiendishly challenging Paganini work, the cellist, Davide Amadio, was free to be in constant eye contact with the other members of the group and with those of us in his audience. He told us all in no uncertain terms that he was loving every minute of it. In short, all members of this ensemble were inside each others’ heads, and they were sharing with us in the audience their joy of performance.

This was the pinnacle of musicianship and showmanship. So why is this mini review of two professional concerts in a column devoted to community ensembles? What better way for those of us who play in community ensembles to improve our skills, and enjoy ourselves at the same time, than to immerse ourselves in the total experience of absorbing all aspects of a quality live performance. We have no illusions that we might someday perform to that standard, but it does provide both inspiration and a measuring stick should we tend to become complacent or smug about our abilities.

Many years ago, when serving in a naval air squadron, I was frequently treated to the philosophy of a friend who was one of the finest pilots to ever fly in the Canadian forces. His challenge to the junior pilots under his jurisdiction was simple and direct: “We must constantly strive for perfection, and perhaps we’ll achieve mediocrity.” A little harsh perhaps – but why not aim for the best we can achieve in music?

Having suggested that we set our sights high, how are the beginner and other startup groups faring? From Resa’s Pieces Strings, conductor Ric Giorgi tells us that they now have 22 players enrolled and inquiries coming in weekly from players interested in joining. He states: “More interestingly however is the wonderful performance this group has managed thus far. They have come together as an ensemble remarkably quickly and show every indication that despite the huge differences in skill levels, everyone seems pleased with the challenges and rewards of the repertoire and the satisfaction of making good music together as an ensemble.” Ric also reminded me of the old adage among groups seeking to recruit string players – that the audition piece for string players is “Check For Breath.” By the way, they would still welcome more violas.

p29The other beginner group that I have mentioned before seems to be coming along equally well. Dan Kapp conductor of the New Horizons Band at Long & McQuade tells us that, in mid December, less than three months since their inaugural information meeting, the band will be performing for the folks at a Toronto retirement residence. This group rehearses on weekday mornings so membership is limited to retirees and others who don’t have daytime commitments. In response to many requests, an affiliated band for beginners and those reconnecting with music will begin evening rehearsals in January. For information give Dan a call at Long & McQuade.

A couple of years ago I mentioned the formation of the Scarborough Society of Musicians, a band to provide the opportunity to continue to perform in a musical group after leaving high school. After a brief hiatus, the band’s directors have been busy over the past few months working on a new season to begin in January 2011, with rehearsals continuing into June 2011. As with previous years, they will be rehearsing twice a month on Saturday mornings at Dr. Norman Bethune C.I. For this year’s rehearsal schedule, membership fees and rehearsal dates visit their website (www.continuingmusic.ca). They have also created a survey to gauge the interest in music beyond high school within the community. Your response would be appreciated.

Last year at this time we reported on the joint ventures of instrumental and choral groups. Again this year, the Hannaford Band will be teaming up with the Amadeus Choir for two performances in Toronto and one in Niagara Falls (December 4, 13 and 14). A new venture this year has two Markham groups joining forces. The Kindred Spirits Orchestra and the Village Voices Choir will present two performances of the Vivaldi Gloria (December 11 and 17).

Since I am ex-navy, and a member of the Naval Club of Toronto, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention regular small combo performances two Sunday afternoons per month at the club’s new location, 1910 Gerrard Street East. Treat yourself to an afternoon of relaxing music by the Downtown Jazz Band, and enjoy an optional light hot meal. See us there December 12, January 9 and 23 at 2pm.

On the personal front, I have both happy news and sad news to report. On the happy side, members of the Newmarket Citizens Band attended the recent wedding of two band members. Ron Spencer of the euphonium section and Linda Heath of the flute section tied the knot. The band now has several couples active in the band. With a few more, they could have an all-couples band, with a few children added.

On a sad note, members of the Toronto band community are mourning the loss of Gary Cameron, a former music teacher at Danforth Technical School and Northern Secondary School. In recent years Gary was most active with the Band of the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Encore Symphonic Concert Band and a number of swing bands. We will miss him and his great welcoming personality.

