p23Brass week is coming to Toronto. As mentioned in last month’s column the International Women’s Brass Conference will be held June 16-20 in Toronto at the Humber College Lakeshore Campus. All of the performances during the week are at the auditorium of that campus. While the conference itself is restricted to those four days, organizers have planned a smorgasbord of musical events from serious academic sessions to whimsical anyone-can-join romps in the park. Space considerations limit how much detail I can include here, so I’ll try to highlight events of general interest. For registrations, ticket prices for performances, directions to venues and other information visit the IWBC website, www.iwbctoronto2010.com.

The first of the public participation affairs has been billed as “The World’s Biggest Brass Event!” The plan is to make an attempt at the world’s largest brass assembly ever. This will take place on Sunday, June 13, on the grounds of the Assembly Hall at Kipling Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard, adjacent to the Humber campus. Rehearsal will begin at 11am with the grand performance at 12 noon. This will be open to men, women and children of all ages and abilities, and music will be available ahead of time online at www.iwbctoronto2010.com.

Anyone with an instrument that’s made of brass and is capable of producing a musical scale will be eligible to participate. (Having said that, yes, most saxophones are made of brass, but you won’t be eligible to play along if that’s your chosen instrument.) Join the headliner groups, True North Brass, Canadian Brass and Hannaford Street Silver Band for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform in such a musical aggregation. Whether it be a French horn, Wagner tuba, mellophone, bass trumpet, contrabass trombone, helicon, saxhorn, flicorno or keyed bugle, get out your brass instrument and perform under the baton of distinguished Canadian conductor and composer, Howard Cable. (Personally, I haven’t decided yet whether to take my bass trumpet or my Soviet Army rotary valve baritone horn.) They need every able-bodied brass player in the Toronto area, as the record to beat is 596 players. Let’s all try to help set a new Brass Event record. Remember, you too could be on Youtube! A minimum donation of $2 is requested, and proceeds will go to the establishment of a music programme for underprivileged youth in the Lakeshore area, sponsored by Lakeshore Arts.

June 14 and 15 are reserved for the 2010 Susan Slaughter International Brass Competitions. Named for the founder of the IWBC, these competitions are for performers (both women and men) of all brass instruments. It’s my understanding that these are now fully booked, and that there are no further openings for competitors.

While there are a wide variety of clinics, workshops and other sessions for conference delegates, there is a plethora of concerts open to the public as long as tickets are available. Peforming ensembles hail from near and far. Local groups include the Weston Silver Band, the True North Brass, and the Hannaford Street Silver Band. From further afield we’ll have the Monarch Brass and the Viceroy Brass from the USA, the Japanese Ladies Brass Band, Bella Tromba from the UK, and more. You’ll find details on all these concerts in Section A of The WholeNote’s listings.

Another fun-for-all happening will be the “Brass Olympics,” Saturday, June 19 from 5 to 7:45pm on the east side of the Humber College grounds. If you’re frustrated with your brass playing abilities, then perhaps you should test your athletic prowess with one of these. For the muscular macho types there is the Tuba Toss to see who can throw a tuba the greatest distance out into Lake Ontario. There will be a line attached to retrieve the instrument after each competitor’s toss. For those wanting a challenge requiring more finesse, there will be the Horn Bell Frisbee Throw, the Trumpet Pin Game or the Trombone Balance competition. There will be prizes and fanfares, lots of fun, and a dinner at a nearby church.
The conference wraps up with a concert appropriately named “Brass Belles,” presented in conjunction with the Hannaford Street Silver Band at the St. Lawrence Centre. An array of brass band showpieces by international composers will be performed by an all-female cast of soloists and led by guest conductor Gillian MacKay. Soloists include Carol Jantsch, principal tubist of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Susan Rider, lead cornet soloist with the US Marine Band; Bonnie Denton, euphonium soloist with the US Coast Guard Band; Gail Robertson, euphonium soloist performing J. Scott Irvine’s Concertino; and Joan Watson, principal horn of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra.

