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

The 2010–2011 season is now over for most community bands and orchestras. It would seem to be a good time to reflect on the past year and take a look into the proverbial crystal ball. While, as an audience member, I enjoyed several amazing performances, for me, the highlights of the past season were in following the developments of a couple of startup ensembles. It was not just the musical achievements of these groups, which were considerable. It was also so encouraging to see groups of total strangers coalesce into close knit social groups through the common bond of making music.

page_26_resas_piecesIn last month’s column I reported on the achievements of the combined New Horizons bands from Long and McQuade and their concert at the Glenn Gould Studio. Shortly after that issue came off the presses I was equally impressed at a concert by Resa’s Pieces Strings at their Debut Gala Performance on June 5. Did their debut programme suggest that they were timid? How about a Bach Brandenburg Concerto, the ubiquitous Pachelbel Canon, Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory and Leroy Anderson’s challenging pizzicato Plink, Plank, Plunk for a beginners group?

As for plans for the future, the L&M New Horizons groups will be intermediate groups in the fall and two new beginners groups are planned. Resa’s Pieces Strings are seeking out new repertoire, and would welcome more violas with open arms. A few days after that concert, during a break in one of my own rehearsals, I mentioned the concerts of these groups to a friend that I have know for years. Surprise! He is the conductor and one of the founders of Grand River New Horizons Music, located in Waterloo. Founded in the fall of 2008, they started with 26 members, whose musical experience ranges from new (never played an instrument before) to symphony level.

They now have a busy performance schedule, as I learned from their very professional web site:

Now for the summer season

What are my own plans? From the 1960s through the 1980s, my summers were dominated by outdoor concerts. For 15 of those years I acted as MC for the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation summer music program. In addition to that, I played in numerous concerts. Once the CNE began, it was a busy schedule of two or more concerts almost every day at either the Main Bandshell or the North Bandstand. When not playing, I would be listening to famous international bands such as those of The Royal Marines, The Grenadier Guards, The President’s Own U.S. Marine Band or the National Band of New Zealand. That all changed several years ago. Band concerts are no longer a part of the CNE programme. Outdoor band concerts are now rare in Toronto. We are now in the era of megaproductions, like those in Dundas Square, with elaborate staging, blazing lighting and systems where sound operators appear to hold sway as the stars.

With the advent of warmer weather, the major shift for most bands is to outdoor concerts and street festivals too numerous to mention. Unlike the town bands of old, few community bands participate in parades. Among the few exceptions that do parade, they are, almost without exception, the older bands which were formed in an era when bands were expected to participate in most parades in their towns. The few bands in this part of the country, which fall into that category and still parade are such as the Newmarket Citizens’ Band, the Ayr Paris Band and the Perth Citizens’ Band. The concerts listed below in Coming Events represent a small sampling of community music in our area. There is much more, but alas, those are the only ones to cross The WholeNote desk by press time.

Personally, so far I know that I will be playing at Black Creek Pioneer Village, the Orillia Aqua Theatre, Palmer Park in Port Perry, Fairy Lake in Newmarket, in at least two cenotaph ceremonies, numerous street festivals in communities surrounding Toronto and, yes, one solitary indoor concert in the dying days of August.

What can we look forward to in the fall?

This year the Markham Concert Band has set a new high bar for other bands. Last year they acquired and outfitted a first class enclosed cargo trailer emblazoned with their logo on the sides. With the hard work of a volunteer crew, they transport timpani, other heavy instruments, music library chairs and stands from band room to performance location. They are not dependent on the vagaries of venues with questionable facilities. With the exception of lighting, they became more or less self sufficient. That left only one potential variable to affect the quality of their outdoor performances; the questionable outdoor acoustics. The simple solution: bring your own bandshell! And that’s exactly what they have done. It has not yet made its public debut, but The Markham Concert Band now has its own portable, inflatable bandshell. Funded through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, this bandshell will be given its debut during the band’s summer music festival. Look for it in and around Markham. (There’s also another great innovation made possible through that grant, but that will have to wait for the next issue.)