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

Oops. There was bit of a mistake in one of our photo captions last month. One of our photos showed the trumpet section of Resa’s Pieces band, but the caption stated that this was the trumpet section of the New Horizons Band. Actually, at the time of publication, the New Horizons Band did not yet have a trumpet section. The band had just had its first organizational meeting, and potential members were trying to decide which instrument they would like to embrace as their own. Now, one month after that organizational meeting, I am pleased to report that the New Horizons Band has 24 members signed up, with more anticipated in the wings.

p28Having heard of the very favourable response from that organizational meeting, I decided that a visit to one of their rehearsals might be in order. So, on a Wednesday morning at 9:30, I arrived at rehearsal number three. While the repertoire was still very rudimentary, there was a sense of a cohesive organization blossoming. It was not the group of strangers that arrived one month earlier. Members were chatting on a first name basis and generally helping each other. In one case, one member seemed a bit discouraged at slow progress in mastering the fingering of the instrument. Section members were sympathetic and helpful. Now, by the advent of the third rehearsal, they had formed ad hoc committees and there was an impressive array of refreshment goodies at the break.

They are still short of low brass players. Trombones, French horns and tubas would all be welcomed. Otherwise, there was good balance. After I took a few photographs, conductor Dan Kapp handed me a tuba and offered the opportunity to sit in and participate in a mixture of basic exercises and in playing a few simple melodies. By the end of the session The New Horizons Band had performed recognizable renditions of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and a somewhat simplified version of the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Now, after only three weeks, midtown Toronto has the makings of a new daytime rehearsal band.

Also in last months issue, there was a photo of Resa’s Pieces Strings at their inaugural rehearsal. At that time they were doing remarkably well, but were still out prospecting for their first viola player. Now, Resa Kochberg reports that the orchestra has a small viola section, and the general progress of the orchestra is exceeding expectations.

In both of these startup groups the social rewards of playing in some form of musical ensemble have quickly come to the fore. However, for the beginner, there is the question of what instrument would be preferable. What are the physical demands and the demands on one’s dexterity posed by the various instruments? It seems that there are significant numbers of people interested in learning to play an instrument who have no idea of the skills required for the many different instruments. Perhaps that could be the subject of a future column.

 

Our Readers Write

I’m pleased to report that I have just received an interesting “Short history of the Thorold Reed Concert Band” from their musical director, Brian Williams. Here’s what Brian sent to us.

“The band was formed back in 1851, when Thorold was a village, and has been active to the present day. The band has seen many conductors and instrumentalists over the years, and today boasts a membership of 45 musicians from the Niagara area. It has been an integral part of the Thorold community, and in the past it raised the money to build a bandstand and the present-day Cenotaph monument in Memorial Park. The bandshell in Battle of Beaverdams Park in the center of Thorold was sponsored jointly by the City of Thorold, the St. Lawrence Seaway and a Wintario grant.

“The band has competed in the Waterloo Music Festival and CNE competitions, and attained top honours. A highlight occurred when the Band led the two 1956 New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades. This was a first for Canadian bands. The band was presented with a gold medal and the keys to the city. In 2001 the band celebrated its 150th year of continuous operation with a grand concert on Canada Day. Nine free Wednesday evening “pops” concerts are still provided by the Band in Battle of Beaverdams Park. Concerts are also given at local retirement residences and nursing homes in Thorold and St. Catharines throughout the year, in addition to supporting special activities put on by the city of Thorold and the Royal Canadian Legion.

“To maintain the enthusiasm of audience and musicians alike, the band’s repertoire is kept up to date with selections of new music every year, alongside many of the old favourites. All of the musicians are volunteers and rehearse throughout the winter months. Today’s band is the best yet, and we look forward to starting our ‘pops’ concert season at the Bandshell in Battle of Beaverdams Park. The nine Wednesday evening concerts are sponsored by the City of Thorold. Some of our concerts feature massed bands with the City of Thorold Pipes and Drums. For more information about the band please call 905-227-0150 or email to gbwilliams@cogeco.ca.

Also in our mailbox this month was a notice about a competition. To commemorate the City of Pickering’s bicentennial celebrations in 2011, the Pickering Community Concert Band, together with the City of Pickering, have announced a music composition competition. The first-prize winning piece will be the City of Pickering’s 200th celebration commemorative piece, and the winner will be awarded $500. The second prize will become the Band’s 20th anniversary celebration commemorative piece and the prize winner will be awarded $300. Both winning compositions will be performed by the Pickering Community Concert Band during the planned 2011 celebrations. For more information, contact info@concertband.ca and use the subject line “composition query.” Budding composers, here’s your opportunity for fame.