To provide a taste of the talent level expected at these events, I was sent a CD of tuba solos by Jantsch. She’s the young lady who startled the orchestral world by winning the prestigious tuba position in Philadelphia, thereby beating out some of the finest players in the world in a normally male-dominated position. After her first performance with the orchestra in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Carol had to rush back to write her final examinations at the University of Michigan.

In her CD, entitled Cascades, she displays a virtuosity rarely heard on a tuba. From the intricacies of a tango by Piazzolla, the allegro from a Khachaturian violin concerto and the ever popular Clarinet Polka she displays a technique normally only expected of much smaller instruments. She then shifts gears to a lyrical Adagio by Shostakovich where she showcases her tone and range. She will be one of the soloists at the Brass Belles concert.

On another front, we have news from Resa Kochberg. From time to time we have mentioned Resa’s Pieces Concert Band, established a number of years ago by Kochberg. The stated philosophy of that group from the beginning has been “to provide an opportunity for people to return to playing instruments that they had not touched for years.” Now Kochberg is launching a new venture: the Resa’s Pieces Strings. The RPS will be launched in September and will be under the directorship of Ric Giorgi, who will be welcomed into the Resa’s Pieces “family.” Look for more information in a later issue of this magazine, or contact them at: strings@resaspieces.org.

In the meantime CBC Radio is producing a documentary on Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. This is scheduled to be aired as part of “Sunday Edition,” which airs on CBC Radio One (99.1 FM) on June 6 – just before the band’s concert that evening.

Please write to us: bandstand@thewholenote.com

Definition Department
This month’s lesser known musical term is: “CORAL SYMPHONY”: a large multi-movement work from Beethoven’s Caribbean Period. We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events Please see the listings section for full details.

• Wednesday, June 16, 7:00: The Etobicoke Community Concert Band present the first of their Twilight Concerts in the Park. There will be a community BBQ, 5:00 to 7:00. Admission is free.

Down the Road
• Between July 18 and August 21: The National Band of the Naval Reserve will be performing a series of concerts in various locations throughout Southern Ontario to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy.

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

p23bThere were a few musical events in my life in recent weeks that furnished a couple of topics for my column this month. The first has to do with joint performances of choirs and bands.

In last December’s Bandstand column I talked about choirs performing with concert bands and how that form of joint venture was very popular over the Christmas holiday season. At that time we lamented the dearth of music written specifically for such a combination. Subsequently, I received a few letters on the subject, but little evidence to contradict what I had written. I still found little evidence of any conscious effort on the part of bands, choirs, arrangers or composers to rectify that situation. What a pleasant surprise it was then when, a few weeks ago, I was treated to no fewer than three such works on a single programme.

The event was a joint concert in late March by the Oriana Singers of Cobourg and the Concert Band of Cobourg. With the assistance of a grant from the Trillium Foundation of Ontario these organizations were able commission two special very diverse arrangements. The first arrangement, entitled A Ruth Lowe Celebration, was a medley of tunes by that Canadian composer, including “I’ll Never Smile Again” and “Put Your Dreams Away.” I’m accustomed to hearing choirs perform with bands, but there’s always the sense that separate groups are sharing the platform. Rather, in this concert, there was the sense of hearing a unified single ensemble, and listeners were treated to a smooth blend of voice, woodwind and brass rarely heard.

Their rendition of Freddy Mercury’s Bohemian Rhapsody was very different. It bore no resemblance to the arrangement often performed by concert bands, and certainly did not indicate that its roots were in a rock band some years ago. The third joint venture was an original work on a sacred theme. “Benedictus” by Steven M. Baric exploited the unique tonality of these combined forces in a way rarely heard.

In a future issue I hope to be able to get some insight into the process involved with the Trillium Foundation for such purposes. I also hope to get information on how other groups might obtain copies and performance rights for these works, which deserve to be heard more widely.