Now for another somewhat radical departure. This summer, The Markham Concert Band is hosting a new concert band series in Markham featuring not just their own music, but performances of other community bands, as well. On seven Sunday afternoons in July and August, five other bands, as well as the Markham Band, will participate in “Concerts, Cakes and Coffee.” The bands provide the entertainment and local family restaurants will be there to sell refreshments. These concerts have been made possible through a grant from the Celebrate Markham Grant Committee (a Town of Markham committee). See the listings below.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: ground hog: Someone who takes control of the repeated bass line and won’t let anyone else play it. We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events, by Venue

Heydenshore Pavilion, 589 Water St., Whitby. 905-666-2049.
July 7 7:30: Whitby Brass Band. In Concert. Free. Bring lawn chairs or blankets; concert will be held indoors in case of inclement weather.

Markham Road and Robinson Street in old Markham (Look for the big band shell): July 10, 2:00: Markham Concert Band; July 17 2:00 North York Concert Band; July 24 2:00: Thornhill Community Band; August 7 2:00: Pickering Community Concert Band; August 14 2:00: Newmarket Citizens Band; August 21 2:00: Northdale Concert Band; August 28 2:00: Markham Concert Band.

Memorial Park (corner of John St. and Simcoe St. in Oshawa).

Oshawa Civic Band. July 13 7:30: A Gordon Langford Salute; July 27 7:30: Marching Down Broadway; August 10 7:30: Around The World With The Oshawa Civic Band; August 24 7:30: A Brass Celebration. Barrie Hodgins, director.

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

OOPS! It’s red face time again. I’m guilty of a silly error. Many years ago I taught writing courses at a local institution of higher learning. It was my standard practice to emphasize certain basics such as “get your facts correct.” Last month I broke one of my own cardinal rules. I failed to check one very simple fact. I have known Eddie Graf for years. I spoke to him, his wife and son, before writing about his birthday celebration, but had never asked the question, “What did the short form ‘Eddie’ stand for?” It could have been Edward, Edgar, Edgwick, Edsel or even Edwin. I guessed wrong. His name is Edwin not Edward. My apologies, Eddie.

Now for a look at the smorgasbord of community musical happenings which have been unfolding and are scheduled for the coming weeks. Let’s start with a bit more about Stephen Chenette. In last month’s issue I mentioned that Chenette had announced a special award for Eddie Graf and I alluded to some honours which Chenette himself had received in recent years. Most recently, he was the recipient of the Canadian Band Association’s 2010 National Band Award. This award is presented to a CBA Member who has made an outstanding contribution to banding across Canada. After trumpet studies with the likes of Arnold Jacobs, Rafael Mendez and others, and conducting studies with several top conductors, Chenette served as principal trumpet with the Denver Symphony Orhestra, the Boston Pops, the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He was a charter member of the International Trumpet Guild when it was established in the 1970s and received that organization’s Award of Merit in 2008. Now Professor Emeritus, Chenette recently retired from active teaching in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto where he was Head of Brass, taught trumpet, orchestral repertoire for winds, brass chamber music and conducted the Concert Band, the Wind Symphony, and the Brass Choir. He has also recently retired after many years as Director of Music of the Northdale Concert Band in Toronto. However, he is still keeping his musical skills sharp by active participation in the trumpet sections of the Northdale Concert Band and the Etobicoke Community Concert Band.

p23_hannafordEnough about our veterans of music for a while. It’s time to turn our attention to some highlights from younger members of our musical community. During the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s annual Festival of Brass weekend, in mid-April, I had the pleasure of hearing the three finalists in the 10th year of the Hannaford Youth Band’s Rising Stars competition. No fewer than 13 members of the Youth Band entered the competition and performed their solos with piano accompaniment in a recital format in January. Out of that group, three finalists were selected by adjudicators Curtis Metcalf and Norman Engel. The Youth Band then learned the brass band accompaniment for the solos of the finalists and they performed, April 15, at the Festival of Brass Friday night Youth Concert.

The winner, Jacob Plachta, performed, from memory, the first movement of Gordon Langford’s Sonata, Serenade and Scherzo for trombone. A graduate of Wexford Collegiate, Plachta is in first year performance in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. Plachta started out with Hannaford in the Community Band five years ago on baritone. He is also a talented pianist and plays at the ARCT level. In addition to performing from memory, what makes his accomplishment more amazing is that he missed the dress rehearsal because he had to write two exams at UofT.

Second place in the competition went to Matthew Ross who performed From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific by Herbert L. Clarke. Ross is a native of Bermuda and is in second year performance at UofT, studying with Anita McAlister. He also had exams to write at UofT on the day of the competition. This is Ross’s second year with the Hannaford Youth Band. Last year he played flugelhorn and this year he is “end chair solo cornet.”