On the brass band front, Toronto’s Hannaford Street Silver Band have announced the appointment of noted Canadian trombone virtuoso Alain Trudel as Principal Guest Conductor of the HSSB. Their first concert of the 2010-2011 season (November 7), aptly titled “Childs’ Play,” will feature internationally renowned euphonium soloist David Childs.

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 Bandstand column I focused on a few new ensembles which had graced the local scene over the past two or three years, and mentioned some new ones scheduled to begin this fall. It seemed appropriate then to see how some of these proposed new startups were doing. Two in particular, with very different aims, attracted my attention. Resa’s Pieces Strings was billed as a beginners string orchestra. The New Horizons Seniors Band sponsored by Long and McQuade was to be a beginners band for people 50-plus who wanted to take up music for the first time or get back to it after a prolonged absence. How better to have my questions answered than to attend their inaugural sessions?

p29bFirst up was the rehearsal of the string group Resa’s Pieces Strings (RPS). This is the brain child of Resa Kochberg, founder and conductor of the very successful Resa’s Pieces Band. The strings group included a wide spectrum of ages from high-school students to white-haired seniors. All had enough experience to know how to hold their instruments and play basic scales. For those neophytes in the group who were less than familiar with some of the adjustments required by their instruments, a technician from George Heinl Co. was on hand to assist.

After a few opening remarks outlining the aims and objectives for the months ahead, and getting the instruments tuned, director Ric Giorgi started the group right off playing simple melodies interspersed with exercises on such matters as bowing techniques. By the time the break came along, this new ensemble was playing simple melodies in harmony with better tuning that might nave been expected. At the break, this new group was invited across the hall, where Resa’s Pieces Band had been practising. There they were welcomed into the fold with the cutting and sharing of a cake for their “birthday.”

The RPS will be following the same philosophy that Resa Kochberg has established from day one in leading Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. It is “to provide an opportunity for people to return to playing instruments that they have not touched for years.” Doing your best, but also having fun is what is expected, and everyone grows musically together with each “piece” completing the whole! As of that evening, 24 people had signed up and about 18 got to the first rehearsal.

Were there any shortcomings noted? Yes. As I anticipated, viola players are in short supply. In fact, one acquaintance of mine has been suggesting to me that I might be an ideal candidate to fill a coveted spot in the viola section. Here’s your chance, wannabe string players: get a viola and join the fun on Monday evenings. Even if your leanings are towards some other string instrument, check it out at their website www.resaspieces.org, or email strings@resaspieces.org.

Two days later, at 9:30am, I joined a group attending a get acquainted session at Long and McQuade’s downtown Toronto store to learn about their New Horizons Seniors Band. After a brief introduction by director Dan Kapp, the goals of this group were outlined. This is a band for retirees who either have not played for years, or have sung or played other instruments and would now like to play in an organized group. The majority of these people did not own instruments, and were curious about which instrument might be right for them. Over the next two hours most tried one or more instruments and decided. One woman initially considered trombone, learned how to hold it, blew a few notes and then decided to try an oboe. Her first attempt startled us. It was not the sound of a wounded duck that emanated. Rather, it was quite a pleasant musical tone. I immediately suggested that she and the oboe were meant for each other. Whether she will stick with oboe or sample other instruments before her final decision remains to be seen.

As with the string orchestra, there are initial shortages. Low brass wannabes were in short supply. It seems that, amongst grandmothers and grandfathers, flutes, clarinets or trumpets have more appeal that tubas and euphoniums.

The goal for this group has already been established, and it’s ambitious. The CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio has already been booked for their spring concert. If you are available Wednesday mornings and would like to try your hand at making this kind of music, experience is not necessary. Group instruction is part of the package. Contact them at www.newhorizonsbloor.ca or call 416-588-7886.

Both groups stressed that playing in such ensembles was also very much a social activity. Members were encouraged to get to know their fellow members and consider forming trios and quartets to practise together outside of regular rehearsal times and hone their skills with the challenges of playing these more intimate forms.

As for other new groups for more experienced players, we have just received word that the new Richmond Hill Concert Band had its first rehearsal as this goes to press. They reported about 30 interested members already with a good distribution of instruments. Their rehearsals are on Thursdays at 7:30pm at Roselawn Public School, 422 Carrville Rd., Richmond Hill.

