It would be fair to say that the relationship between Australia and New Zealand, as countries and peoples, has been one of mutual respect, partnership, shared development, and healthy competitiveness. This has been evident in many instances and has also been evident in the brass band movement. So much so that over the years from just before 1900 up to 1950, bands regularly crossed the Tasman Sea with the aim of touring, performance, and participating in respective championships.
Travel was not always an easy task and was certainly expensive. Yet in these early days of ships and trains, bands managed this and for the most part, were met with civic welcomes and hospitality wherever they went. There were also times when eminent bandsmen also traveled to ply their services as adjudicators, conductors or band coaches. This allowed a flow of new ideas, expertise and criticism that certainly helped the band movements of both countries.
As far as the information allows it, we will see who went where and when. It has been interesting to read the perspectives of media from both Australia and New Zealand through using the resources of the Trove archive and DigitalNZ / PapersPast – media of the day reported on everything. Also, the results database of the Royal South Street Society, the Brass Band Results website (UK) and history books regarding the band history of New Zealand have been very helpful.
For the sake of brevity, this post has been divided into two parts and the details of visits are in basic chronological order. Part one is about the bands from New Zealand that traveled to Australia and part two highlights four of the Australian bands that went to New Zealand. There are some fascinating stories to come out of these trips and one can appreciate the initiative. I hope people enjoy reading both posts.
1897-1899: Invercargill Garrison Band, Oamaru Garrison Band & Wellington Garrison Band – Melbourne & Bathurst:
In the few years preceding 1900, Australia received visits from three New Zealand bands in relatively quick succession; the Invercargill Garrison Band in 1897, the Oamaru Garrison band in 1898 and the Wellington Garrison Band in 1899 (Newcomb, 1980). In 1897 the Invercargill Garrison Band visited Melbourne to compete in the Druid’s Gala Contest in Melbourne and gained a credible forth placing out of the eleven bands that competed (“VICTORIA.,” 1897). The next year, and in the same contest, the Oamaru Garrison Band visited and was higher placed although there’s some historical conjecture over the scores with an article in the Bendigo Independent newspaper reporting a tied third place other reports saying they achieved second placings in some sections (“THE BAND CONTEST.,” 1898; Newcomb, 1980).
In 1899, the Wellington Garrison Band sailed to Australia and after a brief stop in Sydney, they traveled to Bathurst to compete in the Intercolonial Band Contest. They immediately set the tone of their visit and marched from the railway station to the hotel followed by enthusiastic crowds (“The Wellington Garrison Band.,” 1899). However, despite being a champion New Zealand band, they were brought undone in Bathurst by the deportment of their bandsmen. It was widely reported in New Zealand and Australian press that the reason they lost points in the marching was because of “nine of the bandsmen being unshaved” (“UNSHAVEN BANDSMEN,” 1899). Apparently Wellington band “forgot” the regulations on shaving and were subsequently placed fifth in the marching even though their playing matched the Code’s Melbourne Band (“Bathurst Band Contest.,” 1899). This being said, they redeemed themselves by winning the bulk of the solo contests in Bathurst (“BAND CONTEST.,” 1899).
1908 & 1921: Kaikorai Band – South Street Eisteddfod, Ballarat:
Early in 1908, a tiny snippet of news was printed by newspapers across New Zealand; the Kaikorai Band from Dunedin was intending to compete at the Ballarat South Street Eisteddfod in October – as seen here in this advertisement published by the Colonist newspaper (“Kaikorai Band,” 1908). The Kaikorai band was another one of New Zealand’s top bands at the time and obviously felt that they could take on the best of Australian brass bands (Newcomb, 1980). However, things did not go quite to plan on the day and Newcomb (1980) outlined one the main reasons:
Everything went wrong after one of the band’s top soloists, Billy Flea, cracked his lip. The Flugel Horn solo had to be taken by Jim Pearson. Though Billy was a strong player, Jim was the reverse. As a result, another soloist, who was in the habit of relying on the finish of the Flugel solo to dovetail his entry, simply didn’t hear Jim, so never got started!
Conductor Laidlaw was so taken aback that his baton simply froze. Some of the bandsmen maintained that the Scots conductor turned a shade of green! It was to his credit, however, that after the initial shock he pulled the band together.(p. 40)
This, of course, was reflected in the comments on their playing, an account that was published in the Otago Witness newspaper (“Kaikorai Band at Ballarat,” 1908). However, the Kaikorai Band did achieve one triumph when they won the discipline prize for their marching.
