Earning points: proper deportment of band member’s

Inspection of the B Grade Bands at the South Street Eisteddfod, 1949. (photograph of The Courier photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte on 30/09/2021)

Introduction:

The secretary will arrange for supply of Brasso etc. for polishing all instruments on the journey and the management committee will inspect the instruments from time to time.  Members are asked to note that it is imperative to have hair cut very short (back and sides) and all wearing black shoes laced alike – with no tags showing.

(“Rules and Itinerary,” 1937)

If the above directive from the conductor and management of the Longreach Town Band seems a bit onerous, one could say it was a sign of the times.  Except, this was not a sign of the times.  It reflects the efforts that the band associations and individual bands went to ensure that all band members upheld the reputation of the movement.  Which could be summarised as looking sharp and behaving properly according to a defined set of rules.  Deportment of a band and band members was taken very seriously.  Contemporary band members will relate to these concepts even now.

Deportment was regarded seriously enough that points were won and lost in various contests if there was any infraction of the contest rules.  Inspection before the Quickstep section of a contest was part and parcel of the event, although some judges took it to extremes.  Rules was generally standard and enforced by band associations.  When a contest came down to mere points, the deportment of an individual mattered greatly.

In this post we will be exploring deportment in relation to the band movement and by default, the process of inspection and the governing rules.  While we may not see exactly where these rules on deportment eventuated (or why) this aspect of the band movement is interesting.  For a movement that prides itself on tradition, this is one tradition that holds true today.

Expectations:

Brisbane Courier, 02/04/1923, p. 6

Deportment can be literally defined as a “the way a person behaves” or “manner of bearing” (Cambridge English Dictionary, 2021).  For a band member, their deportment was judged by everyone who looked at them, with perception of their behaviour judged by others.  Throughout the newspaper articles that mention band competitions, or from some bands themselves, we can find references to deportment and the expectations that band associations and bands held for their members.  Were band members expected to model higher standards of behaviour and dress than that of other people?  If one were to believe the newspaper articles, then yes, they were seemingly held to higher standards.  Hence, lists of competition rules were created that band members were expected to adhere to – these will be examined later in the post.  Harking back to the expectations and standards the Longreach Town Band set for themselves, we find in the second-last paragraph of the article,

Win or lose, remember we are representing the far central west.  Impress people with your good conduct.  Be on the alert always to gain a point.  No arguments, no bad feeling, plenty of rest, and the good comradeship element will go towards successes in this ambitious effort.

(“Rules and Itinerary,” 1937)

This is but one example of expectations that a band held for their members.  Generally speaking, bands and band members were extremely well-behaved and dressed, and compliance with the many rules governing behaviour and dress were followed rigorously.  However, that was not to say that there were other problems; bandsmen were people too. Digging deeper we find an article from 1911 where the Band Association New South Wales (BANSW) scolded the behaviour of bandsmen in a general way.  This article published in the Daily Advertiser newspaper let everyone know that bandsmen were on notice – the start and end of the article are quoted here. 

It is probably that the New South Wales Bands’ Association will take some action at an early date in the direction of impressing on bandsmen when visiting contests the advisability of being as circumspect in their deportment and behaviour as the average citizen is expected to be.  On the march and when engage in the contest work, bandsmen as a rule are role models of discipline and behaviour. 

[…]

It should be unnecessary for the Bands’ Association to have to prescribe a standard of conduct for bandsmen, but unfortunately the utter disregard for the feelings of others displayed by some few of the members of the numerous bands appears to render that course desirable.” 

(“BANDMEN’S BEHAVIOR“, 1911)

This was not the first time and last time that the behavioural expectations of band members would be mentioned in print. The other side of this was a reminder to the public that band members were models of good behaviour, a way to promote bands as a very wholesome activity.  Writing about the setting up of school bands in a 1929 issue of The Australasian Band and Orchestra News magazine, the Editor wrote,

As they advance in their studies, the boys are in all probability invited to practise with the senior bands in their districts.  They become bandsmen, they find good occupation in their leisure, their minds are disciplined, and everyone knows that the good bandsman is never a bad citizen.

(“THE EDITOR’S BATON,” 1929)

A further reminder on deportment, this time to do with uniforms and dress, was issued by the Queensland Band Association in April 1930 when Mr. J. R. Foster (Secretary) was quoted in The Evening News newspaper, of which the article can be seen below. 

Evening News, 17/04/1930, p. 2

Many of the issues surrounding deportment was seemingly applied to male band members.  What of our female bands?  We know that from a previous post there were very few of them around Australia, and when we do see mention of them, there is some indication that they also took the behaviour of their members quite seriously (de Korte, 2018a).  The famous Sydney Ladies’ Band prided themselves on their behaviour and attitude.  An article published by the Australian Women’s Weekly in 1938 detailed some of the behaviours that were frowned upon.

Boy-friends are not encouraged by the Band, because they would occupy valuable time that should be otherwise allotted to practice.

Married women are not accepted as members because their home ties distract them and they must ask their husbands’ permission to travel to country or interstate engagements. 

(“SPINSTERS ONLY is the SLOGAN of the BAND,” 1938)

Hilda Tansey, the conductor of the Sydney Ladies’ Band outlined some other expectations, and it appears, she had a very dim view of ladies who transgressed.

Occasionally we get ‘passengers’ in the band – girls who join just to show off to their boy friends in our smart green uniform.  But within a fortnight we discover them and we tell them in no uncertain terms that they have played their finale.

(Tansey in “SPINSTERS ONLY is the SLOGAN of the BAND,” 1938)

This photograph below of the Sydney Ladies’ Band from 1934 shows the members in the said uniform. 

Sydney Ladies’ Band, 1934 (source: State Library Victoria: pi007746)

The deportment of band members was an issue that held the attention of some band commentators, to the extent they even sponsored prizes in major competitions, for example, Cecil Clarence Mullen  (Royal South Street Society, 1959, 1964).  We saw in an earlier post that Mullen had much to say about the band movement, and deportment on the stage while playing and conducting was one of those issues he took to heart (de Korte, 2020; Mullen, 1951).  To refresh, Mullen was most displeased with “boys between 11 and 18 years in many cases taking a chair and sitting down to play their solo” (Mullen, 1951, p. 61).  He also took issue with bandmasters who let this happen in the first place.  Mullen was ever the commentator to let his opinions be known and although I cannot find any record of him adjudicating, he finished the little section on deportment in his book with these words,

On several occasions in recent years I have been called upon to judge solo competitions in school, suburban and country competitions and make no secret of the fact that I rang boys off very quickly for bad stage deportment.  The late Mr. E. T. Code, the best trainer of boys we have ever had, was very strict in these matters.

(Mullen, 1951, p. 62)

Mullen had reason to criticise the deportment of younger band members, especially while playing, and he was possibly right in saying that they should not be sitting down as it affected their breathing (Mullen, 1951).

Negotiating the issues surrounding the deportment of band members were complex and time consuming.  However, as we will see in the next section, some areas of deportment, namely looking smart, were easier to manage.  And for bands, being very much in the visual space as well as a musical space was important – cleanliness of uniforms was taken as seriously as behaviour.

Looking smart:

Issues about the supply and funding of uniforms were touched on in a previous post about supplying the essentials for bands (de Korte, 2018c).  Bands wanted to look smart on parade and expected their members to wear their uniforms with pride.  They also expected their members to look after their uniforms.  On occasions though, uniforms were the issue.  In an earlier post on the first band sections at South Street Ballarat, we found that the conductor of the Launceston Garrison Band lamented that his band lost points because of “the stained and worn-out state of the Government uniforms” which were “severely condemned by the military judge” (de Korte, 2018b; “THE INTERCOLONIAL BAND CONTEST.,” 1900).

Uniforms were a much commented on part of bands in the media, even if the language of old newspaper might make us wince at times.  The word ‘smart’ was a common descriptor linked to deportment regarding dress.  In an article published by the Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette in 1924, each band that participated in the Toowoomba contest that year received some sort of comment regarding their appearance, bearing, colours of uniform, and cleanliness of instruments (“INSPECTION OF BANDS,” 1924).

The two pictures below from The Sun and Daily News newspapers showing the Sydney Ladies’ Band and the East Kew Junior Brass Band provide perfect examples of this language being used.  Although, in the caption for the Sydney Ladies’ Band, the word ‘pretty’ was also used to describe the members.  Nevertheless, a band that was dressed smartly attracted attention.  It spoke of a band that took pride in their appearance and demeanour.  And especially when participating in contests and other events where the band was on show, a proper uniform was a must.

The Sun, 14/10/1934, p. 3
Daily News, 28/03/1936, p. 3

The Quickstep and Inspection:

Unsteadiness in Ranks1 point for each offender
Untrimmed hair1 point for each offender
Unshaven1 point for each offender
Irregularities of Dress1 point for each offender
Irregularities of Footwear1 point for each offender
Incorrect Dressing1 point for each offender
Incorrect Intervals1 point for each offender
Dirty Instruments1 point for each offender
Talking in the Ranks1 point for each offender
(Australian Band Council, 1934, p. 17)

The band movement in Australia and New Zealand can be based on holdovers from the United Kingdom, with some key differences that become apparent in band contests.  Unlike their counterparts in the U.K., a feature of the band movements and contests in Australia and New Zealand was the Quickstep sections and the preceding military-style Inspection.  This post will provide a brief overview of the Quickstep and then focus on the Inspection, which is an aspect directly related to the topic of this post.

The Quickstep:

The Quickstep section that featured in Australian and New Zealand band contests for over one hundred years semes to be an invention by the band movements of both countries.  Accounts are sketchy as to how it started, however, an article published in the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper 1911 provides a little history.

The origin of the quickstep first came prominently before the Australian public at contests held in connection with the Druids’ Gala at Melbourne about 11 years ago.  On that occasion the drill performed was very much the nature of cavalry section drill, but it was subsequently modified to conform to the infantry manual.

(“BRASS BAND CONTESTS.,” 1911)

Based on this account and history, this would mean that quickstep sections first appeared in Australian band contests around the late 1890s, and we can find evidence of this in an account of the Druids’ Gala published by The Age newspaper on Monday 11th April 1898.

The marching and deportment of the men will be taken into consideration by the judge, Mr. F. Lyon, in awarding the prizes of £50, £20 and £10 offered for the military drill contest, the principal features of which were enacted at the gardens.  Each band fell in for inspection separately, and marched 100 yards in 120 paces within a minute, to a quickstep, following up this performance by wheeling and countermarching manœuvres to appropriate music.

(“THE EASTER HOLIDAYS.,” 1898)

Some British judges who were brought out to adjudicate the contests had never seen anything like it and commented favorably on the section and what it represented.  In 1902 James Ord Hume adjudicated at the famous South Street Eisteddfod and had this to say about the Quickstep section.

I thoroughly endorse the idea of this quickstep contests, as I am of opinion that brass bands, when marching, should always be spirited and also neat and uniform in the ranks.  The music should be always of a bright and military nature and, indeed, the band should always prove by its marching in public, its standard of excellence.

(James Ord Hume in “THE INTER-STATE BAND CONTEST.,” 1902)

Three years later the South Street contest was adjudicated by Mr. Albert Wade from Wales, and he also was impressed with the Quickstep section.

But the marching was of the best and Mr. Wade found in the military style of the civilian bandsmen an example for the straggling Britishers who compose the village band in the old country.

(“BIG BAND BATTLES.,” 1905)

Unfortunately, there seems to be no films of early Quickstep contests in Australia.  However, New Zealand’s Ngã Taonga Sound & Vision has in their resources a short film dating back to 1912 of the Dunedin Brass Band contests, Quickstep section (Gore, 1912).  The link below will show a short film of this Quickstep section where the military judges can clearly be seen pacing the bands and taking notes.

Dunedin Brass Band Contest, Quickstep (F9933)

The Inspection:

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18/12/1938, p. 8

This part of the post started with a list of rules governing the Inspection published by the newly formed Australian Band Council in 1934.  Every aspect of appearance and behaviour were detailed in various rules, and Duncan Bythell (2000) notes that “The rules for marching contests achieved a terrifying complexity, with the marks for being awarded for smart appearance and successful drilling than for musicianship.” (p. 236).  Some bands bore the brunt of these rules with band members being penalised on numerous occasions at contests.  The Wellington Garrison Band travelled to the Bathurst contests in 1899 from New Zealand and found themselves on the receiving end of the rules when nine bandsmen were penalised because they were unshaven – the band apparently “forgot” the regulations (“Bathurst Band Contest.,” 1899; “UNSHAVEN BANDSMEN,” 1899).

The research by Bythell can be corroborated by the band journals of the day as controversy surrounding the inspection was never hard to find.  Accounts of an A.N.A contest in Melbourne were penned by many commentators in the January 1913 issue of The State Band News with a writer colloquially titled ‘Clarion’ detailing the inspection in his article, of which excerpts are quoted here.

For length of time occupied and the keen inspection each man received a “record” was easily established.

Some wags, who were getting impatient, struck up with great enthusiasm the “Midnight National Anthem”.”

The principal comment was – A contest does not consist of inspection.

Many bandsmen complained that points were taken off for marks on the slides of instruments – the said marks being put there for tuning purposes.

Beyond the general essentials of clean instruments, uniforms, haircuts, etc., no one seemed to know if any hard and fast rules were laid down for an inspection of this kind – evidently, it is left to the discretion of the drill judge.

The fact that Color Sergeant Humphries is the author of the official drill book used in connection with Quickstep Contests, no doubt is accountable for the very rigours inspection. 

(Clarion, 1913, p. 5)

The writer of the opening article in the mentioned issue of The State Band News pointedly recommended that the Victorian Bands’ Association (V.B.A.) limit the inspection process to “5 minutes per band.” (“Band Chat,” 1913, p. 2).

As in the Quickstep, the whole theatre and process of the Inspection was a measure of comparison between contests in Australia and the United Kingdom.  In 1907, Mr D. J. Montague, a musician from Ballarat, returned from an eight month tour of England, Scotland and Wales where he was fortunate enough to view many of the great band contests and compare them to the South Street Eisteddfod (“BRITISH VERSUS AUSTRALIAN BAND MUSIC.,” 1907).  His interview with the Ballarat Star newspaper was wide-ranging and provided an interesting account comparing the band movements in both countries.  Here in this article, we can see his thoughts on why the Inspection was a beneficial part of Australian and New Zealand contests.

He remarked that one difference between the contests in Great Britain and those in Australia was that here time is not so much account as in the old land.  For instance, the great Crystal Palace and Belle Vue contests last only one day.  The bands travel all night from far distant parts of England and Scotland to reach London early in the morning, and numbers of bandsmen are playing in various parts of the day.  After the contest is over they hurry back by the night trains for home.  He found that the bandsmen were very careless over their instruments, which were nearly always dirty and unpolished, and he took occasion to introduce to the directors’ notice the inspection and drill system obtaining at South Street, which resulted in smart looking bandsmen and clean instruments.

(“BRITISH VERSUS AUSTRALIAN BAND MUSIC.,” 1907)

While it was evident that many band members were very responsible when it came to keeping clean and tidy, there are accounts of the supporters of a band helping when needed.  Maureen French, a local writer from Clunes in Victoria, wrote a book on the history of bands in Creswick titled ‘Following the bands : a journey down the years with the brass bands of Creswick’.  She wrote a section on the Creswick and District Band experiences in the Quickstep and Inspection and details this little anecdote about how the band tidied themselves up.

But the greatest contribution was made by the small army of womenfolk who accompanied the band at competitions.

Points could be lost for dirty shoes, missing buttons, untidy hair, etc.  With that in mind, once the players had assembled on parade, these good ladies would swarm over them, armed with clothes brushes, spit-and-polish, and all accoutrements required to remove a miniscule of fluff that could tarnish the image of their charges.  All this of course, was a labour of love.

(French, 2013, p. 64)

As mentioned, the Inspection could either win or lose a band points.  If we were to look at some of the accounts of contests where comments of judges were recorded, they are telling.  Below is an excerpt from an article published by the Shepparton News newspaper in February 1914 detailing the judges’ comments on the contest that was held in town.  These comments directly relate to the Inspection and the four bands that participated were the Shepparton Town Band, Rochester Brass Band, Benalla Brass Band and Shepparton Model Band (“INSPECTION.,” 1914).

Shepparton News, 16/02/1914, p. 3

Likewise, at a contest being administered by the Queensland Band Association in 1929, they left no doubt as to what would be taking place during the Inspection part of the contest (and every other event that was being undertaken during the day).

At the commencement each band is moved onto the grounds, and then marched to the oval and inspected by military judges, points being allocated for military deportment, appearance, smartness in the ranks, cleanliness of instruments and uniform.

(“TO-DAY’S PROGRAMME,” 1929)

Interesting that the expectation of the bands is that they display a military-like bearing, despite the bands (it is assumed) to be civilian.

No doubt the regulations on deportment were quite clear and it was up to the bands to adhere to them.  As a measure of how points were deducted, we can read what happened to the Mackay Concert Band during a contest in Rockhampton in 1934.

The discipline of the band on parade was somewhat lacking, inasmuch as points were lost for detail in dress, deportment, and drill.  For untidiness the band lost four points – two for untrimmed hair and two for unshaven faces, and for bad movements in drill four points were lost, making a deduction of 8 points from the maximum of 40, leaving the band with 32.

(“Concert Band.,” 1934)

One must not disregard all opinion of the Inspection process.  While it was an important part of contest proceedings (and still is to some extent), every so often bands people advocated for change.  One of them was Frank “Massa” Johnston, the famous band conductor from Melbourne who in 1939 was the conductor of the Melbourne Fire Brigade Band.  He made some comments after coaching the Maryborough Federal Band at the 1939 Bundaberg contest which were detailed in an article published by the Central Queensland Herald newspaper (“BAND JUDGING IN QUEENSLAND,” 1939).  One of his suggestions to the Q.B.A. was the Inspection of bands be eliminated as a separate part of the contest and instead “be incorporated with the diagram march with additional  points for drill and appearance” (“BAND JUDGING IN QUEENSLAND,” 1939).

While diagram marching has fallen out of favour at band contests, street marching, and the inspection remain a part to this day, especially at the Australian National Band Championships.  It is interesting to occasionally read commentary on the ubiquitous social media – modern bands people can be known to be passionate about rules and regulations.  Bearing in mind that much of what we do as bands and band members has some grounding in history.

Conclusion:

There is much we can still learn about how bands of old handled the rules and regulations on deportment, and how they managed expectations.  Pride in appearance and behaviour was one aspect, but there was also the public perception.  Perhaps if we were to take a critical view, maybe the Inspection was over-policed by band associations.  However, the Inspection, and the visual display of the Quickstep, were pointed differences between the band movements of Australia & New Zealand, and the band movement in the United Kingdom.  There was pride in doing something differently and doing it well.

References:

Australian Band Council. (1934). Australian Band Council : Constitution : Contest Rules : Quickstep Regulations and Instructions  [Constitution]. Oxford Press. 

Band Chat. (1913). The State Band News, 4(6), 2 & 4. 

BAND JUDGING IN QUEENSLAND. (1939, 20 April). Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 – 1956), 59. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70844529

BANDMEN’S BEHAVIOR. (1911, 26 May). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143079764

BANDSMEN ON PARADE. (1939, 18 December). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135450896

Bandsmen, Please Note! (1930, 17 April). Evening News (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1924 – 1941), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202494392

Bathurst Band Contest : Complaints from New Zealand. (1899, 17 November). Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63910068

BIG BAND BATTLES : IN CITY OF STATUES : MEN FROM BOULDER CITY : ARE AUSTRALIA’S CHAMPIONS. : (From our special representative). (1905, 07 November). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113288815

BRASS BAND CONTESTS : The Quickstep. (1911, 30 August). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91325368

BRITISH VERSUS AUSTRALIAN BAND MUSIC : INTERVIEW WITH MR D. J. MONTAGUE. (1907, 08 January). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210885760

Bythell, D. (2000). The Brass Band in the Antipodes : The Transplantation of British Popular Culture. In T. Herbert (Ed.), The British brass band : a musical and social history (pp. 217-244). Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press. 

Cambridge English Dictionary. (2021). Deportment. In Cambridge English Dictionary. Retrieved 16 October 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/deportment

Clarion. (1913). A.N.A. Contests. : Contest Side-Lights. The State Band News, 4(6), 4-8. 

Concert Band : CONTEST ADJUDICATOR’S COMMENTS. (1934, 05 April). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article173312584

de Korte, J. D. (2018a, 22 April). Early female brass bands in Australia: they were rare but they made their mark. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/04/22/early-female-brass-bands-in-australia-they-were-rare-but-they-made-their-mark/

de Korte, J. D. (2018b, 22 December). The first South Street band contest in October, 1900. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/12/22/the-first-south-street-band-contest-in-october-1900/

de Korte, J. D. (2018c, 08 July). Instruments, sheet music and uniforms: how the bands of old obtained the essentials. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/05/13/instruments-sheet-music-and-uniforms-how-the-bands-of-old-obtained-the-essentials/

de Korte, J. D. (2020, 06 March). Cecil Clarence Mullen: Enthusiastic commentator, historian and statistician of brass and military bands. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2020/03/06/cecil-clarence-mullen-enthusiastic-commentator-historian-and-statistician-of-brass-and-military-bands/

de Korte, J. D. (2021). Lake Wendouree, Vic. : The Courier (Newspaper) : 1949 Royal South Street Band competitions – City Oval : B Grade Bands – Inspection [Photograph (Newspaper photograph)]. [IMG_6741]. Jeremy de Korte, Newington, Victoria. 

THE EASTER HOLIDAYS. : DRUIDS’ GALA. : OPENING DAY. : A GREAT ATTENDANCE. (1898, 11 April). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191489906

THE EDITOR’S BATON: Bringing up the boy to the band. (1929). The Australasian Band and Orchestra News, XXV(2), 1 & 3. 

French, M. E. C. (2013). Following the bands : a journey down the years with the brass bands of Creswick. Maureen E. C. French. 

Gore, H. C. (1912). Dunedin Brass Band Contest, Quickstep [Moving Image]. New Zealand / Aotearoa, New Queens Theatre, Dunedin. https://ngataonga.org.nz/collections/catalogue/catalogue-item?record_id=67764

INSPECTION. (1914, 16 February). Shepparton News (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129652799

INSPECTION OF BANDS. (1924, 19 April). Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1922 – 1933), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article253775325

THE INTER-STATE BAND CONTEST : MR. J. ORD HUME’S CRITICISMS : WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT TASMANIAN BANDS : DETAILS OF RESULTS : (“Ballarat Star”). (1902, 06 November). Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9590543

THE INTERCOLONIAL BAND CONTEST : Return of the Second Battalion Band. (1900, 11 October). Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas. : 1883 – 1928), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153769022

Mullen, C. C. (1951). Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951). Horticultural Press. 

Regent Studio. (1923, 02 April). A GRADE TEST SELECTION. Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 5-6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20611772

Royal South Street Society. (1959). 1959-10-23 Brass Band Contests [Eisteddfod Results]. Royal South Street Society Results Database. https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1959-10-23-brass-band-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1964). 1964-10-24 Victorian Brass Band Championship [Eisteddfod Results]. Royal South Street Society Results Database. https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1964-10-24-victorian-brass-band-championship 

Rules and Itinerary : CORONATION BAND CONTEST : EASTER 1937 : LONGREACH TOWN BAND. (1937, 13 March). Longreach Leader (Qld. : 1923 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37363142

SPINSTERS ONLY is the SLOGAN of the BAND : Musical Girls who Have Little Time for Cupid. (1938, 19 February). Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 40. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51590948

Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band [picture]. (1934). [1 photographic print on cardboard mount : gelatin silver, hand col. ; 30 x 40 cm.]. [pi007746]. State Library Victoria, Tansey family collection. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/336537

TO-DAY’S PROGRAMME. (1929, 18 August). Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97690827

UNSHAVEN BANDSMEN. (1899, 10 November). Hawke’s Bay Herald. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/HBH18991110.2.22.1

Influences from Britain: James Ord Hume and “The Besses Effect”.

Postcard: Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (1908) (Source: Jeremy de Korte collection)

Introduction:

The visit of one of the premier bands of Britain to Australia would be an event of great interest, and Mr. Hume, speaking on the matter, said that if the railways would guarantee to grant free passes to the members, he could almost promise that either the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, of Lancashire or the Black Dyke Band, of Yorkshire, would come out.  That the venture would be a success Mr Hume says he has not the slightest doubt, and he considers that the playing would come as a revelation to Australians.

(“MR. J. ORD HUME.,” 1903)

Australian bands, to put it simply, are an extension of the movement started in Britain and bands are one of Britain’s great cultural exports.  As has been noted in other posts, the influx of people from the British Isles and other places carried their music with them.  It is no surprise that in the early years, bands were established in localities across Australia. 

There was no shortage of enthusiasm for starting a band, and no shortage of budding musicians willing to learn.  However, training them, supporting them and giving them inspiration was at times problematic.  Musical training was sometimes left up to those willing to take the job of bandmaster, whether they had brass band skills or not.  This was the case in some places but not others as some bands became very proficient, very quickly. 

Not that this mattered to some untrained ears.  Many towns and localities were simply glad to have a band (a source of civic pride).  Although the bands that were founded in the late 1800s and early 1900s possibly realised that their playing was not up to English standards.  Bands were willing to learn, it was just a matter of whom to learn from.  It was not until the advent of organised competitions and visits from English bands that the standard of playing was given a critical ear and adjudicators provided bands with helpful comments on how to improve.

This post will examine what was probably the greatest shift in musical standards amongst Australian bands that took place over the period of two to three decades.  This rapid improvement was partly inspired by the visits of the eminent Scottish band adjudicator James Ord Hume and the famous Besses o’ th’ Barn Band from England.  Thankfully, for the purposes of this post, we can see the comments of James Ord Hume over the course of his two visits as he judges the bands.  We will also see that while the tours of Besses were significant in themselves, it is the lasting effect these visits had on Australian bands that deserves attention.  This is a combined story; a story of how British band musicians did their best to inspire and help Australian bands to be the best they could be.

James Ord Hume, 1902-1903:

National Advocate, 13/11/1902, p. 5-6

Lieutenant James Ord Hume was an “eminent English and Scottish bandmaster, composer, critic and adjudicator” (Mullen, 1965, p. 40).  A lifetime of musical training in the British Army and civilian bands had provided him with a unique connectedness with all sorts of musicians, and he had utilised his opportunities to the full by learning to play all band instruments and study musical theory (Thirst, 2006).  His reputation as a musician preceded him and he was highly sought after as an adjudicator and clinician.  As Thirst (2006) writes in his bookJames Ord Hume 1864-1932 : a friend to all bandsmen : an account of his life and music’,

He was a popular adjudicator throughout the British Empire, and frequently visited Australia and New Zealand to judge in the famous contest at Ballarat and elsewhere

(p. 47)

This was not an idle statement as many accounts of James Ord Hume show him to be a very forthright person with his adjudications and opinions, and he was appreciated by bandsmen all over Australia and New Zealand (“Bathurst Band Contests.,” 1902).  One might say that with his attitude he was a bit free with his advice.  Nevertheless, Ord Hume acted with the best intentions and sought to bring the standards of Australian bands up to where he thought they should be and provided solutions on how Australian bands might achieve this.  Certainly, his foretelling that Australian bands would view the “playing” of Besses o’ th’ Barn Band as a “revelation” came to fruition some years later (“MR. J. ORD HUME.,” 1903).