The Canadian Band Association (Ontario) is celebrating its 9th Annual Community Band Weekend from October 15 through 17. These annual weekends provide an opportunity for musicians from bands across Ontario to join together for music-making with friends, both old and new, under the leadership of expert conductors. As part of their 15th anniversary celebration, Etobicoke Community Concert Band will be acting as hosts this year. Check-in starts at 7:30pm Friday and is followed by a social gathering. Saturday will be devoted to rehearsals under the batons of no fewer than six conductors.

The massed band will perform the concert on Sunday afternoon. The rehearsal and concert take place at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, 86 Montgomery Rd., Etobicoke. The nearest major intersection is Dundas and Islington, and the school is a manageable walk from both Royal York and Islington subway stations. For full details contact Bill Harris, Acting President, Canadian Band Association (Ontario) at president@cba-ontario.ca, or 416-693-3980.

 

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is fermoota: a note of dubious value held for indefinite length. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

 

Coming Events

• October 17, 8:00pm: The Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra.
Norman Reintamm and Friends Recital. St. Timothy’s Anglican          Church, 4125 Sheppard Ave. E.

• October 18, 7:30pm: Orillia Wind Ensemble. Joint Effort. Orillia               Opera House, 20 Mississaga St. W., Orillia.

• October 23, 8:00pm: Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra.
Autumn Classics. Calvin Presbyterian Church, 26 Delisle Ave.

• October 23, 8:00pm: City of Brampton Concert Band. Rose Theatre             in Brampton.

Down the Road

• November 13, 8:00pm: Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra.
Subscription Concert No.1. P.C. Ho Theatre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E.

 

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

As I write this, on return from a Sunday evening concert at the Orillia Aquatheatre, I'm reminded of the impending end of the summer concert season. Our concert began at 6:30pm rather than the usual seven o'clock, because the days are getting shorter. September is only two weeks away, and the fall season is on the horizon. For most community ensembles this marks a beginning of sorts. Whether they have been playing all summer, with rehearsals and concerts, or have taken a complete break, most will be in transition in some way or other. Almost without exception, there will be some reflection on the past year and discussion of what changes might be in order.

P30Almost every year in Southern Ontario, September heralds the establishment of one or more new community instrumental groups with varying aspirations. So, for our inauguration of a new season of The Wholenote, it seemed to be a fitting time to visit a few new startups and some relative newcomers that have now completed one or two seasons. For our very limited and informal study of recently formed groups, I've selected the Milton Concert Band, the Scarborough Society of Musicians, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra and the Newmarket Stepping Stone Band.

The oldest of this group, the Milton Concert Band began taking shape early in 2007, when recently arrived residents and long-time friends Angela Rozario and Cheryl Ciccarelli, having recognized the growing artistic community in Milton, decided to see if there were any other area amateur musicians interested in performing together. Their hopes were immediately met, and the pair were soon scrambling to accommodate over 30 musicians and having to put others on a waiting list. Working with the town of Milton, the group was able to move to its new permanent home at Memorial Arena in September 2007. By now, the band will have concluded their regular series of summer concerts and performances at town festivals, and will be preparing for their fall on Saturday mornings, at Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. In Scarborough.

About one year later, in February 2008, the Scarborough Society of Musicians had its beginnings. It began with the discussion among a group of graduating high school students who had developed and shared a passion for musical performance and didn’t want to abandon that love after graduation. The band is a non-profit organization aimed at providing post-secondary school students who are not pursuing professional studies in music an environment to continue developing and exploring their talents. Since its inception, the band has been rehearsing on Saturday mornings, in the music room at Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. In Scarborough. I’m informed that they’ll be organizing their future activities in January, but they have already performed a concert, in July 2010. Try visiting their website: continuingmusic.ca.

The next in our recent arrivals on the community music scene is the Kindred Spirits Orchestra. Founder and musical director Maestro Kristian Alexander felt that the time was ripe for an audition-based community orchestra in Markham. The orchestra’s official incorporation was on March 16, 2009. Their inaugural concert took place on November 3, 2009, at the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto. The programme included Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and Mozart's Gran Partita.

The orchestra is still relatively small (38 musicians), which has enabled it to concentrate on developing a refined ensemble sound. For the future they hope to increase the size of their string section and, in their words, “to grow and attract more musicians, more friends, more kindred spirits."