In 1921 the Kaikorai Band returned to South Street to compete, however on this occasion they did not go as well as Australian bands had developed quite a bit in preceding years and Kaikorai was no match for them (Newcomb, 1980). The only success on this occasion occurred in the Septette section where their group achieved first place.
1910: Wanganui Garrison Band – South Street Eisteddfod, Ballarat:
Two years after the Kaikorai band visited South Street, another one of New Zealand’s top bands, the famous Wanganui Garrison Band made the trip. Conducted by Mr. James Chrichton for 21 years and succeeded by Mr. Alfred Wade in 1908, the band had built up an enviable contesting record and in 1910 they made the trip to Australia to compete (Newcomb, 1980; Zealley & Ord Hume, 1926).
Needless to say, the Wanganui Garrison Band was very successful at South Street and won both the Quickstep and Test sections over the Collingwood Citizens’ Band and both Ballarat bands – Prout’s and City (“THE GRAND BAND CONTESTS,” 1910). As well as this superb win in the band contest, Wanganui also had many soloists and ensemble enter various sections, and they were similarly successful with many of them gaining places.
- 17/10/1910 – Coliseum – Brass Solo Contests
- 18/10/1910 – Coliseum – Brass Solo Contests
- 19/10/1910 – Coliseum – Brass Solo Contests
- 20/10/1910 – City Oval – Brass Band Contests
When Wanganui returned to Melbourne, they were given a rapturous welcome by the Lord Mayor and the Agent for New Zealand (pictured at the start of this post) (“THE WANGANUI BAND.,” 1910). After leaving Melbourne they traveled to Albury where they were given another civic reception (“WANGANUI BAND,” 1910). From Albury, they traveled to Sydney to take a ship back to Auckland where they were greeted with a huge celebration by proud New Zealanders (“VICTORY OF THE WANGANUI BAND,” 1910).
1920: 2ndSouth Canterbury (Timaru) Regimental Band – South Street Eisteddfod, Ballarat:
After the First World War ended and bands were gradually getting back to normal activities, the South Street Eisteddfod resumed and the 2nd South Canterbury Regimental Band, also known as the Timaru Regimental Band, ventured to Australia to compete in the 1920 contests. Despite them being a national champion band in New Zealand, at least before the war, their results in Ballarat were not that spectacular (Newcomb, 1980). That being said, the A Grade section did include Malvern Tramways Band, Ipswich Vice-Regal Band, South Sydney and the City of Ballarat – Timaru came up against some of the best in Australia at the time. Timaru Regimental did have some success in the Trombone Trio and placings in other solo sections so their experience of South Street was somewhat worthwhile (“SOUTH STREET BAND CONTESTS.,” 1920).
1934: Woolston Band – South Street “Centenary” Brass Band Contest, Ballarat:
In 1934 in the midst of a depression, the Woolston Band from Christchurch managed to find enough funds to make the trip to Ballarat with the aim of competing in the 1934 South Street “Centenary” Brass Band Contests – the name given as it was Victoria’s Centenary year since it became a separate colony. This was an auspicious event as it was attended by the Duke of Gloucester and the Band of His Majesty’s Grenadier Guards.
By all accounts they acquitted themselves very well and up against some of Australia’s best bands, they achieved second place. They did have some setbacks though. Newcomb (1980) writes of Woolston’s effort:
The Woolston Band may well have won the contest had it not drawn the dreaded No. 1 position in the second test piece. Bad weather resulted in a last-minute decision to stage the event indoors, and when the band started its performance it became evident that the standard seating formation did not conform with the acoustics of the hall.
After the contest, the adjudicator, Mr. Stephen York, told Mr. Estell the Woolston Band had not scored well because it was not properly balanced. Moreover, to add to the band’s misfortune, five members were suffering from influenza.(p. 47)
The standard of competition was very high and this was noted by the press that attended the event (“BRILLIANT PLAYING,” 1934). The winning band was the famed Melbourne Fire Brigade Band.
