My long personal involvement with community musical ensembles has prompted me, in this issue, to ponder some of the non-musical elements essential for the health of such groups. I sat down to list what they might be, and was a bit dumbfounded to find that my list contained no fewer than 20 potential activities that might arise and require someone’s attention. Where to start? Obviously with number one on the list – an executive. Then they can deal with the other 19, so the rest of us, who just want to make music, can get on with it.

In one organization of which I am a member, due to unforeseen circumstances there had not been an election of an executive for an unusually long time. It was time for an election. When the president called for nominations, there were none. OK, let’s ask for volunteers. None! Similarly for all positions except vice-president and treasurer. The incumbents agreed to stay for another term. Elections were deferred to an unspecified date in the future. As one member stated, “It’s hard to find a sucker who is willing to take on a leadership role.” Another who was asked, pointed out that he had been president twice in the past and preferred his present position as “member.”

After all, there’s no great financial incentive to take on the task. Most amateur musical organizations pay an honorarium to their conductor, a lesser amount to an assistant conductor, and, if they’re really enlightened, to their librarian. But the many other duties are handled by conscripted volunteers who tend to experience so-called “burnout” after years of unrecognized dedication to their groups. Most of these people are in the “baby boomer” or older age groups. For many of the younger members, rehearsal night is an escape from work and family responsibilities. More paper work has no appeal.

Let’s look more closely at just one of those non-musical jobs. In most groups, next to the conductor and assistant, by far the most important and demanding non-musical job is that of the librarian. Aside from library cataloguing and filling folders, that person even sometimes has an influence in music selection (even if only by getting to assert that certain pieces are unavailable!). Would you like to have a say in the music you perform, or are you happy to just play the music that you find in your folder when you arrive at the rehearsal? If you are a regular member of an ensemble, are you ever consulted about repertoire? How should the repertoire be decided? Is that the sole prerogative of the conductor or done in consultation with the librarian? (Having played in many groups for more years than I care to count, I can recall only one type of situation where I had any say in the music selection, namely in those situations where it just so happened that I was the leader. And many are the times I have suffered through a rehearsal of music that I thoroughly disliked, consoling myself with the rationalization that it was good reading practice. No better spot from which to change what I suspect is a widespread phenomenon, than the “non-musical” job of band librarian.)

Let’s leave the matter of essential non-musical jobs for another month. In the meantime, please drop us a line with your comments on any of the many such tasks required for the successful operation of a community ensemble. I am sure there are others to add to the 20 on my list.

Turning to the subject of repertoire, how can a group determine what would appeal to their audiences? For many years I acted as MC for a summer music festival in Toronto. It was often possible to conduct ad hoc surveys of audience opinion during intermission or after a performance. The one constant? It was always a mixed reaction. For concert band performances, the one comment which surprised most conductors was the desire on the part of audience members to hear more marches. For most conductors, the perception was that their “concert band” had risen above the level of a parade band. By contrast, most audience members came to hear a band, and considered that marches should be an integral part of such a programme. They were referring to the kind of marches that a good military band might perform on parade, not concert marches.

30_bandstand_plumbingfactorybrassband3_-_low_res_for_referenceOne band that has mastered the art of wrapping diverse repertoire in an appealing unifying theme is London’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band under Henry Meredith. It has come up with a very appealing theme for two identical concerts this month in London and St. Thomas. The St. Thomas concert on April 20 will be performed in the Canada Southern Railway Station which was used for many years by trains of the Michigan Central Railroad en route between Detroit and Buffalo. The program is titled Explorations – Movements, Moods and Myths Abound; Sights, and Sites Described in Sound, and features some familiar band compositions as well as several rarely heard works.

A fast moving gallop, The Ideal Railway, will be dedicated at both concerts to the Michigan Central Railroad Employees Band (founded in 1919). In fact, the PFBB’s music is typical of what such a company band would have played in its heyday (1920s and 1930s). The St. Thomas concert also salutes the ongoing restoration of the train station and heralds the opening of a special exhibit on the history of the MCR Employees Band, all sponsored by the station’s owners, the North America Railway Hall of Fame.

The tubas just won’t go away. After so much tuba talk in last month’s issue, there was going to be little mention of these musical brutes in this issue. However, they are not going away quietly.
First we received an email message from local tuba player Hugh Wallis telling us of a few tuba concerti we hadn’t mentioned, as well as a work for tuba and piano. We then learned that the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s “Festival of Brass: Rising Stars Concert” on Friday, April 15 will feature, as guests, the University of Toronto Tuba Ensemble directed by Sal Fratia. Not yet satisfied, the HSSB’s Sunday concert, April 17, features yet another tuba soloist, Patrick Sheridan.