Third place honours went to Rachel O’Connor on soprano cornet who performed Concertino by Ernst Sasche. Now in her second year of performance at UofT, O’Connor has played soprano cornet with the Hannaford Youth Band for the last two seasons. Before coming to UofT, she attended the Etobicoke School for the Arts.

Plachta was awarded $500 and a trophy that he will keep. His name will also be engraved on the Rising Stars plaque donated by St. John’s Music. He also performed his solo with the HSSB on Sunday, April 17, and received a recording of his performance. Ross received $300 and O’Connor $200. Both Ross and O’Connor performed on instruments that have been donated to the Youth Program by the family of the late Fred Mills.

The judges for the final competition were Alain Trudel and guest artist tuba virtuoso Patrick Sheridan. For his part of the program, Sheridan stunned all in the audience, not just with his mastery of the instrument, but with a range of tonal colours and rapid execution most of us had never before heard coming from a tuba. During a brief post-concert conversation, I learned from Patrick about a new program of breathing exercises which he has developed with Sam Pilafian, another great of the tuba world. It’s called The Breathing Gym. It’s a course of breathing exercises for band, chorus, and orchestral winds. I hope to have more information about the 2009 EMMY award winning DVD version of this program for a future issue.

Two awards in the community ensemble domain have recently come to our attention. The most recent saw the Newmarket Citizens’ Band awarded a Platinum rating at the annual Music Alive festival. Rather than being a competitive type festival, this is a festival where a group’s performance is rated against a set of standards of performance. The other award was not for a band or orchestra, but for a radio documentary about Resa’s Pieces, a community band for beginners and those rediscovering their instruments. CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition received a 2011 Gabriel Award for Watch My Stick, PLEASE! Here is what the award stands for: “The single most important criterion of a Gabriel winning film or program is its ability to uplift and nourish the human spirit. A Gabriel-worthy film or program affirms the dignity of human persons; it recognizes and upholds universally-recognized human values such as community, creativity, tolerance, justice, compassion and the dedication to excellence.” Congratulations to Alisa Segal and Karen Levine. Look for it at

Over the past few months I have mentioned the formation of the first New Horizons Band in this area. It all started last September when a small group met and were introduced, by Dan Kapp, to the family of instruments used in a concert band. Comments such as “how do I hold it,” were prevalent. A week later, on a weekday morning, they assembled for their first lesson/practice and were informed that the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio had been booked for their first concert in May. (What an absurd idea!) Within a few weeks, word had spread and there was pressure from people still holding down day jobs for a new band with evening rehearsals. Responding to that pressure, a second band took shape in January with evening rehearsals. By now, the combined bands, rehearsing some identical repertoire and some different, numbered 49 members. With a concert looming on the horizon, the program was taking shape. However nobody had selected trombone as their new musical companion. Guess what? Yours truly and a fellow ringer were recruited for that performance.

The rest is history. I had expected a small token audience of family and friends. Instead, the hall was almost full with an enthusiastic audience. The concert went off without a hitch and the lobby was crammed full at the reception after. Congratulations to Dan Kapp and all members of the group who had the will to believe that they could pull it off. A great beginning. Now, stand by for another startup group: Resa’s Pieces Strings will present their Debut Gala Performance on June 5. See the listings for details.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: Gregorian champ:
The title bestowed on the monk who can hold a note the longest.

We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Event Quick Picks (See the Concert Listings for details)

• June 05 7:30, Resa’s Pieces Strings. Debut Gala Performance.
Ric Giorgi, music director. Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

June 04 7:30, Festival Wind Orchestra. Broken Mirror Concert.  Works by Prokofiev, Holst, Mozart, Rossini; Broadway pieces by Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Bernstein. Keith Reid,     conductor. Lawrence Park Community Church.

June 14 8:00, Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. Twelfth Gala Performance. Resa Kochberg, music director. Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

• June 15 7:30, Oshawa Civic Band. Scottish Splendour.
Barrie Hodgins, music director. Featuring the sounds of brass with      pipes and drums. Memorial Park (corner of John St. and Simcoe St.), Oshawa.

• June 16 7:00, Whitby Brass Band. In Concert. Rotary Park,
Queen St., Bowmanville.

• June 19 7:30, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds. Borrowed Treasures. Wind Ensemble concert featuring 2010/2011 artist-in-residence Peter Stoll, clarinet; Andrew Chung, director. St. Mary                            Immaculate Roman Catholic Church, Richmond Hill.