When Ord Hume talked, Australian bandsmen listened and there are some notable examples of his advice being applied literally and quickly.  He greatly followed developments in the brass band world, and it is because of him that Australian bands stopped using valve trombones – Ord Hume could not stand them.  The article below published by the Molong Argus is testament to his comments, and it seems James Ord Hume was quite happy to repeat this mantra to whomever asked him about it (“About Trombones.,” 1902; “Bathurst Band Contests.,” 1902).

Molong Argus, 28/11/1902, p. 15

James Ord Hume first visited Australia in 1902-1903 where he adjudicated at various eisteddfods around the country, starting with the South Street band sections in Ballarat.  Ord Hume was greatly impressed with the concept of the South Street and before the competitions had even begun, he had given them praise – and also a taste of what to expect.

He said he had always had a desire to visit Australia, and only demurred on receiving the invitation from the South-street Society to adjudicate at this year’s contests because of want of time.  However, the musical people of England wanted to know how they stood with Australia in competitive work, and the mission he entered upon was to give a candid opinion of all that occurred in a general report.  The musical contests of South-street were certainly the greatest in the world.

(“SOUTH-STREET COMPETITION’S,” 1902)

It would be fair to say that, barring some exceptions, he was not overly impressed with what he heard in the band contests and was quite clear about this in his comments (“BALLARAT COMPETITIONS.,” 1902).  His parting comments were a measure of contrast.  Of the good bands he said…

…had given splendid performances which would compare favourably with the best heard at contests in the old country.

(“BALLARAT COMPETITIONS.,” 1902)

And he was scathing about bands at the other end of the scale…

On the other hand some were distinctly bad.  Their principal fault was a lack of tone; the men had not blown out their instruments as they should have done.  If a player just obtained a good loud tone he could easily subdue it without losing breath and character.  In the constant effort to play softly this was all lost.

(“BALLARAT COMPETITIONS.,” 1902)

This being said, he also offered practical advice on how bandsmen could improve.

To obtain tone he advised bandsmen to practise slow scales, and plenty of steady moving psalm tunes.

(“BALLARAT COMPETITIONS.,” 1902)

Timothy Thirst (2006) did note in his book that Ord Hume was “known to be sometimes rather sarcastic and outspoken in his comments.” (p. 55). 

Ord Hume provide similarly forward comments when adjudicating in Bathurst, Sydney and New Zealand for various competitions, such was the hectic schedule of his visit.  However, there are some indications that Australian bands were beginning to pick up their musical standards.  After adjudicating in Sydney at the end of 1902, Ord Hume provided some observations.

He said that since he had been in Australia he had noticed an improvement in the playing of the bands.  He had observed at Ballarat and Bathurst, and now here.  He was about to proceed to Castlemaine (Vic.), and thence to New Zealand, and on his return the results of his observations would be published.

(“CHAMPIONSHIP BAND CONTEST.,” 1902)

When Ord Hume returned to Ballarat in 1903 prior to his travel back to England, he was asked what Australian bands needed to do to achieve a more excellent standard of playing.

“They require tuition” he said.  “In many cases it has come to this, that the men have to come to know as much as the conductor himself, and in such a case the progress made is not very great as you may imagine.  In New Zealand this fact is not so noticeable and it explains the reason why their bands, generally speaking, are much better than those here.  They possess over there many instructors who have come out from the old country, but here it seems to be ‘Australia for the Australians,’ and that will not do in music at any rate.”

(“MR. J. ORD HUME.,” 1903)

As mentioned, Ord Hume was appreciated for his direct commentary and aside from his work adjudicating he was afforded all kinds of civic receptions at the conclusion of events.  Perhaps this is understandable given his status as an eminent musical authority, but it was also for his honesty – what he said, he said with conviction.  Granted, some bandsmen might have been offended.  But in his own way he was trying to educate.  Band Associations were very pleased to have someone of that calibre adjudicate which is why, after the 1902 Ballarat event he was made an Honorary Life Member of the Victorian Bands’ Association (“SOUTH STREET SOCIETY.,” 1902). 

Frank Wright, the great Australian-born bandsman, summed up the first visit of Ord Hume to Australia when he wrote an appreciative article in the June 15th, 1935 edition of British Bandsman after Ord Hume’s passing.

No other event in band history, except, perhaps the tour of the famous Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, can be compared with his visit, as having equal influence in setting the standard for Australian bands.  He encouraged the young ambitious bandsman, and it was this personal interest that endeared him to the Australian people.

(Wright, 1935, p. 4)

If Ord Hume was an instigator of change in the way Australian band did things, the tours of Besses fanned further improvement as they provided a practical example of how an elite band sounded and operated.  The Besses band was no stranger to Ord Hume and it appears there was some mutual admiration and respect.  Ord Hume even arranged a Polka for Besses which can be heard below (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band Channel, 2021).  This radio broadcast recording from 1940, played by the City of Ballarat Municipal Band was provided to the Besses band by the Ballarat Band historian Bob Pattie, and uploaded to YouTube by the historian of the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, Stephen Hughes – thank you both!

“Besses o’ th’ Barn” Arranged by J. Ord Hume. Played by the City of Ballarat Band. Soloist: Jack Allan. 1940 Radio Broadcast.

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 1907 & 1910:

The welcome parade of the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band to Melbourne. The parade is being led by a combined 22 brass bands under the direction of Edward Code and is turning the corner from Collins St into Swanston St in front of the Melbourne Town Hall. (Source: Manchester Digital Music Archive, 13953)

The tours:

Much of the particulars of the two Besses tours were detailed in a previous post (de Korte, 2018a).  In summary, the famous Besses o’ th’ Barn Band from Lancashire undertook two massive tours in the space of three years which took them all over the globe (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 2018).  While in Australia, they were afforded concerts and engagements in towns and cities all over the country and never failed to please audiences – such was their reputation (“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907a; “BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907c).  Civic welcomes were par the course and the photo above of the parade turning the corner from Collins Street to Swanston Street at the Melbourne Town Hall is a case in point.  Besses were greeted at Spencer Street Station by a combined twenty-two bands directed by Edward Code which led them in a procession up Collins Street to the Town Hall (“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907e).  It is said that 70,000 people turned out to watch this procession, which would have been an amazing sight to see! (“Besses o’ th’ Barn Band,” 1907).

Herald, 23/10/1920, p. 4

Besses toured Australia again in 1910 and during this tour, lead Cornetist William Ryder left the band to join a local theatre ensemble and then became the first bandmaster of the then Prahran & Malvern Tramways Employees Band in 1911 (de Korte, 2018b; Quickstep, 1920b).  Cornetist Percy Code, son of Mr Edward Code, took his place on the tour (Quickstep, 1920a).  The Herald weekly columnist ‘Quickstep’ provides some insight into this development through separate articles which detail the band lives of William Ryder…

Leaving England as principal cornet soloist with the famous Royal “Besses o’ th’ Barn” Band on their second world tour, Mr Ryder left the band on the completion of its Victorian trip and settled in Melbourne.  He was immediately engaged to play solo cornet in a picture theatre orchestra.

(Quickstep, 1920b)

…and Percy Code.

At the time the famous “Besses o’ th’ Barn” Band was touring Australia and Percy Code was offered an engagement which he accepted.  While he was abroad, his brilliant playing was favourably commented on by British press.  One leading band journal styled him “Percy Code the golden-toned,” also crediting him as one of the finest cornetists in England.  Study in orchestration and composition was undertaken, under the guidance of Mr Alexander Owen, of Manchester, known as the greatest authority on brass band music in the world.

(Quickstep, 1920a)
Herald, 11/09/1920, p. 14

Mr Alexander Owen at the time was the conductor of Besses during the first tour and part of the second tour and he was highly regarded in Australia and around the world – newspapers of the day were effusive in their praise, the Evening Telegraph newspaper from Charters Towers being one of them (“Mr. Alexander Owen.,” 1907).  After the tour, the Assistant Conductor of Besses, Mr Christopher Smith accepted a position as conductor of the Adelaide Tramways Band (Seymour, 1994).

Herald, 25/07/1907, p. 3

By all accounts, the two tours of the Besses band were huge successes and they opened up the ears and eyes of all who heard them. 

The influence:

Postcard: The Royal Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (1907) (Jeremy de Korte collection)

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band made a lasting impression on the Australian band movement.  Notwithstanding their reputation prior to their visits to Australia, they certainly grew in stature on this unique part of their tours.  One hallmark of their visits was the fact they were very much a band full of critical listeners, teachers, advocates and gentlemen who were always willing to offer advice and help.

Hundreds of newspaper articles were published during the two Besses tours, so it is impossible to reference them all.  Buried in these articles are hints of information as to how the visits were perceived by Australian bandsmen, and what they learnt from the visiting band.  In July 1907 the Besses band were giving a concert in Goulburn, New South Wales and after the concert they were entertained by the local Australian Horse Band.  The Mayor of Goulburn was also present at this supper and his comments were noted in an article published by the Goulburn Herald.

He welcomed then not merely as bandsmen from the old country, but as brothers, and hoped their stay here would be a pleasurable one.  He was sure it would be great value from an educational point of view to the bands in Australia.  […] He hoped with all sincerity that the visit of the Besses would be crowned with the success it deserved, and that they would be able to say that the Australians were a loyal and patriotic people – which they were right up to the hilt – and pleased to accord their support to organisations such as the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, which came so far to educate them.

(“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907a)

It is interesting to note the language here from the Mayor of Goulburn, not so much for the comments on patriotism but the words on education.  Besses were not really touring to educate Australia bands per se however, that was an inadvertent effect of them being in Australia.  Further comments were made by Mr. Cody, Bandmaster of the Australian Horse Band in the same article.

The visit of Besses could have none other than a good effect on band music in Australia.  The various bands would be moved to do greater things than in the past, and they result would be beneficial all round.

(“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907a)

Besses visited Adelaide in August 1907 and comments made in the Register newspaper were equally full of expectation on what the Besses visit would mean for Australian bands.

…the Besses’ performances must unquestionably stimulate band music in the State, which has been the case of every town they have visited on the Australian tour.  The artistic methods employed by Mr. Owen in conducting the Besses in their playing are said to be a revelation in technique and phrasing, and have been described by a leading Sydney bandmaster as being “an entirely new musical language for colonial bands to study”.

(“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907c)

After touring Australia for a couple of months, in September 1907, Besses were in Bendigo and in an article published by the Bendigo Advertiser, perhaps, we can see some real analysis and insight into the benefits the Besses visit would bring to Australian bands.

There are two things which especially distinguish the Besses.  In the first place the high degree of finish that characterises their playing, so that all bandsmen that have heard them have confessed that something new in band music had been revealed to them, possibilities in brass that were previously undreamed of, and in the second place, the courteous and obliging urbanity in which the conductor, Mr. Alexander Owen, and members of his corps, have done whatever they could to help those colonial bands which have appealed to them for advice and instruction.  The present generation of bandsmen will never forget their impression of the Besses, which will more or less in the future influence their aspirations and efforts, and when a young generation of Tubal Cains grow up, whose lips are not yet too tender for the resounding brass, they will hear abundant reminiscences of how this or that passage was taken up by the Besses, until not impossibly, they will wish that at last that the Besses had never toured through Australasia.

(“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907b)

As mentioned, Besses undertook a second world tour and in 1910 they were back in Australia.  Alexander Owen stepped down from his conducting duties during this tour and Mr Christopher Smith took over to no less acclaim from audiences, such was the ability of this ensemble.  Australian bands were also changing, and this had been noticed by various writers, which was attributed by the visit of Besses three years before.  Said a writer in an article published by The Ballarat Star newspaper in June 1910.

It might truthfully be said that the standard of band music underwent an appreciable change for the better as the result of the visit of this celebrated combination.

(“AMUSEMENTS.,” 1910)

Mr. W. Bogle, manager of the Besses band during their second tour provided some interesting comments comparing band movements of the U.K. and Australia in a wide-ranging interview which was published by the Evening News newspaper in August (“THE MUSIC OF THE BAND.,” 1910).  While his interview is too much for this post, the advice he provided was obviously valuable to the Australian band movement.  And again, there were indications that Australian bands were heading the right way.

They had no doubt that the public of Australia would encourage the improvement of brass bands, and it was particularly pleasing to see they were assisted by the municipal bodies.

(“THE MUSIC OF THE BAND.,” 1910)

The legacy:

The influence of the Besses tours should not be viewed as just bands and band members attending their concerts or being instructed, advised and then feeling very much inspired.  It can also be seen in other ways.  William Ryder, Percy Code and Christopher Smith, bandsmen who had all been associated with Besses at high levels brought the Besses influences with them to their own bands, playing and adjudication.  Australian bands began to rapidly improve after the first Besses tour and inspiration from the band itself.  Instruction and adjudication from these men helped carry things further.  Mr Christopher Smith, once a deputy conductor of Besses, gave high praise to certain bands and was in no doubt that Australian bands could compete with the best (“WOULD CAPTURE LONDON,” 1922).  He adjudicated at South Street in 1922 and gave a general comment on the standards that were set.

“The standard was appreciably higher than when I judged bands here two years ago.” He said, “and what is pleasing to me is to find the unsuccessful bands more closely approaching the standard set by the victorious bands in all the grades.”

(“WOULD CAPTURE LONDON,” 1922)

He left his highest praise for the famous Malvern Tramways Band which had just won all the A Grade band sections of the 1922 South Street competition.

Malvern Tramways Band is such a cultured musical combination that it would capture English audiences by its playing.  It would do so by sheer merit.

(“WOULD CAPTURE LONDON,” 1922)

And in a final remark he highlighted advancements of bands in the lower grades.

Mr Smith went on to say that marked advances had been made by the “B” grade and “C” grade bands in their contest pieces.

(“WOULD CAPTURE LONDON,” 1922)

High praise indeed and this provided a good indication of where Australian bands were at, and where they were going just over a decade from the last Besses tour.  The bands were definitely improving!

Interestingly, the tours of Besses were still being talked about in the early 1930s as the legacy of the visits still resounded in the band movement.  The Daily News newspaper in Perth published an article in September 1930, essentially on Mr Hugh McMahon, the genius Cornetist but also mentions the state of brass bands in Western Australia as a whole.  The article also had this to say about the legacy of the Besses tours.

Most memorable had been the visit of the Besses of the Barn Band which had shown what a brass band could do in the way of interpreting certain classes of music.  The visitors had given a revelation of the playing of hymn tunes equal to that of any organ and had set a new view before Australian players.

(“EMPEROR OF CORNET,” 1930)

To finish this section on the Besses tours and the influence they left behind, we have these comments from a person speaking at the annual banquet of the Queensland based Howard and Torbanlea Citizens’ Band in December 1933. 

After a loyal toast, the toast of the Howard and Torbanlea Citizens’ Band was proposed by Mr. G. J. Edmunds who stressed the many advantages of having a band in the community.  Mr. Edmunds declared that the visit of the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band many years ago was the running point in the standard of band throughout the Commonwealth, and today, quite a number of bands had reached that standard.

(“BAND BANQUET,” 1933)

Australian bands had begun to reach the pinnacles set by Besses.  And in the 1920s, with tours to England by the Newcastle Steelworks’ Band and the Australian Commonwealth Band, both conducted by Albert Baile, Australian bands proved they could match the much-vaunted English bands and win their competitions (Zealley & Ord Hume, 1926).

A side note, Mr John Dixon, Agent for Boosey & Co.:

James Ord Hume provided much advice to the Australian band movement on how to improve, and the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band clearly displayed an excellence in musicianship.  One aspect that could be considered is that Australian bands needed the best of instruments and British instrument manufacturers saw opportunities in Australia & New Zealand for additional sales.  Travelling with James Ord Hume in 1902 and on the first Besses tour in 1907 was an agent for the Boosey & Co. instrument manufactures, Mr John Dixon (“MUSIC ADJUDICATOR,” 1929).

Near the end of the 1800s and into the 1900s, Boosey & Co. “was flourishing, supporting a staff of 100 employees” (Howell, 2016, p. 61).  John Dixon was one of their agents and he travelled the world to create find new markets and build contacts, so when James Ord Hume and Besses went on their respective tours it presented an opportunity for John Dixon to go along as well. 

Unfortunately, not much is known about John Dixon’s life, but from brief range of articles we can see that he made extensive contacts in the band world (“An Exhibit of Musical Instruments,” 1906; “MUSIC ADJUDICATOR,” 1929; “Personals,” 1903).  Writing a long letter to Wright & Round’s Brass Band News on February 1st from New Zealand (published in their April 1st issue), he noted of his experiences,

…In Coolgardie I met John Cox, late of Lassodie, now bandmaster Coolgardie City Band.  He has a son a good cornet player.  He asked me about a great many Fifeshire bandsmen, and I was able to tell him something about all.  He asked me specially to remember him to Mr. James Carmichael of Cowdenbeath, Mr. George Peacock of Fauldhouse, Geordie Pemann and all the Penmans, muckle fat Geordie in particular said he, to Archie Carmichael of Glasgow, and many more.  I met an old Bury lad full of the Lancashire love of contesting at Kalgoorlie, where he is bandmaster of the Town Band.  Mr. Richard Weber is his name, and a fine fellow he is.  He sends his best regards to all his old friends in the Bury, Radcliffe, and Besses districts, not forgetting “Trotter,” whom he says is a “corker.” (He must have meant an uncorker.)  At Boulder City I met and heard Mr, Hugh McMahon, the Alex Owen of Australia who took his band 4000 miles to compete at Ballarat and at Bathurst.  He is a wonder on the cornet and deserves his title.  At Adelaide I found the Loco. Band very good and in charge of an enthusiastic viz., Mr. Charles Allison. […] I have had a very successful tour so far in a business sense, and have established a good many agencies.  Give my regards to all old friends and tell them I shall be with them again when the flowers bloom in the spring tra-la.  I leave Auckland on February 25th and travel via., Fiji, Honolulu, Canada, New York, and Glasgow.

(Dixon in “Personals,” 1903, p. 7)

It is clear that John Dixon was good at his job and certainly found lots of band friends throughout Australia.  His comments on the standards of Australian bands and bandsmen were certainly interesting.  It could be debatable whether the sale of Boosey instruments to bands made them any better.  However, Boosey (like numerous other instrument companies), milked the fact that certain bands and bandsmen were using their instruments to win competitions – a strong selling point in those days (Boosey and Co., 1919).  

The Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 18

James Ord Hume, 1924:

In January 1924 there was much excitement in the band community as it was revealed that James Ord Hume would be making another visit to Australia to adjudicate, twenty-two years after his last visit in 1902 (“MR. J. ORD HUME,” 1924).  The Ballarat Star newspaper published a long article full of praise for the work of Ord Hume in 1902 with a brief record of what he did in Australia in his first visit, read out by the President of the South Street Society, Mr Scroucher.

…There is no need for me to tell you who Mr J. Ord Hume is, for with the exception of the very young members of the club, all bandsmen will remember him.  He came to Australia some twenty-odd years ago.  He judged the South street contest, asked for more tone, told the bandsmen to throw the valve trombone on the scrap heap, gave the prizes to the right persons, and then skipped across to Bathurst.  In Bathurst he judged all the musical items from piano right through the list, including all instruments, except, possibly, the bagpipes.  He didn’t judge the pipes because there were none to judge.  From Bathurst he went to New Zealand, did a lot of work there, created a breeze and skipped back to Sydney, where he judged a big contest.  He also did other work, and good work too.  Through his criticism and acting on his advice, many bands became better musical organisations.  And now, after all these year he is about to visit us again.

(“MR. J. ORD HUME,” 1924)

Part of the rest of the article comprised of a ditty, which will not be written here for the sake of brevity.  Needless to say, the ditty highlighted the delight in knowing that Ord Hume was coming back to Ballarat.

Frank Wright also eloquently wrote of the second visit in his memorial article for the British Bandsman in June 1935.

But since those early days a new generation of Australian bandsman had sprung up.  A generation to whom the name of J. Ord Hume is no less magical than it was to those enthusiasts of 1901.  It is little wonder then, that his second – and last – visit in 1924-5 was hailed as an even greater event than the first.

(Wright, 1935, p. 4)

Given that Ord Hume visited in 1902 and had provided advice to bands on how to improve, Besses toured in 1907 and 1910 and cast a lasting legacy over Australian bands, the fact that Ord Hume visited again in 1924 provides us with expert assessment on which standard Australian bands had reached.  We need to only look at his words which were published in an Argus article in October 1924 upon his welcome to Ballarat.  This was the only competition Ord Hume was to adjudicate in Australia this year.

Mr. Hume referred to the successes of the Newcastle Band in England, and said that it could rank with the cream of British bands.  Australian bands had improved wonderfully, but he could not say the same of the English bands. […] His object in visiting Ballarat was not only to judge, but also to advise.  If he could do anything to further raise the standard of band music in Australia it would be done.  When in Melbourne on Sunday he had heard the Malvern Tramways Band, and he had been delighted with its excellent tone.  It should always be the aim of a brass band to develop a good tone.

(“AUSTRALIAN BANDS.,” 1924)
Famous Bands of the British Empire‘, 1926, p. 6

Ord Hume was always one to make further comments and in 1926 he teamed up with Canadian Lieut. Alfred Edward Zealley to write a book, ‘Famous Bands of the British Empire’.  This book was essentially a list of the best bands, military and brass, that they perceived to be the finest of the time.  Four Australian bands made the list: New South Wales Lancers band, Malvern Tramways Band, Newcastle Steelworks Band and The Australian Commonwealth Band.  It is in the section detailing the exploits of the Malvern Tramways Band thus far that we can find more of the story on Besses and Ord Hume in Australia.  What is written here is a perfect response to his prophecy from 1903 at the top of this post.

Famous Bands of the British Empire‘, 1926, p. 60

Conclusion:

There is enough evidence to suggest that the visits of James Ord Hume and the Besses band to Australia were the great catalysts in boosting the standards of Australian bands.  It is a fascinating story, and there is much that could have been added as there are always side stories that link into this central theme.  It could be argued that there were other influences that were working on Australian bands.  Certainly, in the early 1900s, there was a crop of highly skilled bands people coming through the ranks that were gaining notice in the band movement.  However, help was provided from these British experts and their legacy, and memory, lives on.

References:

About Trombones. (1902, 28 November). Molong Argus (NSW : 1896 – 1921), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article144160543

AMUSEMENTS : BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND : THE BALLARAT SEASON : OPENING PERFORMANCES. (1910, 04 June). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216365174

AUSTRALIAN BANDS : GREATLY IMPROVED : Visiting Adjudicator’s View. (1924, 15 October). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 22. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2050652

BALLARAT COMPETITIONS. (1902, 08 November). Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904), 36. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161788993

BAND BANQUET : Howard Function : ANNUAL MEETING. (1933, 21 December). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149267526

Bathurst Band Contests : A Warm Sort of Judge : His Remarks at Ballarat. (1902, 06 November). Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), 18. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article157697522

Bathurst Musical and Literary. (1902, 13 November). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 5-6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article157251693

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band Channel. (2021, 05 February). “Besses o’ th’ Barn” – Cornet Polka Solo [Video (1940 Radio Broadcast)]. YouTube. Retrieved 05 February 2021 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvWYJnCblRI

BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND. (1907a, 24 July). Goulburn Herald (NSW : 1881 – 1907), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article100454780

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (1907, 09 August). Quiz (Adelaide, SA : 1900 – 1909), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166338966

BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND. (1907b, 06 September). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89858023

BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND. (1907c, 10 August). Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56528158

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (1907). [Photograph]. [13953]. Manchester Digital Music Archive. https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk/artefact/13953/BESSES_O’_TH’_BARN_BAND_PHOTOGRAPH_1907

BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND : A NOTABLE CONDUCTOR. (1907d, 25 July). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243298679

BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND : WELCOME TO MELBOURNE. (1907e, 29 July). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10125983

Boosey and Co. (1919). A Famous Soloist [Advertisement]. The Australian Band News, 12(10), 18.

CHAMPIONSHIP BAND CONTEST : INTERESTING COMPETITIONS. (1902, 29 December). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14480823

de Korte, J. D. (2018a, 14 October). International band tours of the early 1900’s: bringing music to Australia. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/10/14/_international-band-tours-of-the-early-1900s-bringing-music-to-australia/

de Korte, J. D. (2018b, 02 March). William Ryder: The first conductor of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Employees Band. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/03/02/william-ryder-the-first-conductor-of-the-prahran-malvern-tramways-employees-band/

EMPEROR OF CORNET : Some Triumphs of Genius : AUSTRALIA’S BAND MUSIC. (1930, 20 September). Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79474044

An Exhibit of Musical Instruments. (1906, 13 October). Star, 7. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS19061013.2.94.5

Howell, J. (2016). Boosey & Hawkes: The rise and fall of a wind instrument manufacturing empire (Publication Number 16081) [PhD, City University of London, School of Arts, Department of Creative Practice & Enterprise – Centre for Music Studies]. City Research Online. London, UK. http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/16081

Mr. Alexander Owen : THE GREATEST BRASS BAND CONDUCTOR IN THE WORLD. (1907, 01 July). Evening Telegraph (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1901 – 1921), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article214932270

MR. J. ORD HUME : AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW : WHAT AUSTRALIAN BANDS LACK. (1903, 25 February). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208462723

MR. J. ORD HUME : POPULAR WITH BANDSMEN. (1924, 26 January). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213955763

Mullen, C. C. (1965). Brass bands have played a prominent part in the history of Victoria. The Victorian Historical Magazine, 36(1), 30-47.

MUSIC ADJUDICATOR : Death of Mr. J. Dixon. (1929, 22 July). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129174877

THE MUSIC OF THE BAND : AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE : CHAT WITH BRITISH EXPERTS. (1910, 12 August). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115252341

Personals. (1903). Wright & Round’s Brass Band News(259), 7. http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/45510/

Prestwich, M. (1906). Besses o’ th’ Barn Band [Postcard]. Martin Prestwich, Manchester, United Kingdom.

Quickstep. (1920a, 11 September). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Australia’s Great Soloist. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242308980

Quickstep. (1920b, 23 October). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Celebrated Conductor. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242245731

The Royal Besses O’ Th’ Barn Band : The Finest in the World. (1907). [Postcard]. Besses O’ Th’ Barn Band.

Seymour, C. (1994). Adelaide’s Tramway Band. Trolley Wire, 35(4), 3-10. https://www.sydneytramwaymuseum.com.au/members.old/Trolley_Wire/259%20-%20Trolley%20Wire%20-%20Nov%201994.pdf

SOUTH STREET SOCIETY : A SOCIAL FUNCTION : TO MR J. ORD HUME. (1902, 04 November). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208361692

SOUTH-STREET COMPETITION’S : Inaugural Concert. (1902, 03 October). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9062176

Thirst, T. (2006). James Ord Hume 1864-1932 : a friend to all bandsmen : an account of his life and music. Timothy Thirst.

WOULD CAPTURE LONDON : Malvern Band Praised : “CONDUCTOR A GENIUS”. (1922, 30 October). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243776990

Wright, F. (1935). The late J. ORD HUME : An Appreciation. British Bandsman, 4-5.

Zealley, A. E., & Ord Hume, J. (1926). Famous Bands of the British Empire : Brief Historical Records of the recognized leading Military Bands and Brass Bands in the Empire. J. P. Hull.

Providing historical context: “thirty” in the life of a band

Introduction:

My favourite period of band life in Australia is between 1900-1950 and the posts on this blog reflect this.  It is a time of rapid development of bands in this country and tied in with major historical events (Wars, a pandemic and the Great Depression), the life of bands was certainly eventful.  It was also a time of great musical achievement in the band scene with many fine bands coming to the fore, competitions gaining national prominence, and individual band members becoming household names.