With a relatively small string section, to date they have focused almost exclusively on baroque and classical compositions. They are very eager to broaden their repertoire and approach romantic and more contemporary works. The first such foray into works requiring significantly larger resources took place in June of this year. At that time, I had the opportunity to join the brass section in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

For the immediate future, their growth will certainly be limited until they can move to a larger rehearsal hall. Perhaps the new Markham recreational complex will supply the answer. In the meantime, they are forging ahead with an ambitious season that will include a four concert subscription series at the Glenn Gould Studio. Concerts will include guest violinist Jacques Israelievitch performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and performances of Beethoven’s Sixth, Seventh and Eighth symphonies.

In addition to performances, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra has an education and community outreach programme with professional development opportunities for local music teachers and young conductors. And to promote Canadian composers and music, they have Gary Kulesha and Larysa Kuzmenko on board as resident composers for the coming season.

About one year ago, a new band for beginners and intermediate level players was established in Newmarket. Informally called the Stepping Stone Band, their message was simple: “If you took band music in high school, and years later find you have time and interest in making music, this is perfect way to get back into it. Why play at home alone? The best way to learn to read music is to play in a group or ensemble.” The group stopped rehearsing for the summer, but that wasn’t the end of playing. Several members, who had upgraded their skills during this first season, are now rehearsing regularly with the Newmarket Citizens’ Band and have been performing in concerts over the summer. As for the remaining members, they will form the core for the coming season. As of this writing, this beginner band has 12 members who want to proceed with rehearsals in September. They are hoping for at least eight additional members to proceed with the programme. If you have considered the idea of taking up an instrument again or know of someone who has, pass this message on.

The band will meet Monday nights from 7pm to 9pm at a location in Aurora, near the Aurora Public Library. Members must bring their your own instruments and music stands. Music is provided. The program will be coordinated by Joe Mariconda. For more information, please email Joe at joemariconda@gmail.com or call him at 905-836-4039.

On the new initiative front, we have four very disparate endeavours, two of which specifically target seniors. The first of these, is yet another project of Joe Mariconda. The concept is to establish a concert band programme for the seniors of York Region, based in Newmarket. The Seniors’ Centre in Newmarket has a membership of 2,000 from which to draw. If the programme sparks the interest of sufficient members, there could well be more than one band to cater to various skill levels. The band (or bands) would rehearse on weekdays for two hours once a week. Instructing and conducting duties would be shared by a team of volunteer retired music teachers. With such a team approach, there would be less of a burden on any one individual conductor, and the participants would have the benefit of coaching by conductors with skills on a range of different instruments. Contact Joe Mariconda at 905-836-4039 or by email joemariconda@gmail.com.

 

Another new band programme for seniors will appeal to those who live close to the heart of Toronto. Long & McQuade Musical Instruments have announced their Play-in-a-Band Programme, to begin in September. Designed for adults from 50 to 90 (and older), it's for those who always wanted to play an instrument and former players who want to play again. Whether you're learning to play “from scratch” or dusting off that old horn from the back of the closet, you'll will be welcome. The programme will be directed by Dan Kapp, an instrumentalist and conductor with over 30 years' experience. An information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 at 9:30am, with the first rehearsal one week later. For information go to www.newhorizonsbloor.ca or phone 416-588-7886.

This announcement sparked my curiosity and prompted a bit of digging, since there was a Canadian Federal Government sponsored “New Horizons” program in Canada over 25 years ago. The New Horizons program, established in 1991, was the brain child of Dr. Roy Ernst at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. While the first New Horizons program in 1991 was for bands, the intent was to also start other kinds of New Horizons programs. New Horizons orchestras started a few years later. Initially, a minimum age of 50 was arbitrarily set as a guideline. Over the years that has changed. Now, for most groups, “If you consider yourself to be an adult, you’re eligible.” In my digging, I discovered that there were already no fewer than ten such groups in Ontario as members of the New Horizons International Music Association. I even learned that two of these were conducted by personal friends of mine.