In our concert listings in last month’s issue there was an announcement of a joint venture on May 1 by the Orillia Wind Ensemble and the Cellar Singers. I hope to attend their version of the “Last Night of the Proms," in my quest for more of that combination.

The second topic has to do with how the role of women in bands has changed over the years. When I first started playing in a “boys’ band” some years ago, I was unaware of how girls were routinely excluded. That’s probably because there were girls in our band. Solo cornet and first trombone positions were both held by girls. On reflection though, perhaps they had received some preferential treatment; they were daughters of the bandmaster.

Some time ago I wrote about the controversy sparked at the University of Toronto in 1947 when a young woman applied to join the band. The student council held a formal debate to determine whether or not the musician in question should be permitted to join the band. I’m happy to report that the woman is still playing regularly in a community band some 63 years later.

p24aMy interest in this subject was kindled again when a friend sent me an email with an article about a trumpet soloist in a community band in Massachusetts. As a child in elementary school, Edith Pliskin always wanted to play an instrument and thought of taking up the violin, she said, “but my brother, Jimmy, suggested the trumpet because few women play that instrument.” When she attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the university did not permit women to play in the band. “At that time it was for men only.” Sound familiar? Well Edith now has her day. Her next performance will be with a wind ensemble at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, on May 4. As usual, she will probably play at least one solo. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Edith celebrated her 90th birthday a while back.

p24bIf that isn’t sufficient evidence of how the role of women in bands has changed, consider this. The next International Women’s Brass Conference will be held June 16-20, 2010, in Toronto at Humber College. This annual conference was founded in 1993 by Susan Slaughter, principal trumpet of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra who is retiring at the end of this season after 40 years of leading the brass section of that orchestra. In her honour, the conference has announced the 2010 Susan Slaughter International Brass Competitions. These competitions for women performers of all brass instruments will be held prior to the conference from June 13 to 16. The conference will be hosted by well known Toronto hornist Joan Watson and Denny Christianson, head of music at Humber College.

Most portions of the conference will take place at the Humber College Lakeshore Campus with concerts at the Assembly Hall a short distance to the East. The Grand Finale Concert of the conference, appropriately named “Brass Belles,” will take place at The Jane Mallett Theatre. It promises to be a spectacular pairing of some amazing IWBC Guest Artists and Toronto’s own Hannaford Street Silver Band. Look for more details in the June issue of The WholeNote. In the meantime visit their website, www.iwbctoronto2010.com.

Another item I was going to talk about was migrating back to orchestral playing after years of playing in concert bands. However, I’ve run out of space – more on that in a future issue. Let’s hear your stories.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is CACOPHANY: “a composition incorporating many people with chest colds.”We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events

• May 1, 7:15pm: Milton Concert Band presents “A Perfect Score – Music from Movies and Television.” St. Paul’s United Church.

• May 1, 7:30pm: Orillia Wind Ensemble presents “Last Night
of the Proms.” Rule Britannia, and other classics. Roy Menagh, director, with the Cellar Singers. Orillia Opera House, 20 Mississaga St. W., Orillia.

• May 2 and 9, 3:00pm: Wellington Winds presents “The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire.” Works by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Grainger, Cable, Benjamin and others. Daniel Warren, conductor; Michael Purves-Smith, oboe. First United Church, 16 William St., Waterloo.

• May 7, 8:00pm: Etobicoke Community Concert Band, John Edward Liddle, conductor present “Glorious and Free,” a programme of marches, anthems and songs. A musical tribute to our Canadian military featuring Kathy Thompson, guest vocalist. Silverthorn Collegiate Auditorium, 291 Mill Road, Etobicoke.

• May 15, 2:00pm: Northdale Concert Band, with conductor Stephen Chenette, pays tribute to legendary Canadian composer and trumpet player Johnny Cowell. The concert will feature some of Cowell’s most famous solos as performed by well-known trumpet player John Edward Liddle plus a special guest appearance by Johnny Cowell himself. Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Drive. Admission free.

