Instruments, sheet music and uniforms: how the bands of old obtained the essentials

Introduction:

If we were to undertake an examination of all the aspects that make community bands what they are, and look back over a century, we would probably find that there is much that is similar.  In fact, there is not much that has changed at all, except that bands are increasingly adapting to changes in technology when it comes to obtaining the necessities.  Our methods of finding sheet music in particular have focused on online searches – we can listen to the music and make discerning choices and music can be purchased, downloaded and printed within hours.  Regarding instruments, some bands still maintain stocks although many musicians own their own.  Where technology has not really intruded is around uniforms, except for the manufacturing. This is the concern of band committees who have to ensure they have the necessary items for a band while maintaining a workable budget.

Change is inevitable.  One wonders what the bands of old would have made of all the choice we have now?

Throughout this post will advertisements from various firms advertising their products.  They were published in a 1919 edition of the Australian Band News and this style of advertisement was quite common.  Again, this kind of advertising would be very familiar to the modern bands person. Although we don’t have this kind of banding news is not so common in this day and age, we do have advertising in programs for the National Band Championships for example.

The purpose of this post will be to look back in history and view this from a different light where technology was very different, retailers were somewhat aggressive in the way they did things and a number of items were supplied in bulk.  There will be the issues of competition between local manufactures and big retailers who supplied imports.  We shall see how bands enlisted a whole town to fund them to buy new uniforms as these were a measure of band, and town pride.  Regarding sheet music, the bands couldn’t buy just one piece as an amount of music was published in albums.  Bands were much more numerous back then and retailers had to keep up with demand.

There is no definitive list of just how many bands were started.  However, through running searches in the Trove archive one can see that there was a number of bands.  It is not an accident that there were initially so many; Australia (and New Zealand) were mainly settled by immigrants from the United Kingdom these immigrants brought the brass band culture with them (Bythell, 2000).  Indeed, as Bythell (2000) writes,

Whether large of small, these new urban communities in the antipodes quickly replicated both the physical forms and social institutions familiar in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.  It is not surprising that so quintessentially Victorian an institution as the brass band should have been prominent among them. (p. 218)

For some this might be a trip down memory lane.  For others, seeing the old advertisements might bring a sense of wonder.  Whatever you might think, the necessities were as important back then as they are now.

19190626_ABN_Besson
Advertisement for Besson Instruments from the Australian Band News, 1919

Instruments to play:

19050701_QueenslandTimes_Boosey-Palings
Article from the Queensland Times, 1905

A band is not a band without instruments and in the early 1900’s many new bands were busy equipping themselves with whole sets of instruments. With the bands came the industry to support them with many music retailers as they realised that the bands were business opportunities (Evans, 2013).  As can be seen below in this 1896 advertisement found in the Sydney Morning Herald, there are a number of retailers listed, including a manufacturer who was based in Australia, John York Jnr. (“Advertising,” 1896).  Some music retailers enlisted the services of prominent musicians to endorse instruments – and listing the prizes that were won using particular instruments was a common selling point (Besson, 1919b; Boosey and Co.s, 1919; Myers, 2000).  The music retailers worked to build relationships with bands and representatives travelled all over Australia to sell their wares.  John York Jnr was one of them and his efforts did not go unnoticed. In 1902 the newly-formed Crokl Brass Band accepted 13 York instruments out of the 15 he sent up to them, although many members of the new band had their own instruments (“Crokl Brass Band.,” 1902).  Likewise, the Palings firm, who operated out of Sydney, were famous for supplying whole sets of instruments and the products they sold were enthusiastically written up in various newspapers (“BAND INSTRUMENTS.,” 1889; “BOOSEY’S BAND INSTRUMENTS.,” 1905; “PIANOS & MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS,” 1904).  Although, as is seen here, the Queensland Times article from 1905 was more enthused about the presentation of the catalogue!