Definition Department

This month’s groaner is frugalhorn: a sensible and inexpensive brass instrument.

We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events

Please see the listings section for full details.

• Saturday, April 2, 7:00pm: Milton Concert Band presents its spring “Milton Pops” at Bishop Reding Catholic High School. The show will feature an eclectic mix of light classics, world music and movie tunes, with a few surprises along the way!

• Wednesday, April 13, 7:30pm: Plumbing Factory Brass Band, Henry Meredith, conductor presents Explorations at Byron United Church, 420 Boler Road, London.

• Weekend of April 15, 16 and 17: Hannaford Street Silver Band  (HSSB) presents its eighth annual Festival of Brass:

Friday, April 15: HSSB’s Rising Stars annual Young Artist Solo Competition, in which the finalists will compete for the honour of  performing with the HSSB on Sunday.

• Saturday, April 16 12 noon to 5:15pm: In “Community Showcase,” the HSSB welcomes community bands from across Ontario and beyond. Some ensembles will compete for the honour to receive The Hannaford Cup, the HSSB’s annual award for excellence.

Saturday, April 16, 8:00pm: HSSB welcomes to Toronto the Lexington Brass Band from Kentucky with trumpet virtuoso Vincent DiMartino.

• Sunday, April 17, 3:00pm: HSSB presents: Low Blows with tuba soloist Patrick Sheridan. n


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27_bandstandIn last month’s issue I mentioned an upcoming concert by the University of Toronto Wind Symphony. I had the pleasure of attending that concert, and can report on a superb performance of all works on the programme. My principal reason for attending was to hear the solo performance of the Gregson Tuba Concerto by a young man whose development I have been following over the past few years. Now in his final year in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, Eric Probst was this year’s recipient of the U of T Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition. In 2008 Eric was the winner of  the Hannaford Youth Band Solo Competition.

I have heard this concerto a number of times in the past, and this performance ranks with the best that I have heard. At some performances, I have had the impression that I was hearing a sort of fight to the finish, with the performer attacking the concerto as an adversary to be subdued. That was not the case in this performance. Throughout the performance Eric gave the impression that he was embracing the work as his friend. They were cooperating with each other to share their mutual admiration with the audience. Even in the technically demanding cadenzas there was no hint of a struggle; by his body language and facial expressions the performer told us that he was enjoying himself at all times.

The only really well known work on the program was the Symphonic Dance Music from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Here the large woodwind section displayed a combination of precision, blend and depth of tone not often heard in a concert band.

The other student highlighted in the programme was Meaghan Danielson a graduate student conductor. She displayed her considerable conducting talent and stage presence in Contre Qui, Rose by American composer Morten Lauridsen, best known for his choral compositions. Originally written as a choral work, under Miss Danielson’s sensitive baton this transcription for wind ensemble by H. Robert Reynolds retained the feeling of a choir of wind instruments expressing the poetry which inspired the work.

The second half of the evening was devoted to Testament: Music for a Time of Trial and Give Us This Day: Short Symphony for Wind Ensemble, two contrasting works by contemporary American composer David Maslanka. Dr. Maslanka left active teaching some years ago and retired to a small town in Montana to devote most of his time to composition. He was spending several days in Toronto as the Wilma and Clifford Smith Visitor in Music at the Faculty of Music. During an interval in the programme he spoke of his inspirations for the two works featured and on his philosophy of composition. It was an inspiring talk, but too fleeting to summarize here.

This “Visitorship” was established in 1986 by the Steven and Jane Smith family to honour their parents. Since renowned singer John Vickers was named as first visitor, the students have benefited from the counsel of many distinguished musicians. During his stay Dr. Maslanka conducted master classes, sat in on rehearsals and conducted a forum with composition students.

My visit to this concert introduced me to a series of concerts at Faculty of Music that are well worth more attention than they usually receive. They provide top quality performances by talented young musicians at very affordable prices and are at an excellent venue just a few steps from two subway stations. They are worth investigating.