• June 25 8:00, Kindred Spirits Orchestra/Voices Choir. Mozart’s Coronation Mass. Mozart: Don Giovanni Overture K527; Symphony No. 41 kK551 “Jupiter”; Mass in C K317 “Coronation.”     Glenn Gould Studio.

• June 29 7:30: Oshawa Civic Band. A Canadian Salute.
Barrie Hodgins, music director. Concert in honour of Canada Day.  Memorial Park (corner of John St. and Simcoe St.), Oshawa. 

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

28_eddie_graf_and_bernice__bunny__grafEarly in 1921 in Kitchener, Ontario, a local furrier named Joe Graf (and Mrs. Graf) welcomed into the world their third son and named him Edward. In the annals of Canadian music, the rest is history. Early last month I had the pleasure of attending, in the company of a host of luminaries of Canadian music, a party to celebrate Eddie Graf’s 90th birthday.

Since his father, known as Pop to his kids, played violin and his mother played piano, it was only natural that young Eddie Graf would be drawn to music. His father, a regular at fiddle festivals in the Kitchener area, started Eddie on both violin and clarinet at age five, and it wasn’t long, with some coaching from his mother, before Eddie had learned to play chords on the piano to accompany the fiddlers.

At age 13, Eddie joined the local boys’ band, where the featured boy trumpet soloist was a lad named Erich Traugott, who later was one of the stars of Rob McConnnel’s original Boss Brass. In his late teens Eddie worked in a grocery warehouse by day and played around town in the evenings. In those days in Ontario there were no bars or clubs where alcohol was served. Beer was available for men in beverage rooms. Ladies were permitted, if escorted, to drink in separate “Ladies and Escorts” rooms. It was in one such room where he was hired to play piano one night a week. Among other selections in his repertoire, a piano version of the famous Meditation from the opera Thaïs was a favourite. He was paid the princely sum of $1.25 per night plus free beer. Since he was under-age and a non-drinker, he gave the beer to friends. With money coming in from music, he set his sights on a saxophone. The price was $75. One dollar of each evening’s pay went to pay for his new instrument. (The night before this most recent birthday party, Eddie, as a regular member of the Encore Symphonic Concert Band, played a couple of sax solos in a concert. I have it on good authority that these solos were on a newer sax.)

It wasn’t until he joined the army at age 20 that he became a full-time musician. When he enlisted at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario, Eddie was assigned to play second clarinet in the band. While there, he also played in various big bands around town and continued to arrange. Meanwhile, over in England, Canadian Bob Farnon, formerly of the old CBC radio show The Happy Gang, had been given the job of assembling musical show groups to entertain service personnel. On a trip back to Canada to line up more talent for his “Army Shows,” Farnon visited Wolseley Barracks. Eddie auditioned and was soon sent off to England.

Shortly after his arrival in the camp near Greenwich he was assigned to Bob Farnon’s band. About a week after Eddie joined the band, Farnon’s brother left the band on compassionate leave and Eddie replaced him in the lead alto sax chair of that prestigious group. Concerts entertaining the troops were routinely interrupted by Luftwaffe aircraft attacks and the infamous “Buzz Bombs.” After the Normandy beaches were secured and the allied armies moved inland, Eddie’s band landed at Caen and subsequently followed the action as the armies advanced through France, Belgium, Holland and ultimately Germany.

In England there was often a number of bands, singers and dancers stationed in the same camp, who in their off hours mingled and made friendships. At some point, on a return from Holland to a camp near Guilford in England, Eddie struck up a friendship with a young dancer from Toronto named Bernice O’Donell, “Bunny,” as she was known to her friends. Some time before the war ended, Bunny’s show was sent off to Holland and Belgium. A bit later Eddie’s show, now a big band stage show, was off to the continent. Lo and behold their paths crossed again in Amsterdam.

After VE day in May 1945, the entertainment groups continued in Europe for many months. By the early fall, both Bunny and Eddie were sent back to England. By now Eddie had enough seniority that he was slated for repatriation home to Canada. Bunny, on the other hand, was further down on the list and was destined to remain in England for some time. The solution: get married and then Eddie could return to Canada with his bride. After a New Year’s Eve party, they were married in a small town church not far from Guilford on January 1, 1946.

Sixty-five years later they shared the good wishes of their many musical friends and family at their home in Scarborough.