• May 15, 7:30pm: Festival Wind Orchestra offers “Spring into Summer,” Keith Reid, conductor. Jarvis Collegiate Institute.

Down the Road

• June 20, 3:00pm: Hannaford Street Silver Band presents “Brass Belles” with brass band showpieces by international composers, performed by an all-female cast of soloists and led by guest conductor Gillian MacKay, Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre.

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

For most Canadians, the event of the year so far has been the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. By an unanticipated quirk, the massive media coverage of the games spawned the overnight evolution of our national anthem into an international pop song of sorts. Canadians were joined in the spontaneous rendition of O Canada in the spectator seats at the events and in the streets by visitors from around the world. It even made its way on to more than one late night American TV show.

For me, this sudden unprecedented attention to the national anthem, and the not-infrequent controversies surrounding some performances, put my curiosity into overdrive and spawned a series of questions. What were the origins of national anthems in general, and Canada’s in particular? What should be the criteria for a good national anthem? How and where should the national anthem be performed? Should all those present at an event sing or should it be left to a soloist? Should a soloist be permitted to improvise on the melody? How should our citizens behave during its performance? Who wrote the music? Who wrote the words? Are the words appropriate, or should they be changed to placate the wishes of various interest groups? And so it goes.

According to most authorities, national anthems had begun to appear in a number of European countries by the beginning of the 18th century. However, the practice of having a government designate a particular patriotic song as the country’s official anthem didn’t become widespread until late in the 19th century. As for criteria for a good national anthem, the general consensus is that it should have a good melody, meaningful words, be easy to remember and easy for the average individual to sing.

As for Canada’s national anthem, like the country’s progress to nationhood, the process was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. As early as 1836 we had a list of acceptable patriotic songs. Over the years, O Canada, The Maple Leaf Forever and God Save the Queen came to the fore as leading contenders. It wasn’t until 1964 that Prime Minister Lester Pearson proposed some government action to proclaim an “official” national anthem. By 1967 a parliamentary committee unanimously recommended that O Canada be so designated. It wasn’t until June 27, 1980, three days after the one hundredth anniversary of its first performance, that parliament passed the bill making it official. It was actually signed into law on July 1, 1980 as part of that year’s Dominion Day celebrations (Now changed to Canada Day).

The song O Canada was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem composed by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.

Calixa Lavallée was born in Verchères Quebec in 1842, studied for a while in Paris and eventually settled in Boston. He was well regarded in his day as a performer, composer and conductor, and performed regularly throughout North and South America.

The original lyrics were in French, and it wasn’t until 1906 that they were translated into English. While the original French words have remained unchanged and spared from tampering over the years, the same can’t be said for English words. Two years after the original literal translation appeared, Robert Stanley Weir wrote another English version, one that is not a literal translation of the French. In October 1969 the government accepted the offer of publishers Gordon V. Thompson to sell to the Crown, for the sum of one dollar, the copyright to the Weir words for O Canada. Weir’s lyrics have been “officially” revised by parliament at least twice. On a number of occasions, the 1980 version has been under attack by special interest groups.

With Olympic fervour running high, Prime Minister, Stephen Harper suggested that he might legislate the words “all our sons command” out, in favour of more “gender neutral” wording. It didn’t take long for the Prime Minister to beat a hasty retreat from that front when the responses from many quarters came thundering in. Some of the most interesting came from Ottawa correspondents for news organizations. One such response was the suggestion that the idea had been hatched by a group from the Prime Minister’s office while hung over after celebrating the victory of the Canadian men’s hockey team.

Canada’s only woman Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, also stepped into the fray. She did not just want the words “all our sons command” changed to something “gender neutral”. On a national radio interview she objected to “our home and native land,” and suggested that be changed to “our home on native land.” That did not sit well with all people born here, whose ancestors arrived a few centuries ago before Canada was a nation. In any case, for now at least, the storm on words has subsided. When it might return is anyone’s guess.