It would be fair to say that bands create their own history, and we can see early bands come to life again through articles and newspaper reports.  Such is the passage of time; the early bands inform the life of their contemporary iterations.  Modern-day bands can and do look back and wonder.  Yet the modern-day bands celebrate achievement and mark their own yearly history the same way their forebears did.  Each annual general meeting is a testament to this!

The theme of this blog post is around the number thirty.  Forgive the slight indulgence, this also marks the thirtieth blog post of “Band Blasts from the Past”.  The early bands were probably very pleased they had reached a thirty.  It is not just a number, it is the number of members, age of a band, and even a part of local history.

Thirty members:

What is a band without members? Not much.  So, it is no surprise that the bands of old made mention of the numbers of members who had signed up to bands, attended annual general meetings, or played in concerts.  It is worthwhile to read of such numbers as they tell us how the band was travelling over time.  Of course, bands at this time consisted of all manner of numbers from the very small to the very big, but generally based on the ideal of twenty-eight brass musicians and a couple of percussionists – thirty members (not including the band master) (Myers, 2000).

The Herald, 22/08/1913, p. 7

“New Caulfield Brass Band” was the headline of a tiny article that was published in the Herald newspaper on the 22nd of August 1913.  Whoever was starting this new band was proud to say that “Thirty men gave in their names as willing to join” (“New Caulfield Brass Band.,” 1913).  Whether that same thirty continued on this path is another matter.  

Forming boys and school bands was sometimes more successful and the young band members were very enthusiastic. The East State School in Toowoomba, Queensland was one such school that formed a band, an idea which grew to fruition thanks to a committee of teachers, parents and the conductor of the local Toowoomba Musical Union, a Mr. T. Slatyer (“EAST STATE SCHOOL,” 1933).  Thirty boys were part of the initial brass band.  Likewise, a boy’s brass band was proposed in the town of Mooroopna near Shepparton, Victoria.  At the initial meeting, thirty applications were received and those proposing this new band were encouraging but urged some caution.

Mr. N. L. McKean told the boys who attended that patience and hard practice would be needed for success.  His remarks were supported by Mr. P. Harrington, and the bandmaster (Mr. McCaskill) urged the boys to consider the matter very carefully

(“MOOROOPNA NEWS,” 1936)
Postcard showing the Australian Imperial Band in Sydney, 1924 (Source: Jeremy de Korte Collection)

Backtracking slightly in time, the Australian Imperial Band was formed in 1924 with the grand intention of travelling around Australia, and then to England to compete against the best of British brass bands.  We know from a previous post what happened to the tour as the band never made it to England due to lack of funds (de Korte, 2019).  However, newspaper articles, such as this one published in the Sunraysia Daily newspaper in January 1924, proudly proclaimed that thirty of Australia’s leading bandsmen were “To be Chosen from All States for Wembley” and that there were “Engagements Assured” (“AUSTRALIAN BRASS BAND,” 1924).  

Daily Advertiser, 27/10/1924, p. 2

In October 1924, thirty performers of the Wagga Wagga Brass Band provided a varied recital to an enthusiastic crowd in one of the town parks (“WAGGA BRASS BAND.,” 1924).  The local Daily Advertiser newspaper duly published an account of the evening and even listed all the pieces that were played (as can be seen in the article above).  

Ulverstone Municipal Band, 1948 (Source: IBEW)

Down south in Tasmania, a letter writer with the band-like pseudonym of “Tenor Horn” wrote to the Northern Standard newspaper to proudly proclaim that the thirty members of the Ulverstone Brass Band were “progressing well” under a new bandmaster (Tenor Horn, 1922).  Further north, in 1929 the Windsor Municipal Band of Queensland was also the subject of an article reporting on their progress.

Since the appointment of Mr. P. E. Lindsay as conductor of the Windsor Municipal Band six months ago, the band has made rapid strides.  What was once an ordinary brass band of 11 players has now risen to the number of 30.  A notable aspect is the new silver-plated instruments that have taken the place of the old brass ones, something like £250 having been spent on equipment.

(“Rapid Progress.,” 1929)

Sometimes, it was not all about how many members signed up to a band, attended a meeting or played at a concert although these are useful numbers.  At times it was also about providing for a band and in 1948 we can see that the Echuca Brass Band did exactly that when they ordered 30 new uniforms costing £400 (“New Uniforms for Echuca Brass Band,” 1948).

The Age, 28/10/1948, p. 3

First Intermission: Thirty shillings:

There is no doubt that some people were passionate about their local band.  Not just passionate but parochial and sometimes felt that they were well-qualified to express their opinions (no matter if it was welcomed or not).  And so, a very long letter by a contributor under the pseudonym of “Interested Citizen” was published in the Wellington Times newspaper in June 1922.  The subject of his letter was a special meeting held by the local Wellington Municipal Band, a band located in the New South Wales Central West, regarding the current state of the band (Interested Citizen, 1922).  In this letter of which a part will be quoted, he levels an amount of criticism however one aspect is the amount of pay given to the conductor.

However, I was indeed pleased to see that an attempt has been made to rally the band and send it along on a properly managed basis.  It is an undeniable fact that of late the band has been going from bad to worse and in all probability would soon have dwindled into oblivion.  But as I have stated an attempt has been made to stem the tide of destruction though in my opinion that attempt is doomed and will fall far short of its mark unless the committee acts promptly and in a business-like manner.  First of all, I noticed that the bandmaster’s salary has been reduced from £2 to £1/10 per week.  This is undoubtedly a step in the wrong direction, as it is ridiculous to expect any man who is not a resident of the town to apply for the position at thirty shillings per week and no guarantee of employment.

(Interested Citizen, 1922)

One can see the train of thought in this letter and also see that it is well-meaning.  Why wouldn’t a local citizen write a seemingly logical letter like this?  The thinking is sound; to build a better band you need the best person to do the job of bandmaster and the band will not attract this person to the town on a lower pay.  After expressing opinions about which conductor in the town might be best qualified, “Interested Citizen” then writes:

I contend that the citizens of Wellington have had quite enough of low grade music and the time is now opportune for something practical to be done.  If Wellington could pay its bandmaster £2 per week in the past, why not pay it in the future.  If we cannot afford £2 for a capable man much less can we afford £1/10 for an incapable man.  Wellington wants good music and we all realise that a first class man cannot be procured for a low grade pay.  Therefore, I say. Keep up the standard, offer a salary that will induce talented musicians to apply and by doing so you will have taken the first step toward making a band that Wellington may well feel proud of.

(Interested Citizen, 1922)

Definitely opinionated, and he does have a valid point over the thirty-shilling difference in pay.

Thirty Years:

Armidale City Band, date unknown (Source: IBEW)

There are some curious aspects to reporting on a bands annual general meeting in various early newspapers.  Some of them report everything verbatim.  Others report what is needed and leave out parts.  One of these was an article published in March 1927 by The Armidale Chronicle newspaper on the annual general meeting of the Armidale City Band.  “Thirty Years Old” proclaims the headline, yet that is the only mention of age in the entire article (“Thirty Years Old.,” 1927).  There is no doubt the band has done well for themselves in the preceding year.  Membership has been solid, the band has appeared in numerous engagements, they are financially stable and possess a good set of instruments (“Thirty Years Old.,” 1927).  Surely the paper would have made more mention of the bands age, but apparently not.  At least though we have an indication in 1927 of how old the band actually is!

More meaningful is the various biographical entries on the famous bandsman, conductor and composer, Alexander Frame Lithgow.  Originally from Scotland, Alex Lithgow spent much of his early life in New Zealand before moving to Tasmania where he conducted various bands in the Launceston area (Firth & Glover, 1986; Rimon, 2006).  Lithgow “dominated Tasmanian band life for thirty years” (Rimon, 2006).  Although, given his fame through his playing and compositions (especially the quick march “Invercargill), it could be argued that he dominated parts of Australian band life, if not parts of global band life as well (Firth & Glover, 1986; Glover, 2006; Rimon, 2006).

In October 1953 the Glen Innes Examiner newspaper published a worthwhile history of the Glen Innes Municipal Band with much of the information provided at the time by band member Mr. Andy Morton (“Municipal Band Has Outstanding Record,” 1953).  This band, which by 1953 had reached an “unbroken sequence of 75 years”, boasted of many fine band members and conductors over time (“Municipal Band Has Outstanding Record,” 1953).  One aspect of this history that stood out was how dedicated conductors were to this band.

Numerous others, also, were got their original training through the local band went on to do big things in music in Australia and elsewhere.

“For the last thirty years the band has been carried on by a bandmaster without pay.” Mr. Morton said.

“The present conductor, Mr. Eric Keating, is doing a wonderful job.”

“He is giving up one night a week for teaching beginners and general practices also take up a lot of his time.”

“Also, the band gives programmes in the park and at the hospital, and is always ready to perform at any function where a brass band is needed in the ceremony.”

(“Municipal Band Has Outstanding Record,” 1953)

Thirty years of commitment, of playing and dedication to community and band is a special milestone that needs to be celebrated.

Second Intermission: Thirty minutes:

Postcard: A.B.C. Military Band – Conductor: Harry Shugg, 1930 (Source: Victorian Collections: Victorian Bands’ League)

As we saw in a previous post, the advent of gramophones and broadcasting led to a profound change in how Australians listened to and consumed music (de Korte, 2020).  And with this new found listening came the inevitable letters to newspapers regarding how much or how little band music was being played over the wireless (de Korte, 2020).  The Australian Broadcasting Commission (A.B.C.) bore the brunt of the letters as they were the major broadcasters of band music at the time– the organisation even had their own A.B.C. Military Band (de Korte, 2018). 

With this in mind, in February 1940 a Mr. J. Grills sent a letter to The ABC Weekly newspaper.

I would like to hear more brass and military band music, and less of the tin-can jazz tripe.  Thirty minutes is not long enough for band programmes.  I would like to hear at least an hour’s session.  Wouldn’t it be possible for The ABC Weekly to publish voting coupons for, say, three months with the features divided up into Classical Music, Talks, Jazz and so on.  The programme compilers would then get an idea of what the listeners really prefer.

(Grills, 1940)

There is no doubting that band music was popular at the time, and certainly the A.B.C. Military Band was played at very regular times over the wireless (“NATIONAL MILITARY BAND SESSIONS,” 1941).  Nevertheless, this letter from Mr. Grills was probably one of many sent to the A.B.C. on the same subject.  It is but one of many opinions expressed during this time regarding bands and the wireless and certainly people had their musical tastes.  Given the time Mr. Grills wrote this letter, it was in the early years of the Second World War and music from bands was inspiring to many (“NATIONAL MILITARY BAND SESSIONS,” 1941).

Thirty Years Ago:

We are all familiar with local newspapers of today publishing articles from many years ago to highlight local history as it is a fascination that has not dwindled over time.  Unsurprisingly, we can find the same kinds of articles in early newspapers where they republished articles from previous editions that are decades old.  Perhaps there was also a nostalgic interest in times past during these early years.  Luckily, we can also find snippets of news regarding the local brass bands in these local history articles.

The year is 1932 and The Shoalhaven Telegraph newspaper was one that reprinted (rewrote) an article from February 1902.  In this article we find all manner of news from 1902 including this small snippet:

Fancy Nowra having to secure a band from Kiama!  Why don’t Shoalhaven people take steps to revive the town band?

(“Thirty Years Ago.,” 1933)

In the early 1900s, town bands came and went depending on circumstance, so it is no wonder that the town of Shoalhaven resented the fact that a band from Kiama was booked for an engagement instead.

In a similar style The Wooroora Producer newspaper from South Australia republished an article from a previous iteration of their newspaper, The Central Advocate.  Their article was from 1903 where a plan was put in place to resurrect a band called the Balaklava Brass Band with instruments be sourced from the previous Federal Band (“Thirty Years Ago.,” 1933).  The article from 1903 had a charming headline of “The Dead to be Raised” (“Thirty Years Ago.,” 1933).

A year later in 1934 we can find an interesting article published in The Catholic Press newspaper regarding events held thirty years earlier.  In this reminiscing from 1904, the article makes mention of the Queanbeyan Brass Band playing at the local railway station to farewell a Priest who was about to take up duties at a Church in Sydney (“Do You Remember?,” 1934).  Apparently the band played “Auld Lang Syne” with “heartfelt sympathy” (“Do You Remember?,” 1934).

A bit further north and in 1939, the Kyogle Examiner newspaper published articles from the same newspaper in 1909. Within this article (from 1909), we can see that the Kyogle Brass Band had held one of their regular meetings where correspondence was discussed and a vacancy on the committee was filled (“KYOGLE THIRTY YEARS AGO,” 1939).  And in 1945, the Nurmurkah Leader newspaper published extracts from their “Leader File” where we find that in 1915, “an effort is being made to resuscitate the Nathalia Brass Band” (“What Hapened Thirty Years Ago,” 1945).  

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate, 8/6/1946, p. 5

In another nod to local history, an excellent article was penned in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate by a Mr Leo Butler in June 1946.  This article is a bit different to those mentioned above as it is not a republished extract from thirty years earlier.  However, Mr Butler gives us a bit of history on the Mereweather Brass Band which was started in 1916 – and the article included cartoons of band events (Butler, 1946).  It is a very entertaining and well-written read. 

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate, 8/6/1946, p. 5

Conclusion:

Thirty members, thirty years, thirty years ago and some other thirties for good measure!  The bands of the time may not have realised the history they were making when they made mention of these numbers in various iterations.  And we cannot forget that the contribution of local newspapers when they republished articles from times past.  All of this provides a historical context which is centred around a certain number.  

References:

Armidale City Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot12333]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

AUSTRALIAN BRASS BAND : To be Chosen from All States for Wembley : ENGAGEMENTS ASSURED. (1924, 10 January). Sunraysia Daily (Mildura, Vic. : 1920 – 1926), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article258428082

A.B.C. Military Band – Conductor: Harry Shugg. (1930). [Postcard : L13.8cm – W8.8cm]. [0016]. Victorian Collections, Victorian Bands’ League. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5b39988221ea6d0008c461a6

Butler, L. (1946, 08 June). Band Began With “Grasp Of An English Hand”. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140620196

de Korte, J. D. (2018, 12 July). The A.B.C. Military Band: an ensemble of the times. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/07/12/the-a-b-c-military-band-an-ensemble-of-the-times/

de Korte, J. D. (2019, 24 March). Names and status: the rare National and State bands. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2019/03/24/names-and-status-the-rare-national-and-state-bands/

de Korte, J. D. (2020, 03 August). Australian bands, gramophones and wireless: adapting to new technology. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2020/08/03/australian-bands-gramophones-and-wireless-adapting-to-new-technology/

Do You Remember? : Thirty Years Ago. (1934, 10 May). Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), 21. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104379129

EAST STATE SCHOOL : BRASS BAND FORMED : Thirty Boys to be Trained : INSTRUMENTS PURCHASED. (1933, 06 October). Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1922 – 1933), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article254347346

Firth, J. F., & Glover, M. (1986). Lithgow, Alexander Frame (1870-1929). In Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 22 March 2019, from http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lithgow-alexander-frame-7206

Glover, M. (2006). Alexander Lithgow. In the companion to Tasmanian History. Retrieved 23 October 2020, from https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/L/Lithgow%20A.htm

Grills, J. (1940). More brass bands [Letter]. The ABC Weekly, 2(7), 6. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1267490986/view?partId=nla.obj-1267582001

Interested Citizen. (1922, 26 June). THE MUNICIPAL BAND : (To the Editor). Wellington Times (NSW : 1899 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137405659

KYOGLE THIRTY YEARS AGO : From the “Kyogle Examiner,” March 20m 1909. (1939, 21 March). Kyogle Examiner (NSW : 1912; 1914 – 1915; 1917 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235563996

Minton Witts Studios. (1924). Australian Imperial Band in Sydney (Conducted by: Mr W. M. Partington) [Postcard]. Minton Witts Studios, Sydney, N.S.W.

MOOROOPNA NEWS : BOYS’ BAND FOR MOOROOPNA : Thirty Applications. (1936, 12 October). Shepparton Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1953), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article168153212

Municipal Band Has Outstanding Record. (1953, 21 October 1953). Glen Innes Examiner (NSW : 1908 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article184214126

Myers, A. (2000). Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands. In T. Herbert (Ed.), The British brass band : a musical and social history (pp. 155-186). Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press. 

NATIONAL MILITARY BAND SESSIONS. (1941, 27 January). Shepparton Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1953), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article175188421

New Caulfield Brass Band. (1913, 22 August 1913). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article241545000

New Uniforms for Echuca Brass Band. (1948, 28 October). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205671119

Rapid Progress : WINDSOR MUNICIPAL BAND : THIRTY PLAYERS : SILVER-PLATED INSTRUMENTS. (1929, 03 May). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76875405

Rimon, W. (2006). Bands. In the companion to Tasmanian History. Retrieved 23 October 2020, from https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/B/Bands.htm

Tenor Horn. (1922, 19 July). ULVERSTONE BRASS BAND : (To the Editor). Northern Standard (Ulverstone, Tas. : 1921 – 1923), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232742518

Thirty Years Ago : (Rewritten from “Shoalhaven Telegraph,” February 12th, 1902). (1932, 17 February). Shoalhaven Telegraph (NSW : 1881 – 1937), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article135240081

Thirty Years Ago : The Dead to be Raised. (1933, 23 March). Wooroora Producer (Balaklava, SA : 1909 – 1940), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207142017

Thirty Years Old : ARMIDALE CITY BAND : HOLDS ANNUAL MEETING. (1927, 26 March). Armidale Chronicle (NSW : 1894 – 1929), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article188070309

Ulverstone Municipal Band. (1948). [Photograph]. [phot12550]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vinbbp/phot12550.jpg

WAGGA BRASS BAND. (1924, 27 October). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143343712

What Hapened Thirty Years Ago : Extracts from “Leader” File – May 7, 1915. (1945, 07 May). Numurkah Leader (Vic. : 1895 – 1948), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186468909

For bands and for community: admire the rotunda

Postcard: Artillery Band playing at the Band Rotunda, Hyde Park, Sydney. (Date unknown) (Source: Jeremy de Korte collection)

Introduction:

They stand in parks and gardens throughout Australia as monuments to public entertainment before the days of broadcasting music through the wireless.  A source of civic pride, they are of a distinct purpose, yet cover a very wide variety of design and architecture.  They were built as memorials to musicians, royalty and service personnel, for bands and bandmasters, and also for the towns.  If there is one structure that provides a perfect linkage between a locality, people and a band it would have to be the band rotunda.

Nowadays, as it was when they were first built, we take pride in their aesthetic appeal.  They may not be used as performance platforms anymore as the bands they once served are no longer in operation.  Nevertheless, they still stand, often painted in heritage colours and with plaques on the sides we can learn of the story a rotunda.  A source of fascination for many.

The band rotundas have been a focus for academic and local studies over time as they can help tell parts of the history of architecture and music in this country.  This post is not seeking to replicate the valuable work that has already been completed in documenting band rotundas.  However, there are numerous little stories that can be told, and this post will seek to complement previous work, as well as display numerous photographs.

At the head of this post is a postcard showing an Artillery Band playing at the Hyde Park band rotunda with people watching around the sides, obviously appreciating the playing.  This idyllic scene could have been repeated anywhere when bands played at the local rotunda.  Suffice to say, with growing preservation and appreciation of these structures, as well as the building of new rotundas, music is being heard once again; the old is back in fashion.

History not forgotten:

Queenscliffe Hotel and Rotunda, Kingscote, Kangaroo Island (Source: State Library of South Australia: B+30375)

Much has been written and studied about band rotundas in Australia, and all of it is worthwhile information.  The rotundas are the subject of many photos and postcards, and, as mentioned, they have also informed some of the history of architecture.  There are too many rotundas in Australia for this post and other writing to do them all justice, which is unfortunate.  Regarding academic study, Tracy Videon documented the history of rotundas in Victoria for her Master of Arts thesis (Videon, 1996).  This thesis has been cited in other heritage studies by local councils, for example, the Shire of Mount Alexander (Jacobs et al., 2004/2012).  

Interest in the rotundas has also been displayed periodically on social media with the advantage of having other like-minded people post and link their own stories.  In 2017, Michael Mathers posted on Facebook about the rotunda in Kew that he used to play at with the Kew Band and invited responses from other people (Mathers, 2017).  I have also posted on Facebook regarding band rotundas through displaying parts of my historical collection of postcards – one post relating to the postcard of the Artillery Band at Hyde Park, Sydney (de Korte, 2020c).  Through communication with band historians on Facebook, other resources have come to light such as the book, ‘Band Rotundas South Australia’ written by Brenton Brockhouse, historian of the Campbelltown City Band in Adelaide where he documented all the band rotundas in South Australia (Brockhouse, 2016).

Postcard: Main Street Gardens and Band Rotunda, Bairnsdale, Victoria (Date unknown) (Source: Jeremy de Korte collection)

Perhaps the most important resource that has been created about band rotundas in recent years is the book, ‘Pavilions in Parks : Bandstands and Rotundas Around Australia’ by Allison Rose with photographs by Belinda Brown.  This book is very useful as it details the architecture and design of each rotunda and highlights the history and civic pride (Rose, 2017).  It is understandable that Rose could not cover every rotunda in Australia.  However, she does tell us how she made choices by saying that each rotunda in her book was “chosen for architectural, historical or social significance” (Rose, 2017, p. 5).  Importantly she also states that the word “Bandstand” is used to describe its “major function” but is also known as a “rotunda, pavilion or, in earlier times, kiosk or orchestra.” (Rose, 2017, p. 5).  

In terms of the history of this building type, Rose informs us that its history is long and examples can be found in classical Greece, 7th Century Persia and 16th & 17th Century India (Rose, 2017).  The designs of these early structures were replicated in England in the 1800s and from this came the development of bandstands which were used for musical performances (Rose, 2017).  And as Rose (2017) tells us, the location and function of a bandstand was important.

A bandstand in the park had a useful social purpose.  It brought music to many people who would have no other opportunity to hear it, it was a way to meet old friends and for the young to find new friends

(p. 7)

In Australia, the custom of the time was to follow the traditions and architecture of the British homeland and to this end, they proliferated across the country.  As in England, the purpose of these rotundas was the same and they also gave new opportunities for people to hear music.

The concert in the town bandstand was often the only opportunity for people to hear live music as well as to socialise.

(Rose, 2017, p. 12)

Regarding building materials, many rotundas were built using cast iron columns and lacework which later evolved into timber features (Rose, 2017).  They were mainly built up until the First World War and in between wars, the building of bandstands “almost came to a halt” (Rose, 2017, p. 16).

After the Second World War, the building of outdoor performance spaces was dominated by concrete “sound shells” of which some were “well-designed, but others were extremely ugly” (Rose, 2017, p. 16).  Thankfully, Rose details in her history that the appreciation of rotundas was noted in the 1980s and many rotundas were saved from demolition, and in many localities, they have found new uses for them.

Today, there is interest in bandstands for their practical uses as well as their decorative function and towns and suburbs are building new bandstands.  Some are in Federation style, others provide a more contemporary home for today’s musical events…

(Rose, 2017, p. 16)

We are lucky that so many rotundas have been preserved for the current generations to enjoy.

Bands and Rotundas:

Postcard: Band Rotunda, Castlemaine Gardens (Source: National Museum of Australia: 140044)

There is a synonymous relationship between bands, rotundas and local communities.  A locality expresses pride through a band, but the band needs a place to perform on a regular basis.  A rotunda is then built for the benefit of the town band and the community and the rotunda becomes focal point for the community.  There is more to this of course and with each rotunda that has been built and survives, “each has a story to tell.” (Rose, 2017, p. 5).  

A letter written by a person with a pseudonym “A Lover of Music” was published in the Mount Alexander Mail newspaper on the 23rd of January 1893 to berate the local council over the lack of a permanent rotunda in Castlemaine.  

Sir, – I have often wondered that Castlemaine has been so long without a suitable place for the band to perform in.  I can’t understand why the Council have not sufficient enterprise to erect a “rotunda” in the Botanical Gardens.  Every concert in the Gardens necessitates the erection of a temporary platform.  It has struck me that as our worthy Mayor is a Welshman – and, of course, fond of music – it would be a graceful act on his part to have erected a rotunda worthy of our town and of the band, and to present it to the Council. […] I trust that the Mayor and Councillors will see that very soon our splendid band will have a proper place to perform in.  My main object in mentioning this matter is to show my appreciation of the band.

(A Lover of Music, 1893)

It took another five years, but finally in 1898 a band rotunda was built in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens where it was opened by the Mayor with a concert presented by the Thompson’s Foundry Band (“CASTLEMAINE.,” 1898).  A rotunda still exists in the gardens to this day.

In 1909, a rotunda that was described as “commodious and ornate” was opened in the town of Nhill in Western Victoria by the Mayor and some local parliamentarians (“NHILL.,” 1909).  The Nhill Town Band was said to be in “high feather” about the new rotunda and during the concert, some bandsmen also demonstrated how civic minded they were by leaving the bandstand to help with a nearby house fire (“NHILL.,” 1909).  The Nhill band rotunda is very much a civic landmark and was refurbished in 2018 by the local council (Hindmarsh Shire Council, 2018).

Some rotundas were not built by the local councils or bands and it is interesting to find an example of a rotunda that was built by a private company for the use of the local band and the town.  The Portland Brass Band from New South Wales was the beneficiary of this investment when the local cement company, which supported the band as well, built a band rotunda in Portland.

The band rotunda, recently erected by the cement company for the use of the band, was officially opened on Saturday night by Dr. A. Scheidel, the managing director.  Mr. J. Saville, the works manager, was also present.  The bandsmen were in uniform, and when all were assembled, the doctor switched on the light and addressed the bandsmen.  He said that the rotunda had been erected by the company as an appreciation of their efforts.  He hoped that they would see that no injury would be done to the building, and looked to the townspeople generally to assist with that object.

(“BAND ROTUNDA FOR PORTLAND.,” 1910)

This article, which was published in the Lithgow Mercury newspaper, also provided an excellent description of this newly built structure.

The bandstand is a very neat structure, octagonal in shape.  It is nicely painted in two shades of green, relieved with white.  It is lit with eleven incandescent electric lights of sixteen candle power each.  Eight of these are arranged round the sides, while a group of three is suspended from the centre of the ceiling.  When lit up, it presented a very brilliant appearance.

(“BAND ROTUNDA FOR PORTLAND.,” 1910)

A photograph of the original rotunda can be found on the Facebook page of the Lithgow & District Family History Society Inc. (2015).  In 2017 a new rotunda was opened in Portland where the local parliamentarian is quoted in an article published by the Lithgow Mercury newspaper.

The rotunda is a reflection of the past, of Portland’s history with the original structure providing a backdrop for many events and occasions when the community came together to enjoy music by the local band.

I have no doubt the new rotunda will provide a great place for the local band to again deliver some fantastic events to the residents of Portland.  It will enhance the landscape of the surrounding park, provide a comfortable place to sit, relax and enjoy music from a band or perhaps even a string quartet.

(Toole in “Portland’s bandstand rotunda is officially opened for all.“, 2017)

These sentiments sound very familiar to those of times past.

Commemorative rotundas:

Sydney Morning Herald, 17/05/1924, p. 13

Often, rotundas were built to serve a commemorative function in addition to their stated purpose.  We can see an example above in this rotunda from Wollongong which was built to commemorate the landing of “Bass and Flinders in 1796” (“MEMORIAL TO NAVIGATORS.,” 1924).  This of course is a commemoration to a very old event; however other rotundas were built to commemorate much more recent events.

