A band, a council, correspondence, and financial records: a case study of the Malvern City Band

The Malvern & Caulfield East Juvenile Band, 1922. (Source: IBEW)

Introduction:

If there is one aspect that defines the band movement of yesteryear, it is the relationships they formed through the course of their existence.  Some of these relationships were beneficial, others were not. Maintaining these relationships was sometimes difficult as issues needed to be ironed out.  On occasions, some issues became insurmountable, and there was never any proper resolution.

When we look at a typical brass band from the era of the early to middle 1900s there were several stakeholders who were involved with the band – certainly the musicians and bandmaster, but also the ladies’ auxiliary, the local council, and supporters.  It is probably the relationship with local councils that was most important to a band as the council allocated some funding, sometimes helped with a band hall, and gave permission for bands to use parks and bandstands.  However, councils and some bands had their own way of doing things.

This post is essentially a case study and is different to other posts on this blog that have focused on the linked stories of many bands.  The band in question is the Malvern City Band, a band that was only in operation from 1922-1939, but it is a band that offers an inordinate amount of information on how it worked, or did not work.  It was a band that was started with the best of intentions but was forever living under shadows of other bands and its way of operating was questionable.  The Malvern City Band drew an amount of controversy which played out through letters in the local papers.  Thus, it presents an almost perfect case study on relationships with various stakeholders, including the powerful Malvern City Council.

We will see in this post several sides to the Malvern City Band.  Firstly, will be a brief history of the band including its initial desire to be recognized as an independent entity, difficult as that was when the other band in the municipality was the Malvern Tramways Band.  From the outset the MCB had a difficult relationship with the Malvern City Council, and this will be explored from both sides of the disputes – and there were a few.  The role of the local newspaper was interesting at the time and an examination of this role is very useful – their actions were very much like the social media of today.  To conclude, a question will be asked as to who benefited during these years, the council, or the band? 

The Malvern City Band:

Let us just say from the outset that it cannot have been easy for the Malvern City Band when it started in 1922 given that the resounding success of the Australian band movement at the time, and the band held up high by Malvern City Council, was the Malvern Tramways Band – a band that still survives to this day as the Stonnington City Brass.

Punch, 2/5/1901, p. 22

They were not the first band in Malvern to hold this name.  In 1899 another band started called the Malvern Tradesmen’s Military Band, soon to become the Malvern Town Military Band in 1901 (“Malvern,” 1901).  This band stopped and started over the years.  In 1907 it restarted as the Malvern Town Band and in 1911, it changed its name to Malvern City Band in line with the newly proclaimed City of Malvern (“Malvern Town Band.,” 1907; “MODERN MALVERN.,” 1911).  The Malvern Town Band lasted another two years and was last seen in public on a parade in 1913 (Baritone, 1913).

In other band news from this time, the Malvern Tramways Band, originally known as the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust Band, started in November 1911 (Lawson-Black, 2010).

Punch, 19/12/1912, p. 53

Coming into 1922, with the Malvern Tramways Band now well-established and having a highly regarded reputation in band competitions, the Malvern & Caulfield East Juvenile Band was started by Malvern East (Manning Road) resident, Benjamin Long.  This band was started with the best intentions.  It was a band that was all for training youth in brass bands, and as evident by the picture at the head of this post, it succeeded in raising a full band (Malvern & Caulfield East Juvenile Brass Band, 1922).  A call went out in the Prahran Telegraph newspaper in August 1922 for more boys to join up as the band already had “twenty players” (“MALVERN JUVENILE BAND.,” 1922).  The band was initially conducted by Mr. W. F. King, a bandsman who had been associated with the Rupanyup Brass Band for a short stint in 1914-15, and had taken twelve months leave from the South Richmond Brass Band in 1921 to take on the bandmaster position with this new Malvern band (“Rupanyup Brass Band,” 1914; “South Richmond Brass Band.,” 1921). 

Weekly Times, 8/3/1924, p. 40

The band changed their name to the East Malvern Junior Band in 1923 and early newspaper reports indicate they were playing at some engagements, and received praise for their efforts (“EAST MALVERN JUNIOR BAND.,” 1923).  However, in early 1924, they changed their name again to the Malvern City Band as it was felt they were making “rapid progress” and there was “high appreciation of their ability” (“MALVERN JUNIOR BRASS BAND.,” 1924).  This latest name change could be viewed as naive as “Malvern City”, which the band argued was reflective of the geographic area, made it look like they were somehow associated with Malvern City Council.  There was one problem though, during the lifetime of this band, it was never recognised as the official band of Malvern (“COUNCIL OBJECTS TO BAND’S NAME,” 1933).  That honour went to the Malvern Tramways Band.  More on this will be examined further in the post.

Prahran Telegraph, 1/2/1924, p. 5

Nevertheless, the Malvern City Band continued to try to make a name for themselves, and according to an archival advertising flyer held by the Stonnington History Centre, they entered in the 1924 C Grade section at the Royal South Street Eisteddfod (Malvern City Brass Band, 1924).  They even held a two-day bazaar to fundraise for their trip, of which the money was to be used for new uniforms (“MALVERN BAND.,” 1924; “MALVERN CITY BRASS BAND.,” 1924).  The MCB were certainly listed as one of six entrants to this section as late as October 23rd, 1924, but according to the official results on October 25th, the day of competition, they never played – only five bands were listed in the results for C Grade, and Malvern City Band was not one of them (“BAND CONTESTS,” 1924; Royal South Street Society, 1924).  The Victorian Bands’ Association records in the newspapers show that the Malvern City Band affiliated with the then VBA from 1924 – 1927 (de Korte, 2020). 

The advertising flyer lists various charities and events the Malvern City Band played for, and it was true, the band did go out on many occasions to entertain, and continued to do so during their lifetime (Malvern City Brass Band, 1924).  Trips to Mont Park hospital and Queenscliff would have been big adventures (“EAST MALVERN JUNIOR BAND.,” 1923; “THE MALVERN CITY BAND.,” 1927).  For the most part, the MCB kept up a regular program of engagements at hospitals, parks and even some commemorations as they played at the 1926 Anzac Day in front of Parliament House (“THE PROGRAMME.,” 1926).  In 1929, they were pictured leading a parade of Scouts (“Scout Display at Exhibition,” 1929).  So, it would seem the MCB appeared as a normal, suburban brass band that got out and about, and played well when they did.

Table Talk, 3/10/1929, p. 9

One aspect of their existence that they made much of was connections to the high offices of the land, namely two Governors of Victoria.  At the time, the Victorian Government House  was located at Stonnington Mansion, a grand house on Glenferrie Road just north of the intersection with Malvern Road (Heritage Council Victoria, 2022).  In the early 1920s, the Victorian Governor was the Third Earl of Stradbroke who departed Victoria in April 1926 – the band played at a “welcome home” event in 1923 (Gardiner, 2006; “THE NEWS OF THE WEEK,” 1923).  The next Governor of Victoria was Arthur Herbert Tenyson Somers who took up residence at Stonnington Mansion soon after, and in July of that year, he agreed to become a patron of the Malvern City Band (Gregory, 2006; “ITEMS OF INTEREST.,” 1926).   Benjamin Long was ever fond of reminding people of these connections, as will be seen in the next sections regarding letters sent to the newspapers. 

It is hard to find out about the official fate of this band, but if the newspaper reports are anything to go by, after 1939 there is no mention of them (“FRANKSTON AGRICULTURAL ASSN.,” 1939).  Perhaps they simply folded, and the band members went separate ways.  Of interest, however, is a subtle change of name in their counterparts, the Malvern Tramways Band.  In newspaper reports from around this time, they are referred to as the Malvern Municipal and Tramways Band which could be interpreted as the band having less members who were tramway workers, and more that were members of the public.  It is quite possible, although no-one may know for sure, that some members of the former MCB went and joined other bands including the Malvern Tramways Band.  

The views of Malvern City Council:

Almost as soon as the band was started, it made applications to the Malvern City Council for financial assistance in the form of a subsidy, and to use collectors in parks when they were playing.  Now this was a perfectly reasonable request, however, the council did not see it that way and while they refused to give any subsidy to the band, collectors were allowed. (“BAND COLLECTIONS.,” 1922).  Councillors Mathews and Sylvester outlined in their feelings on the matter.

Cr. Mathews said that the Committee went thoroughly into the question.  It was felt that the council could not subsidise the band, as that course would create an undesirable precedent.  He would like to move that permission be granted to the band to take up collections and every alternate Sunday.

Cr. Sylvester said that every councillor’s sympathy went out to the band, which was composed of boys anxious to do something for the city.  At the same time the councillors were the custodians of the public money, and to grant the band a subsidy would be creating a dangerous precedent.  Other bands might be formed in Malvern and come along to the council and urge the same thing.