Now, back to the tuba. Since the tuba is generally not looked upon as a solo instrument, there is very little solo repertoire written specifically for that instrument. Personally, I knew of only two concertos for tuba; the one heard in this concert written by British composer Edward Gregson in 1976 and a somewhat earlier one by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I had a question. Since the tuba usually remains well hidden in all but small ensembles and is not generally considered a solo instrument, what prompted these composers and few lesser known ones to write concertos? So, like any good modern researcher, after consulting the Oxford Companion to Music and Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, I turned to the internet. Lo and behold, what did I find? I found a forum on the Gramophone Magazine website with the title “Why write a Tuba concerto”? (This was apparently specifically targeting the Vaughan Williams work.)Various submissions to this forum over a few months last year provide both entertainment and insight. I encourage you to read them!

(On a personal note, one of my all time favourite records is a set of duets for tuba and guitar by renowned tubist Sam Pilafian and guitarist Frank Vignola. In particular, their renditions of works by renowned French guitarist Django Reinhart show those works in a whole new melodic light.)

On the subject of compositions: Late in 2010, as a way to thank the city for all its support over the years, the members of the Pickering Community Concert Band were looking for a project to help the City of Pickering commemorate its bicentennial year. By happy coincidence 2010 also happened to be the 20th anniversary of the band. The decision was made to sponsor a competition open to amateur composers across Ontario. Entries were solicited for two distinct types of composition to be performed at ceremonies marking the two anniversaries.

After rigorous judging in accordance with well defined criteria, the winners for each of the two categories have been selected. “Elliott Overture,” by young Markham composer Sean Breen, will be performed by the Pickering Community Concert Band at the City of Pickering’s March 4 celebratory event in the Pickering Recreation Complex. “Inchworm/Lazy Afternoon,” by veteran trumpeter and singer Vern Kennedy, will be featured at the band’s 20th anniversary celebration to take place April 16. The winning composers will be introduced and awarded their prizes at each event.

And finally, a clarification: In last month’s Bandstand column we talked about the new Artist in Residence Program offered by Silverthorn Symphonic Winds. Subsequent to publication of that issue we have received some clarification on the status of this program. Raymond James Ltd., the Canadian subsidiary of Raymond James Financial, Inc. will be the official corporate sponsor of the inaugural Artist in Residence Program offered by Silverthorn Symphonic Winds during the 2010/2011 season, rather than, as we thought the Ontario Trillium Foundation. While the band is in receipt of a Trillium grant these funds will be allocated for other community activities, not the Artist in Residence Program. (The Artist in Residence Program brings an established, professional musician as a collaborator with the band for a one-year term. The artist provides coaching to ensemble members, performs at two public concerts, and offers a free public master class.

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Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is flute flies: “those tiny mosquitoes that bother musicians on outdoor gigs.”

We invite submissions from readers.

In recent columns we have been following the progress of a few startup community ensembles in this part of the world. In particular, we have been reporting on the progress of a few beginners groups. Without exception, the ones we have visited are flourishing, and at least two new such groups are in the planning stages. But what of the startups we reported on a few years ago? We arbitrarily chose three years as a reasonable time for a new group to either coalesce or cease operations. The Milton Concert Band and the Silverthorn Symphonic Winds fell into that category.

The brainchild of two members of the Etobicoke band who had moved to Milton, The Milton Concert Band is prospering with an experienced permanent conductor, a regular rehearsal home and an impressive performance schedule for a band that was just an idea in the minds of two members three years previously. The thorough step by step process followed by Cheryl Ciccarelli and Angela Rozario in their planning could well act as a textbook model for anyone contemplating the organization of a new musical ensemble in their community.

23_resendesmiltonOnce settled into Milton, a rapidly growing town with an active arts community, they decided to put a call out to see if there were any other amateur musicians in the area interested in performing together. First they did their research. They talked to people with other bands and looked at the Constitutions and By-Laws of several other groups. They lined up a potential conductor in the person of Joseph M. Resendes, an experienced instrumentalist, conductor and Ph.D. candidate in music at York University. Finally they contacted the Mayor, local councillors and anyone else they could think of to enlist their help and support. These included local music teachers, Arts Milton, and other community groups. When they felt that they were ready, they contacted the local paper and managed to get an article printed. Soon they had 20 musicians willing to join and they were scrambling for a place to rehearse.