- 01/11/1934 – City Oval – Brass Band Contests
(Royal South Street Society, 1934)
1947: Wellington Waterside Workers Silver Band / Auckland Junior Waterside Workers Band – Australian Band Championships, Newcastle:
After the cessation of the Second World War, band competitions resumed in New Zealand and Australia and in 1947 the Australian Band Championships were held in Newcastle, N.S.W. Two New Zealand Bands made the trip to Newcastle that year with the Wellington band competing in A grade and the Auckland band competing in B grade. On this occasion, both bands did not receive a civic welcome to Newcastle but instead were awarded a function put on by the Newcastle Waterside Workers’ Social Committee (“Waterside Bands To Be Welcomed,” 1947).
Out of these two bands, the Wellington Waterside Band was the only one to gain a placing by achieving 3rd place however their soloists won most sections (Newcomb, 1980). The Auckland Junior band did not gain any placing and the A Grade championship was won by the Melbourne Fire Brigade Band (“FIREMEN SCORE IN BAND CONTEST,” 1947). Both Waterside bands performed at other events during their stay which helped contribute money to various waterside workers’ benefit funds (“New Zealand Bands Guest Artists,” 1947).
1949: St. Kilda Municipal Band – South Street Eisteddfod, Ballarat:
In 1949 the St. Kilda Municipal Band from Dunedin, elated by their success at the Auckland NZ Band Championships this same year, decided to come to Ballarat and compete for the Australian championship as well (Newcomb, 1980). Make the trip they did, and doing things differently to other New Zealand bands that had previously traveled to Australia, instead of taking a ship, they flew! (“NZ BAND WILL FLY HERE,” 1949).
To have a New Zealand band of this caliber at South Street was a major drawcard and they convincingly won or came 2nd in every section that they participated in (“NZ band has a big day at Ballarat,” 1949). The section included bands from Ballarat and the famous Brisbane Excelsior Band.
In concluding part one of this series of posts, one must admire the drive and determination of the New Zealand bands. Success was never a guarantee; however, it was shown that the best New Zealand bands were certainly a match for the crack Australian bands (and vice versa). Having bands visit from New Zealand was also a major drawcard to competitions for the visiting public.
In part two of this series, we can see how the Australian bands fared in New Zealand.
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BAND CONTEST. (1899, 11 November). Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article228744480
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
BRILLIANT PLAYING : Ballarat Band Contest. (1934, 05 November). Evening Post. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19341105.2.61
Early Canterbury Photography. (2014, March). McKesch, Henry John. Early New Zealand Photographers and their successors. http://canterburyphotography.blogspot.com/2014/03/mckesch-henry-john.html
FIREMEN SCORE IN BAND CONTEST. (1947, 22 September). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134239668
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Kaikorai Band. (1908, 14 January). Colonist, 3. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TC19080126.96.36.199
Kaikorai Band at Ballarat. (1908, 11 November). Otago Witness. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW19081111.2.151
N. Z. Govt, & Auckland Weekly News. (1910). THE WANGANUI GARRISON BAND IN MELBOURNE: WELCOMED BY A N. Z. Govt., & Auckland Weekly News. (1910). THE WANGANUI GARRISON BAND IN MELBOURNE: WELCOMED BY A HUGE CROWD AT THE NEW ZEALAND GOVERMENT AGENCY [Digital Image]. [AWNS-19101110-4-5]. Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tâmaki Makaurau / Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Auckland, N.Z. https://digitalnz.org/records/37929217/the-wanganui-garrison-band-in-melbourne-welcomed-by-a-huge-crowd-at-the-new
New Zealand Bands Guest Artists. (1947, 19 September). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134230123
Newcomb, S. P. (1980). Challenging brass : 100 years of brass band contests in New Zealand, 1880-1980. Powerbrass Music for the Brass Band Association of New Zealand.
NZ band has big day at Ballarat. (1949, 31 October). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22788890
NZ BAND WILL FLY HERE. (1949, 27 August). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243675387
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UNSHAVEN BANDSMEN. (1899, 10 November). Hawke’s Bay Herald. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/HBH18991188.8.131.52
VICTORIA : Intercolonial Band Contest. (1897, 22 April). Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 – 1922), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209088576
VICTORY OF THE WANGANUI BAND : Magnificent Performance : Only Three off Possible in “Own Choice”. (1910, 03 November). New Zealand Times. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19101103.2.14
WANGANUI BAND : A Civic Reception. (1910, 29 October). Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW : 1903 – 1920), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111390543
THE WANGANUI BAND : Mayoral Reception in Melbourne. (1910, 27 October). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article216382888
Waterside Bands To Be Welcomed. (1947, 11 September). Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article157898304
The Wellington Garrison Band. (1899, 07 November). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article156812212
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.