(“BAND COLLECTIONS.,” 1922)

This is not to say there were some other opinions.

Cr. Wilmot said the motion had his hearty support.  A gentleman had spent £300 in financing the band.

Cr. Wilson expressed his surprise at the action of the council in allowing collections to be taken upon Sundays in the Malvern parks and gardens for the funds of a band.

The motion was carried

(“BAND COLLECTIONS.,” 1922)

By 1924 the council’s position had changed somewhat and after a meeting in February 1924, a decision was made to refuse the Malvern City Band’s application to play every alternate Sunday in the Malvern gardens and take up a collection.  Again, there were some discussions published in the Prahran Telegraph newspaper.

Cr. Sylvester, in opposing the application, said that the public was already well-catered for in the matter of bands on Sunday afternoons.  The Malvern Gardens were comparatively small, and if the request were granted it would mean that considerable damage might be done to the plants and shrubs by children.

Cr. Love suggested that the band thought more of taking up a collection than providing music.

It was decided that the request be not granted

(“BAND CONCERTS, MALVERN.,” 1924)

One might get the impression that the Malvern City Band did not have its finances completely under control, and maybe this was a result of having been refused permission to play in parks and gardens, and not have its collectors out and about.  In 1925 an interesting snippet published in the Prahran Telegraph newspaper suggests that the MCB was still desperate to become the council’s band.  The council adopted a report from the Parks and Gardens committee which made this recommendation (amongst others).

That the Council take no action in connection with the request of the Malvern City Brass Band, that the Council should take over the Band and its liabilities.

(“Malvern Parks and Gardens.,” 1925)

The issue of collectors comes up frequently in the band news of this time, not only for Malvern City Band, but for every band.  Basically, bands sent out people around their local suburbs and towns with identifiable labels and uniforms to solicit money to help with the running of the band.  Under normal circumstances, this practice did not cause any problems and there seemed to be some unwritten rules like not intruding on other bands ‘territory’. Unfortunately, some disagreements did arise, like an example from Richmond in 1917 where their collector switched from the Richmond City Contest Band to the Richmond Boys’ Band – the RCCB sent out a circular to residents informing them of this change (Admans et al., 1917).

(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Archives)

The Malvern City Band did not seem to understand how their collectors were to be used, identified, or which localities they should have stayed in or out of.  Faced with various restrictions and refusals from Malvern City Council about collections at their performances in parks, the MCB struck out sent their collectors into other suburbs, which was looked upon very unfavourably by neighbouring bands, individuals, and councils.  There were a couple of instances in 1927 where collectors from the MCB were caught out in South Caulfield and Preston.  The Secretary of the South Caulfield Brass Band, Mr. G. H. Wells,  wrote a letter to Caulfield Council who admitted they were “powerless to act” against outside band collectors (“OUTSIDE BAND COLLECTORS IN CAULFIELD.,” 1927).

Cr. Patton: Our street is regularly canvassed on behalf of the Malvern City Band.  Have we not the power to stop that?

Cr. Hall: Mr. Wells seems to think we have.

Cr. Page: The same thing cropped up during the time I was Mayor.  The then Mayor of Malvern (Cr. Sylvester) said the Malvern band subsidy would be stopped if the band continued to send collectors into Caulfield.  It had been a source of annoyance to him.

(“OUTSIDE BAND COLLECTORS IN CAULFIELD.,” 1927)

The Preston Citizens’ Band was no less angry with the MCB Collectors and in an article published in The Herald newspaper they clearly outlined their feelings on the matter as can be seen in the article here (“MALVERN BAND CHARGED WITH POACHING,” 1927).

The Herald, 18/10/1927, p. 13

The Malvern Council was put in a difficult position by October of 1927 and its patience with the MCB was wearing thin. A week before the Preston Band outlined their feelings, Malvern City Council placed further restrictions on the MCB by adopting a recommendation from their Parks and Gardens committee.

4. That permission previously given to the Malvern City Brass Band to play in High street gardens and Ardrie Park be withdrawn.

 (“MALVERN PARKS AND GARDENS.,” 1927)

Despite this, complaints from other bands, individuals, and councils continued, with Malvern City Council writing to Kew Council in January 1928 disclaiming any connection with the Malvern City Band (“COLLECTIONS FOR BAND.,” 1928; M., 1928).

Over the next decade, due to the continuing poor business practices of the Malvern City Band and actions of its collectors, the Malvern City Council was forced to repeatedly state that the MCB had nothing to do with the Council – statements and letters published in the newspapers from Malvern Council were quite common.

The Mayor of Malvern (Cr. C. J. Waters) states that the Malvern City Brass Band, on behalf of which collectors have visited many city and country homes, is not recognised or subsidised by the council.  The band is not connected with the Malvern Municipal and Tramways Band.

(“LOITERED NEAR CARS,” 1931)

Mayor Waters also backed up these articles with letters to the newspapers (Waters, 1931).

Clearly the Malvern City Council were unhappy with the MCB, but what else could they do?  The band simply did not respond in good faith.  The MCB’s need for funds overrode any other respects it had for other bands and councils.  The MCB had gone rogue.

If the year 1937 was anything to go by, Malvern City Council had had enough of the MCB, and they took the extraordinary step of writing a letter to every municipality in the State of Victoria.  The letters were sent out in April 1937 and part of the letters had a simple but direct message for the other municipalities.

…that the Malvern City Brass Band is in no way connected with the council, and is not recognised or subsidised by the council in any way.

(“Dandenong Shire Council,” 1937)

These letters were received and noted by councils across Victoria over April and May 1937 – as there were too many articles of council records from late April and May 1937 to cite here, these have been included in the reference list below.

As mentioned in the previous section, after 1939, nothing was to be heard about the Malvern City Band.

The Malvern City Council’s position was understandable, and they had a right to insist on proper business and ethical practice.  Their view that the Malvern Tramways Band was Malvern’s Band was undeniable, and there was no other room for contenders against that view, and obviously no funding.  One might think however, that the Council could have handled things differently.  Other municipalities had multiple bands in their area which they managed to subsidize and handle issues like collectors, but the Malvern Council did not see it that way.  And the fact should be noted that the Malvern Tramways Band did not really need outside collectors as they were funded and supported by the Tramways.

A local newspaper: fuelling the controversy:

On the 21st of January 1927 a letter penned by the Honorary Organiser of the Malvern City Band, Mr. Benjamin Long, was published in the Prahran Telegraph newspaper which took aim at a financial statement released by the Malvern City Council a week beforehand (Long, 1927h).  What he, and the Prahran Telegraph newspaper did not realise at the time, was that this letter would be the first of twenty-four letters sent to this newspaper, plus some to other newspapers, all focused on the dispute between the Council and the band.  It is worthwhile to note that much of the disagreement over the previous years the band had been in operation was conducted privately.  In 1927 from January to May it was all aired to the public with various opinions thrown into the mix.  Out of the twenty-four letters sent to the Prahran Telegraph, Benjamin Long was responsible for writing six of them because he was the kind of person that had to defend his position and that of the MCB (Long, 1927c, 1927d, 1927e, 1927f, 1927g, 1927h).

At the time, the Prahran Telegraph newspaper was published weekly with papers being sent out every Thursday.  Which is why the whole thread of these letters span this time frame.  We could equate this with the social media of today, except, instead of discussions being responded to in minutes, hours or days, these letters had replies that appeared a week later.  Some weeks had more letters than others.  The Prahran Telegraph did not really help matters as due to the influx of letters surrounding the band, they started branding them under their own headline so that everyone knew what was being talked about.  The headline, “Malvern City Band Controversy” was first used at the start of a letter penned by ‘Malvern Ratepayer’ on the 18th of February (Malvern Ratepayer, 1927).

Prahran Telegraph, 18/2/1927, p. 4

It has been quite clear through some of this post that the Malvern City Council had problems with the operations of the band, and vice versa.  In part of the first letter written by Mr. Long on the 21st of January, he states,

Now, Sir, there are only two bands in this garden city of the South namely, the Malvern Tramways and our own (the Malvern City), and I wish it to be distinctly understood that we did not receive one penny of the £100 donated by the Council according to its balance sheet; and, further, I would like to state that it is over three years since we received anything from them, when they donated the sum of £25.

(Long, 1927h)

He did, however, make a good point towards the end of the letter comparing levels of support from different Councils.

Why, I see that in last week’s paper, where the Caulfield Council have voted three bands who play in their district (two of which have not even a uniform) sums that amount to nearly £300.  Surely if Malvern is to uphold its name as the Garden City the Malvern Council should take a leaf out of the Caulfield Council’s book and give the Malvern City Band at least a small grain of encouragement.