The criterion of being easy for the average individual to sing is certainly not a characteristic found in the US Star Spangled Banner. This may be the reason why it has become the norm at major sporting and cultural events in the US to have a soloist sing the national anthem. Perhaps the original intent was to have the audience join in with the soloist providing a solid base. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Which brings up a pet peeve of mine, that of a soloist improvising on the melody. In some cases this might better be described as butchering the melody.

One reader of a small town community newspaper summed up his reactions to the rendition at the official opening of the Olympics as follows: “Is it just me or is there anyone else tired of hearing our national anthem twisted into some artistic ego trip? There should be a level of respect required by the artists selected to represent us on the international stage. A performer or an event organizer has no right to re-work the song. It is not open to interpretation.”

He then goes on: “The publicity of the moment should be enough of a thrill and a boost to a performer’s career without the need to hijack a country’s national anthem. If they wish to put their own spin on the song, they can do so on their own album and take their chances on whether the consumers appreciate it.” I concur. Any organization engaging the services of a vocalist to perform the national anthem should write into the contract that the “official” melody is not to be changed in any manner.

At some stage somewhere around 1900 it had become the accepted custom to have a “national song” performed prior to every concert, theatrical production and other similar public event. In fact, the city of Toronto for many years had by-law requiring such a performance. That by-law was not abolished until 1967. For most community bands the national anthem is an integral part of most programmes. On the other hand, I can’t recall ever hearing it at any community orchestra performance. Why the different standard?

Next month we’ll be back to the community music scene after the huge Hannaford Brass Band Binge. We also hope to have a better look at the Johnny Cowell tribute concert next month.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is APPROXIMENTO: “A musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch.” We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events: See the listings section for full details.

Weekend of April 9, 10 and 11: The Hannaford Street Silver Band presents its seventh annual Festival of Brass at the St. Lawrence Centre. See listings for details.

Wednesday, April 14 7:30: The Plumbing Factory Brass Band, Henry Meredith, conductor, presents “Heros – ordinary and extraordinary.” Byron United Church, 420 Boler Rd., London, Ontario.

May 7 8:00 pm: The Etobicoke Community Concert Band, John Liddle, conductor, presents “Glorous and Free,” a programme of brilliant marches, grand anthems and beautiful songs – a stirring musical tribute to our Canadian military featuring Kathy Thompson, guest vocalist. Silverthorn Collegiate Auditorium, 291 Mill Rd.

Down the Road

Saturday, May 15 2:00 pm: The Northdale Concert Band, with conductor Stephen Chenette, pays tribute to legendary Canadian composer and trumpet player Johnny Cowell. The concert will feature some of Cowell’s most famous solos as performed by well-known trumpet player John Edward Liddle, plus a special guest appearance by Johnny Cowell himself. Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.

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

I’m going to start this month’s column with four only somewhat related anecdotes, then, with luck, connect the dots between them.

Page 24 Thomas_EdisonIn December 1877, a young man walked in to the office of the Scientific American magazine, and placed before the editors a small, simple machine about which very few preliminary remarks were offered. The visitor, without any ceremony whatever, turned the crank and, to the astonishment of all present, the machine said: “Good morning. How do you do? How do you like the phonograph?” The young man was Thomas Edison.

One of my prized possessions is an old Edison cylinder phonograph with a few cylinders. One of those cylinders contains a conversation between Edison and Johannes Brahms where Brahms asks Edison about how his new invention might influence music.(Little could either have known that in just a few years, as recording technology advanced, performer and listener could be separated by time and distance, and a single performance could be heard many times at many different locations.)

Twenty-nine years after Edison introduced his phonograph, in December 1906, a Canadian, Reginald Fessenden, was the first to transmit sound by radio. In the world’s very first radio broadcast, Fessenden played his violin to the astonishment of the crews aboard ships in the Atlantic and Caribbean. The age of broadcasting had begun.