In 1917, an article published in the Pinnaroo and Border Times agitated for a rotunda to be built in town which would benefit the town band (“Band Rotunda Wanted.,” 1917).  The writer of this article is very eloquent in his words, and ties in town support for the Pinaroo Brass Band as a key element in wanting a rotunda for them to perform in. 

The town owes a duty to these unselfish bands of musicians who give their services gratis and pay fees for the privilege of doing so.  No complaint emanates from the members on this score, but that they are entitled to practical help – which may be given by a strong roll of honorary membership – cannot be refuted.  An opportunity now presents itself of showing this appreciation by inaugurating a movement for a rotunda which many country towns possess.  Not only would a rotunda facilitate and render more comfortable outdoor playing, but the music could be heard to a greater advantage, and the building, if artistically designed, would be a welcome ornament to the Show ground or any other favourable site. 

(“Band Rotunda Wanted.,” 1917)

The Pinnaroo Band Rotunda was eventually built in 1922 to commemorate people of the district that saw service during World War One  (Virtual War Memorial Australia, n.d.).  In 1935 it was renovated and extensive repainting was undertaken, as well as other sundry repairs in the vicinity (“BAND ROTUNDA RENOVATED,” 1935).  The band rotunda still stands to this day.

Band rotunda, Maryborough, Victoria. Photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte, September 2020.

The band rotunda at Maryborough in Victoria is another interesting example.  This structure was built in 1904 and as the plaque below reads, this was built to commemorate Maryborough’s Golden Jubilee.  As a band rotunda, this is one of the more ornate examples that exist.

Band rotunda plaque, Maryborough, Victoria. Photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte, September 2020.

In the township of Merbien, a little way west of Mildura in the far North-West of Victoria, a band rotunda was built to commemorate King George V who died in 1936.  The postcard below shows us what it was like in its early days, and the events of when it was opened in 1937 were documented in an article published by the Argus newspaper.

…To-day the third day of the jubilee celebrations was a quiet day for Mildura, but Merbien was the centre of intense activity.  A dense crowd gathered in Kenny Park for the unveiling of the King George V. Memorial by the Postmaster-General Senator McLachlan.

[…]

Senator McLachlan said it was a tribute to the people of Merbien that they had erected such a fine memorial to a King whose influence was for righteousness and peace. 

(“MEMORIAL TO KING GEORGE,” 1937)
Postcard: Band Rotunda, Merbien, Victoria, 1937. (Source: Jeremy de Korte collection)
Bathurst Times, 13/09/1915, p. 2

One of the more famous band rotundas that was built to commemorate an event is the Titanic Memorial Band rotunda in Ballarat.  Allison Rose has documented this rotunda in her book, and this rotunda is the focus of a commemorative event each year.  The opening of this rotunda was noted all over Australia, especially because the costs of erecting this structure was due to bandsmen from all over the country contributing a subscription (“Local and General.,” 1915).  The Evening Echo newspaper from Ballarat described the opening of the memorial in an article published in October 1915.

This memorial has been built to commemorate the heroic bandsmen of the White Star liner Titanic (45,000 tons), which met her doom by striking an iceberg in the Atlantic two years ago.

It is on record that the ships band mustered on deck and played “Nearer My God to Thee,” and then went down with the ship, all of them being lost.  When the news of their sublime courage reached Australia the idea immediately occurred to some one that the bandsmen of Australia should place on permanent record their appreciation and it was suggested that I should take the form of a memorial bandstand.

(“TITANIC MEMORIAL.,” 1915)
Titanic Memorial Bandstand, Ballarat, Victoria. Photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte, June 2019

It is no accident that this memorial bandstand was erected in Ballarat as it was, by this time, regarded as one of the band centres of Australia thanks to the South Street events (Rose, 2017).  Indeed, when this memorial was opened in October 1915, the South Street events were well-underway and there was no shortage of bands in town to combine in a massed band conducted by Albert Wade  (“TITANIC MEMORIAL.,” 1915).  Interestingly, as Rose (2017) tells us, 

It is unique among the bandstands of Australia in being a memorial to the Titanic bandsmen.  The citizens of Broken Hill attempted to build such a bandstand, but they could not raise sufficient funds by public subscription.  With the money raised they had to settle for a broken column memorial that now stands in Sturt Park in Broken Hill.

(p. 80)
Titanic Memorial Bandstand commemorative stone, Ballarat, Victoria. Photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte, June 2019

Proposals, building and public opinion:

Postcard: Hillside Rotunda, Broken Hill, N.S.W. (Date unknown) (Source: Jeremy de Korte collection)

In the early years when building band rotundas was a fashionable thing to do, many proposals were submitted to local councils, and some were for alterations to existing precincts.   Civic pride accounted for the fact that many proposals were accepted – although there were some who objected.  Finding an objectionable letter to any rotunda was rare.  In 1907 a Mr Angove of Albany, Western Australia expressed surprise that the local council was going ahead with the building of a rotunda in Lawley Park (Angove, 1907).  His letter, published in the Albany Advertiser newspaper, mainly raised the question of expense, of why the council was diverting funds to a rotunda instead of other “urgent works” (Angove, 1907).  An understandable attitude at the time.

Proposals for band rotundas, as has been seen earlier in this post, mainly appealed to the goodwill of councils and the public, and drew in the needs of the local bands as well.  For example, we can see in articles regarding proposals in Dandenong, Victoria, and Wallaroo, South Australia that detail how this kind of appeal was expressed (“A Band Rotunda Proposed.,” 1917; “WALLAROO ROTUNDA.,” 1925).

Input from bandsmen was also noted in the early newspapers, as they had more of a vested interest. “A Bandsman” from Scottsdale, Tasmania, wrote a letter to the North-Eastern Advertiser newspaper in November 1919 to complain about the proposed site of the new rotunda – (in summary) it was going to be too close to other buildings and out of sight – why not place it in a park? (A Bandsman, 1919).  Likewise, “Carbolic” wrote to his local newspaper to congratulate the Glenelg Town Band on their recent performance, but advocated for the moving of the band rotunda to a more suitable location because of acoustics – there were nearby walls that affected the sound projection (Carbolic, 1918).

Maintenance was another issue (and an ongoing issue).  While some were proactive about maintaining rotundas, it seems that some were not so proactive.  In Broken Hill, a Mr H. R. Boyce wrote to the Barrier Miner newspaper to complain about creepers that were growing over the rotunda in the Central reserve (Boyce, 1923).  The rotunda in Healesville faced a different maintenance issue in 1941 when lightning struck the rotunda which shattered a flagpole (“BAND ROTUNDA STRUCK BY LIGHTNING,” 1941).  And in 1950 we find that the Brisbane City Council was unable to maintain rotundas to a satisfactory standard due to a lack of materials and labour (“CAN’T REPAIR BANDSTANDS,” 1950).

The Argus, 16/01/1941, p. 5

To finish this section, there were two pictures from newspaper articles that caught my attention.  The first is a picture published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper in 1910 that shows a proposal to surround the band rotunda in Hyde Park with an amphitheatre.

Daily Telegraph, 26/11/1910, p. 15

This second picture shows the laying of the foundation stone for a new rotunda in Mount Gambier, no doubt a special occasion.

Border Watch, 26/10/1933, p. 1

Conclusion:

These are special buildings.  They are unique buildings.  And they provide life for so many bands, people and localities.  It is a shame that so many rotundas have been removed, but equally, it is worthwhile to see how many remain and are preserved as icons to a community.  Each rotunda has a story to tell and the stories are interlinked with towns, suburbs and bands across Australia. 

Postcard: Band Rotunda, Auburn Gardens, Victoria (Date unknown) (Source: Jeremy de Korte collection)

References:

A Bandsman. (1919, 11 November). Band Rotunda : (To the Editor.). North-Eastern Advertiser (Scottsdale, Tas. : 1909 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article151262612

A Lover of Music. (1893, 23 January). CORRESPONDENCE : A BAND ROTUNDA. Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198699429

AMPHITHEATRE BAND-STAND. (1910, 26 November). Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238664637

Angove, W. H. (1907, 02 November). Lawley Park Rotunda : [To the Editor.]. Albany Advertiser (WA : 1897 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69959867

BAND ROTUNDA FOR PORTLAND. (1910, 24 August). Lithgow Mercury (NSW : 1898 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218492203

A Band Rotunda Proposed. (1917, 18 October). South Bourke and Mornington Journal (Richmond, Vic. : 1877 – 1920; 1926 – 1927), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66192904

BAND ROTUNDA RENOVATED. (1935, 17 May). Pinnaroo and Border Times (SA : 1911 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189641733

BAND ROTUNDA STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. (1941, 16 January). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8171730

Band Rotunda Wanted. (1917, 10 August). Pinnaroo and Border Times (SA : 1911 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article188360174

Band Rotunda, Castlemaine Gardens. (n.d.). [Postcard]. [Josef Lebovic Gallery collection no. 1]. Ward, Lock and Co Ltd, London and Melbourne. National Museum of Australia http://collectionsearch.nma.gov.au/object/140044

BANDSTAND BUILDING UNDER WAY AT VANSITTART PARK. (1933, 26 October). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77944349

Boyce, H. R. (1923, 31 October). THE ROTUNDA FOLIAGE : To the Editor. Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45624435

Brockhouse, B. (2016). Band Rotundas South Australia. Albumworks. https://my.album.works/2AhNhAf 

Brokenshire, J. (n.d.). Hillside Rotunda, Broken Hill [Postcard]. Joseph Brokenshire, Broken Hill, N.S.W. 

Bulmer, H. D. (n.d.). Main Street Gardens and Band Rotunda, Bairnsdale [Postcard]. Bulmer’s, Bairnsdale, Victoria. 

CAN’T REPAIR BANDSTANDS. (1950, 30 August). Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49731125

Carbolic. (1918, 22 August). BAND AND BANDSTANDS : To the Editor. Glenelg Guardian (SA : 1914 – 1936), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article214715457

CASTLEMAINE. (1898, 23 November). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9861653

de Korte, J. D. (2019a). Ballarat Central, Vic. : Titanic Memorial Bandstand – Memorial Stone [Photograph]. Jeremy de Korte, Malvern, Victoria. 

de Korte, J. D. (2019b). Ballarat Central, Vic. : Titanic Memorial Bandstand [Photograph]. Jeremy de Korte, Malvern, Victoria. 

de Korte, J. D. (2020a). Maryborough, Vic. : Princes Park : Band Rotunda [Photograph]. [IMG_5902]. Jeremy de Korte, Redan, Victoria. 

de Korte, J. D. (2020b). Maryborough, Vic. : Princes Park : Band Rotunda – Plaque [Photograph]. [IMG_5903]. Jeremy de Korte, Redan, Victoria. 

de Korte, J. D. (2020c, 12 August). These are the latest additions to the historical band postcard collection that I’ve been putting together. The first one is of a Military Band playing at the bandstand in Hyde Park, Sydney. Unfortunately, the band and year are unknown but the scene it creates could probably be replicated around any bandstand… [Post]. Facebook. Retrieved 29 November 2020 from https://www.facebook.com/groups/145016798904992/permalink/4120772517996047

Hindmarsh Shire Council. (2018). Goldsworthy Park, Nhill [Newsletter]. Monthly Newsletter (October), 3. https://www.hindmarsh.vic.gov.au/content/images/what’s%20on/Monthly%20Newsletter/2018/Monthly%20Newsletter-Hindmarsh%20Shire%20Council-%20October%202018.pdf

Jacobs, W., Taylor, P., Ballinger, R., Johnson, V., & Rowe, D. (2004/2012). Shire of Mount Alexander : Heritage Study of the Shire of Newstead : STAGE 2 : Section 3 : Heritage Citations: Volume 3 : Newstead [Report](6205). (Heritage Studies, Issue. Shire of Mount Alexander. https://www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/Page/Download.aspx?c=6205

Local and General : Titanic Memorial. (1915, 13 September). Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111229166

Mathers, M. (2017, 12 August). Most of us have (or had) a local Band Rotunda. Do you have a photo of it (the older the better) ? This is the one in Kew, Melbourne (a band with which I used to be a player). Upload yours [Post]. Facebook. Retrieved 29 November 2020 from https://www.facebook.com/groups/472757142742103/permalink/1844534445564359

MEMORIAL TO KING GEORGE : Merbein Ceremony. (1937, 11 August). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11116265

MEMORIAL TO NAVIGATORS. (1924, 17 May). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28072947

NHILL : NEW BAND ROTUNDA. (1909, 05 October). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218793589

Portland’s bandstand rotunda is officially opened for all. (2017, 11 December). Lithgow Mercury . https://www.lithgowmercury.com.au/story/5111856/portlands-bandstand-rotunda-is-officially-opened-for-all/

Queenscliffe Hotel Kingscote. (1900). [Photograph]. [B+30375]. State Library of South Australia, Kingscote Collection. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+30375

Rose, A. (2017). Pavilions in parks : bandstands and rotundas around Australia . Halstead Press.

Tellefson. (1937). Band Rotunda Merbein [Postcard]. [Tellefson Series 4]. Tellefson.

TITANIC MEMORIAL. (1915, 22 October). Evening Echo (Ballarat, Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article241689331

Valentine & Sons Publishing Co. Ltd. (1924). Band Rotunda in Auburn Gardens, Melbourne, Victoria [Postcard]. [Real Photo Series M.1763]. Valentine & Sons Publishing Co. Ltd., Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane. 

Videon, T. (1996). “And the band played on …” band rotundas of Victoria (Publication Number 9924382201751) [MArts, Monash University, Faculty of Arts, Department of History]. Clayton, Victoria. https://monash.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/MON:au_everything:catau21172148940001751

Virtual War Memorial Australia. (n.d.). Pinaroo Sodiers Memorial Band Rotunda . Virtual War Memorial Australia. Retrieved 30 November 2020 from https://vwma.org.au/explore/memorials/684

WALLAROO ROTUNDA : Proposition by Town Band. (1925, 09 September). Kadina and Wallaroo Times (SA : 1888 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124763086

Ward & Farrans. (n.d.). Sydney – Hyde Park (Band-Musique de l’artillerie) (Artillerie-Kapelle) [Postcard]. [L. v. K. No. 48]. Exchange Studios, Sydney, N.S.W. 

Testing times: the resilience of Australian bands during the Great Depression

165x215mm
A large room of tables stocked with fruit and vegetables with a brass band in the centre of the crowd. (Source: State Library of Western Australia: 8292B/A/6851-1)

Introduction:

From conversations I have had with bandmasters in Australia it would appear that the bands generally have been very hard hit by the depression, but I have been struck by the fine spirit and courage shown generally by them in these passing troubles.  Undoubtedly brighter times are coming, and they will be rewarded for the admirable attitude they have taken right through.

(Adkins, 1934)

The years from 1900-1950 are filled with historical events that caused great upheavals in society across the globe. Australia was similarly affected, and nominally our bands as well.  It was not all doom and gloom for bands as this time is one that I personally regard as a golden period.  However, when society experienced hardship, our bands did as well.  The Great Depression from 1929-1939 is just one of those events that was global, but it was felt right down to the tiniest country town.  As for our bands, numerous articles published in newspapers tell of struggle and hope.  The words from Capt. H. E. Adkins, quoted above, then conductor of the A.B.C. Military Band attest to this.

In a previous post the impact of the “Spanish” Influenza on our bands was examined.  Australian society could not have predicted that a decade later they would again be thrust into convulsions not because of a health crisis, but an economic crisis.  Australian bands that existed at the time relied heavily on local council support and the goodwill of subscriptions from the general public.  The money was necessary to keep them going and keep them supplied.  Yet, as can be seen, there were some bands that were formed during this time.  Music, it seems, was a way in which people could forget their struggles and enjoy some community.

This post will obviously highlight some of the struggles that were experienced by bands and band associations during this time; unfortunately, this is unavoidable.  It is also necessary to provide context.  This post will also highlight the resilience of our bands during this time.  Many survived in the most trying of circumstances.  They also kept up a regular pattern of concerts, parades, contests, and other events and in one instance, they also gave their support to the desperate of society. 

The Great Depression is but one event in history, as is the Coronavirus pandemic of today that is again impacting our many bands.  Resilience is a common term that defines the bands of the time.

The Great Depression in Australia: a brief history:

The headlines on an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 26th, 1929, did not mince words: “Wild Selling. New York Panic. Profits Wiped Out. £80,000,000 Slump.”  – the stock market in New York had crashed on October 24th and this sent the economy into a tailspin (“WILD SELLING,” 1929).  The crash on October 24th, 1929, has been well-documented and for much of the world, this had profound consequences.  However, there had been economic troubles in Australia leading up to this event during the 1920s and this led to a decade of financial hardship for all:

As for many other countries, the 1920s were a decade of mixed blessings for Australia.  State governments continued to borrow to finance important public works projects, but underlying problems remained.  Post-war inflation in 1919 and 1920 was followed by a recession.  Unemployment hovered at around 10 per cent during the 1920s.  Loan funds from London dried up after 1927, limiting debt-financed public works.

(Eklund, 2008)

The early years of the Great Depression were very hard in Australia with major unemployment, collapse of the wool and wheat prices, social unrest, displacement of people and governmental problems (Eklund, 2008; National Museum Australia, 2020).  Williamson (2009) tells us “it was the working classes and those who became unemployed who bore the greatest brunt of the Depression.” and that “Losing a job broke the work and leisure routines of an individual’s life, and the victim further lost the company of workmates.” (from Electronic Article).

From 1930 a form of welfare assistance was given to needy households and was either in the form of “sustenance”, “the dole” or “rations” which was “barely enough to survive” (Hutchens, 2020).  This later evolved into other forms of basic work on designated projects for governments and local councils.  In 1932, 60,000 Australians – men, women and children, were dependent on this scheme and unemployment hit a peak of 32% (National Museum Australia, 2020).  A small song sung by the unemployed and children basically summed up the situation that thousands found themselves in:

“We’re on the Susso now,
We can’t afford a cow.
We pay no rent,
We live in a tent.
We’re on the Susso now.”

(Hutchens, 2020; McAnulty, 2017; National Museum Australia, 2020)

The immediate effect of such large job losses and unemployment led to mainly men wandering the country in searching for work (Eklund, 2008).  As well as this, those that remained in work faced cuts to wages and underemployment, which added to the social problems.  Many who had lived reasonable well in the 1920s found themselves in employment situations that they had not previously encountered (Eklund, 2008). 

By the later parts of the 1930s, economic conditions gradually improved although unemployment was still a major problem (“Australia’s Rise From Depression,” 1936).  Recovery was slow, and then tempered by the advent of the Second World War – the next global period of strife.

Finances and Administration:

How did Australian bands weather this economic storm, and what do the available records tell us?  The Annual General Meetings of individual bands and associations provide snippets of information as to how they fared, and thankfully these meetings were detailed in local newspapers.  The Hills Central Brass Band from South Australia held an Annual General Meeting in March 1930, the early years of the Depression.  In their reports the band said they were faring well and had accrued a small credit.  A paragraph from the article that was published in the Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser newspaper provides an insight into their awareness of the economic situation.

The chairman, in moving the adoption of the report and balance sheet referred to the excellence of the report.  Mr. Duffield had made a very capable secretary, and took a keen interest in the band.  The report was the best they had had.  With regard to the financial position of the band the speaker though it was highly satisfactory, considering the present depression.

(“HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND.,” 1930)

The Devonport Brass Band from Tasmania took an insular view of the conditions when they held their meeting in March 1931 insofar as the rest of Australia was having problems, but their band was proceeding as best they could.  Their acknowledgement of the present conditions opened the report of the AGM as detailed in an article published by The Advocate newspaper.

The report of the year’s working of the Devonport Brass Band at the annual meeting this evening will reveal that there is little sign of the depression so far as the fortunes of this organisation are concerned.

(“DEVONPORT.,” 1931)
Peterborough Federal Band (date unknown) (source: IBEW))

Back to South Australia, at an Annual General Meeting of the Peterborough Federal Band held in July 1931, the financials were outlined, and credit was given to the secretary of the band for his sound management of the finances during the previous year.

The secretary’s annual report disclosed a very active and successful year, whilst the balance sheet showed the Band to be on a sound footing; two years ago the overdraft was in close proximity to £200, last year it had been reduced to £14/6/5, and this year closed with a credit balance of £15/0/3, the receipts being £116/19/1 and the expenditure £87/12/5; this in face of the terrible depression that has existed, is a wonderful achievement, and reflects great credit upon the secretary (Mr. W. H. Kaehne), whose sole aim has been a credit balance, and he is to be highly complimented on reaching his objective.

(“Peterborough Federal Band,” 1931)

In these early years of the depression, it is obvious that bands were well aware of the prevailing economic conditions.  However, it was not just individual bands that were taking notice, the band associations were as well.  In May 1932 the Queensland Band Association held their Annual General Meeting and mention of the depression was made in the annual report.

Fees received for registration for the year totalled £119 18s 6d., as against £106 8s 6d. in the previous year. The 1933 contests would be held at Mackay.  Notwithstanding the prevailing depression the association had held its own financially and closed a successful year with a credit balance of £91 11s 4d. compared with £105 16s 1d. last year.

(“BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1932)

Unfortunately, some bands inevitably ran into trouble during this period and either went into recess or disbanded.  Finances were certainly a factor in this, but loss of members was another – which will be explored in the next section.  In 1932 the Yeppoon Brass Band, located in North Queensland, announced that it would go into recess due to lack of funds and members (“INTO RECESS,” 1932).  However, in a generous move, the band allowed remaining members to keep their instruments while in recess.  The Franklin Harbour Band from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia lamented its struggles in an article published by the Eyre’s Peninsula Tribune newspaper in November 1936. 

… at present one of the depression periods is being experienced and unless a revival of interest by the young men of the town and district is evinced, there is a possibility of the band after 25 years of continuous existence, sinking into oblivion.

(“FRANKLIN HARBOUR BAND.,” 1936)
Franklin Harbour Brass Band (date unknown) (source: IBEW)

The Gawler Brass Band was another that faced growing troubles and in 1938 announced that it was disbanding due money being owed to the local council – they owed £100 for instruments – and lack of members as they had gone from 24 players to 12 (“Gawler Brass Band May Not Continue,” 1936).

The Mail, 18/07/1936, p, 2

This call for more support was a common one from bands and associations as their finances dwindled and membership became problematic. The then Secretary of the Tasmanian Band Association, a Mr W. H. Gray was one who called for more support in a long letter published in The Mercury newspaper in January 1932 (Gray, 1932).  The letter is interesting given that Mr Gray makes no mention of the Depression while calling for more support for the bands – the subject of the letter is mainly about bands playing in certain parks from which they gain revenue.  However, one cannot help but feel that the impact of the Depression was implied when Mr Gray writes in his letter,

The bands are prepared to carry on provided the necessary public support is forthcoming, but many of them are doomed to early extinction if that support is not more liberal from now on.  The Sunday evening concerts provide a most pleasant hour, and are a wonderful tonic and inspiration for the following week’s worries and cares.

(Gray, 1932)

Of course, there were always some who resented that brass bands were getting any form of support at all, which was perhaps understandable. One person from regional South Australia wrote a pointed letter to the Advertiser and Register newspaper complaining that the Government was not doing enough to help primary producers and instead found some money to fund an Institute in Waikerie and buy instruments for the Waikerie Brass Band (to the value of £350) (Rogers, 1931).

Waikerie Brass Band, 1930s (Source: State Library South Australia: B 34089)

There are still more stories to be found regarding the experiences of bands in the Great Depression and thankfully, some are brought to light through community newspapers.  For example, two stories about the Walcha Brass Band, published in the Walcha News newspaper (Walsh, 2019a, 2019b).  The Walcha Brass Band suffered through the 1930s due to the impacts of the Depression but recovered soon after the cessation of the Second World War and survived until 1969 when it disbanded  (Walsh, 2019b).

If this small sample of AGM’s are to go by it is evident that bands were fully aware of the impacts of the depression.  Which made them all the more pleased to find they were riding the economic impacts as best they could. 

Employ a Bandsman:

Every band wants to retain their members as best they can.  This was no different for the bands during the Depression years where, as it was mentioned, people had to leave their localities to find work elsewhere.  Again, the fact that bands were losing members due to Depression conditions, factors that were really beyond their control, sometimes had a detrimental effect on the bands.  One strategy that bands used was to try to find employment for bandsmen in their own localities and on occasion implored local businesses to help them.  This was not an easy thing for bands to ask.

Freeling Brass Band (date unknown) (source: IBEW)

In 1931 the loss of members from the Freeling Model Brass Band from South Australia was noted as a significant factor affecting the survival of the band.  We can see in an article published in The Bunyip newspaper just how dire the circumstance of the band was in 1931.

The secretary (Mr. E. L. Anders) read the report and balance sheet on the year’s work.  He stated that the Band were in a financial position, but were unfortunate in losing eight playing members during the year; some having left the district through unemployment.  […] He also stressed the point, that little or no interest was shown by the playing members and the support from the public was very scanty.  This let the band down badly, and if not more support was forthcoming, the band would have to go into recess for a short period. […] A lengthy discussion arose, and for a time it was hard to distinguish what was being said.  It was proposed that the band go into recess.  After order was restored, it was proposed and seconded that the band carry on. 

(“FREELING MODEL BRASS BAND.,” 1931)

The Muswellbrook Brass Band, located in the Newcastle area of New South Wales, recognized that they might lose two members due employment issues and they made a request to the public in their March committee meeting.  This request was detailed in the local Muswellbrook Chronicle newspaper.

Employment Sought for Members.

Reference was made to the possibility of losing two valuable members of the Band owing to their inability to obtain employment in the town.  The hope was expressed that this matter would come under the notice of the general public, and that anyone in the position to offer employment would communicate with Mr. Wallace (hon. Secretary). 

(“MUSWELLBROOK BRASS BAND.,” 1935)

Similarly, in the same year, the Dandenong Brass Band from Victoria (as can be seen in the article below) also put out a plea to try to find employment for two of their members.

Dandenong Journal, 21/03/1935, p. 5

The Waratah Brass Band from Tasmania and the Port Adelaide Municipal Band were other bands that noted the loss of members due to employment issues (“WARATAH.,” 1935; “YOUR LOCAL BAND NEEDS SUPPORT!,” 1938).  It was a circumstance that many bands found themselves in during these years.

Port Adelaide Municipal Band (Source: The Citizen, 30/11/1938, p. 7)

Finding themselves in a slightly different situation, in 1937 a brass band located in Canberra was “disbanded as a protest against the refusal of the Department of Interior to guarantee all members permanent employment.”  (“BAND IS NOT TO PLAY,” 1937).  They were to play at an Armistice Service at Parliament House which forced the Department of Interior to hire a Sydney based band (“BAND IS NOT TO PLAY,” 1937).  However, in trying to defend this decision, the Secretary of the Department, Mr. Carrodus did say…

…that at least half of the members of the band had been given departmental jobs, but because of the stringent observance of the Returned Soldiers’ Preference Act it would be impossible to absorb them all.”

(“BAND IS NOT TO PLAY,” 1937)

It is hard to read of these circumstances and not feel saddened about the state some of these bands.  They were trying to exist in a time of history where outside forces were affecting how they operated; membership and commitment being a major part of those factors. No doubt they were doing the best they could under the circumstances.