(Long, 1927h)

This letter sparked several replies and one official response which were published a week later in the 28th of January issue of the newspaper, all under pseudonyms.  Letters from ‘Disgusted’, ‘Mother of Five’ and ‘Old Timer’ were in support of the band while a letter from ‘South Caulfield’ questioned the motives of collectors who were out and about in Caufield supposedly collecting for the MCB (Disgusted, 1927; Mother of Five, 1927; Old Timer, 1927; South Caulfield, 1927).  Buried in amongst these letters was an article which could be assumed was submitted by someone attached to Malvern Council and which refuted many of the claims put forward by Mr. Long.  

The source of the trouble seems to be in a nutshell.  The band, it is understood, finds its main financial support per medium of house to house collections.  It is likewise stated that some time ago, when the band applied to the council for a subsidy, the council expressed a desire to be supplied with a balance-sheet.  The band promised that this would be forthcoming, but so far no balance-sheet has come to hand.  Therefore, the council remains fixed in its determination not to consider the question of granting a subsidy to the band until a balance-sheet comes to light. […] Surely Mr. Long will not deny that the council is entitled to a balance-sheet.  This is generally recognised as standard practice in matters of this kind.

(“The Official View.,” 1927)

Benjamin Long could not let this go without a response and he wrote a very long letter to the Prahran Telegraph newspaper which was published on the 4th of February (Long, 1927c).  In the same issue, another letter written by ‘Caulfield Resident’, claiming to be a member of the MCB, was published in reply to the letter written by ‘South Caulfield’ a week before (Caulfield Resident, 1927).  When responding to the article which stated an “official view’, Mr. Long included a letter written to the MCB in 1925 by Mr. B. Crosbie Goold, the then Town Clerk.

Dear Sir,-I have to acknowledge yours of the 23rd inst., forwarding statement of receipts and expenditure for twelve months ended 14th December, 1924, but note that same has not been audited.  I am returning it here with for the auditor’s formal certificate, and would be also glad if you would let me have a list of the office-bearers of the Band, so that same may be submitted to the Committee.

(Crosbie Goold (1925) in Long, 1927c)

As these things often do, the series of letters spiralled out into a series of sub-issues encompassing the operations of the band, financial records, collectors, and some slurs and jealousy dished out to the Malvern Tramways Band.  Not to mention a fair bit of who said whatwhen, and where.  For example, six letters published over March and April were simply replies and rebuttals between two letter writers, Mr. Long and ‘Another Malvern Ratepayer’ (Another Malvern Ratepayer, 1927a, 1927b, 1927c; Long, 1927d, 1927e, 1927f).  And there were still letters being sent in by supporters of the MCB, with one published on the 1st of April being unusual – this person sent it in under his real name (Johnston, 1927).

Additionally, Mr. Long sent three identical letters to The ArgusThe Age, and The Herald newspapers in early April in an attempt to inform the public about the nature and conduct of their collectors, with a snide reference to the Malvern Tramways Band (Long, 1927a, 1927b, 1927i).  The letter that was published in The Argus newspaper can be viewed below.

The Argus, 4/4/1927, p. 21

The Malvern Council could not remain silent for ever on these issues and sought to set the record straight.   Since Mr. Long disputed the official view (published on the 28th of January), it was not until April that Councillor James D. Evans wrote the first of two letters which reinforced and reiterated the view of the Council.

Sir.- Apparently there are still some persons who do not know why the Council refuses to donate to the Malvern City Band.  The official reason was given in your issue of 24-1-27, i.e that the grant had been held back owing to the non-production of an audited balance sheet.

[…]

Mr. Long states that he gave Cr. Francis the books; what really happened was this.  A parcel containing only a number of docket butts was left at his house, and this was afterwards laid on the Council table and opened in the presence of myself and other councillors.  Imagine a bank asking a firm for an audited balance sheet, and receiving a bundle of receipt buts instead.

[…]

I am not so much concerned with the controversy between the Malvern City junior band and the premier band of Australia, but I feel constrained to let the public know facts why the subsidy is withheld.” 

(Evans, 1927a)

Of course, Mr. Long could not let this letter lie and wrote again to the Prahran Telegraph newspaper on the 29th of April to refute Mr. Evans (Long, 1927g).  Interestingly, Mr. Long’s position was backed up by another letter writer from Wangaratta on the 29th of April who was under the pseudonym of ‘Ex-Vice President’ – and he claimed to have held that position in the MCB (Ex. Vice-President, 1927).  Mr. Evans wrote his second letter on the 6th of May to restate the Council’s and his views on the matter (Evans, 1927b).

Prahran Telegraph, 29/04/1927, p. 5

The last letter of this sorry saga was published on the 13th of May by the MCB Secretary Mr. Joseph Leech, and this was an answer to the last letter from Mr. Evans from the 6th of May (Evans, 1927b; Leech, 1927).  In this letter, Mr. Leech also included a rebuttal to another letter writer from the week before from ‘Above Board’ who had contributed another opinion (Above Board, 1927).  The last part of Mr. Leech’s letter stated that,

In regard to our balance sheet, which is always open for inspection by our supporters, we are preparing another one shortly, which we shall ask you, Mr. Editor, to be good enough to publish in your paper.

(Leech, 1927)

However, at the end of this letter, as was sometimes the case, the Editor of the Prahran Telegraph newspaper added in a small paragraph.

(We shall be pleased to publish an audited balance-sheet.  The whole correspondence has centred round the question of the production of an audited balance-sheet.  With the above letter the correspondence now closes.)

(Prahran Telegraph Editor in Leech, 1927)

So, in effect, the Prahran Telegraph newspaper seemingly ended this “controversy” as they originally called it in the belief that the MCB would supply them with the information that everyone wanted – which never ended up happening.  We see the same thing sometimes in social media when threads are locked.

There was one voice that was conspicuously absent during this exchange of letters, that of the Malvern Tramways Band. One would have thought that they would write to defend their own positions, given that the Malvern City Band was trying to smear their name with a few falsehoods.  The MTB did eventually raise their voice, but not through the local newspaper, and not directly addressing the previous topics of the letters.  In July 1927, Mr. Harry Shugg, then conductor of the MTB wrote a small letter to the Geelong Advertiser newspaper with a basic message for the people of Geelong.

Sir.-I understand that a uniformed conductor has been collecting in Geelong during this week on behalf of the Malvern City Band.  I desire to notify the public personally that this collector has no connection with the Malvern Tramways Band of which I am conductor.

(Shugg, 1927)

This was another measure is which the Malvern Tramways Band sought to distance themselves from the activities of the Malvern City Band.  Just over a year later, another letter appeared in the Prahran Telegraph newspaper written by Mr. Charles Snelling, then Honorary Secretary of the Malvern Tramways Band.  He was far more pointed in his language when addressing the fact that there were two bands in Malvern.

Sir.-For the benefit of your readers, and the Councillors of Prahran, I would thank you to allow me to state that there are two bands in the City of Malvern.  People confuse another band with the Malvern Municipal and Tramways Band.  We have no collectors at all, but other collectors are credited to our band.  We frequently are blamed for these people calling on residents of the suburbs and even the country districts.

(Snelling, 1928)

We saw where this was coming from previously in this post given the number of complaints sent to Malvern City Council and the extraordinary steps the Council took in 1937 with their own letter writing to all parts of Victoria.  Mr. Snelling went on in his letter to make some interesting statements, including one that indicates just how favourable the MTB was to the Council.

The Malvern City Council have always treated my band splendidly, and we have no complaints whatever to make.  Hoping that the Prahran residents will not confuse these collectors with my band, and thanking you.

(Snelling, 1928)

Malvern City Council would have no doubt been pleased to read this letter from Mr. Snelling.  The MTB brought prestige upon the name of Malvern through their many successes, and the Council sought to capitalise on that.

Maybe the Malvern City Band did not understand the relationships bands had with each other and the etiquette that was needed.  They certainly did not understand the quid pro quo with Council.  It was a band that did things their way and really, they should have known better.  Yes, other bands in Australia had disagreements with their home councils over funding, halls, performances, and other such issues but for the most part these were resolved amicably and with little loss of respect for each other.  Twenty-four letters to the local newspaper over the space of five months is unprecedented and without comparison.