Of their seven children, all play musical instruments. However, Lenny is the only child who has pursued music as a career. In a recent conversation, Lenny remarked that is was wonderful growing up in a home where music was so central. In his words, “Dad was not a teacher by trade, but still a fountain of knowledge, not only in the realm of music, but in matters of every day life.” He recalls a steady stream of professional musicians coming to the house for rehearsals. In addition, he met more than his share of radio and television personalities as guests at home. From Gordie Tapp, Bobby Gimby and Juliette to Rich Little and Bob Hope, they all respected Eddie’s talents.

During the course of his 90th birthday party, the steady stream of wellwishers included top Toronto musicians. Photos in my collection from that day include such notables in the trumpet world as Johnny Cowell, Rainer Schmidt and Stephen Chenette to name but three. All of us had the pleasure in sharing a bit of a most artistic birthday cake with a topping in the form of a giant yellow saxophone.

At the party, renowned trumpeter, conductor and educator Stephen Chenette conveyed a special message from Bill Harris, President of the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) proclaiming “Eddie Graf, well known Ontario musician, composer and arranger, ... an Honorary Life Member of CBA (ON) on the occasion of his 90th birthday.” The message went on to laud Eddie’s big band jazz charts and his concert band arrangements and compositions, and noted that Eddie had been recognized by the Canadian Band Association National organization in 2003 with the Canadian Composers Award, one of only two times it has been awarded.

Speaking of Stephen Chenette, there is quite a bit to say about some of the awards that he has received in recent years. However, that will have to wait until next month. Similarly, a full report on the Hannaford Band’s exceptional “A Festival of Brass” weekend will be deferred until then. I have run out of time and space.

In the meantime, check out the web site (Graffle Music Publishing). Eddie’s scores and arrangements are available from them. We all look forward to playing his arrangements for years to come.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: gaul blatter: a French horn player.

We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events

Welcome to two new groups with inaugural performances. Please see the listings section for full details.

• May 9 7:30: East York Concert Band. Memories of Love. Annual spring concert featuring favourites from film and television
classics, musicals and contemporary concert band arrangements.  Emily Summers, director. On the Park Centennial Ballroom.

• May 11 7:30: Earl Haig/Claude Watson Music Program. Symphony/Band Night: Classical, Romantic and Contemporary. Verdi, Tchaikovsky and others. Alan Torok and Gennandy Gefter, conductors. Glenn Gould Studio.

• May 14 8:00: Counterpoint Community Orchestra. Flutopia. Dvořák, Andersen, Gordeli. Terry Kowalczuk, conductor; guest: Robert Aitken, flute. St. Luke’s United Church.

• May 14 8:00: Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra. Finale. Dvořák, Wienawski, Saint-Saëns, Beethoven. Jani Papadhimitri, violin; Vincent Cheng, conductor. Calvin Presbyterian Church.

• May 14 8:00, May 15 2:00: Oakville Symphony. Finalissimo. Works by Nino Rota. The Oakville Centre.

• May 14 8:00: Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra. Spaghetti Western: Music Inspired by Hollywood. Daugherty, Pool (premiere), Royer (premiere). Cary Ebli, English horn; Louise Di Tullio, flute; Ronald Royer, conductor. Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute.

• May 15 2:00: Mississauga Pops Concert Band. On Broadway. The golden age of musicals; featuring choral group Justus.                                 Meadowvale Theatre.

• May 15 3:30: Wychwood Clarinet Choir. Spring Concert. St. Michael and All Angels Church.

• May 19 7:30: Long & McQuade Bloor New Horizons Band. The Beat Goes On: Annual Spring Concert. Dan Kapp, music director.  Glenn Gould Studio.

• May 29 3:00: Orchestra Toronto. Masterworks on Canvas Live.  Mussorgsky, Debussy, Weber, Stravinsky. Danielle Lisboa, guest conductor; Noru Gogovita, clarinet. Toronto Centre for the Arts.

• May 29 7:00: North Toronto Community Band. Spring Rhythms Gala. Music from Mozart to musicals. Danny Wilks, conductor; guest: Graziano Brescacin, flute. Crescent School.

• Jun 01 7:30: Resa’s Pieces Strings. Debut Gala Performance. Ric Giorgi, music director. Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

• Jun 03 8:00: Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra. 50th Anniversary Gala Concert. Raum, Rachmaninoff, Mahler. Arthur Ozolins, piano; Sabatino Vacca, conductor. Silverthorn Collegiate.

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

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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