In a recent broadcast of the CBC Radio programme “The Sunday Edition,” host Michael Enright had as his guest music guru Robert Harris, who was there to “teach us how to listen to music without straining ourselves.” The Enright programme was interesting in many ways. One idea, though, made me stop in my tracks: it was when Harris suggested that we consider all of the elements making up the “infrastructure” of a modern concert performance.

Some are obvious: performers, conductor, composers; repertoire; presenter; venue. But what of all the other less obvious factors? How did each of the composers on the programme come to be a composer, for instance? Childhood ambition to compose? Experience as a performer? How did their first musical thoughts gel, evolve and end up on a printed page? And speaking of the printed page, how many people, over a period of several centuries were involved in the development of the notation system for Western Music that is now universally used? For that matter, where would music performance be today if the art of printing had never been invented?

And what about the instruments? The trombone was certainly the first fully chromatic member of the brass family of instruments, and is generally considered to be the oldest instrument, in unchanged form, of the modern symphony orchestra. All of the other instruments in a modern symphony orchestra, including the strings, have undergone varying degrees of change over the past two centuries.

In short, once we start, we can’t possibly count the number of individuals who have directly or indirectly had an influence on any given performance we hear or play in.

Now, let’s look back over the past one hundred plus years since Edison and Fessenden. Since those early days, sound recording devices and media have become more compact and much more portable. The media have evolved from cylinders through 78 rpm records, LPs, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, eight-track tapes to CDs, and now to various forms of solid state gadgets like MP3 players and iPods. Similarly, broadcasting has changed considerably. Compare the Metropolitan Opera’s “revolutionary” Texaco live radio broadcasts to their current HD “Live from the Met” telecasts, and you’ll see what I mean.

Another example: look at the evolving major role of electronics in music in recent years. Some years ago MIDI appeared on the scene to harness the power of digital computers. This was closely followed by various music notation programmes to minimized the drudgery of writing out parts by hand. Then, of course, the ubiquitous internet is having a profound influence on many aspects of music. Whether it be downloading actual music, looking for publisher’s catalogues, purchasing instruments, researching composers and their works, reviewing performances, or visiting band or orchestra websites, the internet has become an essential part of our musical toolbox.

The point? Rather than trying to experience music as something distinct from the social forces shaping and reshaping it – what Harris might call “straining ourselves” – we should enjoy the way music performance reects our changing world.

Which brings us to requesting your comments. How is technology impacting on the bands or orchestras you are interested in? What can (and should) band and orchestra websites set out to do, beyond such obvious things as giving you the name of the group, the conductor, their concert schedule, rehearsal time and location? From the perspective of the music you love to play or listen to, what are the history-making changes now getting under way?

Coming Events

The Etobicoke Community Concert Band, John Edward Liddle, Music Director, present “That’s Entertain ment” featuring special guest, Juno-nominated jazz pianist Chris Donnelly. Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium, 86 Montgomery Road.

The City of Brampton Concert Band with music director, Darryl Eaton, will close its 125th Anniversary Concert Series with “2010: A Space Odyssey” at the Rose Theatre.

The Hannaford Street Silver Band pre sents: “Trumpet Spectacular” with trumpet soloist Allen Vizzutti.

The Plumbing Factory Brass Band, Henry Meredith, Conductor present “Heroes – ordinary and extra ordinary.” Byron United Church, 420 Boler Rd., London, Ontario.

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

Having spent some years in the Navy, it’s become a tradition for me to attend the New Year’s levee at one or more of the military messes in the Toronto area. At this year’s event I spent some time chatting with a friend who had joined the service as a musician, but had, after a time, set her clarinet aside and gone on to pursue a very rewarding career elsewhere in the service. Perhaps her timing was opportune in having enlisted when many traditionally male only roles were opening up for women. Now, well ensconced in a position with considerable responsibility, might she return to music for recreation? Her answer is “not in the foreseeable future.” Alas, she’s had her clarinets made into table lamps. She had no New Year’s resolution for 2010 to return to music making.