The bands played on:

Brass band marching on Anzac Day, Sydney, 1930 (Source: National Library of Australia: 14446)

Music has always been known as a great reliever to troubles and during this time our brass bands rose to the challenge, not only for the good of the band and band members but also for the public and other causes.  In fact, some commentators suggested that there was no need for music making to stop.  In 1931 a Dr A. E. Floyd wrote in an article published in the Australasian newspaper,

The effect of the present financial stringency on every man’s music and musical progress need not be unmitigatedly bad; indeed it may be easily, with a little forethought, be decidedly good. 

(Floyd, 1931)

Admittedly, the context of Dr. Floyd’s article was more on making music in the home environment.  However, there is no doubt that his thoughts were cross-applicable to playing in ensembles outside of the home as well – his encouragement was for people to keep making music no matter the circumstances for health reasons.

For our bands it was a little more difficult as engagements slowed and money was scarce.  The bigger bands, often based in metropolitan centres were luckier than most as they could keep up with a regular pattern of performances, parades and competitions.  Indeed, the Victorian Bands’ League presented some very impressive massed band events during this time including one in 1937 that involved six hundred bandsmen! (“BIG BANDS DISPLAY,” 1937).  In Sydney, a grand competition was held in 1938 which drew together bands from across Australia (Bandsman’s year book, 1938).  While in the regional town of Wellington in New South Wales, their first competition in twenty five years was labelled a “Tremendous and Outstanding Success” by the Wellington Times newspaper (“WELLINGTON BAND CONTEST.,” 1932).

Music for a cause:

The brass bands also did their bit for charitable causes and lent their services to help the needy.  For the bands, this was not a new style of engagement as over time they were regularly engaged in helping raise money for charity – the Victorian Bands’ League massed bands event in 1937 raised money for charity.  However, during the Great Depression this was giving a new meaning and we find the bands involved in some distinct social causes as well.

We can see that bands were an uplifting presence.  In North Queensland the Mirani Brass Band helped to lift spirits during a harvest thanksgiving event and the band was noted for their playing – practices had lifted after harvest when more members were available (“DISTRICT NEWS.,” 1930).  While over in Western Australia, the Merredin Brass Band joined other local organisations in an engagement that raised money for the needy in the district (Branson, 1931).  The Matron of the Clare Hospital located in South Australia wrote an appreciative letter to the Blyth Agriculturist newspaper to thank the “generosity of the general public” and the Clare Brass Band was given a special mention for raising money for a new dressing table in the Isolation section (Pattullo, 1934).

The thanks went both ways.  In April 1930 a letter was published in the Burra Record newspaper co-written by the President, Bandmaster and Secretary of the Spalding Brass Band thanking a Mr. P. Clark of Burra for financing a trip and engaging them to play (Hewish et al., 1930).  No doubt the band was grateful for these kinds of opportunities.

Burra Record, 16/04/1930, p. 3

We can also see mentions of brass bands leading marches and demonstrations, which is perhaps understandable.  Many brass bands were supported by industry at this time and no doubt some of the workers were affected by the conditions around them.  Mention was made of a brass band leading an Anti-Eviction procession in Sydney in 1933 and in Newcastle, a brass band headed up 600 unemployed from the “West Wallsend District” who marched on the town hall in 1935 (“ANTI-EVICTION PROCESSION.,” 1933; “UNEMPLOYED,” 1935).

Sydney Morning Herald, 14/08/1933, p. 10

Resilience:

We have already seen that some of the effects of the Great Depression on brass bands led to them going into recess or suffering financial and membership difficulties.  We have also seen that bands kept up their activities as best they could.  They were resilient in the face of adversity.  And if it was one activity that brought people together, it was the brass band.  In this decade, some bands even started up again.

In the township of Leeton, located in the Riverina district of New South Wales, a long letter was published in the Murrumbidgee Irrigator newspaper written by a contributor with the colloquial name of “Has Been”.  In 1932 the Leeton Band resumed practicing and this writer waxed lyrical on how much this band would mean to the town.

Sir,- I notice by your advertising that the Leeton Band is commencing its practices again, which means that we are again to have the pleasure of hearing band music.  This, I am sure, will be very pleasing to quite a number of people in our town and district, for the band is a decided acquisition to any town, no matter how small.

(“Has Been”, 1932)

Of course, there was a trade-off to reforming the band and “Has Been” wrote an appeal to the townsfolk to look for employment opportunities for bandsmen.

Might I add another word to the employers of labour, whether it be shop, farms or factory, when in need of a man, give the band secretary a chance to supply you with a bandsman.  If there is not a man in town suitable for the job, ask the band secretary to see what he can do.  The band secretary, being a life man, would, no doubt insert an advert in the city papers, worded something like this: “Wanted – A mechanic (or whatever the position was that had to be filled), good man only; must be bandsman (cornet player preferred) – Apply Secty Leeton District Band.

(“Has Been”, 1932)

“Has Been” was probably working a bit ahead of himself but the initiative was warranted given the difficult times – and many other bands were trying the same initiative.

The Tully Brass Band from North Queensland was perhaps one of the luckier ensembles as six years prior to 1933, residents of the town subscribed to the band and £400 had been spent on instruments (“TO BE RE-FORMED,” 1933).  When the band was reformed in 1933 those instruments were still available, so the band was able to restart almost immediately.  We can see in the photo below what the band was like in the 1930s.  

Tully Brass Band marching. ca. 1930s (Source: State Library of Queensland: 33123)

To be resilient a band had to be able to handle the circumstances as best they could and gathering public and council support was a chief aim.  When these pieces fell into place, bands could survive reasonably comfortably despite the outside circumstances.  For bands to restart during this time was an additional challenge which some of them managed with success.

Conclusion:

Coming out of the 1920s where the world seemed to be recovering only to plunge into another crisis must have been a major shock.  For bands, this meant a greater focus on administration especially finances, engagements, and membership.  Some aspects were simply out of their control such as the movement of members due to employment – as enjoyable as playing in a band might be, the outside need was to find a job.  It was admirable that many bands sought to find work for their members and themselves become a social service.

No doubt the work the bands were doing was appreciated by their communities either through live performance or over the wireless.  Music is uplifting.  Music could help people forget about their predicaments, if only for a short time.  The bands did their best.

References:

“Has Been”. (1932, 26 February). REFORMING THE BAND : (To the Editor). Murrumbidgee Irrigator (Leeton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155893074

Adkins, H. E. (1934, 10 January). Britain’s Big Brass Bands. Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1158876

ANTI-EVICTION PROCESSION. (1933, 14 August). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16998155

Australia’s Rise From Depression : Story Told By Figures. (1936, 15 February). Northern Producer and Morawa and District Advertiser (WA : 1930 – 1947), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257624349

BAND ASSOCIATION : The Annual Report. (1932, 12 May). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article180704011

BAND IS NOT TO PLAY : Demand Permanent Jobs. (1937, 11 November). Labor Daily (Sydney, NSW : 1924 – 1938), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article237760894

The Bandsman’s year book and official programme of the Australian Championship Band Contest. (1938). (Band Association of New South Wales, Ed.). Band Association of New South Wales. 

BIG BANDS DISPLAY : 600 Players. (1937, 25 September). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article180841683

Branson, I. N. (1931, 28 April). The Meldrum Benefit. Wheatbelt Wheatsheaf and Dampier Advocate (Merredin, WA : 1930 – 1939), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article251755519

DEVONPORT. (1931, 31 March). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article67710241

DISTRICT NEWS : Mirani : (From our Correspondent). (1930, 23 December). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170235248

Eklund, E. (2008). 10 June 1931. In M. Crotty & D. A. Roberts (Eds.), Turning Points in Australian History (pp. 48-61). University of New South Wales Press Ltd. 

Floyd, A. E. (1931, 03 January). MUSIC : Need the Depression Stifle Music? Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141416272

Franklin Harbour Brass Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot3437]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

FRANKLIN HARBOUR BAND. (1936, 26 November). Eyre’s Peninsula Tribune (Cowell, SA : 1910 – 1950), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article219473615

Freeling Brass Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot15438]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

FREELING MODEL BRASS BAND. (1931, 19 June). Bunyip (Gawler, SA : 1863 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96642544

Gawler Brass Band May Not Continue. (1936, 18 July). Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55830899

Gray, W. H. (1932, 09 January). BAND CONCERTS : Appeals for More Liberal Support : To the Editor of “The Mercury.”. Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29939058

Hewish, P. A., Carlson, A. C., & Mannion, F. J. (1930, 16 April). SPALDING’S BRASS BAND APPRECIATION : (To the Editor). Burra Record (SA : 1878 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37488195

HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND. (1930, 21 March). Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147845925

Hutchens, G. (2020, 29 March). The lessons of our past and our neighbours’ present could guide Australia’s economic response to coronavirus. ABC News. Retrieved 02 October 2020 from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-29/australias-history-of-economic-support-coronavirus-covid-19/12100194

Illustrations Ltd. (1932). Large group of people in shed near tables full of vegetables and fruit [picture] [1 negative : glass, b&w ; 17 x 22 cm.]. [101841PD]. State Library of Western Australia, Illustrations Ltd collection ; 8292B/A/6851-1. https://encore.slwa.wa.gov.au/iii/encore/record/C__Rb2649568

INTO RECESS : Yeppoon Brass Band. (1932, 26 April). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54737835

ITEMS OF INTEREST : Dandenong Brass Band. (1935, 21 March). Dandenong Journal (Vic. : 1927 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213964037

McAnulty, H. (2017, 13 January). History Talking: Surviving life in the dole-drums of the Depression. Central Western Daily. https://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/4403111/history-talking-surviving-life-in-the-dole-drums-of-the-depression/

MUSWELLBROOK BRASS BAND : Committee Meeting. (1935, 01 March). Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW : 1898 – 1955), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107669487

National Museum Australia. (2020, 15 April ). 1932: Height of the Great Depression, with 32 per cent unemployment. National Museum Australia. Retrieved 26 September 2020 from https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/great-depression

Pattullo, B. (1934, 12 January). THE CLARE AND DISTRICT HOSPITAL : | To the Editor |. Blyth Agriculturist (SA : 1908 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article217990434

Peterborough Federal Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot6378]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Peterborough Federal Band : Annual General Meeting. (1931, 17 July). Times and Northern Advertiser, Peterborough, South Australia (SA : 1919 – 1950), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110542695

Pohjanpalo, J. (1930). Brass band marching on Anzac Day, Sydney, 1930 [1 negative : nitrate, black and white]. [nla.obj-15268053]. National Library of Australia, Jorma Pohjanpalo collection of photographs of Sydney and Queensland, 1928-1931. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-152628053

Rogers, G. S. (1931, 15 April). POINTS FROM LETTERS : Brass Bands or Primary Production. Advertiser and Register (Adelaide, SA : 1931), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45760607

TO BE RE-FORMED : Tully Brass Band. (1933, 13 May). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41214410

UNEMPLOYED : Meet Shire Council : MANY DEMANDS : 600 March from West Wallsend : Strikers State Their Case. (1935, 12 July). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138136031

Unidentified. (1933). Marching brass band, Tully, ca. 1930s [photographic print : black & white , ca. 1930s.]. [33123]. Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OneSearch. https://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/192004

Waikerie Brass Band. (1930). [Photograph]. State Library South Australia, Waikerie Collection. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+34089

Walsh, B. (2019a, 27 February). Walcha History: Band stands and delivers for Premier. Walcha News. https://www.walchanewsonline.com.au/story/5922107/walcha-band-stands-and-delivers-for-premier/

Walsh, B. (2019b, 13 March). Walcha History: Walcha Town Band’s final years. Walcha News. https://www.walchanewsonline.com.au/story/5947106/walcha-town-bands-final-hurrah/

WARATAH : The Band. (1935, 16 November). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86569751

WELLINGTON BAND CONTEST : THE FIRST FOR 25 YEARS : A Tremendous and Outstanding Success. : UNBOUNDED ENTHUSIASM. (1932, 04 January). Wellington Times (NSW : 1899 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143246369

WILD SELLING : New York Panic : PROFITS WIPED OUT : £80,000,000 Slump. (1929, 26 October). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 17. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16596498

Williamson, A. (2009). The Cud on History — Looking Back on The Great Depression in Australia [Electronic Magazine Article]. The Cud: Entertain a new perspective: chew the cud. Retrieved 26 September 2020, from http://thecud.com.au/live/content/cud-history-—-looking-back-great-depression-australia

YOUR LOCAL BAND NEEDS SUPPORT! : A Short History. (1938, 30 November). Citizen (Port Adelaide, SA : 1938-1940), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article236745262

A room to call their own: the space and place for bands

20191019-10.46_Orange_Band-Hall1
The old Orange City Band Hall (Photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte, October 2019)

Introduction:

There is no doubting that bands need material items to help them function as a band, as they do now.  And so, a previous post was written regarding instruments, sheet music and uniforms and how bands obtained such items .  Perhaps it was remiss of that post not to mention band rooms as an added essential item.  However, when researching for this current post, that omission is now justified – there is lots of historical writing on band rooms!

For the early bands, finding a room to practice in was no easy task.  We shall see that some of them were housed in stables, auction rooms, schools, rotundas, and most were subject to the whims and mercies of their local councils.  Several bands had to solicit funds from the general public for a variety of items, rooms included.  For some bands, they were able to build their own band room.  Bands that were attached to an industry were lucky enough to have rooms provided for them.

There is a similarity in the stories from across Australia when it came to bands and their rooms.  No doubt the bands themselves would have shared some of the stories when they met at events and competitions.  Bands, while competitive, are also collegial.

It is regarding band rooms that we see bands being innovative and inventive.  For the early bands, finding their own place and space was an achievement. Here are some of the stories.

Space, place, and memory:

Before this post delves into the practical stories on band rooms, it is important to explore the meaning of a band room to a community, to bands and to people.  The concept of space and place helps to explain this meaning – it is what is termed, “humanistic geography”; “A place can be seen as space that has meaning” (Selten & van der Zandt, 2011).  However, the concept of space and place should not be seen as entirely geographical.  There is social meaning as well.  It is people who provide meaning to a place and within places communities are made.

For a local band, having their own room was of great importance, they needed places to practice.  And having their own room gave them a sense of connectedness to the local community.  As Mackay (2005) writes in his article, “…connection to place is vital to our sense of identity – both personal and communal.” (Mackay, 2005).  To be able to inform a local community that their band was rehearsing in a certain place also gave the band a sense of local identity.  Rooms were a place to call home, where band members could rehearse and were also part of a band’s history.  A room was a source of pride:

The powerful sense of that place – the look of it, the feel of it, the smell of it – will stir all kind of emotions in you, positive and negative, not accessible via mere memory.

(Mackay, 2005)
00000000_Jerilderie-Town-Band_phot6408
Jerilderie Town Band, date unknown. (Source: IBEW)

For some bands people, the room gave them a sense of connectedness with the local community and their fellow band members.  Often, all it takes is a mention of the room to trigger a strong memory.  Mr H. A. McVittie, former bandmaster of the Jerilderie Town Band mentions reading a paragraph published in the Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser newspaper in April 1945 about the destruction of the old band hall by fire (“Jerilderie Shire Council,” 1945).  For Mr. McVittie, this act triggered very strong memories, not only for the band room, but for himself and his fellow band members.  The article published in May 1945 opens:

Mr. H. A. McVittie, writing from Collarenebri, where he conducts the Collarenebri “Gazette,” has had memories of his old home town awakened by a paragraph which appeared in a recent issue of this paper, in which the destruction by fire of the old band room in Eastern Park was recorded.  Says Mac:-

I was given some sort of a pulsation the other day when the “Herald” arrived and I read of the destruction of the old band room in the Eastern Park.  IF there was one place more than another that held for me many happy recollections of my old home town it was the old bandroom.  If I remember correctly it was built there by the one-time Jerilderie Municipal Council and placed at the disposal of the Jerilderie Town Band as a practice room.

(“The Old Bandroom,” 1945)

The remainder of the article is devoted to Mr. McVittie’s memories big and small, and it is wonderful to read these stories.  In the finishing paragraph, he wrote this poignant observation:

Well old towners, I must close down on this somewhat hurried and disjointed sketch.  But I feel that you will excuse me for just a passing memory of the old room that gave to me so many pleasant hours.

(“The Old Bandroom,” 1945)

This is just one example of a strong connection to place that a bands person has.  For Mr. McVittie however, the story does not end with the initial article in May as two months later, he writes to the Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser newspaper again.  One memory triggered many others, and old Jerilderie band people wrote to Mr. McVittie in Collarenebri and detailed their own connections with the band, the room and Jerilderie.

My memories of the old band room, which were recently published in the “Herald,” seem to have stirred the embers of the past and rekindled interest in the good old days – the days when we were young.  Letters have come to me from the most unexpected quarters in which the writers touch on some old Jerilderie theme or other, prompted by my references to the old band room, sketchy and incomplete as they were.

(“OLD MEMORIES NEVER DIE,” 1945)

It would be fair to say that other bands people share similar recollections of their rooms and the social and musical connections that they made while associated with that place.  However, to allow this connectedness to develop, bands had to have their rooms…

Building:

19250201_South-Melbourne-Bandroom-Opening
South Melbourne City Band Grand Opening of Band Room & Rotunda, 01/02/1925 – march card backing. (Source: Victorian Bands’ League Library & Archive)

Building a band room was an option open to many bands – once they had found a suitable site and had raised the funds.  This was a task that was undertaken only by the most committed ensembles as a reliance on their own labour and the goodwill of subscribers was taxing.  Nevertheless, for the most part, it became achievable, and the bands always had a sense of pride when they had a room they had built themselves.

Dealing with local councils and building regulations was the most difficult part as the Warragul Brass Band found in 1906.  They wanted to build a band room on a site that was currently being used by the local tennis and croquet clubs (“WARRAGUL BAND.,” 1906).  Unfortunately, the request was refused due to the incumbency of the said clubs at the site and the council wanting to build a new depot.  However, for the South Melbourne City Band, they had much more success with building a band room and a rotunda in 1925, as the march card backing above indicates.  They built their rotunda with labour provided by the bandsmen and friends for a total cost of £300 and held a grand opening and concert (“Albert Park Improvements.,” 1925).  This rotunda has unfortunately become a victim of change and is no longer in the park.

Then there was the fundraising aspect which either worked or did not work.  It is evident that communities were largely generous when the cause was right and the appeals from local bands were worthwhile.  The Hills Central Brass Band located in Adelaide was one group that laid out the reasons for their fundraising quite clearly in a 1912 article published in the Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser newspaper.  They held a concert to help with their building fund and implored the local community to help them:

It has been decided to hold a concert and social in the Mount Barker Institute on August 20 in aid of the Hills Central Brass Band building fund.  This is a most deserving institution and it is hoped that the public will recognise its usefulness and generosity by lending their patronage to this entertainment.  In all cases of distress and in many public festivities the band has volunteered assistance in the past and the least the public can do in return is to support it.

(“HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND.,” 1912)
19210000_Collie-Brass-Band_slwa_b3507727_1
Collie Brass Band, winners of B Grade Championship, 1921 (Source: State Library of Western Australia: BA579/138)

Coming into 1918 we find that the Collie Brass Band from Perth was trying to secure land for a band room, and many supportive platitudes were written about the band by the colloquial writer ‘Bandsman’ in the local Collie Mail newspaper, and from this there was council support:

Some of the members are now playing in the leading Australian Military Bands in England and France and messages are continually coming through saying that they are keeping in form for the old band.  What would they say if on their return, they found the old band defunct?  It was within an ace of being so last winter solely through the lack of suitable practice room.

The Collie Council has realised the necessity and have promised to find a suitable block of land, knowing that a Band room will be an asset to the town and will always belong to the citizens as do the instruments and all other property of the band.

(Bandsman, 1918)

Some years later in 1926, the Katanning Brass Band from Western Australia found itself wanting to build their own room and they also called for public support.  In an innovative move, the Katanning Brass Band formed a committee out of representatives from many other community organisations to guide the fundraising and building of a new band room (“Katanning Brass Band.,” 1926).  They were ultimately successful in this strategy.  After a year of work, in January 1927 they opened their new band room:

Monday evening last marked quite an epoch in the history of the Katanning Brass Band, the occasion being the opening their own practise room.  A brass band may be regarded as a sort of semi-public institutions and a public utility.

[…]

They have been very thankful for the use of the fire station and other buildings loaned to them from time to time, but it has not always been convenient for both parties, and thus many drawbacks have been encountered. Then early last year a brilliant idea emanated from somewhere, a scheme to carry out a gala day.  The bandsmen recognised their own inability to put the matter through, and so they invited the assistance and co-operation of the various sports of the village, the ladies, and in fact all who had the welfare of the band at heart, and a willingness to join in.

(“Katanning Brass Band.,” 1927)
19131304_Millicent-Brass-Band_B-57528
Millicent Brass Band, 13/04/1913. (Source: State Library of South Australia: B+57528)

In South Australia, local citizen, benefactor and Patron of the Millicent Brass Band, a Mr. H. F. L. Holzgrefe, J.P., proudly laid the foundation stone of their new band room (“MILLICENT BRASS BAND.,” 1928).  This had been an important project for the Millicent Brass Band and the significance was not lost on Mr. Holzgrefe who made these remarks after laying the stone:

The foundation stone was inscribed :- “This stone was laid by H. F. L. Holzgrefe, J.P., May 19, 1928.”  After it had been declared “well and truly laid,” Mr. Holzgrefe said the bandsmen had acted wisely in building a room for their own use.  It would tend to keep the members united, and make practising easier in many ways.  A band was a very useful institution, and no community should be without one.

[…]

Mr. Tothill warmly thanked Mr. Holzgrefe for his handsome contribution.  He then asked him to accept from the band an inscribed silver trowel as a memento of the occasion.  The president’s remarks were warmly applauded and Mr. Holzgrefe received an ovation when he acknowledged the gift.

(“MILLICENT BRASS BAND.,” 1928)

It was admirable that some bands around Australia managed to get the funds together and build their own band room.  Unfortunately, it is unclear just how many of these band rooms survive.  However, if the picture of the Orange Brass Band Hall at the start of this post is anything to go by, no doubt, there are some around Australia that may have been repurposed. We only must look for them.

Finding:

Short of building their own rooms, finding a suitable space was another option and whether the room was provided for bands by generous people or by councils, it was still a place to practice.  Again, there were instances when requests were mulled over as councils were sometimes very officious.

To start with it is worth exploring the experiences of some industry bands.  They were often luckier than most as they were provided with rooms on or near the sites of their industry.  The Thompson’s Foundry Band gained their first room in 1894 on the site of the Thompson’s Foundry in Castlemaine (“FOUNDRY BAND-ROOM.,” 1894).  As reported in the Mount Alexander Mail newspaper:

The opening of the new Foundry band-room erected in Parker-street, was made the occasion of a social last night tendered by the President, Mr David Thompson.  The room, which is a commodious one for practice, is 25ft long, 10ft wide, and 12ft high.  It is nearly painted green, with a dado of chocolate colour.

(“FOUNDRY BAND-ROOM.,” 1894)

It was also lucky for the Thompson’s Foundry Band that the head of the foundry was a great supporter of the band.  The Thompson’s Foundry Band still rehearse in a building associated with the foundry.

19129496_Advocate_De-La-Salle-Hall
The Advocate, 06/04/1912, p. 22. This building was added to the property of the nearby tram depot in 1930 and extended.

Likewise, the Malvern Tramways Band started out rehearsing in a room within the tram depot and then in 1930 they moved into old school buildings acquired by the tramways for the recreation of their employees (“BAND NEWS,” 1930).  The building, pictured above when it was De La Salle College, was renovated by the tramways to include two more spaces behind the original hall and was mainly used by various tramway employee clubs such as bands (both brass and harmonica) and sporting groups (Heritage Council Victoria, 1999).  It was soon after, in 1931, that the Malvern Tramways Band moved out of this building and into converted stables owned by the Malvern Council behind Northbook House.

20130727_Northbrook-Stables_south-side
(Former) Northbrook House Stables. Now home to Stonnington City Brass (formerly Malvern Tramways Band). (Photo taken by Jeremy de Korte, July 2013)

As mentioned, the local councils had quite an influence on how bands obtained rooms and as early as 1896 we see that disagreements sometimes arose, as was the instance between the Palmerston Brass Band in Darwin and the District Council.  Published among the many news items on the 4th of December1896, we can see this snippet in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette newspaper:

The collision between the Brass Band and the District Council has, we believe, had the effect of raising the charge for the Town Hall to a fixed figure for all societies and clubs using it.  By and bye, when the Masonic Hall is an established fact, the social public will not need to bother the Council, and the revenue of the Town Hall will decrease rather materially.

(“Notes of the Week.,” 1896)

Four years later we find the Palmerston Brass Band is using a room provided for them by a Mr. H. Dwyer, of which he was thanked in an annual general meeting (“Palmerston Brass Band.,” 1900).

The Hawthorn City Council found the plight of the Hawthorn City Band more favourable.  In May 1909 it was reported in the Richmond Guardian newspaper that “the patronage of the Hawthorn City Council has been bestowed upon the above band, and a room had been provided for the band to practice in.” (“Hawthorn City Band.,” 1909).  In 1918 however, the Daylesford Brass Band, wishing to reform, found themselves in differing circumstances.  The Secretary of the Daylesford Brass Band sent a letter to the local Borough Council asking if the council could provide a room where the band could practice, a perfectly reasonable request.  It seems that at the time, the band instruments and music from a former iteration of the band were stored in the Town Hall Lodgeroom, and “could the council supply the bandmaster with a key?” (access was needed every so often) (“BAND PRACTICE ROOM WANTED.,” 1918).  Which, unfortunately, touched off a debate within council on why the instruments were in the Town Hall in the first place – not so much the fact that the band wanted a practice room!  However, it also seems that a number of the instrument were in fact owned by the council so they stayed where they were. (“BAND PRACTICE ROOM WANTED.,” 1918).

Similar stories of councils deciding when and where bands could rehearse make up a large part of stories around rooms.  The Picton Council could find no objection to having the Picton District Brass Band wanting “free use of the supper room on Monday nights for band practice […] providing they pay for the electric light.” (“Picton Brass Band,” 1931).  However, there were other cases when councils could not, or would not help their local bands locate rooms, and a couple of instances in Queensland involving the Warwick City Band and Mackay City Band Association reflect this (“NO LARGER BANDROOM AVAILABLE,” 1945; Scotia, 1941).

Daily Mercury, 27/11/1945, p. 2

There was obviously a delicate balance involved when trying to find rooms and it seems that dealing with councils formed a major part of negotiations, as councils tended to be the judges of where things were put, and they controlled some of the funding.  Nevertheless, for some bands it all paid off and they were able to practice in rooms provided for them.

Using:

19021121_Nerang-District-BB_V1-FL393716
Portrait of the Nerang & District Brass Band, Queensland, formed in July, 1902. (Source: State Library of Queensland: 3612)

Once rooms were found or built, bands were free enough to use them as they saw fit although by today’s standards, some of the locations were a bit unusual.  We can see little stories in the articles above where bands rehearsed in fire stations and the like.  This section will highlight where some of the bands rehearsed and some of the problems that were encountered.  The Nerang & District Town Band for example started out rehearsing in the stables of the Nerang Nestle Milk Factory which cannot have been a wholly comfortable experience (Gold Coast City Brass Band, 2014).  Down south in Victoria, the Horsham Brass Band and the Oakleigh District Brass Band found themselves in rooms provided for them by generous supporters, until they found something else (“BAND ROOM.,” 1908; “Oakleigh District Brass Band.,” 1918).  The Kempsey Brass Band from N.S.W. were pleased to report that they were in slightly more appropriate quarters as they found space in the local School of Arts (“KEMPSEY BRASS BAND.,” 1921).  Whilst the Frankston Brass Band in the southern reaches of Melbourne managed to gain space in the local Mechanics’ Institute (“Frankston Brass Band,” 1924).  Out west the Narembeen Brass Band rehearsed “in the old Westralian Farmers Buildings” (“Narembeen Brass Band.,” 1937).