Just North of Toronto a group of dedicated amateur musicians have decided that it's time to formally organize a concert band for the town of Richmond Hill. The Richmond Hill Concert Band is intended for adults with high school instrumental musical ability who may not have played for several years but are looking to regain the enjoyment of playing in a band. The origins of this group are quite creative. The Thornhill Community Band, which has been operating successfully for some years, realized that 30 percent of its members were residents of nearby Richmond Hill. It was also becoming apparent that the Thornhill band's numbers had grown to the point where they could no longer accept new members for some instruments.

The solution was to assist in the forming of a new band. This had a number of benefits. By rehearsing on a complementary night to its own rehearsals, the Thornhill Band could help mentor a new Richmond Hill band without detracting from its own organization and membership. A core group from the Thornhill band, willing to rehearse two nights a week, will ensure a balanced instrumentation at the beginning. Initially they will share the music library, and long-time experienced conductor Denny Ringler will be at the helm of both ensembles. Since a group must have charitable status to apply for an Ontario Trillium grant, and since the Thornhill Community Band is a registered charitable organization, it was eligible to apply for a grant for its progeny. They are awaiting the outcome.

To assist in its establishment, the band was awarded a grant of $2,500 for startup funding by the Richmond Hill Mayor’s Endowment Fund.  The band will rehearse Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 10pm starting September 16, 2010, in the music room at Roselawn Public School, 422 Carrville Rd, Richmond Hill. For information, please call 905-737-7265, 416-223-7152, or send an email to info@rhcb.ca.

The fourth of our new startup groups is Resa’s Pieces Strings. In previous issues we have referred to the very successful beginners' band know as Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. Established some years ago by Resa Kochberg, this band was created with the philosophy that “everyone grows musically together, with each "piece" completing the whole. Now, Resa has decided that former and/or new string players deserve the same opportunity to develop their skills. As a result, Resa's Pieces Strings or the RPS will be launched in September 2010. This new beginners' string ensemble will be under the directorship of Ric Giorgi.

The RPS will follow the same philosophy that Resa Kochberg established when she founded Resa's Pieces Concert Band some years ago. It is "to provide an opportunity for people to return to playing instruments that they had not touched for years.” If I thought that I could handle a string instrument, I would be there in a flash with a viola in hand. For information visit their website, http://www.resaspieces.org, or email strings@resaspieces.org.

With all of those opportunities available, if you have thought about getting back to music, there is no better time than now. Listen to the advice from Resa. “Recall those sounds, reawaken that talent, rediscover playing music!”

On a sombre note, it is with deep regret that we report the passing of a stalwart of the military reserve band scene in Toronto. Captain Frank Merlo, CD, OSJ, Director of Music for the Governor General’s Horse Guards Regimental Band, passed away in Toronto on July 6, 2010. Frank’s association with the regiment and the band began in 1979, and for over three decades he literally dedicated his life to both. I first met Frank when he, as a young French horn player, first became involved in the local band scene. In part his obituary stated: “As the current Senior Director of Music in 32 Brigade, his knowledge and advice was highly sought after, and the support he gave to each Commanding Officer ensured that the Regimental Band could always be counted on to provide the right ceremonial touch to any occasion. In his role as a vocal music teacher with Toronto District Catholic School Board, he influenced the musical lives of countless students. He will be missed.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is FERMANTRA: "A note held over and over and over . . ." We invite submissions from readers.

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.

 

As I sit down to produce this final column before The Wholenote’s summer break, I’m in the throes of recovery from the weekend of June 12-13. It started with a dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon followed by a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in the evening with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra. Sunday started with “The World’s Biggest Brass Event” for the International Women’s Brass Conference (IWBC). Then it was off to an end-of-season garden party for another musical group. Before long I had to leave the party early for another orchestral rehearsal of Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto.

P25I switched from bass trombone in the Beethoven to an antique Soviet Army rotary valve baritone horn in the Colonel Bogey march at the IWBC. I also went from a tuxedo on Saturday to a T-shirt on Sunday, and from The Glenn Gould Studio Saturday to a grassy slope at the Humber College Lakeshore Campus for the IWBC. It certainly was a weekend of variety!

Now let’s take a very unscientific look at what community musical groups have planned for the summer months.