18961107_SMH_York-Band-Contest
Advertisement from the Sydney Morning Herald, 1896

Palings and Allan’s were the agents for many of the brands of brass instruments that were sold in Australia in the early 1900’s and beyond. Instruments from the famous British firms of  “Boosey, Hawkes, Besson, and Higham” were imported as their factories were “capable of mass production” (Myers, 2000, p. 176).  As such, they could be sold at reasonable prices in Australia which matched those from the British markets (Herbert, 2000).  Through some research by Evans (2013) into the history of John York Jnr, we can see that Boosey Cornets sold by Palings in 1904 were “approximately £8” each (p. 74).  Such was the prices of instruments in these times.  Unfortunately, the importation of cheap British made instruments put John York Jnr out of business.  Despite York producing instruments of high quality – he was trained at the Higham factory in Manchester – he couldn’t compete with the bigger music retailers (Evans, 2013).  Bands made choices according to their requirements and Boosey’s and Besson’s were generally the instruments of choice.

It was not just the local town bands that were benefiting from the business of Palings.  In 1914 the 13th Battalion Band, which was still in Sydney at the time, became the beneficiary of a whole set of instruments acquired from Palings by a Miss Margaret Harris and then sent to the Army camp at Rosehill (“BAND INSTRUMENTS.,” 1914).  Such donations were not uncommon, and many Battalion bands benefited from individuals donating instruments (“15th BATTALION BAND FUND.,” 1914).

Coming into the 1930’s we see that supplying bands with instruments is still a good business for some retailers, in particular the Palings firm who now had multiple outlets up and down the Eastern coastline.  A display of instruments by the Palings Brisbane shop at the Maryborough Band Contest in 1932 was enthusiastically written up in a Maryborough Chronical article (“BAND INSTRUMENTS.,” 1932).  Regarding the sales of instruments, bands basically went with the retailer that offered the best prices.  In 1932 the Lismore Brass Band was trying to acquire some second-hand instruments for loan through the Defence Force, Allan’s and Palings (“CITIZENS’ BAND,” 1932).  From the article it seems the terms offered by Allans were rejected and the offer from Palings was examined further.  The Woodburn Brass Band accepted an offer from Palings in 1932 for a whole new set of instruments as did the Narrabri Band in 1934 (“NEW INSTRUMENTS,” 1932; “NEW INSTRUMENTS,” 1934).  However, things did not always go to plan as the Taree Citizens’ Band found out in 1936 when being unable to afford repayments to Palings, found that their instruments were due to be repossessed (“BAND INSTRUMENTS,” 1936).  Such is business!

Palings and Allan’s were obviously very helpful to the early brass bands with their sponsorship of competitions and the advertisements swayed some bands to seek them out.  No matter how we might view their business tactics, one cannot discount the fact that in the early days, the instruments were supplied when the bands needed them.

19190626_ABN_Allans-Boosey
Advertisement for Boosey Cornets from the Australian Band News, 1919

Music to read:

19190626_ABN_Allans
Advertisement for Allan’s Music Publishers from the Australian Band News, 1919

In some respects, the supply of band music was very much linked to that of instruments
as the bigger retailers also supplied sheet music to bands. This was also the time of some very famous brass band composers such as Thomas Edward Bulch who not only conducted bands but wrote for them as well (Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon, 2016b; Pattie, 2010).  Not much is written about the publishing of band music in newspapers, but there were numerous advertisements for sheet music in publications such as The Australian Band News.  To the right, and below these paragraphs are some advertisements from 1919 for sheet music, albums of band music and instruments tutors.

In addition to bands obtaining music from albums (or march cards), there were some people within bands who wrote and/or arranged their own music.  Certainly, Thomas Bulch was one of them, and his advertisement is below.  Bulch conducted his own band in Ballarat for a number of years – the “Bulch’s Model Brass Band” (Pattie, 2010, pp. 5-12) which later became the Ballarat City Band.  He also wrote an amount of music, sometimes under his own name, but also using pseudonyms (Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon, 2016b).  Bulch worked for himself but at times also worked for Allan’s and Palings as an editor and contributor of music.  A list of his compositions compiled by the excellent Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon website can be found here (Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon, 2016a).  In a similar way, Robert McAnally, the second conductor of the Malvern and Prahran Tramways Employees Band, also penned up numerous arrangements of existing orchestral works which the current iteration of the band still holds in its library (Stonnington City Brass, 2011).