Conclusion:

It would be fair to say that neither the Malvern City Band, Malvern City Council, or even the Prahran Telegraph newspaper exhibited very good practice through these years.  In short, it was a big mess.  And then there is the question of who to believe, which information is the most correct?  All we must go on is a whole host newspaper articles and correspondence.  When the band was performing, the articles were largely positive.  However, letters to the editor suggested that something was amiss in the way the band did things, especially letters received in Malvern from other municipalities.  So, while the band did its best to present a side that suggested it was supportive of charitable causes, the business practices it engaged in were very questionable when compared to other bands that were operating at the time.  And of course, its jealousy of the Malvern Tramways Band was unwarranted.  The MTB was a very different ensemble and much more established.  Perhaps there was room for two bands in Malvern, but the MCB made life much more difficult for itself.

Malvern City Council was put in a difficult position by the MCB.  However, when compared to the operations of other councils who supported multiple bands in their council areas, one would have though the Council could have offered much more support than they did beyond permission to play in parks and gardens, and for a band to take collections.  MCB had every right to ask the Council for support, the Council had every right not to give the band money unless the band opened its books.  The year 1927 was a perfect example of when both parties failed in their best practice.  And in the year 1937 when the Malvern council wrote to every other council in Victoria, this was a prudent measure but very heavy handed – although we could argue that the MCB brought that response upon themselves.

It should be seen that the Prahran Telegraph newspaper sought to capitalise on the situation in 1927 and deliberately inflamed tensions.  When receiving letters all on the same topic, branding them under their own headline with the word “Controversy” immediately invited some confrontation, which the newspaper duly received in those letters.  The local media then controlled some of the narrative, and the letter writers and the public were caught up in this.  The Malvern Tramways Band was wise to stay out of this despite being on the receiving end of slurs and false information.  

This case study of the Malvern City Band shows us many aspects about the operations and thoughts of the band, council, and local newspapers.  It is fascinating, but when compared to the histories of other bands, many of which have been explored in other posts, this sorry tale need not have happened in the way it did.  We cannot feel sorry for any of the parties, but we wish it could have been very different for the band and the council.

References:

Above Board. (1927, 06 May). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : RE BALANCE SHEET. : (To the Editor.). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165181080

Admans, G. R., Bowden, J., Davidson, J., & Hall, B. (1917). RICHMOND CITY CONTEST BAND : To the Citizens of Richmond. In Victorian Bands’ League Archive (Ed.), S04 – Letters, Documents & Books (Vol. S4.1 – Letters). Richmond, Victoria.

Alexandra Shire Council. (1937, 21 May). Alexandra and Yea Standard and Yarck, Gobur, Thornton and Acheron Express (Vic. : 1908 – 1949), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64735733

Another Malvern Ratepayer. (1927a, 01 April). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165186163

Another Malvern Ratepayer. (1927b, 04 March). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165178951

Another Malvern Ratepayer. (1927c, 18 March). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : Reply to Mr. Long : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165179586

AVON SHIRE COUNCIL : MONDAY, MAY 3. (1937, 06 May). Gippsland Times (Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63017974

BACCHUS MARSH COUNCIL. (1937, 15 May). Bacchus Marsh Express (Vic. : 1866 – 1943), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article262571933

BAND COLLECTIONS : Discussion at Malvern : On Sunday Concerts. (1922, 22 December). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165128099

BAND CONCERTS, MALVERN : Sundays not Suitable : Decision in Council. (1924, 22 February). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165094826

BAND CONTESTS : Last Phase of South Street. (1924, 23 October). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 26. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244852735

Baritone. (1913). Malvern Tramway Band. The State Band News, 4(7), 14.

Bass Shire Council. (1937, 13 May). Great Southern Advocate (Korumburra, Vic. : 1889 – 1906, 1914 – 1919, 1921 – 1940), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257233935

BENALLA SHIRE COUNCIL : MONTHLY MEETING. (1937, 14 May). North Eastern Ensign (Benalla, Vic. : 1872 – 1938), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70776837

BOGUS COLLECTORS ARE ABOUT : For “Malvern City Band”. (1937, 08 May). Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164480715

Caulfield Resident. (1927, 04 February). BAND COLLECTION’S IN SOUTH CAULFIELD : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165186978

COLLECTIONS FOR BAND. (1928, 26 January). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3906330

COUNCIL OBJECTS TO BAND’S NAME : Malvern’s Attitude. (1933, 19 October). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 22. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243192870

Dandenong Shire Council. (1937, 29 April). Dandenong Journal (Vic. : 1927 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article200679919

de Korte, J. D. (2020, 21 May). Choosing music and grading bands: The unenviable tasks of band associations and their music advisory boards. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2020/05/21/choosing-music-and-grading-bands-the-unenviable-tasks-of-band-associations-and-their-music-advisory-boards/

Disgusted. (1927, 28 January). MALVERN CITY BRASS BAND : Question of Council Support. : To the Editor. Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165187999

EAST MALVERN JUNIOR BAND : Successful Sunday Recital. (1923, 07 September). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165097358

Evans, J. D. (1927a, 14 April). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : Question of Council’s Subsidy. : Cr. Evans Explains : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165179150

Evans, J. D. (1927b, 06 May). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : RE BALANCE SHEET. : (To the Editor.). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165181093

Ex. Vice-President. (1927, 29 April). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : CR. EVANS AND MALVERN CITY BAND : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165179381

FRANKSTON AGRICULTURAL ASSN : GYMKHANA POSTPONED. (1939, 20 January). Frankston and Somerville Standard (Vic. : 1921 – 1939), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75009158

FUNDS FOR A PUBLIC PARK. (1924, 08 March). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 40. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223860577

Gardiner, L. R. (2006). Stradbroke, third Earl of (1862-1947. In Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 16 July 2022, from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stradbroke-third-earl-of-8693

Gregory, A. (2006). Somers, Arthur, Herbert, Tenyson (1887-1944). In Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 16 July 2022, from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/somers-arthur-herbert-tennyson-8578

Healesville Shire Council : MONTHLY MEETING. (1937, 01 May). Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian (Vic. : 1900 – 1942), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60455094

Heritage Council Victoria. (2022). Stonnington (679) Victorian Heritage Database. https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/679

ITEMS OF INTEREST. (1926, 21 July). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3796939 

Johnston, B. L. (1927, 01 April). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165186163

Lawson-Black, P. (2010). Bold as brass : the story of Stonnington City Brass then and now. Pat Lawson Black, Stonnington City Brass. 

Leech, J. (1927, 13 May). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : Secretary Leech’s Views. : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165179688

Livingstone Muntz, D. (1912, 19 December). CHURCH PARADE AT MALVERN.—TRAMWAYS BAND HEADING PROCESSION. OPPOSITE THE TOWN HALL. Punch (Melbourne, Vic. : 1900 – 1918; 1925), 53. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article175804920

LOITERED NEAR CARS : Three Men Imprisoned. (1931, 03 August). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242968024

Long, B. (1927a, 07 April). BAND COLLECTORS. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243921359

Long, B. (1927b, 04 April). MALVERN BAND COLLECTORS : TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 21. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3847236

Long, B. (1927c, 04 February). MALVERN CITY BAND : Question of Council’s Subsidy : Mr. Long and Bands’ Balance Sheet. : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165186979

Long, B. (1927d, 25 March). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : Mr. Long Continues the Battle : (To the Editor.). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165178512

Long, B. (1927e, 08 April). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : Mr. Long Hits Out Again : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165181527

Long, B. (1927f, 11 March). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : Mr. Long Returns to the Charge. : (To the Editor.). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165186626

Long, B. (1927g, 29 April). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY : The Allegations by Cr. Evans. : Emphatic Denials by Mr. Benjamin Long : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165179380

Long, B. (1927h, 21 January). MALVERN CITY BRASS BAND : Question of Council Support : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165187301

Long, B. (1927i, 06 April). RE MALVERN BAND COLLECTORS : TO THE EDITOR OF THE AGE. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205807873

M., H. (1928, 14 April). COLLECTORS FOR BAND : TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 24. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3924852

Malvern : Proclaimed a Town By the Lieut.-Govenor Sir John Madden : WEDNESDAY, 24th APRIL, 1901. (1901, 02 May). Punch (Melbourne, Vic. : 1900 – 1918; 1925), 22. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article175386859

Malvern & Caulfield East Juvenile Brass Band. (1922). [Photograph]. [phot11449]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures – Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

MALVERN BAND. (1924, 19 September). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165096639

MALVERN BAND CHARGED WITH POACHING : Preston Band Angry. (1927, 18 October). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243936496

MALVERN CITY BAND : NOT A MUNICIPAL BODY. (1937, 21 May). Frankston and Somerville Standard (Vic. : 1921 – 1939), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75003337

THE MALVERN CITY BAND : Sunday Trip to Queenscliff. (1927, 25 March). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165178520

Malvern City Brass Band. (1924). The Malvern City Brass Band Monster Bazaar. In Malvern Collections (Textual material; Graphic materials ed., Vol. MP571701). Malvern, Victoria: Stonnington Library + Information Service: Stonnington History Centre.