However, like any building, band rooms were not immune to the problems faced by any other building in towns and cities and there were some unfortunate incidents.  In February 1925 it was reported by the Blue Mountain Echo newspaper that the Katoomba District Band room had been broken into twice since Christmas (“Band-room Vandalism,” 1925).  While the damage was easily fixed, some instruments had been shifted and sheet music was strewn about.  The local police believed children were the perpetrators (“Band-room Vandalism,” 1925).

Much more serious was the threat of fire and two bands in the same year suffered the consequences.  In February 1926, fire consumed the room at the back of the Richmond Town Hall which was being used by the Richmond City Band  and unfortunately all band property was presumed lost, and the room and stock were uninsured (“FIRE AT RICHMOND.,” 1926).  This had a detrimental effect on the band and within four years the band had folded – on a side note, two artefacts survived and are now being held by the Richmond & Burnley Historical Society (Langdon, 2014).  Similarly,  in April 1926, fire broke out in the building used by the City Concert Band in Rockhampton however in this incident, all instruments were saved (“FIRE AT ROCKHAMPTON.,” 1926).

To finish off this section and to backtrack a little bit, we have the case of the Collingwood Citizens’ Band and their wanting of space to rehearse.  In early years, as can be seen in the photo at the end of this post, it is rumoured that they used to rehearse in a quarry due to the lack of a room.  There might be some truth to the rumour however they too had to make applications to council for additional places to rehearse, in this case, wanting a park where they could practice their marching – which raised debate on whether this was appropriate on Sunday mornings (“THE SUNDAY QUESTION.,” 1905).

Moving:

19330615_Northern-Star_Bandroom-Removal
Northern Star, 15/06/1933, pg. 5

Yes, it had to happen every so often of which the early bands did the best they could to adapt.  Although at times, it involved the moving of buildings, as detailed in the article above (“BAND-ROOM REMOVAL,” 1933).  And moving buildings was sometimes a condition set upon bands by local councils, as the Albury Brass Band found out when they wanted to move the old fire station to a new site owned by council (“OLD FIRE STATION AS BANDROOM.,” 1916).

Conclusion:

There is obviously much more that could be written about bands finding their own space and place as band room stories are intertwined with the histories of the bands themselves.  Rooms have their own histories.  How often do we see band rooms displaying the history of bands in the form of trophies, photos, shields and other ephemera?  Perhaps it is time we celebrated the rooms.

19060000_Collingwood-Band-Quarry_phot19034
Collingwood Citizens’ Band rehearsing in a quarry, 1906. (Source: IBEW)

References:

Albert Park Improvements : New Band Stand Opened. (1925, 02 February). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155554629

BAND NEWS : Malvern Municipal and Tramways Band. (1930, 07 August). Malvern Standard (Vic. : 1906 – 1931), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66452967

BAND PRACTICE ROOM WANTED. (1918, 18 October). Daylesford Advocate, Yandoit, Glenlyon and Eganstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119561430

BAND ROOM. (1908, 16 June). Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72810141

BAND-ROOM REMOVAL : Building for Practices. (1933, 15 June). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94219810

Band-room Vandalism. (1925, 27 February). Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 – 1928), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108852760

Bandsman. (1918, 28 March). THE COLLIE BAND ROOM. Collie Mail (Perth, WA : 1908 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189243021

Collingwood Citizens’ Band rehearsing in a quarry. (1906). [Photograph]. [phot19034]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

de Korte, J. D. (2013). Malvern, Vic. : Northbrook Stables : South side [Photograph]. [IMG_0413]. Jeremy de Korte, Malvern, Victoria. 

de Korte, J. D. (2018, 08 July). Instruments, sheet music and uniforms: how the bands of old obtained the essentials. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/05/13/instruments-sheet-music-and-uniforms-how-the-bands-of-old-obtained-the-essentials/

de Korte, J. D. (2019). Orange, N.S.W. : Old Orange City Band Hall, 1888 [Photograph]. [IMG_4453]. Jeremy de Korte, Sydney, N.S.W. 

De La Salle Brothers’ Boys’ School, MALVERN : Blessed and Opened by the Archbishop : His Grace on the Education Question : Fair Play for Catholic Schools. (1912, 06 April). Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), 22. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170941033

FIRE AT RICHMOND : Band Hall Destroyed. (1926, 27 February). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155771911

FIRE AT ROCKHAMPTON : City Band Instruments Saved. (1926, 13 April). Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21021996

FOUNDRY BAND-ROOM. (1894, 10 October). Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198243209

Frankston Brass Band : First Practice on Friday, February 18. (1924, 06 February). Frankston and Somerville Standard (Vic. : 1921 – 1939), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73498546

Gold Coast City Brass Band. (2014). History : If it happened on the Gold Coast then the Gold Coast City Brass Band was there to help Celebrate the Occasion. Gold Coast City Brass Band. Retrieved 07 August 2020 from http://www.goldcoastcitybrassband.com/history/

Hawthorn City Band. (1909, 22 May). Richmond Guardian (Vic. : 1907 – 1920), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257211806

Heritage Council Victoria. (1999, 08 September). Malvern Tram Depot : Coldblo Road Armadale, Stonnington City. Heritage Council Victoria. Retrieved 09 August 2020 from https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/2138

HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND. (1912, 19 July). Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147747963

Jerilderie Shire Council. (1945, 19 April). Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser (NSW : 1898 – 1958), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134629256

Jerilderie Town Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot6408]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Katanning Brass Band : Proposed Band Room. (1926, 13 February). Great Southern Herald (Katanning, WA : 1901 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147654428

Katanning Brass Band : Opening of new practice room. (1927, 24 January). Southern Districts Advocate (Katanning, WA : 1913 – 1936), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209839059

KEMPSEY BRASS BAND. (1921, 30 August). Macleay Argus (Kempsey, NSW : 1885 – 1907; 1909 – 1910; 1912 – 1913; 1915 – 1916; 1918 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234195704

Langdon, D. (2014). Brass bands [Newsletter article]. Richmond & Burnley Historical Society Newsletter, 31(5), 2 & 4-6. 

Mackay, H. (2005, 15 October). A sense of place. The Age. https://www.theage.com.au/national/a-sense-of-place-20051015-ge11sy.html

Millicent Brass Band. (1913). [Photograph (b&w print)]. [B+57528]. State Library of South Australia, Millicent Collection. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+57528

MILLICENT BRASS BAND : Successful Building Appeal : A Generous Patron. (1928, 22 May). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77706076

Narembeen Brass Band. (1937, 11 March). Bruce Rock Post and Corrigin and Narembeen Guardian (WA : 1924 – 1948), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211359163

NO LARGER BANDROOM AVAILABLE. (1945, 27 November). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170630099

Notes of the Week. (1896, 04 December). Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT : 1873 – 1927), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3333362

Oakleigh District Brass Band : A Valuable Local Institution. (1918, 16 February). Oakleigh and Caulfield Times Mulgrave and Ferntree Gully Guardian (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88808027

The Old Bandroom : Former Bandmaster in reminiscent mood. (1945, 03 May). Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser (NSW : 1898 – 1958), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134632025

OLD FIRE STATION AS BANDROOM : Removal and tenure of occupancy. (1916, 16 September). Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW : 1903 – 1920), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109967848

OLD MEMORIES NEVER DIE : Further reflections from Collarenebri. (1945, 05 July). Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser (NSW : 1898 – 1958), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134633491

Palmerston Brass Band. (1900, 23 February). Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT : 1873 – 1927), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4259300

Picton Brass Band : To practice in Town Hall Supper Room. (1931, 14 October). Picton Post (NSW : 1907 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112760838

Portrait of Nerang and District Brass Band, Queensland, formed in July, 1902. (1902). [photographic print : black & white]. [3612]. Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, South Bank Collection. https://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/143348

Scotia. (1941, 20 May). CORRESPONDENCE : Band Practice Room : (To the Editor). Warwick Daily News (Qld. : 1919 -1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189029180

Selten, M., & van der Zandt, F. (2012, 25 October). Space vs. place. About Geography. Retrieved 20 August 2020 from http://geography.ruhosting.nl/geography/index.php?title=Space_vs._place

South Melbourne City Band. (1925). South Melbourne City Band : Grand Opening [March card backing]. South Melbourne City Band, South Melbourne, Victoria. 

THE SUNDAY QUESTION : Band practice at Collingwood. (1905, 29 August). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198599129

WARRAGUL BAND : Request for Bandroom Site. (1906, 12 June). West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic. : 1898 – 1930), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68669583

Williams, H. W. (1921). Collie Brass Band, winners of B Grade Championship [1 negative : acetate, black and white ; 3 x 4 cm.]. [024861PD]. State Library of Western Australia, Collie Museum collection of photographs. https://encore.slwa.wa.gov.au/iii/encore/record/C__Rb3507727

Australian bands, gramophones and wireless: adapting to new technology

19290722_Argus_Wireless-Broadcast
The Argus, 22/07/1929, p. 18

Introduction:

The Old Town Band
(Written for “The Land”)

The band was the life of the old town
The zest of its great events
When the great Pooh-Bah himself came down,
Or the prize merinos brought renown
Or the circus raised its tents.

There was music in the trombone
A martial note in the drum
And the boom of the bass was on its own
In the days before the gramophone
Ere the wireless craze had come.

Those were the day when the township band
Filled a place in pioneer life:
Cheered the struggle with virgin land
And gave the old battlers a helping hand
When droughts or plagues were rife.

Today the baton is laid aside
And the bandsmen rest in their graves:
They played their way o’er the great divide,
And are bandsmen now on the other side
In paradisian naves

And o’er the earth in tones forlorn
The saxophone raises its call.
The engines start their shrieks at dawn
The gramophone laughs the band to scorn,
And the wireless mocks them all.

(Excerpts from “The Old Town Band”, James, 1929)

So wrote Mr. A. A. James in 1929 for The Land newspaper in response to an article published in the Riverine Grazier which lamented the fact that the town of Hay in Southern New South Wales had lost its town band.  His prose was published in several other country newspapers at the time, as many town bands faced the same challenges.  Mr James singles out the gramophones and wireless as contributing factors, but was he right in suggesting so?  Was this new technology which proliferated during the early 1900s detrimental to our bands? It depends on the perception of the history at the time.  And thankfully, there is much history to examine.

In this post, the effects of new broadcasting technology on Australian bands will be looked at.  The early 1900s were a period of rapid technological change and our bands were nominally affected by these changes.  Throughout this early time from 1900 – 1950, and Mr James’s poem sits roughly in the middle, a new life of music and entertainment was brought into the homes of Australians – enthusiastically so.  With this adoption of gramophones and wireless sets came the start of commentary and opinions from citizens which were written up in the newspapers.  Radio program notes published in newspapers became essential reading.

Through this all we find the relationships between audience and bands being rapidly changed.  Perhaps this is the deeper meaning of Mr James’s poem – he identified that people were more enamoured with sounds coming out of a box of wires than live instruments and musicians.  Both sides of this issue will be explored as some bands took advantage of the radio and found new audiences, while other bands could not compete.

Early transmissions:

Live performance was very much the norm of Australian brass bands in the early 1900s and engagement with audience was centred around this type of performing.   As well as this, the popularity of brass bands was obvious through their music and the crowds that they attracted.  Reports of 70,000 people cramming the streets of Melbourne to see the famous Besses o’ th’ Barn Band in a parade and 20,000-30,000 people watching the South Street marching sections were not uncommon (“Besses o’ th’ Barn Band,” 1907; Greaves, 1996).  Later in the 1920s there are stories about 5,000 people attending community song nights in local gardens, as was the case at Central Park in Malvern where the Malvern Tramways performed every week (Young, 1923).

In amongst the many accounts on live performances are a couple of unique stories.  In an earlier post regarding bands on Australian islands, the remarkable story of a performance by the Kingscote Brass Band (Kangaroo Island) was highlighted.  On the 20th of November 1906, the band performed a lunchtime concert which was transmitted via telephone to lighthouses at either end of Kangaroo Island – one seventy miles to the West of Kingscote and the other thirty miles to the East (“MUSIC FOR WATCHERS BY THE SEA.,” 1906).  According to the article in the Register, the concert was “very much appreciated” by both lighthouse keepers (“MUSIC FOR WATCHERS BY THE SEA.,” 1906).

However, this was not the first brass band concert broadcast via telephone in Australia.  According to an article published in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, this took place in the preceding century, although the exact date is unclear.

A band conducted by Mr Edward Brown was practising at the old fire brigade station […] when the late Messrs Harry Batchelor and W. Pummell, compositors of the “Morning Bulletin” suggested that the playing be put “over the phone”.  Mr Rosenads, then in charge of the Rockhampton Telephone Exchange, agreed to the proposal.  There was a function at the School of Arts that night and the band was heard there “by quite a few who took turns at the earphone”.  Later the band was playing outside the Oddfellows Hall in Denham Street and by means of a “link-up” was heard at Mount Morgan.  “And very well, too” said Mr Brown.

(“Band Music “Broadcast” Here Last Century,” 1945)

No doubt transmitting a performance via telephone would have seemed innovative and inventive, especially in these early times.  However, these were extremely rare and were not substitutes for live performances, they were mainly done out of opportunity – a way to see whether it could be done.  The major changes that were taking place were the recordings of bands on gramophone records, and the beginnings of radio broadcasts.

The band movement is cautious:

In Australia, the pace of change from predominantly live music to a mix of live music, recorded music and broadcast music took place within the space of a couple of decades.  There were many commentators at the time who saw fit to try to warn of a decline of community bands and one or two had their voices repeated through many regional newspapers.  One of them was a Mr Will Lewis formerly of the Toowoomba Municipal Band who expressed a pessimistic attitude:

He was of the opinion that the day of the amateur brass band was waning, and gave as a reason the fact that the gramophone, by which one could hear the world’s greatest bands and orchestras – jazz and otherwise, was creating serious inroads upon the brass band, and further, that the advent of the radio was also having much to do with the decline of brass band popularity.  Even band contests were becoming less popular every year – at least with the general public – and the wireless and the gramophone were the two disturbing elements.  Bandsmen, naturally, would be the last persons to recognize this serious fact.”

(““DAY OF AMATEUR BRASS BANDS WANING.”,” 1927)

Some might consider Mr Lewis to be alarmist, he could not predict the future, but he was commentating on the present.  For the brass bands it was a time of upheaval and some of them were rightfully concerned.  It could be said that many bands went defunct at this time due to the technological change however it is hard to document this at this time of writing.

The worry of band people was not helped by this small snippet of news in 1930 about the Royal Melbourne Show dropping the brass bands in favour of recorded music being played through loud speakers – and saving £140.00 (“MELBOURNE SHOW.,” 1930).

19300409_Brisbane-Courier_Melb-Show
The Brisbane Courier, 09/04/1930, p. 24

In 1938 a passionate call to old times was made by the Committee of the Sunshine Brass Band, based in western Melbourne.  While the crux of the article published in the Sunshine Advocate was to solicit funds and support, they also lamented the fact that times had changed, and that local brass bands were victims of change.  Below are some excerpts from the article:

Most old-established customs and usages have felt the influence of modern times, and not the least of these are district brass bands, which have had to fight against canned music retailed hourly over the wireless.  Gramophone recordings of the world’s best bands are sandwiched in between talks and appeals to buy somebody’s pills to improve health.

[…]

The older generation was a music loving people.  The possession of a piano was a hall-mark of respectability, and the education of the children was not considered complete unless music was included in the curriculum.

[…]

To hear a local band in the gardens on a Sunday afternoon and a warm evening were events that were looked forward to by the older generation.  They were delightful times, and people held communion with one another to the strains of pleasant and beautiful music, which acted as a tonic to their nervous system.

The Sunshine band committee realises that a return to the customs of other days is due, and propose to play near the railway station on warm Sunday evenings.

(“Sunshine Band Needs More Public Support,” 1938)

This article was interesting in its sentiment and information.  We have here a brass band from the Melbourne environs trying to bring back former times through playing quality live music in a local place.  By this time however, music broadcasts were well and truly accepted so their words might have struck some memories amongst parts of the population. They were telling it as they saw it.

A similar sentiment to Mr. Lewis and Mr. James was also expressed in 1938 in an article published in the Sydney Mail by a contributor with the initials of W. P. T.  This article was more of a reminiscence of times gone by and he mentions several brass bands.  The opening of his article reads:

The brass band of the small country towns plays a very important part in the social life of the country, although such bands are not nearly as common as they were before the days of radio.

(W. P. T., 1938)

It is an interesting observation to make and clearly some connection had been made in the minds of people that radios were somewhat to blame for the demise of smaller bands.

The other side to these views is that several bands had begun exploring what the new technology could do for them from the very beginning.

The band movement adapts:

In 1996, noted band historian Jack Greaves assisted in the compilation of several old recordings into a two-CD set titled “The Great Bands of Australia” (Greaves, 1996).  This CD set is remarkable not only for the breadth of recorded music from full band works, marches and solo items, performed by a large selection of famous Australian bands.  From reading a catalogue entry of this work (linked), we can see that the recordings date back to 1912.  Some of the music can still be heard thanks to the work of the National Library of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA).  Below is a link to one recording which is on the NFSA website:

The Newcastle Steelworks Band (1924) playing the “Honest Toil March” by William Rimmer

The gramophone meant that people could acquire recordings of music groups and play them in their own homes at a time of their choosing.  They did not have to go out to concerts or community events, or the band competitions.  It was one cause of alarm for the band movement, but some bands obviously saw fit to record their work and bring their playing to new audiences.  Recordings by many of the top bands of the day still exist and enthusiasts have made digital copies of old recordings.

Aside from the gramophone, the utilisation of the radio probably brought about the greatest change to society and to the band movement.  Referred to early as the wireless, Australia followed developments out of America and the United Kingdom and set up its own network of stations.  It is in the early 1920s when this was happening.

19230800_Box-Hill-Band_Radio-Studio
Newspaper unknown at the time of writing (Source: Box Hill Historical Society)

The year is 1923 and in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill the first transmission of a live brass band over the wireless took place on the 1st of August (Elsum, 1924).  The picture above is reputed to be the Box Hill Brass Band sitting in the home of Mr H. Beattie, a wireless enthusiast who resided in Box Hill.  However, in some newspapers the band that participated in the first transmission was named as the Nunawading District Brass Band (“NUNAWADING BRASS BAND,” 1923).  This conjecture can be easily explained as Nunawading and Box Hill are near neighbouring suburbs and the then Parish of Nunawading encompassed Box Hill.  (The Box Hill Historical Society shares my confusion as the newspapers were not forthcoming as to the true identity of the band that was actually broadcast (Harris, 2020)).  Despite the confusion in the newspapers, the fact remains that a brass band of the local area had their music transmitted via wireless.

This first transmission was actually a modulation test and the band was heard over all of Melbourne, parts of Victoria, and even interstate!  Much of the article published in the local Reporter newspaper listed the locations where the transmission was heard and the praise that was given:

For the next few days letters arrived from all points of the compass congratulating Mr Beattie and the Band, and expressing appreciation also of a speech by Cr. W. Young.  From Footscray to Armadale, from Sandringham to Camberwell, Essendon, Hawksburn, and wherever else in the metropolitan district, receiving stations listened in, the unanimous opinion expressed that it “was the best music ever heard by wireless”.  Wonthaggi sent a tribute, and the amateurs of Ararat wrote “Encore, we want more”, while far away Terang announced that the enthusiastic listeners in there were delighted.  The most interesting letter came from Strathfield, Sydney, 592 miles from the spot the Band played, stating that a number of visitors sat around a three-valve set with a loud speaker, and heard the performance from start to finish, announcing the strength and modulation to be perfect, and stating that after the Band had concluded with the National Anthem, local transmitters around Sydney could be heard enthusiastically discussing the test.

(“NUNAWADING BRASS BAND,” 1923)

An achievement indeed!  Although this achievement had to be defended.  In early 1924, the Vice-President of the Nunawading District Brass Band, a Mr. W. M. R. Elsum wrote a letter to the Argus newspaper disputing that the Newcastle Steelworks Band was the first full band to have broadcasted a concert via wireless (Elsum, 1924).

Once people in Australia realised that music of this nature could be transmitted successfully, there was no stopping the progress – it is to say, in colloquial terms, the horse had well and truly bolted!  Radio stations and transmitters were set up all over the country and within years, much of the population could listen to a variety of programs (““Listening In”,” 1923).  The Queensland Government for example, started setting up a State based broadcasting service in 1925 (“STATE RADIO.,” 1925).  In New South Wales, innovation in programming was highlighted with the organising of a Radio Eisteddfod by the New South Wales Broadcasting Company which involved a section for brass bands (“RADIO EISTEDDFOD.,” 1928).  Although, the articles of the day were not clear as to who competed and if brass bands made it to the finals.

For the brass bands, radio stations seized upon them as a ready-made musical item and for some of the bands it led to new popularity – some, because radio stations were tending to use the same top-quality brass bands over and over again.  Additionally, as explored in a previous post, in 1930 the A.B.C. Military Band was established (“MILITARY BAND AT 3LO.,” 1930).  Initially conducted by Harry Shugg, it was further strengthened in 1933 and quickly became a stalwart of A.B.C. radio programming alongside the brass bands (“A BRASS BAND RECITAL.,” 1940; “Radio Programmes,” 1939).

S6.2_20180609_19310000_ABC-Military-Band_Postcard
1930 Postcard of the A.B.C. Military Band in a studio, conducted by Mr Harry Shugg. (Source: Victorian Collections: Victorian Bands’ League)

The Advertiser newspaper in Adelaide noted that “Brass band concerts have been remarkably popular” and one of the brass bands that station 5CL presented was “Holden’s Silver Band” (“5CL FEATURES,” 1930).  A highlight in Victoria of station 3LO’s programming was the “State Schools’ Brass Band contest, which was won by Wonthaggi.”  (Armadale came second and Princess Hill was third with Northcote awarded an honourable mention) – a contest which was adjudicated by the famous Percy Code (“RADIO SHOW.,” 1930).

Of course, like the concerts mentioned earlier in the post that were broadcast via telephone, there were other broadcasts that could be classed as novelty events.  In November 1932, thirty members of the Young Australia League band were taken up in the “Southern Cross” aircraft flown by Charles Kingsford-Smith where they were to “broadcast music at a height of 5000ft” (“MUSIC IN THE AIR,” 1932).

Now that radio broadcasting was fully entrenched and brass bands were a seemingly popular item, there were times when radio through it would be in the best interest of the band movement to have their events transmitted to the world.  The Victorian Centenary celebrations of 1934 were a case in point.  The Herald newspaper took aim at the Victorian Bands’ League for not being ambitious enough with their proposed event:

From the point of view of broadcasting, it is regrettable that the Victorian Bands’ League does not see its way to conduct at the Centenary celebration its proposed international brass band championship.  This would have been an event of exceptional interest, extending to distant peoples who know little of Australia and its progress.  More than that, good band music will be an influence joyous and vital.  If an international contest cannot be arranged it should be possible to provide an Imperial one.

(“Broadcasting And Brass Bands,” 1933)

Through better technology and transmission, Australia was also exposed to performances from around the world.   Perhaps one of the more unusual concerts that was received was in 1935 when the Imperial Ethiopian Brass Band was heard via short-wave radio in Brisbane (“IMPERIAL ETHIOPIAN BRASS BAND,” 1935).  The transmission was reported to have been heard with “remarkable clarity” (“IMPERIAL ETHIOPIAN BRASS BAND,” 1935).  Over in Western Australia, the Kalgoorlie Brass Band conducted by Mr. Ted McMahon made history in 1937 when it was broadcast and relayed nationally through stations 6GF, 6WF and 6WA as part of a program to highlight local artists (“Kalgoorlie Band For National Broadcast,” 1937).

These formative years of radio shaped the way Australians heard and digested music.  Clearly the brass bands were a useful addition to radio programs, and they presented some quality music.  Obviously, some bands, namely country bands, had been left out of this success.  What were the feelings of the listeners?

Too many bands or not enough bands?:

As mentioned, the first wireless transmission of a brass band took place in 1923 so another part of this story is the opinions of listeners, and there were many opinions.  Most accounts were diplomatic about the popularity of brass bands, but some listeners and commentators asked whether there were too many bands, or could the broadcasters play more bands.  Opinions were divided; Australians clearly had their choices.

As early as 1925 letters were seen in newspapers criticising the musical choices of radio stations.  Some of the language was blunt as this letter signed by “Condensor” and published in the Herald shows:

Sir,  – We quite agree with your correspondent “Radio” who complains of the number of brass bands broadcast from 3LG.  Night after night we have to put our phones down, sick and tired of brass.  Surely one night a week is enough to satisfy anyone.

(Condensor, 1925)

Interestingly we also see opinions from commentators.  A Mr Robert McCall, writing for the Australian Women’s Weekly column, “Music Radio” asks a question at the head of one his columns, “Band Music On the Air Will it be Overdone?” (McCall, 1933).  He asked the question because of a decision by the A.B.C.:

Is the Australian Broadcasting Commission overdoing band programmes?  Next week there will be bands on the air on six nights – one night the popular brass ensemble from the Malvern Tramways and on five the newly-formed A.B.C. Military Band.

(McCall, 1933)

He went on to write:

Bands, both brass and military, always have been popular in Australia and the commission will find a vast and most receptive audience for its several months season by the band conducted by Captain Adkins from Kneller Hall.

[…]

The bands’ programmes are sure to stimulate the already widespread interest in band work, but I feel that their greatest service should lie in lifting the usual band repertoire out of the ruck of the commonplace.  It is about time that such hardy perennials as “Zampa,” “Poet and Peasant,” “Light Cavalry,” and those ill-sounding selections from grand and light operas were given a rest.

[…]

At the same time it should not be forgotten that in recent years some of the most important composers of the day have been seized with the possibilities of bands.  Men such as Holst and Elgar have written compositions specially for them.  Nor are these works complex and unlistenable.

Band music gives pleasure to thousands.  It can still do so, and yet be artistic and original.

(McCall, 1933)

McCall provides an interesting opinion.  It seems he was not against the idea of bands being programmed six nights in a row.  Rather, he was taking the view of a music critic and expressing concern that the usual repertoire played by bands per se was not palatable to the ordinary listener.

To counter some of the detractors, there were always people who liked the regularity of brass and military bands on the radio.  The target of their letter writing was the radio stations themselves and certain listeners scolded the A.B.C. in particular for altering the programming of regular band programs (Breynard, 1934; Mounsey, 1939).  One of the stronger responses came from Mr J. L. C. White, then Secretary of the Victorian Bands’ League of which his words were quoted in an article published in The Argus newspaper in March 1951:

Victoria’s 3,500 registered brass bandsmen and their fans were receiving no encouragement from the A.B.C. or commercial broadcasting stations, Mr. J. L. C. white said yesterday.

[…]

He was commenting on a letter to The Argus pointing out that packed houses for the Black Watch band had proved that good bands were still popular.

The letter asked why radio listeners were not given more band music.

Mr. White said: “A poll would show that 90% of radio listeners enjoy band music.”

“More bands than ever are being formed now, and their music is as popular as ever.”

(“He wants more band music broadcast,” 1951)

It is of course some months after this article was published that the A.B.C. Military Band was made redundant in October 1951 (“A.B.C. Band’s Farewell,” 1951).