It is fortunate that many bands are able to play this older music today as much of it has survived in band libraries.  And that there are old catalogues to look at and admire.  The composers and publishers have left the current bands a legacy of music to keep hold of and hopefully play again.

19190626_ABN_Sykes-Besson
Advertisement for the Besson Cornet Tutor from the Australian Band News, 1919.
19190626_ABN_Bulch
Advertisement for Bulch’s Brass Band Journal from the Australian Band News, 1919

Uniforms to wear:

There is no doubt that the old bands wore their uniforms with pride and much has been written about these bands obtaining new uniforms.  From the metropolitan bands to tiny country bands, in the early decades of the 1900’s, supplying a band with a uniform drew the interest of whole towns and local councils.  A look through photos on The Internet Bandsman website shows a huge variety of uniforms and their changes over the years (The Internet Bandsman, n.d.).  Being a properly dressed band is one tradition that modern bands adhere to.

To start a bit earlier than 1900 will reveal that the wearing of uniforms had some effect on the morale of a band.  In 1885, the band of the ‘Norriston Asylum’ paraded in their new uniforms for the first time and the local newspaper, the Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser reported on the event:

A brass band composed on insane inmates of the Norriston Asylum paraded about the grounds, wearing uniforms for the first time.  They were very proud of their regalia, and when they passed in review of trustees and Physician-in-law Chase, the lunatic who played the big brass horn blew harder and the fat cymbal player, who imagines he owns the State of Pennsylvania, clapped the cymbals with all his might, while the man who beat the bass drum thumped away as if he were trying to knock the drum head in.

The uniforms are similar to those worn by the United States troops.  When the band stopped playing for want of breath, the lunatics all looked at their uniforms and smiled proudly.

(“A Crazy Brass Band.,” 1885)

There was a bit more to this article but needless to say that the asylum was quite proud of its brass band and the wholistic effect it had on inmates.

19220830_TambellupTimes_Katanning-Uniforms
Article from the Tambellup Times, 1922

There is a common thread of funding running through articles on bands and uniforms.  In 1905 a bizarre was to be held in the Corowa School of Arts with the aim of funding new uniforms for the Corowa Band (“BRASS BAND UNIFORM.,” 1905).  Over in Western Australia, the Katanning Brass Band accepted tenders for their uniforms in 1922 and in 1927 the nearby Gnowangerup District Brass Band decided to look at obtaining uniforms (“Gnowangerup District Brass Band.,” 1927; “Katanning Brass Band,” 1922).  The Carnegie Junior Brass Band in Melbourne also decided to raise funds for uniforms by holding a bazaar while the Fitzroy City Council, in a show of support for their local band, calls for tenders for new uniforms (“Carnegie Junior Brass Band.,” 1936; “New Uniforms for Band.,” 1937).  Meanwhile, the Salvation Army, as can be seen by the advertisement below, offers its tailoring services to create uniforms for any band that wanted them.

Uniforms were a whole different kind of necessity yet brought about great pride to the bands and their towns.  It’s no wonder that whole communities supported their bands with these important items.

19190626_ABN_Salvo-Band-Uniforms
Article for the Salvation Army Tailoring Department from the Australian Band News, 1919.

Conclusion:

There’s probably much more to be explored regarding instruments, sheet music and uniforms as researching each item brings up more stories. They are part of a much larger story of banding in this country, uniquely so.  The fact that the purchase of instruments and production of uniforms made the local papers tells us that the bands (and local communities) saw these as important and newsworthy.  It is important that we recognize the lengths that bands went to in order to obtain what they needed.

19190626_ABN_Lyons
Advertisement for Lyons Instrument Repairs from the Australian Band News, 1919

References:

15th BATTALION BAND FUND. (1914, 24 October). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article177942144

“Allans”. (1919, 26 June). New Band Successes, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 15.