MALVERN CITY BRASS BAND : A Two-Days’ Bazaar. (1924, 10 October). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165094429

MALVERN JUNIOR BRASS BAND. (1924, 01 February). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165095540

MALVERN JUVENILE BAND : Players’ Opportunity. (1922, 18 August). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165125247

MALVERN PARKS AND GARDENS. (1927, 07 October). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165185006

Malvern Parks and Gardens : COMMITTEE’S REPORT. (1925, 13 February). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165132417

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Malvern Town Band : Inaugural Meeting. (1907, 09 February). Malvern Standard (Vic. : 1906 – 1931), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66379770

MELTON SHIRE COUNCIL. (1937, 01 May). Melton Express (Vic. : 1915 – 1943), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article254746402

MODERN MALVERN : Proclamation as a City : Two Days’ Rejoicing. (1911, 27 May). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165104223

Mother of Five. (1927, 28 January). MALVERN CITY BRASS BAND : Question of Council Support. : To the Editor. Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165187998

Mulgrave Council : THURSDAY, APRIL 29. (1937, 06 May). Dandenong Journal (Vic. : 1927 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article200680019

NARRACAN SHIRE COUNCIL. (1937, 14 May). Narracan Shire Advocate and Yallourn Brown Coal Mine, Walhalla and Thorpdale Lines Echo (Moe, Vic. : 1923 – 1943), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article264532371

THE NEWS OF THE WEEK : RETURN OF VICTORIA’S GOVENOR : WELCOME TO LORD AND LADY STRADBROKE. (1923, 27 October). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223834954

Not Malvern City’s Brass Band. (1937, 07 April). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244642861

The Official View. (1927, 28 January). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165188000

Old Timer. (1927, 28 January). MALVERN CITY BRASS BAND : Question of Council Support. : To the Editor. Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165187957

OUTSIDE BAND COLLECTORS IN CAULFIELD : Council Powerless to Act. (1927, 19 August). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165184889

Portland Shire Council. (1937, 17 May). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64275813

THE PROGRAMME : TO-MORROW’S PLANS : PROCESSION AND SERVICE. (1926, 24 April). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201640199

Royal South Street Society. (1924). 1924-10-25 Brass Band Contests : Held at City Oval [Eisteddfod Results]. Royal South Street Society Results Database. https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1924-10-25-brass-band-contests 

Rupanyup Brass Band. (1914, 09 July). Rupanyup Spectator and Lubeck, Banyena, Rich Avon and Lallat Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121056539

Scout Display at Exhibition. (1929, 03 October). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146713600

Shire Council Promptly Despatches Business : Walpeup Councillors Make Important Decisions : HELP FOR OUYEN BATHS AND RECREATION OVAL SCHEMES : . (1937, 12 May). Ouyen Mail (Vic. : 1915 – 1918, 1931 – 1941), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article255689463

Shugg, H. (1927, 27 July). LETTERS TO THE EDITOR : TWO MALVERN BANDS. Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232396710

Snelling, C. (1928, 24 August). MALVERN TRAMWAYS BAND : A Reminder. (To the Editor.). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165010626

South Caulfield. (1927, 28 January). BRASS BANDS’ BLARE : To the Editor. Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165188001

South Richmond Brass Band. (1921, 04 June). Richmond Guardian (Vic. : 1884 – 1885; 1894 – 1895; 1902 – 1928), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article264270060

“THE TIMES.” : THURSDAY, APRIL 22, 1937. (1937, 22 April). Gippsland Times (Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63017711

‘WARE OUTSIDE BAND COLLECTORS. (1937, 07 May). Sunshine Advocate (Vic. : 1924 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75197039

Waters, C. J. (1931, 31 July). BAND COLLECTIONS. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4404518

Werribee Shire Council : THURSDAY, 13th MAY, 1937. (1937, 20 May). Werribee Shire Banner (Vic. : 1911 – 1952), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74713584

Training Bandmasters in the art of conducting: the problems, the status quo, and the plans

The Victorian Bandmasters’ Association, approx. 1931
(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Archives)

Introduction:

There is no doubting that any band requires leadership and that the leaders of bands, whether they be musical – conductors/bandmasters, and Drum Majors – or in administration, require a set of qualities that are different from other band members.  This has been the case in our band movement from almost the beginning and many musicians have aspired to be in such leadership roles.  Often, they have succeeded.  At times, the needs of the band have not been met. There is no doubting that these roles require lots of hard work and skill, not only as a leader but also as a musician.

We will see some criticisms from the great British band adjudicators who nearly always had plenty to say.  Of course, we know that many Australian band conductors of the past were very highly regarded, but that fact was sometimes ignored by our British counterparts.  However, given this post will touch on some controversial histories of Australia’s band movement, we will probably end up with more questions than answers.  

Whatever we do in the band movement has some basis in history and tradition.  There are three aspects to this post that will provide some context and history.  Firstly, we will see some of the problems that existed in bands regarding musical leadership, mainly seen through the eyes of eminent band personalities.  The second part of this post will talk about the interesting status quo of recruiting conductors who just happened to be Cornet players as well.  In the third part of this post there will be an examination of possible solutions to musical training and knowledge, which was the cause of much hand wringing for many decades – good intentions were expressed, except many of these good intentions failed to come to fruition.

The problems at hand:

In 1902/03, Scottish band conductor and adjudicator James Ord Hume visited Australia and New Zealand to adjudicate at many Eisteddfods, and through this visit he imparted his knowledge and opinions whenever he had an opportunity.  This visit, and his subsequent visit in 1924 were detailed in a previous post (de Korte, 2021).  The influence he had on Australian bands, in conjunction with the tours by the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, was profound and he noted as much when he visited again in 1924.  In deference to the topic of this post however, his early impression of Australian bands was that they lacked “tuition”, and this he put down to the knowledge of the conductor – “…here it seems to be ‘Australia for the Australians,’ and that will not do in music at any rate” (“MR. J. ORD HUME.,” 1903).  James Ord Hume was noted for the forthright nature of his comments (Thirst, 2006).

Did James Ord Hume have a valid point?  He provided comment in 1902/03 when the Australian band movement was essentially at the start of rapid development.  Perhaps he was laying a foundation for Australian bands to build on, rather than direct criticism.  However, we cannot treat this as a purely isolated observation as other band identities, some of them visitors from the United Kingdom, made similar comments over time.  In a wide-ranging interview published in the Australian Star newspaper in 1908, “Mr William Short, chief trumpeter in the private band of King Edward” had plenty to say regarding Australian bands and what conductors should be focusing on (“AUSTRALIAN BANDS,” 1908). 

Your bands are badly in need of good tuition.  Bands should play like one man.  They should be taught by men who have a practical knowledge of the various instruments and a large experience. […] The bands in Australia want polishing up.  One or two are really good and the others are mediocre.  Teaching is everything.  The conductor should insist on having complete charge of the band.  He should not let anything slip.  Some of the bands I have heard have very much the appearance of being under divided control. 

(“AUSTRALIAN BANDS,” 1908)

Now, perhaps this was a little unfair given the times, but again, like the comments from James Ord Hume, not unwarranted and it reflects the leadership situation in the Australian band movement at the time.  

It must be noted that the tuition of bandsmen and bandmasters was a pet topic for Mr. Ord Hume and in 1909, an article written for the British Bandsmen magazine was reprinted in The Cairns Post newspaper (Ord Hume, 1909).  For the sake of brevity, his words on tuition will not be directly quoted however there are some aspects of his article that are pertinent to the next section – the article can be accessed by the link on the citation.

The Register, 04/10/1924, p. 8

When James Ord Hume visited Adelaide in October 1924 during his travels across Australia from Ballarat to Western Australia (and then back to England), he was interviewed by The Advertiser newspaper where he made some interesting observations.  Generally, he was in praise of the rise in standards.  However, he tempered this with some other pointed remarks about bands and conductors.

The chief fault in Australia in the lower sections he found was the lack of proper tuition.  However enthusiastic a bandmaster might be, the lack of that particular tuition was keenly felt.  Some of the bands in that section he had heard had no interpretative ability whatever.  They were very enthusiastic, but were led by bandmasters who themselves should have had better tuition.  That was a fault which should be remedied by the associations, which, to the best of his knowledge, did not permit others than bandmasters to train or conduct the bands. […] One band in particular played so poorly that he felt sorry for the bandsmen, who, in his opinion, were led like lost sheep.  He felt inclined to go up and ask the bandmaster if he might be permitted to conduct those selections again, even without a rehearsal, to show what the bandsmen could really do.  They lacked tuition, and that was the whole trouble.