After these formative times, the status quo of brass bands had changed.  Live performances continued, but radio and recording also occupied the bands.  Some bands found a new market by producing small recordings of marches for use in schools and marching groups of with three such recordings are cited with details of the recordings linked here (Malvern Municipal Band, 1958, 1970; Preston Municipal Brass Band, 1956).

Conclusion:

In the course of these years it is possible to follow divergent streams of opinion.  Firstly, there were the bands who were concerned by the impact of new technology and were worried about the erosion of their traditional ways of doing things.  Then there were the bands that embraced recording and broadcasting.  And of course, the second divergent opinion was evident regarding the content of radio programs and programming.  It was not exactly win-win situations for everyone.  Strength of feeling in the band movement was strong.

It is doubtful to see whether the same debate would take place nowadays regarding new technology.  There was a time past in the early days of the internet when community bands could not see the use of a website or email.  It would seem that history keeps repeating itself whenever there is a new technological development.

To finish this post, it would be remiss not to end with another old recording.  Here is a YouTube with the Newcastle Steelworks Band of 1924 playing the piece “Zelda” by Percy Code with famous Cornetist Arthur Stender as the soloist (Vintage Sounds & Code, 2019).

References:

5CL FEATURES : Brass Band Concert. (1930, 23 August). Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article30503444

A.B.C. Band’s Farewell. (1951, 15 October). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205334832

A.B.C. Military Band – Conductor: Harry Shugg. (1930). [Postcard : L13.8cm – W8.8cm]. [0016]. Victorian Collections, Victorian Bands’ League. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5b39988221ea6d0008c461a6

Band Music “Broadcast” Here Last Century. (1945, 16 October). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56391096

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (1907, 09 August). Quiz (Adelaide, SA : 1900 – 1909), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166338966

A BRASS BAND RECITAL. (1940, 28 May). Macleay Argus (Kempsey, NSW : 1885 – 1907; 1909 – 1910; 1912 – 1913; 1915 – 1916; 1918 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234489582

Breynard, S. (1934, 10 August). RADIO SERVICES : Brass Band Music : To the Editor. Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), 24. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74106904

Broadcasting And Brass Bands. (1933, 21 February). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243056460

Condensor. (1925, 27 August). TOO MUCH BRASS. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243624609

“DAY OF AMATEUR BRASS BANDS WANING.”. (1927, 14 September). Casino and Kyogle Courier and North Coast Advertiser (NSW : 1904 – 1932), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article233826047

Elsum, W. M. H. (1924, 23 February). BROADCASTING BY WIRELESS : To the Editor of the Argus. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 20. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1934742

Greaves, J. (1996). The great bands of Australia [sound recording] [2 sound discs (CD)]. Australia, Sound Heritage Association. 

Harris, H. (2020). Re: Brass band 1st radio broadcast. In J. D. de Korte (Ed.).

He wants more band music broadcast. (1951, 13 March). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23036508

IMPERIAL ETHIOPIAN BRASS BAND : Heard by Short Wave Wireless. (1935, 29 November). Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35923328

James, A. A. (1929, 25 January). The Old Town Band : (Written for “The Land”). Land (Sydney, NSW : 1911 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article117237132

Kalgoorlie Band For National Broadcast. (1937, 16 July). Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87578534

“Listening In” : The Wonders of Wireless. (1923, 04 September). Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72734927

Malvern Municipal Band. (1958). On One Fine Day [Vinyl, LP, 10”]. W & G Distributing Co. Pty. Ltd. https://www.discogs.com/Malvern-Municipal-Band-Under-The-Direction-Of-Bandmaster-WJ-Philpott-One-Fine-Day/release/8933573 

Malvern Municipal Band. (1970). On Marching with Malvern [Vinyl, LP, Album]. W & G Distributing Co. Pty. Ltd. https://www.discogs.com/Malvern-Municipal-Band-Marching-With-Malvern/release/11048679 

McCall, R. (1933, 23 December). MUSIC RADIO : Band Music on the Air : Will it be Overdone? Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51189093

MELBOURNE SHOW : Brass Bands to be Superseded. (1930, 09 April). Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 24. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21518117

MILITARY BAND AT 3LO. (1930, 29 October). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4214065

Mounsey, T. B. (1939, 20 December). Brass Band Broadcasting. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205593992

MUSIC FOR WATCHERS BY THE SEA. (1906, 21 November). Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56693536

MUSIC IN THE AIR : Y.A.L. Band at 5000ft. Will Broadcast. (1932, 19 November). Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230575146

Newcastle Steelworks Band. (1924). Honest Toil March [This 1924 gramophone recording of W Rimmer’s ‘Honest Toil March’ is performed by the Australian Newcastle Steelworks Band.]. Aeolian Company. https://aso.gov.au/titles/music/honest-toil-march/clip1/

NUNAWADING BRASS BAND : Unique Wireless Demonstration. (1923, 10 August). Reporter (Box Hill, Vic. : 1889 – 1925), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257201010

Preston Municipal Brass Band. (1956). On Under the Baton [Vinyl, LP, 10”, Album]. Cyril Stevens Recording Studios Pty. Ltd. https://www.discogs.com/Preston-Municipal-Brass-Band-Conducted-By-Charles-Smith-Under-The-Baton/release/4595545 

RADIO EISTEDDFOD. (1928, 05 October). Macleay Argus (Kempsey, NSW : 1885 – 1907; 1909 – 1910; 1912 – 1913; 1915 – 1916; 1918 – 1954), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234464548

Radio Programmes : A.B.C. Highlights for Next Week : Brass Band Recitals. (1939, 03 February). Nambucca and Bellinger News (NSW : 1911 – 1945), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article214648292

RADIO SHOW : Schools’ Band Competition. (1930, 25 July). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202468625

STATE RADIO : World Range : Erecting the Station. (1925, 21 January). Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61570872

Sunshine Band Needs More Public Support : Committee’s Plan to Stimulate Interest. (1938, 21 January). Sunshine Advocate (Vic. : 1924 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75199111

Vintage Sounds. (2019, 25 October). Australian Newcastle Steelworks Band – Zelda (Percy Code) (1924) [Video (Recording)]. YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fn8VgZK9Yc

W. P. T. (1938, 28 December). Brass Bands of the Bush. Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 – 1938), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166525297

WIRELESS BROADCASTING : New Service Begins. (1929, 22 July). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 18. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4023301

Young, G. (1923). The Malvern Tramways Band : An Appreciation. In Community singing : St. Kilda Esplanade every Wednesday evening : words of songs & program (pp. 24). Malvern Tramways Band. 

Legitimate quirks of instrumentation: The inclusion of woodwinds in brass bands

19000000_Malvern-Tradesmen-Military-Band_phot11448
Malvern Town Military Band, approx. 1900. (Source: IBEW)

Introduction:

Cornets, Flugel Horns, Tenor Horns, Baritones, Euphoniums, Trombones, Tubas and Percussion.  This standard of instrumentation for a brass band has been in place for a good number of years.  Yet before this standard was settled upon, there was an amount of time where the range of instruments was less distinguishable, or available.  The brass band as we know it today is the result of years of evolution with the result being a largely homogenous sound across the ranges.  Composers and arrangers also moved with the time, and we can see this in the sheet music.

This post will touch on one of the quirks of instrumentation in earlier brass bands, the use of woodwinds such as Clarinets and Saxophones, and even the odd Piccolo.  For the best part of forty years, some Australian brass bands included woodwind musicians amongst their personnel and allowances were made at some competitions, including the famous South Street.  This did not mean that there was widespread usage or acceptance of woodwinds in the brass bands.  However, there is evidence that some bands used them right up into the 1920s.

Tied into this is the naming of bands.  With the inclusion of woodwinds, some bands were still nominally called brass bands, but others were more inventive with names.  Some bands were sitting on the border of being brass or military in their instrumentation, as we can see with the photo of the Malvern Town Military Band above.

Nowadays the distinction between brass, military, and symphonic bands (concert bands) is much clearer cut.  The earlier times was when the boundaries were pushed.

Names and Instrumentation:

A brass band usually means that it is wholly comprised of brass instruments, and then when it included Clarinets, Saxophones, and Piccolos it was still called a brass band.  Such was the discrepancy in the names of early bands, a discrepancy that would cause confusion in the minds of modern musicians – today, names of bands generally indicate what kind of instrumentation they include.

The inclusion of Clarinets in a brass band was one of those holdovers from English brass bands.  Arnold Myers (2000), writing in a chapter titled Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands, explains that,

Often clarinets were used in what were otherwise all-brass groups, a usage which continued throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, though not in major contests from the 1870s.  The presence of clarinets did not alter the essential nature of the brass band: they replaced one or more Bb cornets, or were used to provide brightness in the upper register in the role usually played by the soprano cornet.

(p. 156)

In Australia, trends of instrumentation in brass bands tended to start and end much later than in the UK.  We know that brass bands held a prominent part in many towns, communities and industries across Australia.  We also know that various military bands, bands comprised of a more substantial variety of woodwind instruments, brass and percussion, had been a part of musical life since the early days of the colony.  Although, at times, they needed special explanation, as shown in an article published in the Geelong Advertiser in 1911 (Blakiston, 1911).  Mason (2013) in his thesis, tells us that “military bands provided music military and state functions, as well as performing for the general public and servicing as a source of musicians for cities’ orchestras and other ensembles.” (p. 81).  In their own way, the military bands have their own important history.  The early military bands served as a precursor to the many Defence Force Bands, school concert bands, community concert bands and symphonic bands that fill the musical landscape today (Mason, 2013).

Aside from the number of woodwinds, some commentators attempted to call out the brass bands which included clarinets for trying to be something they were not.  One interesting article was published in the Bairnsdale (Vic.) based Every Week newspaper in May 1918.  Titled “Clarinets in the Brass Band”, the writer used the premise that just because some brass bands included Clarinets (or other woodwinds) in their instrumentation, did not automatically make them a military band – and that they should not attempt to play military band music or arrangements.

Bands which have few clarionets or even bands which have a goodly number of clarionets, but no other reed instruments, make a big mistake when they consider themselves “military bands” and aim to play military band arrangements.  They are really brass bands plus clarionets – a thing very far removed from a military band.

(“CLARINETS IN THE BRASS BAND.,” 1918)

Excusing the seemingly blunt language, the writer was correct.  Brass bands that included Clarinets and Saxophones in their line-up were still nominally brass bands, they were not military bands.  Still, the naming of bands is interesting.  Below is a picture of the North Hobart Concert Band taken in 1917.  We can see in the picture that four of the members have Clarinets and one member a Soprano Saxophone.  They also include all of the instruments that comprise a brass band.  If we were to apply the modern name and meaning of a concert band, we would assume it to have a full section of woodwinds.  However, in these early days, this was not the case.  On a side note, we can see that the Bandmaster is one of the members holding a Clarinet.  The Bandmaster in this photo, a Mr. A. W. Caddie, was appointed Bandmaster of the North Hobart Concert Band in 1916 after leading the Zeehan Military Band for a number of years (“NORTH HOBART BAND.,” 1916).  Mr. Caddie was a Clarionetist of some renown and won the Clarionet section at the Royal South Street brass solo competitions in 1912 (Trombone, 1912).

19170000_North-Hobart-Concert-Band_phot3458
North Hobart Concert Band, 1917 (Source: IBEW)

Through this short discussion on instrumentation and naming, it is established that Clarinets and Saxophones existed in brass bands for several years and were accepted as such.  It was up to the music publishers to cater for them as well.

Sheet music:

The other side of including limited woodwinds in brass bands is of course the sheet music.  Brass bands that included limited woodwinds may not have had the instrumentation to play arrangements of military music, but they were able to play brass band music with added Clarinet parts – of which the writer of the article in Every Week pointed out (“CLARINETS IN THE BRASS BAND.,” 1918).  Given that the instruments in brass bands are predominantly keyed in Bb or Eb, it was easy enough to create parts for Clarinets and Saxophones as well.  Piccolos used in bands in those days were mostly keyed in Db or Eb which was different.  Parts were included with some editions of music, but this was not always the case.  It is easier to make a comparison between Clarinet and Cornet parts.

Below are two parts of the 1904 march “South Street” by Hall King (edited by T. E. Bulch).  Here we can see clearly that the Clarinet part neatly doubles the Solo Cornet, in parts up the octave (King, 1904a, 1904b).  The range of the Clarinet obviously makes this easy to do, and musically this would make sense. These Clarinet parts would be taken up by an Eb Soprano Cornet in todays brass bands.

19040000_Suttons_South-Street-CL1
(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Library & Archive)
19040000_Suttons_South-Street-SoloC
(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Library & Archive)

Most of the brass band music that was printed in these times originated from large publishing houses in the form of journals, the parts above being published by Suttons Proprietary Limited.  Here we see that this journal of brass band music included parts for Reeds, so obviously Clarinets, and possibly Saxophones, were catered for.  Suttons was not the only Australian music publishing company that included parts for Clarinets in their journals of music.  The two march cards below of the marches “Artillery” by Alex Lithgow and “Newtown” by T. E. Bulch were published by Allans & Co. (Bulch, 1901; Lithgow, n.d.).

00000000_Allans_Artillery_2CL
(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Library & Archive)
19010000_Allans_Newtown_2CL
(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Library & Archive)

Obviously, the publishing companies found there was a market for Clarinet, Saxophone and Piccolo parts and composers would have been encouraged to include these parts in their compositions – although, given the similarities in keys, maybe this was up to arrangers.  After having some discussion with Dr. Richard Mason on this topic, extra money for publishers and composers to produce Clarinet parts was assumed (Mason, 2020).  Possibly the real reasons cannot be found, however, the production of specific music to cater for extra instruments added some legitimacy to woodwinds being included in brass bands.

Brass bands with woodwinds:

19060000_Wunghnu-Brass-Band_phot14255
Wunghu Brass Band, 1906 (Source: IBEW)

As mentioned in the opening of this post, Clarinets and other woodwinds were part of brass bands in Australia for around forty years.  We can find some evidence of this from early newspaper articles.  It is claimed that Saxophones were added to brass bands in Australia as early as 1890, although, as mentioned in the linked article, this was a matter of conjecture (“The Saxophone,” 1934).  Other bands were more forthcoming over what they had in their band.  In August 1893, an article regarding the early history of the Dandenong Brass Band was published in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal. It seems that when the Dandenong Brass Band was formed in 1885, it comprised of ten members; three Cornets, two Piccolos, two Tenors, one Baritone and one Clarionet (using this unique spelling) (“DANDENONG BRASS BAND.,” 1893).  Likewise, in 1899, a public meeting was held in Tallangatta with the aim of (re)forming a brass band.  Several participants in the meeting spoke in support, one of them was a Mr A. J. Fortescue,

…speaking as a member, observed that the old band had died through want of proper management and lack of public interest.  If formed on proper lines, with a good committee, he thought a band would prosper there.  There were sufficient of the old brass instruments on hand for a start, but there would be some repairs needed.  There would be wanted a piccolo and two drums.  In reply to a question from the chairman, he stated that with a sum of £20 they could make a fairly good start.

(“BRASS BAND FOR TALLANGATTA.,” 1899)

In January 1904 the Linton Brass Band held their annual general meeting, and they were another brass band that boasted a piccolo in their instrumentation.

The band has a stock consisting of one big drum, one side drum, three B flat cornets, two B flat Euphoniums, one E flat bass, one E flat piccolo.

(“LINTON BRASS BAND,” 1904)

These were brass bands in their early years.  Yet twenty years later, as can be seen in the list of musicians in the Wagga Wagga Concert Band (below), a Clarinet was part of the ensemble (“WAGGA CONCERT BAND.,” 1921).  And in 1926 the Gnowangerup District Brass Band from Western Australia was proud to announce that they had added a new Clarionet to the band (“Gnowangerup District Brass Band.,” 1926).

19210303_Young-Witness_Wagga-CB_Clarionet
Young Witness, 03/03/1921, p. 2

There are of course numerous other examples of woodwind instruments appearing in early brass bands of which the above mentioned are a small number of instances.

Competitions:

When in competition, the woodwinds of brass bands were mostly treated the same as any other brass instrument, and they also received the same criticism as well.  There are some examples of woodwinds being mentioned in competition, although this was mainly related to Clarinets and Saxophones.  Even the famous Royal South Street competitions had sections for Clarinets and at times Saxophones over the course of a decade.

The year is 1899 and in September, Northcott’s Bendigo City Brass Band, conducted by Mr. O. Flight, had travelled to Echuca to take part in a small regional competition adjudicated by the famous Mr. E. Code.  The article here details the adjudication of their program and at one point both the Clarinet and Piccolo were mentioned:

Largo – Clarionet and cornets not in tune ; cornet has good taste ; accompaniments too loud ; cornet not clean at bar 17 ; piccolo a little out of tune at bars 18 and 19 ; bass too loud at bar 20.

(“NORTHCOTT’S BENDIGO CITY BRASS BAND.,” 1899)

Regarding South Street, they added another layer of legitimacy by having sections specifically for woodwinds included in the brass solo competitions.  As can be seen in the lists of entries (which can be acccessed from the links), the Clarinet & Saxophone sections attracted musicians from all over Australia.  Below is a list of competitions held over ten years (with some gaps), with the woodwind instruments that were included each year:

(Royal South Street Society, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1914, 1915, 1916)

Unfortunately, there are some gaps in the list due to lack of data however, it is known that a brass solo competition was held in 1912 which included a Clarionet section (Trombone, 1912).

As well as the records from Royal South Street, we also have articles in newspapers that provide the adjudication of Clarinettists.  This article published in the Ballarat Star (below) in October 1915 is a prime example of an adjudication.  The adjudicator of this section was the famous Albert Wade (“SOUTH STREET COMPETITIONS.,” 1915).

19151022_Ballarat-Star_Wade-Clarionet
Ballarat Star, 22/10/1915, p. 6

What of the Saxophonists?  It is seen in the Royal South Street lists that Saxophones were only able to compete in sections for four years.  However, other opportunities for them to integrate with bands were limited to military bands.  That does not mean they were completely forgotten.  In a forward thinking move, Saxophones were provided their own section in a “novelty” event at the Interstate Band Contest in Perth, February 1931 (“SAXOPHONE COMPETITION,” 1931).  The reasoning was understandable at the time.

Hitherto the saxophone has not been considered to be a true brass band instrument, and therefore ineligible for registration under the W.A. Band Association contest rules.  The contest committee, however, obtained permission from the association to include the competition in its program, and fourteen entries have been received.  There are a number of capable executants among the entrants, and as the choice of the solo is left to the competitor, a varied range of saxophone music may be reasonably anticipated.

(“SAXOPHONE COMPETITION,” 1931)

The recognition by competition societies that woodwinds had a place in their own sections was well-meaning and forward thinking.  While they were brass band centric, all instruments of the brass band were included, even if they were not strictly brass.

Conclusion:

19100000_Brisbane-Concert-Band_phot8024
Brisbane Concert Band, 1910 (Source: IBEW)

The thought of woodwinds in brass bands would probably raise the eyebrows of many brass band purists. Yet, like many other stories of the brass band world, it is one that is worth exploring, if only for the novelty.  One wonders how these early brass bands would have sounded with limited woodwinds playing similar parts.  The history and sheet music tell us that woodwinds existed in brass bands.  As do some of the pictures, like the Brisbane Concert Band above.

References:

Blakiston, C. (1911, 22 April). A MILITARY BAND : How it is made up. Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149205289

BRASS BAND FOR TALLANGATTA. (1899, 18 February). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199465362

Bulch, T. E. (1901). “Newtown” (2nd Clarionet Bb) : (Dedicated to Thos. Mellor Esq. Bandmaster). [March Card]. Allans & Co. 

CLARINETS IN THE BRASS BAND. (1918, 09 May). Every Week (Bairnsdale, Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153439388

Colouhoun, J. (1900). Malvern Town Military Band [Photograph]. [phot11448]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

DANDENONG BRASS BAND. (1893, 02 August). South Bourke and Mornington Journal (Richmond, Vic. : 1877 – 1920; 1926 – 1927), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70015776

Gnowangerup District Brass Band. (1926, 10 July). Gnowangerup Star and Tambellup-Ongerup Gazette (WA : 1915 – 1944), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158909246

King, H. (1904a). “South Street” (1st Clarionet). [March Card]. Suttons Proprietary Limited. 

King, H. (1904b). “South Street” (Solo Cornet). [March Card]. Suttons Proprietary Limited. 

LINTON BRASS BAND. (1904, 13 January). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article210140838

Lithgow, A. F. (n.d.). “Artillery” (2nd Clarionet). [March Card]. Allans & Co. 

Mason, R. W. (2013). The clarinet and its protagonists in the Australian New Music milieu from 1972 to 2007 (Publication Number 38294) [PhD, The University of Melbourne, Faculty of VCA & MCM, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music]. Minerva Access. Melbourne, Victoria. http://hdl.handle.net/11343/38294

Mason, R. W. (2020, 14 June). Phone call with Dr Richard Mason regarding the use of Clarinets in brass bands [Interview]. 

Myers, A. (2000). Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands. In T. Herbert (Ed.), The British brass band : a musical and social history (pp. 155-186). Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press. 

NORTH HOBART BAND : New Bandmaster Welcomed. (1916, 05 September). Daily Post (Hobart, Tas. : 1908 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191143234

NORTH HOBART BAND : New Bandmaster Welcomed. (1916, 05 September). Daily Post (Hobart, Tas. : 1908 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191143234

NORTHCOTT’S BENDIGO CITY BRASS BAND : Conductor – Mr O. Flight. (1899, 22 September). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 – 1954; 1998 – 2002),2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115017023

Royal South Street Society. (1906, 30 October). 1906-10-30 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 26 August 2019 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1906-10-30-brass-solo-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1907, 22 October). 1907-10-22 Brass Section. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 11 June 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1907-10-22-brass-section

Royal South Street Society. (1908, 20 October). 1908-10-20 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 11 June 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1908-10-20-brass-solo-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1910, 18 October). 1910-10-18 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 20 July 2019 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1910-10-18-brass-band-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1911, 24 October). 1911-10-24 Brass Band Solos. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 11 June 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1911-10-24-brass-band-solos

Royal South Street Society. (1914, 20 October). 1914-10-20 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 11 June 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1914-10-20-brass-solo-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1915, 21 October). 1915-10-21 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 11 June 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1915-10-21-brass-solo-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1916, 30 October). 1916-10-30 Brass Solo Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 11 June 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1916-10-30-brass-solo-contests

The Saxophone : Who Brought it to Australia. (1934, 06 January). Voice (Hobart, Tas. : 1931 – 1953), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218832762

SAXOPHONE COMPETITION : Interstate Band Contest. (1931, 02 January). Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83492508

SOUTH STREET COMPETITIONS : Brass Section Continued : Mr A. Wade, Adjudicator : Clarionet Solo. (1915, 22 October). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154562484

Trombone. (1912, 29 October). BANDS AND BANDSMEN. Daily Post (Hobart, Tas. : 1908 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189103747

WAGGA CONCERT BAND. (1921, 03 March). Young Witness (NSW : 1915 – 1923), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113606153

Wunghnu Brass Band. (1906). [Photograph]. [phot14255]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Australian society and brass bands: The Pneumonic Influenza pandemic of 1919

19190624_AIF_VAD-Band_phot16531
Bandys Picnic June 24th 1919. Photo was taken at an Australian camp in England. (Source: IBEW)

Introduction:

Early in 1918 it began to be whispered that a new plague, the first pandemic scourge of the present world war, had made such inroads upon the German military machine, as well upon the “home front” behind, that the Western offensive had to be postponed until the worst of it was over.  The end of the third week in March saw this point reached, and the onslaught began.

(Hirshberg, 1919)

So wrote M.D. Leonard Keene Hirshberg in an article for the Australasian newspaper in March 1919.  The years of 1918, 1919 and 1920 were tumultuous times for society with the end of the First World War, the return of service men and women to homelands, and this horrific pandemic.  This influenza touched every corner of the globe and has been noted in medical and social history.

This post will be about some of the local responses to the pandemic and the effect it had on the nations brass bands as they were nominally affected by what was going on around them.  There were several ways the bands were affected, some through loss of members, others through loss of rehearsal spaces and performances, and other bands sought to keep up morale by continuing as best they could under the circumstances.  Pandemic rules and responses from national, state, and local government meant that the bands had to adapt to an ever-changing situation.

Some might consider that there are parallels between this time and ours with many of our community bands in enforced recess.  However, as they were back then, the bands were resilient enough to survive and continue to make music.  I personally give my respect to all Australian bands and band members who are in recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic – this post is dedicated to you all.

The “Spanish” Influenza:

For want of a more accurate name this modern plague, the like of which has not been experienced by humanity for 400 years, has commonly been called Spanish influenza.  Yet it did not originate in Spain, nor was it exactly the grippe or influenza of other days.

(Hirshberg, 1919)

To provide some context, a little history of the influenza must be explored.  Hirshberg was right, the influenza did not originate in Spain.  It was given this name as the then King of Spain was one of the more high-profile sufferers of this pandemic (he survived) (McQueen, 1976).  Most accounts tell of a milder influenza originating in the USA and American troops bringing this form over to Europe in 1918, which then mutated and rapidly spread around the world (McQueen, 1976).  This “Spanish” Influenza is reputed to have killed more than 50 million people around the globe (National Museum Australia, 2020).

Australia must face the fact that the scourge which has taken so heavy a toll from the rest of the world has invaded her own frontiers.

(“Influenza,” 1919)

Australian troops that were demobilising and convalescing in Britain were hard hit, as were troopships (McQueen, 1976).  Australia was forewarned and enacted various quarantine measures in late 1918.  Despite this, the influenza did arrive in Australia with returning troops and “40 per cent of the population fell ill and around 15,000 died.” (National Museum Australia, 2020).  While countries such as New Zealand and South Africa sustained heavy loses, Australia appears to have got off lightly in comparison.  What made this influenza so dangerous was that it was indiscriminate and affected age groups beyond the usual sufferers of influenza with young adults being particularly affected (National Museum Australia, 2020).

Victoria has today been declared an ‘infected’ state on account of the presence of pneumonic influenza which appears to be spreading fairly rapidly.

(Vosti cited in Frost, 2012, p. 104)

The first case of this influenza in Australia was recorded in January 1919 in Melbourne (National Museum Australia, 2020).  Around Australia, Federal cooperation was fragmented and States closed their borders, set up quarantine stations, camps and emergency hospitals, and imposed social restrictions (McQueen, 1976).  Times of infection varied depending on location and travel.  While much of Eastern Australia faced the influenza from early 1919, the first case did not appear in Perth until June 1919 (National Museum Australia, 2020).  By the end of 1919, this influenza pandemic had largely abated (National Museum Australia, 2020).

The bands are affected:

19180000_St-Arnaud_Soldiers-Parade_3361762672_o
Band leading a Returned Soldiers’ march at St Arnaud in 1918 (Source: HistoryInPhotos)

Society is the big picture; brass bands are a microcosm of society.  And as mentioned in the opening of this post, brass bands were affected in several ways.  To start with we can look to New Zealand which suffered through the influenza pandemic at a slightly earlier time frame than Australia, and their brass bands were similarly affected.  In November 1918, a Mr Cyril Warin died at the Auxiliary Hospital in Warkworth, aged 19.  He was noted as being “very musical, and was a member of the local brass band” (“Mr. Cyril Carson Warin,” 1918).  A champion drummer of New Zealand and member of the Masterton Brass Band, Mr John Page died in December 1918 (The Referee Special, 1918).  However, in more positive news for one NZ brass band, the Kaitangata Brass Band “obtained permission from the Health authorities to resume their musical practices, which were suspended during the epidemic” (“Kaitangata News,” 1918).