Their first rehearsal took place in February 2007, squeezed into a small meeting room at a local hockey arena. By June 2007 four performances had been lined up. Fittingly, the first performance was for Milton’s 150th Anniversary Street Party. This was quickly followed by performances at the local hospital’s Strawberry Fair and a meeting of Arts Milton. By July 2007, they had hosted their first free concert in the park before taking a break for the summer. September 2007 marked the start of the band’s first full season. Interest in the band continued to grow and they moved to a new permanent home at the Lion’s Club Hall in Milton Memorial Arena, with plenty of space to accommodate more musicians. It was a season of firsts.

Since then the group has grown to 45 members and now hosts 8 to 10 public performances a year. Under the tutelage of Music Director Resendes, in the short span of three years the band has grown artistically and is now a vital arts organization in the community. Equally importantly, the members have become a family who support each other and have the confidence to tackle new musical challenges. They are very excited about the possibility of making use of the new Milton Art Centre next season and the opportunities that may provide.

In January of this year the band played the first of a proposed series of concerts for Deaf/Blind Ontario at the Bob Rumble Centre in Milton. This innovative performance was designed to allow people with varying degrees of hearing and/or vision loss to experience music in an “up close and personal” setting. The centre’s clients will hold balloons to amplify the vibrations of the instruments and will be invited to interpret the experience through an art project. Both the band and the clients are very excited about this opportunity. We look forward to hearing more about this initiative.

24_silverthorn_1443The Silverthorn Symphonic Winds (SSW) was established in September 2006 by a group of local musicians who wanted an opportunity to perform more challenging music. Composed of advanced amateurs and semi-professional musicians, the group is conducted by Andrew Chung, a graduate of the University of Toronto as well as universities in Hong Kong and Freiburg Germany. Andrew also serves as Music Director of The Brass Conspiracy and the Chinese Canadian Choir of Toronto.

Thanks to a three year grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation, the SSW have embarked on an Artist in Residence program and are expanding their activities in York Region. The Artist in Residence for the 2010/2011 season will be clarinetist Peter Stoll, a member of the Talisker Players, principal clarinet of the Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra and a member of the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. As artist in residence he will be the featured soloist and host at two concerts in the Richmond Hill Centre. In addition to their concerts, the SSW will feature free public master classes for both adult and high school aged clarinetists. Throughout the season Stoll will assist in six SSW rehearsals where he will coach the woodwinds and offer advice to the ensemble as a whole.

IN RECENT YEARS I have developed an interest in how musicians that I meet settled on their chosen instruments. When I meet a musician, amateur or professional, for the first time, I ask “did you choose the tuba (or whatever instrument they play) or did the tuba choose you?” Such answers as “it was all that was left when I started music in grade nine” or “the teacher gave it to me as the best for me” are common. However, among tuba players, a more common answer is “I always wanted to play tuba” or “we were made for each other.”

I have had the pleasure of following the development of three young tuba players who fall into that “made for each other” category. Some years ago, as a grade ten student, Courtney Lambert arrived at the Newmarket band with the determination to be a professional tubist. Now, some years later, with a masters degree in music, she is busy performing professionally and teaching. At the other end of the time spectrum, Caitlin Jodoin was determined to play tuba in grade eight. Now in grade eleven and headed for France for a stint as an exchange student, she’s not taking her tuba with her. She’s renting one while there. In the centre of that triumvirate I first met Eric Probst as a grade eleven student. He is now in his final year in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto and has won the
U of T Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition. He will be performing the Gregson Tuba Concerto with the U of T Wind Symphony on February 11 at 7:30pm in the MacMillan Theatre. I certainly intend to be in the audience.

I think it is no accident that all three of these young musicians honed their skills under the tutelage of Anita McAllister and the Hannaford Youth Band organization.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: Fiddler Crabs: Grumpy string players. We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions

And this just in: It has become common practice for community bands to program a concert around a particular theme. Now, The City of Brampton Concert Band goes one better. Their concluding concert for this season is titled “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Tribute to the Music of the West.” The program will highlight familiar music from the movies such as “The Magnificent Seven” and “Hang ‘em High,”compositions that reflect on the majestic and varied natural beauty of the region including “The Yellowstone Suite,” and other music inspired by native lullabies, dances and culture. The innovative twist is a throughline narrative, with local actor Scott Lale telling tales of the many personalities that gave the wild west its iconic imagery, and with local dancers as well as performers on such instruments as banjo, guitar and harmonica woven in. It all happens at 8pm on Saturday February 26, 2011 at the Rose Theatre in Brampton.

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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 ( 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

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

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 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

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