(“A GREAT BANDMASTER.,” 1924)
(Foote) The News, 01/04/1925, p. 1. (Madge) The News, 23/01/1925, p. 10. (Levy) The News, 09/04/1925, p. 1.

Evidently, after James Ord Hume arrived back in England, he made some further remarks in relation to Australian bands, which touched off a war of words, most notably between several South Australian band identities.  First was Mr. William Foote, then bandmaster of the Adelaide Tramways Band where he quoted some of Mr. Ord Hume’s words in an article published by The News newspaper in early June 1925.  Mr. Foote stated,

It is the truth.  In saying that the bands are more advanced than the bandmasters he has put his finger on the root of the trouble.” said Mr. W. H. Foote, A.R.C.M. speaking of the criticism against Australian bands by Lieut. J. Ord Hume.

[…]

“We have the musicians, but we lack the men to direct them.” Mr. Foote concluded.  “The ‘painfully correct’ playing of which Lieut. Ord Hume complains is the direct result of the bandmasters’ want of artistry and skill.”

(“BAND CONDUCTORS,” 1925)

Mr. Foote was an ex-military bandsman from England with a high degree of orchestral training and he was brought out to work with the Adelaide Conservatorium and the Adelaide Orchestra.  He was appointed conductor of the Adelaide Tramways Band in 1922 upon the resignation of Mr. Christopher Smith (“AN ENTHUSIASTIC MUSICIAN,” 1921; “NEW DIRECTOR FOR TRAMWAYS BAND.,” 1922).

In the same article that quoted Mr. Foote, Mr. W. Levy, then President of the South Australian Band Association (SABA), also supported Mr. Ord Hume’s remarks.

He is correct so far as the conductors are concerned,” he said, “and through there are some find bandmasters, here there are many who can only bring a band up to a certain standard. […] Lieut. Ord Hume is one of the leading authorities on bands in the world, and his remarks should be treated with respect.

(“BAND CONDUCTORS,” 1925)

Almost immediately there was reaction from another member of the South Australian band community.  Two days later, a letter was sent to The News newspaper by Mr. C. J. Madge, bandmaster of the Unley Municipal Band where he was very critical of the attitudes of Mr. Ord Hume, Mr. Foote, and Mr. Levy.

…the latest statement of Mr. Foote, in which he criticises the ability of our present conductors, is an insult to the intelligence of a body of men who are freely giving of their best in the interests of bands in Australia.  The painfully correct playing of which Mr. Ord Hume and Mr. Foote complain was the playing that carried the Newcastle Steelworks Band ahead of the best bands that Britain and her conductors could produce.  But Mr, Hume went farther, and stated that that there were even better bands in Australian than that at Newcastle.  These better bands are conducted by Australian conductors whom Mr. Foote characterises as leading bands which only muddle along.

The remarks of Mr. W. Levy (president of the Bands Association) also call for comment.  It is hard to credit that the president of the bands criticises the men who work for practically no or little remuneration.  Certainly the conductors can improve, and from what we say of Mr. Ord Hume, while in Adelaide he, too, is not infallible, but it was hardly expected that our president would criticise bandmasters, and thus probably sow the first seeds of dissatisfaction in the bands he professes to cherish.

(Madge, 1925)

The colloquially titled letter writer, ‘Dulcet’ chimed in with a smaller letter published on the same day as Mr. Madge’s letter which suggested that Mr. Ord Hume “adapted his criticisms to suit various audiences” (Dulcet, 1925) – Mr. Ord Hume apparently said one thing in Australia and then upon returning to England he contradicted previous words – which may or may not be true – people had their opinions.

A day later after Mr. Madge’s letter had been published, Mr. W. Levy, wrote his own letter to clarify his previous comments and refute Mr. Madge.

It is not my intention to enter on a newspaper controversy, but I cannot allow to pass unnoticed the comment of Mr. C. J. Madge in regard to myself.  When I expressed my opinion respecting Mr. Ord Hume’s remarks on bands and conductors in Australia my intention was not to criticise “the men who work for practically no or little remuneration.”  I simply stated a fact as it presents itself to me, and shall indeed be sorry if the opinion expressed “sows the first seed of dissatisfaction in the bands I profess to cherish.

Unfortunately, the truth is hurtful at times, but one must sometimes be “cruel to be kind.”  No one more than myself holds conductors and bandsmen in higher regard, or recognizes to the full the amount of hard work and sacrifices entailed by these men.  Yet I cannot hide the fact that there are bandmasters who, unfortunately, for the bands concerned, have their limitations.  They work hard and conscientiously unto their limit.

(Levy, 1925)

It was all very well and good for Mr. Levy to make these comments in his letter, and to try to clarify his attitudes towards band conductors.  There is no doubting that he was trying to do the best he could for the band community.  Certainly, Mr. Ord. Hume was a highly respected band authority.  Maybe his remarks were taken out of context and misinterpreted by Mr. Foote and Mr. Levy…? 

Some days later, another letter from Mr. A. B. Michell, Honorary Secretary of The Mitcham Band was published in The News newspaper where he took apart Mr. Ord Hume’s remarks.

Lieut. J. Ord Hume states that “Australian bands are ahead of their bandmasters,” but he does not say in what particular.  Then he declares that “professional conductors are a necessity for the improvement of Australian bands.”  This seems ridiculous when the population of Australia is compared to that of Britain.  And you can count on ten fingers all the first-class all the first-class English bandmasters.

(Michell, 1925)

…and muddying the waters even more, Mr. Michell wrote,

I was surprised to learn of Mr. Foote supporting the statements of Mr. Hume because on one occasion when I spoke to him of Mr. Ord Hume, Mr. Foote said that he did not know of him in the musical world at home.

 (Michell, 1925)

One wonders what the public thought of these exchanges.

In concluding this section, we can see some valid points come across.  Firstly, the opinions of renowned bandsmen did not truly reflect or understand the Australian context.  No doubt these visiting bandsmen meant well and tried to support the local band movement as best they could, however, their opinions did cause some controversy.  Secondly, Australian bandmasters needed proper training to become bandmasters.  The bandmasters needed to know more than just conducting, they needed to be musicians and teachers, and this will be partly explored in the next section.  Thirdly, it was all very well saying tuition was the key, and the people that said this were probably correct.  If tuition is the key, then the solution of setting up training programs is obvious, and it was.  Except, as we will see in the third section of this post, that was easier said than done.

The status quo:

The Bunbury Herald, 16/09/1907, p. 3

WANTED, BANDMASTER, to teach WALCHA BAND.  Must be a Cornet Player.Applications close 24/7/’08.  H. DOAK, Secretary.

(Doak, 1908)

WANTED, CONTEST BANDMASTER.  Cornet-Player preferred.  Boulder City Band.  Salary £5 per week.  We have a good Band, 26 members, full instrumentation.  Apply early.  JAS. HARRIS, Sec., Box 19, Boulder, W.A.

(Harris, 1910)

Bandmaster / Cornetist:

If we were to read the many articles surrounding the bandmasters of old, we would see some common threads.  One thread is that for the smaller bands and mainly country bands, the bandmaster they gained was most often a local music teacher who possibly had some knowledge of brass instruments.  Mr. E. H. McKee, newly appointed bandmaster of the Port Macquarie Band in 1919 was a prime example.  He was reputed to be able to play almost all instruments and was essentially a teacher of “violin, piano, banjo” (no mention of his brass playing credentials) – however, he was certified from Trinity College London (“New Bandmaster.,” 1919).  There were many others like Mr. McKee.

The other common thread was that the bandmaster was a highly credentialed and trained Cornet player that had climbed the ranks of the brass band movement and was then encouraged or assumed the role of bandmaster.  Some of them were legendary musicians.  One can see by the photo of the Victorian Bandmasters’ Association at the top of this post that these musicians were the very pinnacle of bandsmen.  They were also very fine conductors and adjudicators (de Korte, 2020a).  So, within the band movement at the time, when it came to the appointing of new bandmasters, the preference was to gain a person who was also a Cornet player – the advertisements of the time which can be viewed through this section attest to this practice.

Examiner, 23/03/1911, p. 7

However, this was problematic, and it drew criticism.  In 1908 an article was published in The Age newspaper outlining what it would take to improve band music.  The author touched on many aspects, but one that stood out was tuition of bandsmen and bandmasters.  There were some quite pointed words.