Advertising. (1896, 07 November). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14074229

BAND INSTRUMENTS. (1889, 11 April). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13729011

BAND INSTRUMENTS. (1914, 14 October). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15566270

BAND INSTRUMENTS: Comprehensive Display: Palings to the Front. (1932, 23 March). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149077126

BAND INSTRUMENTS: Over £300 Owing: Palings to be Asked to Reposssess. (1936, 18 July). Northern Champion (Taree, NSW : 1913 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162151455

Besson. (1919a, 26 June). The Besson Cornet Tutor, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 16.

Besson. (1919b, 26 June). Pre-eminent for Over Fifty Years, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 4.

Boosey and Co.s. (1919, 26 June). A Famous Soloist, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 18.

BOOSEY’S BAND INSTRUMENTS. (1905, 01 July). Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), p. 11. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123898124

BRASS BAND UNIFORM. (1905, 17 November 1905). Corowa Free Press (NSW : 1875 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article237957970

Bulch & Co. (1919, 26 June). Bulch’s Brass Band Journal, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 9.

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). Oxford: Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press.

Carnegie Junior Brass Band. (1936, 08 September). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205894546

CITIZENS’ BAND. (1932, 08 September). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94300280

A Crazy Brass Band. (1885, 15 September). Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser (NSW : 1863 – 1947), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article101640683

Crokl Brass Band. (1902, 23 July). Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales (Taree, NSW : 1898 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172469392

Evans, A. (2013). Playing on: John York and the Sydney Brass Musical Instrument Factor. Sydney Journal, 4(1), 66-85.

Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon. (2016a). A list of Thomas Edward Bulch compositions and arrangements (including some known pseudonyms). The Wizard and The Typhoon: A site rembering George Allan and Thomas Edward Bulch, the great Victorian brass composers of New Shildon. Retrieved from http://www.wizardandtyphoon.org/the-typhoon/a-list-of-thomas-edward-bulch-compositions-and-arrangements-including-some-known-pseudonyms/

Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon. (2016b). The Typhoon,. The Wizard and The Typhoon: A site rembering George Allan and Thomas Edward Bulch, the great Victorian brass composers of New Shildon. Retrieved from http://www.wizardandtyphoon.org/the-typhoon/

Gnowangerup District Brass Band. (1927, 05 February). Gnowangerup Star and Tambellup-Ongerup Gazette (WA : 1915 – 1944), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158910311

Herbert, T. (2000). Appendix 1 : Prices of Brass Band Instruments Extracted from Manufacturers’ Advertising Material. In T. Herbert (Ed.), The British brass band : a musical and social history (pp. 306-311). Oxford: Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press.

Katanning Brass Band: Uniforms Fund. (1922, 30 August). Tambellup Times (WA : 1912 – 1924), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211145119

Lyons. (1919, 26 June). Brass Band Instrument Repairing, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 5.

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). Oxford: Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press.

NEW INSTRUMENTS. (1932, 04 August). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94295194

NEW INSTRUMENTS: For Narrabri Band: Palings Make Offer. (1934, 26 July). North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW : 1913 – 1955), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article133254083

New Uniforms for Band. (1937, 10 March). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205600050

Pattie, R. (2010). The history of the City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band 1900-2010 : one hundred and ten years of music to the citizens of Ballarat (Rev. ed.). Ballarat, Vic.: City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band.

PIANOS & MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: Messrs. W. H. Paling and Co., LTD. (1904, 14 December). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136387117

Stonnington City Brass. (2011). History of Stonnington City Brass. Stonnington City Brass. Retrieved from http://www.stonningtoncitybrass.org.au/SCBJoomla/index.php/history

The Internet Bandsman. (n.d.). Vintage Brass Band Pictures: Australia. IBEW. Retrieved from http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.htm

The Salvation Army. (1919, 26 June). The Salvation Army Tailoring Department, [Advertisement]. Australian Band News, 12(10), p. 1.

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