In Australia, local bands started experiencing the impacts soon after the first cases of the influenza appeared.  The Boolaroo Brass Band was to have held a sports carnival in aid of the band in February, only to have it cancelled – this was a decision of their committee (“BOOLAROO.,” 1919).  However, the Boolaroo Brass Band did participate in the welcoming home of a local soldier from France in this week of February (“BOOLAROO.,” 1919).  Further south in Tasmania, the Stanley Brass Band found itself without a rehearsal room as their building at the showgrounds was taken over by the council for a hospital (“Local and General.,” 1919).  All was not completely lost as the local council arranged for the band to rehearse in the local school (“Local and General.,” 1919).

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 14/02/1919, p. 5

The Ipswich Brass Band had the distinct misfortune to be south of the Queensland border in New South Wales when the State border was closed.  They were interred with many other Queenslanders in a temporary quarantine station set up on the Tenterfield showgrounds.  However, they put their time to good use presented some impromptu concerts to entertain the other internees (“INFLUENZA.,” 1919).

An interesting discussion took place amongst the Richmond City Council (Melbourne, Vic.) in March 1919 over the activities of two of the local bands and proximity to the local hospital, which was no doubt treating influenza patients.  Initially, the council had declined an application from the Richmond Juvenile Brass Band for the use of the City Reserve, similar to an application, which was also declined, made two weeks earlier by the Richmond City Band (“City Reserve Not Available,” 1919).  The reason for both applications being declined by council was the “assembling of a large number of persons” (“City Reserve Not Available,” 1919).  The second part of this issue was the proximity of the local hospital to the reserve, and the city band room.  One councillor argued that patients “would be disturbed by the band performance” while another councillor took the position that the sounds of the band would be appreciated (“City Reserve Not Available,” 1919).  The refusal of applications for use of the reserve was upheld by the council.

00000000_Dapto-Brass-Band_phot11479
Dapto Brass Band (date unknown). (Source: IBEW)

In April 1919, the activities of one local band was disrupted with the Dapto Brass Band being the victim of an unfortunate set of circumstances.  It must be noted that safety was important however, the loss of a function to aid the band (as detailed in the article below), would have hurt the band financially (“SAFETY FIRST,” 1919).

19190419_Sun_Dapto-BB_Flu-Scare
The Sun, 15/04/1919, p. 5

By the death of the late Frank W. Haase (Vice-President and late Organising Secretary), the Band Association of New South Wales has lost and esteemed officer and valuable worker, and the community at large a good citizen.  A victim of the deadly pneumonic influenza his demise was sudden, many in fact, not knowing of it till some days after.”

(Atkins, 1919)

Sadly, the bands, as in society, felt the loss of their members due to the influenza.  In May 1919 the President of the Stawell Brass Band, a Mr David John Thomas, passed away due to influenza (“STAWELL.,” 1919).  The obituary tells of a man that was embedded in his community and participated in a wide variety of activities.  Likewise, the passing of Mr. R. L. Tulloch of Morwell from influenza was also keenly felt by the town.  He was only 26, a father of three young children, a fit gentleman who also participated in a range of activities including being a member of the Morwell Brass Band (“Influenza Victim.,” 1919).

19190510_Ballarat-Star_Stawell-Obiturary
Ballarat Star, 10/05/1919, p. 6

Influenza very prevalent in Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale though mostly in a mild form.

(Vosti cited in Frost, 2012, p. 127)

For other bands, the times were tough as detailed in some reports presented at Annual General Meetings.  The Taree Civilian Band, while surviving through enforced recess, found itself without a bandmaster as he had taken up an appointment as bandmaster of the Port Kembla Brass Band (they soon appointed a new bandmaster) (“Taree Civilian Band.,” 1919).  In the AGM report, the secretary Mr. F. W. Barnett also makes mention of the effects of the influenza where he noted,

Owing to the unfortunate outbreak of influenza the band has been in enforced recess for the last couple of months, but notwithstanding this Mr Drake was able to get a scratch band together for the Peace Day celebrations on July 19.  The band has now resumed regular practice and will be before the public in the near future.

(“Taree Civilian Band.,” 1919)

The Franklin Brass Band had faced similar difficulties throughout this time period and said as much in their annual general meeting report.  This meeting, which was the first since they reformed after a five-year recess, told of the difficulties brought on by the great war and the influenza epidemic (“FRANKLIN BRASS BAND,” 1919).  To the band’s credit, the retiring secretary of the band had worked hard to reduce the debt from five years ago despite the “stressing times” (“FRANKLIN BRASS BAND,” 1919).

00000000_Franklin-Brass-Band_phot17032
Franklin Brass Band (Date unknown). (Source: IBEW)

The ‘flu has kept bands back.

The epidemic is passing in New South Wales, New Zealand and Victoria.

Ere long Queensland will be free, and all other States and their banding will go ahead.

Bands will do well to keep preparing for peace celebrations.

(“Short Notes and Personals,” 1919)

With life gradually returning to normal by the end of 1919, the effects of the epidemic were still being felt and in early 1920 we find little stories of bands being called upon to provide their services.  In the tiny town of Westonia, located halfway between Perth and Kalgoorlie, the local band was called upon to help commemorate “the unveiling of two tablets over the graves of W. Lockie and Vic Fuhrman (victims of the recent influenza epidemic)” (“‘LEST WE FORGET.’,” 1920).   Both men had returned from active service in the First World War.

Conclusion:

It has been interesting documenting some of the little band stories from 1919 as there were a variety of ways in which bands reacted to the rapidly changing circumstances.  At times the circumstances were beyond their control, however, this did not stop them trying to carry on their operations as normal.  If there is anything to be learnt from 1919 is that bands, for the most part, survived and thrived.

19190000_Riggs-Brass-Band-Gawler_photo821
Rigg’s Brass Band Gawler, 1919 leading a parade of returning servicemen. (Source: IBEW)

References:

Atkins, W. D. (1919). The Late Frank W. Haase, A Tribute [Obituary]. The Australasian Bandsman, 32(10), 3-4. 

Bandy’s Picnic June 24th 1919 : The best of the 300 Sisters, V.A.D.’s, Patients were shy. (1919). [Photograph]. [phot16531]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

BOOLAROO. (1919, 14 February). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139644485

City Reserve Not Available for Band Performances — Would Music be Soothing to Sufferers in Hospital? (1919, 01 March). Richmond Guardian (Vic. : 1907 – 1920), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article255877197

Dapto Brass Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot11479]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

FRANKLIN BRASS BAND. (1919, 09 December). Huon Times (Franklin, Tas. : 1910 – 1933), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140944253

Franklin Brass Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot17032]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Frost, L. (2012). Bandsman Vosti’s Diaries : war and peace in Essendon, 1917-1920. Lenore Frost. 

Hirshberg, L. K. (1919, 29 March). “SPANISH” INFLUENZA. Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), 32. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140221010

HistoryInPhotos. (2009, 16 March). Band leading a Returned Soldiers march at St Arnaud in 1918 [Photograph]. flickr. Retrieved 20 January 2020 from https://www.flickr.com/photos/historyinphotos/3361762672/in/album-72157613028413958/

Influenza. (1919, 28 January). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15822176

INFLUENZA : Seven Deaths To-day : Another Victim in Sydney – Case from Argyllshire. (1919, 12 February). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176303325

Influenza Victim. (1919, 01 August). Morwell Advertiser (Morwell, Vic. : 1888 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65922832

Kaitangata News. (1918, 13 December). Clutha Leader, 3. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CL19181213.2.7

‘LEST WE FORGET.’ : Unveiling Ceremony by the R.S.A. (1920, 07 February 1920). Westonian (WA : 1915 – 1920), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212529404

Local and General : Bandroom Wanted. (1919, 19 February). Circular Head Chronicle (Stanley, Tas. : 1906 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162263034

McQueen, H. (1976). The ‘Spanish’ Influenza Pandemic in Australia, 1918-19. In J. I. Roe (Ed.), Social policy in Australia : some perspectives, 1901-1975 (pp. 131-147). Cassell Australia. 

Mr. Cyril Carson Warin. (1918, 27 November). Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, 5. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ROTWKG19181127.2.14.6

National Museum Australia. (2020). 1919: Influenza pandemic reaches Australia. National Museum Australia. Retrieved 15 May 2020 from https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/influenza-pandemic

Rigg’s Brass Band Gawler. (1919). [Photograph]. [photo821]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

SAFETY FIRST : Scare Spoils Social. (1919, 15 April). Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221450689

Short Notes and Personals. (1919). The Australasian Bandsman, 32(10), 2-3. 

STAWELL : Obituary. (1919, 10 May). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212640834

Taree Civilian Band. (1919, 02 August). Northern Champion (Taree, NSW : 1913 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article157096567

The Referee Special. (1918, 18 December). INFLUENZA : Heavy Losses Sustained in Sport and Stage. Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 – 1939), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120312959

Choosing music and grading bands: The unenviable tasks of band associations and their music advisory boards

Introduction:

Administering band associations was, and is even now, never an easy task.  Granted, the first focus of early band associations was managing the affiliations of member bands, forming rules and running competitions.  These tasks aside, there was little else they did.  In this arcane and insular world of administration, decisions that the early band associations made were at times difficult to understand and criticism was rife.  It can be seen in previous posts on the history of the National Band Council of Australia and the experiences of bands in South Street just how peculiar some administrative decisions could be.  In their defence however, we can also see that the associations were acting on the information that they had available at the time, and that some questionable decisions can simply be attributed to a lack of communication.

This post is focusing on aspects of band administration where the difficult decisions of band grading and choices of music were made by sub-committees known as Music Advisory Boards.  These noted groups of bands people, often adjudicators and conductors, made recommendations to band associations.  While some records are not as informative as they could be, the Trove archive gives us some clues as to how they operated.

It is an interesting portion of band history where some bands people desired more of a focus on the music but recognized the value of association.  Balancing these two ideals was a challenge!

Music Advisory Boards and Choosing music:

19330706-(19330714)_VBL-AGM-P1
A section of the Victorian Bands’ League Annual Report 1933, p. 1 ( Source: Victorian Collections: Victorian Bands’ League)
19200814_Herald_J-Booth-Gore
Herald, 14/08/1920, p. 16

Above is part of the first page of an annual report presented by the Victorian Bands’ League at their second Annual General Meeting on 14th July 1933.  Prominently displayed on this first page are all the officers of the League; Delegates, Administrators, Conductors and Adjudicators, representing country, regional and metropolitan areas.  A good mix of people at the time to run the fledging League!  There is one group of musicians listed on this page that warrants special mention and is nominally the focus of this post – the Music Advisory Board.

It was not always possible to discern why the Music Advisory Boards existed in the first place.  Through research in the Trove archives, it was mentioned that they did exist, but their exact purpose in assisting the Associations was harder to find – however their contemporary counterparts operate in much the same way so we can apply this knowledge back over the years.

This post is not trying to dismiss the operations of other State band associations and their MAB’s.  However, the Victorian Bands’ Association and Victorian Bands’ League provided the most information through newspaper articles as to who was included in their MAB’s over the years.  Which means it presents a perfect case study of how the personnel changed (or did not change) over the years.  Below is a table detailing the members of the Victorian MAB over a time period of thirteen years.  Knowing Victorian band history, we can see that these musicians were all eminent conductors/adjudicators who displayed an extensive knowledge of brass band repertoire.  And they were all conductors of Victorian A Grade bands.

1920 – VBL1922 – VBA1927 – VBA1933 – VBL
P. CodeJ. Booth-GoreP. CodeJ. Bowden
P. JonesL. HoffmanF. C. JohnstonJ. Booth-Gore
H. R. ShuggF. C. JohnstonP. JonesF. C. Johnston
 P. JonesR. McCaskillA. H. Paxton
 H. NivenH. R. ShuggH. R. Shugg
 H. R. Shugg  
(Source of table data: “BAND ADJUDICATOR,” 1920; “BRASS BANDS REGRADED.,” 1927; Drummer Boy, 1922; “VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1920; Victorian Bands’ League, 1933)
19200807_Herald_J-Bowden
Herald, 7/08/1920, p. 17

What is obvious here is the consistency of some of the appointments namely Percy Code, Percy Jones, Frank “Massa” Johnston, and Harry Shugg.  Some pictures of these bandsmen are on the side of this post.  We could assume that with the passage of time, if the same people were well-regarded in that role then they would continue to serve.  The interesting fact about the Victorian MAB members is that they carried through the changeover from the VBA to the VBL.  On a side note, given that many of these conductors were working with metropolitan bands at the time they would have been the instigators of the VBL in the early 1930s.

There were some occasions regarding band competitions where MAB’s were not involved in choosing music.  We can see articles published in the Advocate newspaper in 1921 and 1927 that Percy Jones was the adjudicator of the popular New Year’s Day Burnie carnival band competition (“BURNIE.,” 1927; “BURNIE CARNIVAL.,” 1921).   However, it is in the 1927 article where we can see that Percy Jones himself made recommendations to the Burnie Athletics Club on the choice of music for the next carnival band competition:

Last year’s band adjudicator, Mr. Percy Jones, wrote recommending that “Gournod (Rimmer)” and “A Garland of Classics (Rimmer)” be chosen as test pieces for the B and C grade contests respectively, at the next carnival.  The recommendation was adopted, on the motion of Messers Southwell and Trethewey.  It was also decided to continue negotiations with a view to obtaining an adjudicator from New South Wales for the next carnival.  Last year’s rule that the own choice selection be made from National Airs was again adopted.”

(“BURNIE.,” 1927)

One notable criticism of the music choices made by MAB’s came from Cecil Clarence Mullen in his booklet, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951).  We know from a previous post that Mullen was very opinionated, and it is not clear how much influence he wielded through his writings, especially his booklet.  He wrote:

Some years ago the Advisory Board of selectors introduced a new type of Test Selection for South Street band contests.  These are mostly technical works and appreciated by bandmasters and players, the musicianship point of view has only been taken into consideration.  Our contests promoters and managers have been overlooked the fact that one party – the public who pay to attend contests – have been left out.  Statistics show clearly that all the largest crowds at the South Street competitions were in the years from 1900 to 1924, when the operatic brass band arrangements were chosen for Test Selections. […] Technical works are all very well for those of us who understand them, but they are cold and colourless to the general listener as he cannot follow them and does not know what they are all about.

(Mullen, 1951, p. 6)
19200911_Herald_P-Code
Herald, 11/09/1920, p. 14

Now while Mullen might be right about the years when the largest crowds attended the brass band competitions at South Street, it must be recognized that he was merely expressing his opinion and it might be a short stretch to link crowd numbers with choices of music.  He went on further in this section of the booklet to explain his reasons for wanting more operatic arrangements in the band competitions with the implied belief that they were far more musical than what current brass band composers were providing, and that they were more pleasing to the ears of the audience (Mullen, 1951).  He was especially taken with the operatic arrangements of Alexander Owen and he also wanted a sight-reading section to be introduced (Mullen, 1951).  This was not the first time Mullen wrote with favour on operatic works being played by bands.  In a later article he attributed the fine playing of bands in the early years to their playing of operatic works (Mullen, 1965).

Aside from Mullen, there appears to be a distinct lack of criticism in early newspapers regarding the choices of music made by the MAB’s.  Which contrasts with the criticisms levelled at State Band Associations and MAB’s regarding grading of bands.  Grading was a vexed issue, and this will be explored in the next section.

Music Advisory Boards, State band Associations and Grading:

To understand why grading does or does not work, it’s important to know a little history on how Associations applied grading to bands.  The first competition that included grading of some sort was in New South Wales at the 1896 Intercolonial Band Contest held in Sydney in November where bands were grouped into “first division” or “second division” (Greaves, 1996, p. 23).  In Victoria, the first five years of South Street from 1900-1905 were ungraded and, Mullen (1951) has provided some history as to how grading developed from 1905.

In 1905 the first “B” grade contest was arranged owing to some bands having progressed so much from the experience and tuition of former English bandmasters that it was thought younger combinations and country bands would have a better chance in a second class contest.  So fast did the better class bands progress, however, that it was thought that with many new bands starting that a “C” grade was held in 1909.

(p. 7)

Having only three grades was the status quo in Victoria until, according to available resources, a D grade was introduced in 1922 (“Victorian Bands’ Association,” 1922).

19210108_Herald_L-Hoffman
Herald, 8/01/1921, p. 11

Let us take a look at how bands moved up or down grades over some years.  Below are links to files that show the grades in certain years from Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.  The Victorian dataset is more condensed as they show the grades in the years 1920, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926 & 1927.  For Queensland, the dataset is more spread due to limited information and the files are based on information from the years 1913, 1919 & 1937.  Included is an example of grading presented by the Western Australian Band Association in 1932, which is very limited, however there’s an interesting discussion from the WABA meeting that took place that year.  All band lists were obtained from newspaper articles held in the Trove archive and can be accessed from the links in the citations.  The grade files will appear as PDF’s and can be downloaded.

Victorian Grades – 1920-1927:

(Source of Victorian grade data: “BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1923; “BRASS BANDS REGRADED.,” 1927; “CLASSIFICATION OF BANDS.,” 1926; “VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1924; “VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1920; “Victorian Bands’ Association,” 1922)

Queensland Grades – 1913, 1919 & 1937:

(Source of Queensland grade data: “Band Association.,” 1919; “GRADING THE BANDS.,” 1913; “NEW GRADING LIST,” 1937)

Western Australian Grades – 1932:

(Source of Western Australian grade data: Delegate, 1932)

19200828_Herald_P-Jones
Herald, 28/08/1920, pg. 19

The Victorian context is possibly a better example of grade history given the range of years.  Here we see a bulge– a smaller number of bands in A Grade and D Grade while B Grade is larger and C Grade having the most numerous amount of bands  Taking a look at the C Grade in particular, while the D Grade was introduced in 1922, in 1924 there is large expansion of bands in C Grade.  Whether this is down to the number of bands that affiliated that year, or general musical standard is open to interpretation.  1924 was certainly a golden year of bands, except for perhaps the A Grade where there were only three bands.  Regarding the A Grade, once the top bands were placed in that grade, they tended not to leave.  In 1926 and 1927 we see a jump in that number due to bands moving up from B Grade.

In Queensland it is a little more difficult to interpret the grading history given the lack of information, so a reliance on the available years is necessary.  However, there are some similarities with Victoria, especially in the middle grades.  In 1919 there is a large expansion in the number of bands in C Grade.  We also see some innovation on the part of the Queensland Band Association in 1937 where there is a D Grade, but there are also grades to cater bands that are from specific locations or age groups.  Here we see a “Sub D Grade (Country)” and a “Boy’s Band (Under 15 years)” (“NEW GRADING LIST,” 1937) which no doubt helped more bands participate in events.

The example from Western Australia is obviously small, but the list originates from an article published in the Sunday Times regarding a wide-ranging meeting held by WABA.  The regrading of bands was included in the discussion as an agenda item:

The matter of regrading the bands affiliated with the association was then proceeded with.  There are 17 in all, and prior to the 1931 contest these were graded as B or C.  This grading has since remained unaltered officially, but for the purpose of giving the 1931 contest a high “tone”, the grades were officially announced as A and B.  The question raised on Wednesday evening was whether to create a D grade from the smaller C grade bands or raise the status generally and make them A, B or C.  The latter course was eventually decided upon and each band was, after submission to the meeting, graded by a majority vote.  A suggestion that they should be graded according to the points awarded them by the adjudicator at the last contest was not accepted, though the idea found a good deal of support.

(Delegate, 1932)

Victoria offers more information on the roles of the MAB in the regrading process as the Queensland Band Association seems to have undertook this role themselves (there is no mention of a Queensland MAB).  The role of the MAB’s in advising on regrading is evident although it seems, at least in the early stages, that the V.B.A. undertook the regrading process with their MAB offering limited advice.  We see in 1920 that,

A report was submitted from the executive of the association dealing with the regrading of bands.  It contained replies from Messrs H. Shugg and P. Code, two of the advisory committee who both concurred in the proposed regarding as submitted by the executive…

(“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1920)

However, in 1922, the Victorian MAB was responsible for the regrading process:

The advisory board of the Victorian Bands’ Association, the headquarters of which are at Ballarat, has regraded bands for the ensuring year as follows…

(“Victorian Bands’ Association,” 1922)

And mention of the role of the MAB in regrading bands is again mentioned in articles from 1926 and 1927 (“BRASS BANDS REGRADED.,” 1927; “CLASSIFICATION OF BANDS.,” 1926).

This is not to say grading was always a smooth process and there were always levels of criticism from various parties, as well as disagreements between States – the rules were never fully unified.  As early as 1914 we can see letters in the papers regarding the grading of bands.  One letter from Mr S. E. Hambleton, then Secretary of the Collingwood Citizens’ Band stood out for its candidness.  Part of his letter was criticism while contributing his own ideas:

The band of which I am secretary has not won a cash prize for five years, and although I have made applications to be re-classified (claimed on two years’ rules), I am told that the Victorian Band Association would not listen to it as we are an A Grade band.  The other bands know this, and, of course, will not enter for the higher grade, with the promise, perhaps of a life sentence hanging over them.

Our band of 24 could be divided into three parts and absorbed by B Grade bands and allowed to play in B Grade.  Why not classify the individual players and thus stop good players in A Grade bands from becoming members of a lower grade through better inducements.  Collingwood and Prahran are the only two bands classed as A Grade, although there are four or five others advanced enough to compete in this grade.

Bands that have won C or B Grade contests should be placed in the class higher up and stay there for the stated time.  If they fail to secure a cash prize, allow them to go to the next grade down again.  Bands will not enter for a higher grade than they are classed in, for fear of winning a cash prize in it, being thereby debarred from competing in the grade that they had been classed in.

(Hambleton, 1914)

Again in 1914, a letter was published in Brisbane’s Daily Standard newspaper lamenting the grading process carried out by the Queensland Band Association after the Maryborough contests.  The writer, Mr W. Jackson, a Delegate of the Childers band, was obviously annoyed at the whole process and made this quite clear in his letter.  He wrote (in part),

…We were promised that the matter of grading the bands would be thoroughly gone into at an early date by the Q.B. Association.  What is the result?  Here we are three months before the August contest, and still in the same sorry plight.  Is it encouragement for the small country bands to go to Brisbane to contest against bands from the large cities as at Maryborough when the “C” grade championships was won by a band that probably should have been graded “B” at least?  I am afraid the same thing will occur again.  What I contend is that the “C” grade should be open for bands from the small country towns only, thus giving them some encouragement for them to fight on to better class music.

(Jackson, 1914)

It would be fair to say that both Mr Hambleton and Mr Jackson made some fair points re grading problems in their respective states.  They both knew their bands and how the administration worked.  We could assume that the State associations were trying their best in trying to please everyone but in some respects, it was never a perfect process.  Perhaps this was the reason MAB’s were formed to advise on grading.

As mentioned above, at times the rules and administration of different State associations came into conflict with each other regarding registration and grading.  One notable example was highlighted in Tasmania after another one of the contests in Burnie.  At a meeting of the Tasmanian Band Association in 1930, this was raised as an agenda item:

Very grave concern was expressed by the committee relating to the methods of grading and the registering of members of mainland bands which compete at the Burnie contests.  It was discovered by the delegates at the recent Burnie contests that one of the competing bands from the mainland had been able, only a few days before the closing date of registrations, to register no less than nine prominent players of other bands, and perhaps of a higher grade.  The regrading of bands on the registration for every contest might overcome the somewhat unfair aspect of this matter, but what is more desirable is uniform contests rules for all the States.  The T.B.A. is approaching the State association concerned on this occasion, with a view to a general tightening up of grading and registrations.

(“BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1930)
19210219_Herald_H-Niven
Herald, 19/02/1921, p. 16

…which is fine in theory but as discovered in the history of the National Band Council of Australia, unification of rules was an ideal that never really reached fruition despite the best intentions of State associations.

What we have seen in this small history are situations where the grading process was fraught with difficulty, did not please everyone and criticism was rife.  And it was a thankless task as the reputations of the early bands hinged on success in competition and the decisions of the State associations.  Most of the time it was done correctly.  On occasion there were problems.  With the influx of bands starting up and wanting to participate in events, grading them was a necessity that called upon the State associations to try to find solutions.  When this went wrong, the administration was generally found to be lacking.

Conclusion:

For the MAB’s involved in the processes of choosing music and advising on band regrading, generally they did the right thing and all they could really do was offer advice.  Thankfully, the reputations of the MAB members carried them through some of the decisions made by State associations.  Evidently the fact that many of the Victorian members held their positions for many years is a testament to their authority as prominent bandsmen.

We should thank these early members of the MAB’s for the foundations that they laid as the members of the modern MAB’s carry out their tasks in much the same way as they did back then.

19200724_Herald_H-Shugg
Herald, 24/07/1920, p. 11

References:

BAND ADJUDICATOR : For Newcastle Contest : Mr. Percy Jone’s Career. (1920, 04 December). Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162621130

BAND ASSOCIATION : Deciding Championship. (1923, 21 August). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213824101

Band Association : Grading for the Contest. (1919, 20 November). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176840373

BAND ASSOCIATION : Registering and Grading. (1930, 24 January). Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29151289

BRASS BANDS REGRADED. (1927, 18 October). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3885887

BURNIE. (1927, 17 June). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68241846

BURNIE CARNIVAL : New Years Day : Bright Prospects. (1921, 16 November). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69316043

CLASSIFICATION OF BANDS. (1926, 18 May). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3782670

Delegate. (1932, 21 August). BRASS BANDS : W.A. Association News : And General Notes. Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58669392

Drummer Boy. (1922, 21 October). BANDS AND BANDSMEN. Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93411340

GRADING THE BANDS. (1913, 27 October). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118654062

Greaves, J. (1996). The great bands of Australia [sound recording] [2 sound discs (CD)]. Australia, Sound Heritage Association. 

Hambleton, S. E. (1914, 13 January). EFFECT OF GRADING. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article241657411

Jackson, W. (1914, 08 May). BAND GRADING : (To The Editor). Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178879778

Mullen, C. C. (1951). Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951). Horticultural Press. 

Mullen, C. C. (1965). Brass bands have played a prominent part in the history of Victoria. The Victorian Historical Magazine, XXXVI(1), 30-47. 

NEW GRADING LIST ISSUED BY QUEENSLAND BAND ASSOCIATION. (1937, 12 November). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183521534

Quickstep. (1920a, 28 August). Bandsmen’s Gossip : A Knight of the Baton. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242311544

Quickstep. (1920b, 14 August). Bandsmen’s Gossip : A Meritorious Career. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242305795

Quickstep. (1920c, 07 August). Bandsmen’s Gossip : An Enthusiastic Conductor. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 17. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242306287

Quickstep. (1920d, 11 September). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Australia’s Great Soloist. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242308980

Quickstep. (1920e, 24 July). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Leader of Two Famous Bands. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242308343

Quickstep. (1921a, 19 February). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Noted Musical Qualities. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242256082

Quickstep. (1921b, 08 January). Bandsmen’s Gossip : St Vincent’s Bandmaster. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242259553

VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION : Classification of Bands. (1924, 19 August). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213535974

VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION : Special and General Meeting. (1920, 18 May). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211906214

Victorian Bands’ Association : Grading for the Year. (1922, 24 August). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205773169

Victorian Bands’ League. (1933). Victorian Bands’ League : Annual General Meeting : Annual Report [Annual Report]. Victorian Bands’ League. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5b6a740621ea691478e4b482