Our bandsmen, save in some isolated instances, seldom achieve real mastery, not because they lack ability or the necessary perseverance, but because they get too little tuition.  What is more hampering, the tuition is not always of the best.  Most of it is done by the bandmasters, and these, putting aside one or two who can be credited with good work, are mostly unequal to the task.  They are as a rule cornet players, and their proficiency in this respect is supposed to give them the wherewithal to train recruits in the use of the saxhorn, the euphonium, the trombone, and what not.

(“IMPROVEMENT OF BAND MUSIC.,” 1912)
The Areas’ Express, 21/04/1911, p. 4

This may have been a very Australian way of doing things (and we can draw from Mr. Ord Hume’s remarks in 1902/03 about just how the Australian band movement tended to have its own way of operating).  As mentioned, James Ord Hume wrote a long article for The British Bandsmen in 1909 and the Cairns Post newspaper reprinted this article.  It was not specifically directed at Australian bands.  Although, we can see in his writing some indirect criticisms that would be applicable to Australian bands as evidently, some English bands were also appointing bandmasters who were Cornet players. 

One of the members generally one who can blow a cornet, is the lucky choice as the bandmaster, regardless of his experiences or capability as a teacher, as long as he is good hard blower of the cornet.

[…]

No man appreciates the artistic cornet playing teacher better than I do.  I consider that an artiste upon his instrument is the very best instructor.  It is not to this class of cornet player I refer to but to the band that is continually advertising for a bandmaster – “cornet player preferred.”  Why does this band not advertise honestly for a cornet player and have done with it?  It is in such matters as this that ruination gradually comes in.  The best instrumentalists are not necessarily the best teachers, and more than the best teachers should be also artists and instrumentalists.

(Ord Hume, 1909)
The Mercury, 23/11/1932, p. 3

He wrote further in this article on the problems of tuition (it was one of his favourite topics after all) and there is much to be taken from this article.  But this did not end the criticism of the Australian band movement when it came to employing bandmasters.  Many years later in 1932, a Mr. Frederick J. Nott, teacher of “organ trumpet, harmony, counterpoint and composition” at the Melbourne Conservatorium was interviewed by The Mercury newspaper when he was holidaying in Hobart in 1932 (“MUSIC AND MUSICIANS,” 1932).  He was not a stranger to bands having played in A.I.F. bands and he understood the band movements in Britain and Australia.  He had a bit to say about the training and qualifications of Australian band conductors.

Reacting to the suggestion that more musicianly conductors would make a vast different to bands, Mr. Nott said: “Yes, the mistake is often made of appointing a man as bandmaster because he is a good cornet-player.  The proper place of such a man is as solo-performer, not as conductor.  The ideal conductor is a thoroughly trained musician, and, let me add, he should, if possible, have a practical knowledge of every instrument in the band.  A trained musician will not allow those crudities of interpretation to pass that are often heard from bands under the beat of solo-cornetists. […] In Australia on the other hand, a man who can play his cornet with a good tone and fair execution, without being able to explain the simplest problems in theoretical music, is considered a fit person to train and conduct a band.  This, of course, is all wrong.  It would be far better to get a trained musician as conductor, even if he could not play, as long as he understood the principles and the technique of the instruments.

(“MUSIC AND MUSICIANS,” 1932)
The State Band News, 4(6), p. 21

We can see the pattern of what Mr. Nott was describing simply through the many advertisements, so it is no surprise that he was criticising the fact that many band conductors in Australia had gained their position because they were Cornet players who just happened to be bandmasters as well, or vice versa.  Bearing in mind that this was some years after the comments from Mr. Ord Hume which is telling; it means that Australian bands were still hidebound by a practice of employing Cornetist-Bandmasters who may or may not have been good musicians.  Again, it signifies that training specifically designed for bandmasters was not available at the time, there was no Australian Band & Orchestra Director’s Association for example, nor were there the courses (ABODA Victoria, 2018).  So, in a sense, it wasn’t the fault of the Australian band movement that they kept to the status quo for so many years – there was no alternative.

The Daily Standard, 07/11/1914, p. 1

Qualifications:

Regarding the points made about the musical knowledge of conductors at the time, there were some interesting stories about conductors who prided themselves and were very confident about their abilities as conductors.  Once instance was in 1914 when the then conductor of the Wagga Town Band, Mr. W. G. Philpott took umbrage to malicious rumours that had been circulating about him – “Old Philpott and his mob” (and other rumours about drinking) – so he issued a challenge to Mr. A. Long, conductor of the Junee Municipal Band which was republished in various regional newspapers (“Bandmaster’s Challenge.,” 1914).

I, the undersigned, hereby challenge Mr. A. Long bandmaster, or prospective bandmaster of the Junee Municipal Band, to compete against me for a knowledge of the science of music, from the most elementary rudiments to the highest branches of theory, harmony, counterpoint, and fugue composition, and instrumentation; […] I also challenge Mr. Long to compete against me as a bandmaster for a knowledge of the acoustic properties of all brass band instruments and scientific tuning, band training and conducting.

(Philpott in “Bandmaster’s Challenge.,” 1914)

There was more to this challenge including getting the bands to face off against each other. It is interesting that the very facets of musical knowledge that Mr. Philpott is using as a challenge are the streams of knowledge that Mr. Ord Hume and others are saying that several Australian bandmasters lack. Perhaps they were right, and Mr. Philpott was an exception.  Further to this little story, this was all there was in the papers about this.  The challenge was issued but it appears there were no further developments.

St. George Call, 11/03/1916, p. 5

The Longreach Town Band marching band in a procession to the Railway Station, leaving for Townsville to compete in the band contests at Easter, 1928. (Source: State Library of Queensland: 167364)

Bandmasters came to bands with a range of experiences and qualifications.  So what were bands after, aside from the seemingly obligatory cornetist? Let us look to the Longreach Town Band where in 1928 they undertook a search for a new bandmaster.  They presented a rationale for this decision which was at the head of a long article published in The Longreach Leader newspaper in June 1928.

At a meeting of the committee of the Longreach Town Band on Monday the terms under which the present Bandmaster (Mr. F. Affoo) was employed were fully discussed, and it was eventually decided that he could not be re-engaged under his terms, and applications are to be called through the Press for a new Bandmaster.

(“LONGREACH TOWN BAND.,” 1928)

The experience of the Longreach Town Band is actually a very useful case study as a month later, another article was published in The Longreach Leader newspaper which detailed some of the discussion of the committee and it detailed the qualifications and experience of all fifteen applicants.  There were some interesting points of view from the committee.

Mr. Cullimore contended that the first point to consider was the musical ability of the man they wanted and then the finance unless they got a good man it was certain they would not get the public support.

Mr. J. Coates did not agree; he thought the first and vital point to consider was finance, with musical ability next.  The Band was not in the fortunate position of the Longreach Football League who received big gates for their matches.  The Band had to depend upon money from concerts.

Mr. Browne disagreed with Mr. Coates.  For a little extra money that might be involved a good man would be far more satisfactory to the Band and the public; the public would support the band for a fist class man but not for a conductor that was no good.

(“New Bandmaster for Longreach.,” 1928)

From looking through the applications of the fifteen bandsmen who applied for the Bandmaster position at Longreach, we can see some patterns emerge.

  • Twelve out the fifteen were already conductors of bands with two of them having the additional experience of having conducted an orchestra and a choir.  The other three had no conducting experience with one of those three a Mr. Alf Cereso of Red Hill, Brisbane only stating that he had “wide experience in concert work.”
  • Eight of the applicants were Cornet players, some of whom listed their competition successes, others who just listed that they had fulfilled the role of Solo or Soprano Cornetists with various bands.  Five did not list which instrument they played. Unusually for an application to become a bandmaster, Mr. A. E. Gallagher from Wallsend, N.S.W. proudly noted that he had been the Solo Euphonium and Baritone of the Newcastle Steelworks Band on their tour to England – but he had no conducting experience.
  • Another interesting pattern can be observed from these applications.  Several of the bandsmen who applied listed that they had been part of many bands in the past, either as a player or conductor. We might call these bandsmen, ‘Journeyman Bandsmen’.  In a measure of where these bandsmen had been, eleven had experiences in multiple bands.  Out of those eleven, four had experiences with bands in other countries – two of them in New Zealand and two in England.  And out of those eleven, most had experience from interstate bands with Victoria and New South Wales being most prominent.  Some of the bands from interstate were impressive – Mr. V. Braddock (Warragul, Victoria) had played Cornet with the Malvern Tramways Band on their tour to New Zealand, Mr. F. A. Nicholls (Nundah) had once played professional cornet with the Geelong Harbour Trust Recreation Band Club, and it has been mentioned re Mr. A. E. Gallagher who had played Euphonium and Baritone with the Newcastle Steelworks Band.  And some of these applicants claimed military band experience as well.