There may be the odd performance in a summer festival, but, with few exceptions, most community orchestras and choirs take a break during the summer months. Not so for community bands. A century ago, before radio and television, the “town band” was a principal source of musical entertainment for most communities in our part of the world. From its construction in 1936, for the next 40 or so years, the Main Bandshell at Toronto’s CNE featured twice-daily concerts by famous bands from around the world. In between those there were concerts by local bands, there and on the North Bandstand. I remember well the Bands of the Royal Marines and the National Band of New Zealand. All summer long there were weekly band concerts in Toronto at Kew Gardens, High Park, Allen Gardens and St. James Park. Similar concerts on a smaller scale took place in most smaller communities.

How have community bands changed? How do today’s bands perceive their roles? While some community bands do close down for a while, many simply switch to an annual summer agenda, with more emphasis on outdoor performances. So I’ve decided to look at the four modern community bands of my acquaintance, to see how each has evolved with the changing times.

The oldest of these bands is the Newmarket Citizens Band. Having operated continuously for over 100 years, it’s not surprising that this band’s activities most closely resemble those of the town band when they were first formed. They play regular outdoor concerts in a variety of venues and play for many parades for which they frequently receive honoraria. The proceeds of these have been sufficient for the band to purchase, at no expense to the members, a complete set of new blazers with embroidered crests. In appearance, this band most closely adheres to its traditional roots.

The Concert Band of Cobourg is an excellent anomaly among community bands, both in appearance and activities. A good many years ago the town band in Cobourg was struggling. Then a new resident with a solid band background moved to town. Roland White (“Roly,” as he is known), had for many years served in bands of the Royal Marines, and studied conducting under Sir John Barbirolli. Having brought many of the traditions of the Royal Marines with him, the band was adopted as the official band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Association, Ontario, and subsequently obtained Royal permission to wear a uniform closely resembling that of the Royal Marines. Some years ago, ill health forced White to retire and hand the reins over to Paul Storms, who carries on the tradition admirably.

Every year the band travels to Plattsburgh NY in September for the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemorative Weekend. As part of that celebration, they will be performing September 11 in a parade, beat retreat ceremony and evening concert. Once again this summer, from July 6 through to August 31, they will perform their summer-evening concert-series in the Victoria Park Bandshell in Cobourg. As with the Newmarket Band, this group participates regularly in parades and other ceremonial events.

The Markham Concert Band was organized 32 years ago by a group of local residents who had a common desire to make music. A few charter members are still active in the band. Unlike traditional town bands, this group has never participated in parades. They do, however, take part in a wide range of community activities. As of this writing, they already have commitments for 12 events this summer, ranging from a Main Street Festival to a concert at the Orillia Aquatheatre. As for uniforms, they are much less formal. In winter it’s a dark green sweater with an embroidered logo, and in summer it is a golf shirt with the same logo.

The Uxbridge Community Concert Band had its origins 19 years ago and bears little resemblance to the town bands of yesteryear. It is a summer-only band, operating only during the months of June, July and August. Founded initially to provide an opportunity for high school students to continue playing during the summer, it has evolved over the years to include a core group of adult players who return each summer. In addition, many of the original students return each year when they are home on vacation from university. As for uniform, each member receives a T shirt with a new musical motif each year on payment of their dues. They do not parade, but do play for one Decoration Day ceremony for the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. To encourage the development of the talents of the younger members, there is within the band a smaller wind ensemble which rehearses one special challenging selection each summer. This band is a welcome addition to the summer life of the community – but it’s quite unlike the town band of old.

Enjoy your summer of music, whatever your taste in bands!

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: DILL PICCOLINI, “an exceedingly small wind instrument that plays only sour notes.” We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events

July 18-August 21: National Band of the Naval Reserve will be performing a series of concerts in various locations throughout Southern Ontario as part of the celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy.

August 8 7:00: Northdale Concert Band with conductor Graziano Brescacin presents a concert at the Upper Queen’s Park Bandshell, Stratford, Ontario. Free admission.

August 15 12:30pm: Northdale Concert Band with conductor Graziano Brescacins present a matinee concert at the Events Pavilion, Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto. Concert is free with park admission.

August 15 6:30: Markham Concert Band with conductor Doug Manning performs at the Aquatheatre, Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia

August 22 6:30: Newmarket Citizens Band with conductor Les Saville perform at the Aquatheatre, Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia

August 29 12:30: Newmarket Citizens Band with conductor Les Saville presents a matinee concert at the Events Pavilion, Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto. Concert is free with park admission.

September 5: Northdale Concert Band with conductor Graziano Brescacin performs at the Aquatheatre, Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia.

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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