P24
As I write this, the year is now two weeks old. Some people will already have abandoned their well-intentioned resolutions made in haste over a midnight toast. For most of us though, there’s still time to resolve to pursue some course for personal betterment in the months ahead. While no statistics on the subject have crossed our desk, it’s generally agreed that a very high percentage of those who study instrumental music in high school do not continue with their instrument after graduation. For most, it is not a conscious decision to stop playing. They still enjoy music as listeners, but the time pressures of further education, marriage, family and career responsibilities have consumed most of their waking hours. That is barrier number one.

Frequently there is the additional barrier of the lack of an instrument. Most students who participate in school music programs learn on and use school instruments. This barrier is easily overcome by renting an instrument, until the return to playing is a firm decision. Renting also provides time to research the market, and determine the type of instrument best suited to one’s needs.

If you’ve decided that such a New Year’s resolution is for you, where do you start? What are your goals? There are many questions to be answered. The first ones are: What instrument do I want to play and what type of music appeals to me most? For many, the choice of instrument will be to get back to the once familiar. For others it will be to answer a long-time urge to try a different challenge.

Having chosen the instrument, then there is some research to locate possible groups that perform your kind of music. Do they accept novices? Joining a group which consistently performs above your ability level would be frustrating and slow your personal progress. When and where do they rehearse? You want to be in a situation where you will look forward to your weekly music venture rather than worrying about how to fit it in. Once you’ve made contact, attend a few rehearsals to determine whether you and the group are compatible. Most community bands are open and welcoming, but there is a wide spectrum. On the one hand there are groups with a fixed instrumentation where all members are required to audition. At the other end there a few true “beginners bands.”

Over the past few weeks we had the opportunity to visit and sit in with one such group. Starting from scratch a year ago September, a small group in Newmarket organized The Stepping Stone Band. After a bit of a shaky start, the band is now prospering under the direction of a local music teacher. With a regular membership of about 25, they are honing their reading skills with a broad range of music, from basic instructional type music to works from the standard band repertoire.

Some members are getting back after a prolonged absence, while others are rank beginners. On more than one music stand there are fingering charts. One member loved to play his alto saxophone at home, but had never learned to read music. Now that is rapidly changing. Since the band’s inception, some members have gone on to a more advanced band in addition to their regular Monday evening rehearsals. They are sharing their common interest in a friendly non-threatening group. The New Year looks good for them. For information on this group contact Joe at joemariconda@gmail.com.

Harking back to my opening remarks, within a few days of hearing of the sad fate of my friend’s clarinets, I learned of an innovative project at a local school. The problem was not an unusual one. Like most schools, Uxbridge Secondary School wanted more serviceable instruments than their budget would permit. Tucked away in various corners were several unused instruments, but they were deemed to be beyond economical repair.

The solution: turn those old instruments into cash. Students in technology classes took the old clarinets and flutes and made table lamps with a musical motif and offered them for sale in the community. The result: winners all around. The school receives money for some new instruments, the old instruments go on to a new life and some homes in town have lamps which are topics of conversation and useful. The photo accompanying this column shows music student Caitlin Jodoin and music teacher Deb Thompson checking over some music by the light of one of the lamps. When not playing in the school band, Caitlin is a regular member of the Hannaford Youth Band.

Definition Department


This month’s lesser known musical term is “APPOLOGGIATURA”: A composition that you regret playing.” We invite submissions from readers.


Coming Events


The Etobicoke Community Concert Band
presents “That’s Entertainment” featuring jazz pianist Chris Don- nelly. Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium, 86 Montgomery Road.

The City of Brampton Concert Band will close its 125th Anniversary Concert Series with “2010: A Space Odyssey” at the Rose Theatre.

The Hannaford Street Silver Band presents “Trum- pet Spectacular” with trumpet soloist Allen Vizzutti.

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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