(This data was summarised from “New Bandmaster for Longreach.,” 1928)

The band had to make a choice, and this was detailed near the end of the article.

After considerable discussion it was decided that Arthur J. Rees’ application should be accepted (terms £2/10/ weekly, with position, or £5 a week until a position could be secured for him.)

Mr. Fred Wedd, Innisfail was second choice, and Mr. Geo. B. Shakespeare (Longreach) was third choice.

 (“New Bandmaster for Longreach.,” 1928)

The application from Mr. Rees had been quite detailed.

Over 40 years of age, with more than 20 years experience as player and conductor of contesting bands at Home (England), and also several years experience as conductor of male choirs; in Australia six months: at present conductor of Parkes Band, which position he secured out of 17 applications; but was desirous of leaving because employment could not be found for him; started a band of learners at Parkes (19 strong), and about September or October next expected his two sons (17 and 19 respectively) from England, who were good solo cornetists at present playing for T. J. Rees, the well-known conductor of South Wales; these boys would be brought to Longreach if positions could be found for them later on; he was receiving £2/10/ – at Parkes.

(“New Bandmaster for Longreach.,” 1928)
The Sydney Morning Herald, 28/11/1918, p. 12

Employment outside of the band was a contributing, and necessary factor in these times.  A previous post about Australian bands during the Great Depression touched on the issues regarding bandsmen being employed in and around where bands were located (de Korte, 2020b).

There is much we can take from this section regarding the qualifications and experience of bandmasters, and the fact that bands wanted bandmasters who were skilled Cornet players.  Clearly, some disagreed with this practice, and they had their reasons.  While some Bandmasters were very experienced, it could be argued bandmasters on a whole needed some real training specific to their position.  This will be detailed in the next section.

To conclude, bandmasters were revered by many.  In October 1908, an impassioned letter was published in The Ballarat Star newspaper asking municipal authorities to do what they could so that Mr. Albert Wade, then conductor of the Ballarat City Band, might stay in Ballarat.  The letter was countersigned by many of the leading musical figures in Ballarat led by Mr. Fred Sutton (Sutton et al., 1908).

Cowra Free Press, 06/08/1926, p. 2

The many plans:

This section will examine the crux of the issues outlined in the first two sections, that of actual training for bandmasters.  Over the course of fifty years, many plans were put forward to provide training to bandmasters as it was perceived, and in some cases demonstrated, that bandmasters lacked proper training which was applicable to their positions.  However, this was where band associations and conservatoriums could have been more proactive.  The evidence shows that many plans were put forward to train bandmasters.  The evidence also shows that none of these plans came to be.  This is not to say that some of the training bandmasters were receiving through their experiences in bands was wholly bad as there were some legendary conductors coming through.  But overall, it could have been much better.

It must be recognized that many Australian bandmasters did not have the support of their local towns to send them overseas for more musical training, Percy Jones being a prime example as the city of Geelong paid for him to go to Europe to study (“BANDMASTER PERCY JONES.,” 1907).  An Australian system had to be found.

In the second section, an article on improving band music published in The Age newspaper was quoted with the author making some pertinent points.  The author also suggested some solutions regarding training.

England has its Kneller Hall, where bandsmen are trained in all that appertains to their work; other countries have similar institutions.  Why not Australia?  Here, if following the English model, bandsmen – training as professionals – could be taught music on the best academic lines, and these would be the men who would act the standard of band cultures throughout the country.  No very large amount would be required, and if the band associations move in the matter there seems no reason why a workable scheme should not take shape.

(“IMPROVEMENT OF BAND MUSIC.,” 1912)

There are a few things to unpack out of this paragraph that provide some context.  One is the issue of tuition for bandmasters.  Fair enough, they probably should have more knowledge to do their jobs and a school for bandmasters would probably be useful.  But setting up an institution like the famed Kneller Hall in Australia purely for the training of largely amateur bandmasters was probably a bit too much. It was not the first time Kneller Hall would be mentioned in connection with these plans.

The Town and Country Journal, 03/04/1918, p. 47

Mr. Henri Verbrugghen was a superb Belgian violinist and down-to-earth musician who was chosen to become the foundation head of the new N.S.W. Conservatorium of Music in 1915 (Carmody, 2006).  By all accounts, he was a truly great teacher and administrator, and he recognized that musical training should be open to all.  He also knew that there were many genres of music that people participated in, and he wanted to offer courses at the Conservatorium that would cater for all kinds of musicians, including those who were part of the brass band movement.

To this end special provision is to be made for the formation of a school of brass and military band instrumentation in the Conservatorium.  Classes for the teaching of all a well-equipped bandmaster ought to know will be formed, and those who direct or intend to direct bands will be given every opportunity for perfecting themselves in the art of conducting. […] The scheme will take a little time to perfect, but the director is confident that if sufficient brass and reed students present themselves there will be no difficulty in finding the instructors among our local professional ranks.

(“CROTCHETS AND QUAVERS,” 1915)

This was very forward thinking by Mr. Verbrugghen, especially when considering the local conditions at the time.  What is not apparent is whether these classes were fully introduced – it would have been transformative if they had gone ahead.  In saying so, he respected the band movement.  He adjudicated at the South Street Eisteddfod in 1921 where he was very impressed with the playing of the brass bands (“HENRI VERBRUGGHEN ON BRASS BANDS.,” 1921).  So much so, that after South Street had concluded, he invited the Malvern Tramways Band to perform with his own orchestra, a fine compliment paid to this band (“MUSIC.,” 1921).

Postcard: Conservatorium of Music, Sydney N.S.W.
(Source: Jeremy de Korte personal collection)

In the 1930s, a flurry of articles was published in Tasmania and Queensland newspapers advocating for institutions to be set up specifically for the training of bandsmen and band conductors.  Again, had these plans been carried beyond the talking stage then they would have made a difference.  Unfortunately, none of them did.  We see that in 1933 that comments were made by music critic Mr. F. Bonavia where he thought that conducting classes at music festivals might be a good idea, however, he acknowledged that a few weeks of teaching  would not be long enough (“Amateur Conductors.,” 1933). 

1934 saw the official launch of the Australian Band Council.  This was covered in a previous post, but one item that was mentioned was the setting up of a “school of band music, on lines similar to the Knellar Hall in England.” (de Korte, 2019; “HALL OF BAND MUSIC,” 1934).  A fine idea, but it was an idea that was subsequently dropped due to expense (“BAND CHAMPIONSHIPS,” 1934).

The Mercury newspaper published an interesting article in 1934 where, again, the need for training conductors was highlighted, especially in the band movement.  This was the year that Capt. Adkins was taking the A.B.C. Military Band on tour around the country, and he was interviewed by various newspaper around the country.  The Mercury quoted and summarised Mr. Thorold Waters who had penned an article in the Australian Musical News.

Mr. Waters adds that as far as anyone seems to be aware there is not in the whole Commonwealth any place or man to whom the student might turn for lesson in conducting.  He stresses the urgent need to founding a school for conductors – not necessarily an institution as complete as Kneller Hall – but one where the bad fashions of conducting rife in Australia could be altered at small cost.

(“MUSIC AND MUSICIANS,” 1934)

This is probably the most useful statement on setting up a conducting school as it clearly says that a school is necessary, but it did not have to be like Kneller Hall of which so many writers and other administrators thought was needed for Australian bandmasters.

In a final word from these fifty years of plans and ideas, Mr. D. T. Beston, Secretary of the Australian Bands’ Council, suggested that “Tasmania should open up new fields for training bandsmen” – whatever this means (“TRAINING FOR BANDSMEN,” 1949).

Fifty years of plans with nothing much to show for it.  Thankfully, in recent times, the training of conductors has become fully ingrained with the Conservatoriums and we have professional associations like ABODA to provide specific courses (ABODA Victoria, 2018).

Conclusion:

There is no doubting that these three intertwined issues surrounding the training and qualifications of Australian bandmasters were complex, opinionated, fractured and not very forthcoming.  And history has not been kind.  Why would it be?  The Australian band movement faced an amount of criticism by those who did not really understand the Australian context or needs of Australian bands and bandmasters.  It was not the fault of the Australian band movement that some conditions, like the employment of Cornetist-Bandmasters was kept up for so many years in the face of no other option.  These ‘critics’ ignored the significant achievements of Australian bands at home and abroad.

Certainly, if the band associations and conservatoriums had worked to provide more training for bandmasters, a difference could have been made.  The musical leaders of the time probably felt let down.  But they persevered, and many of our bands survived.  The Australian band conductors of the past, present and future should be congratulated for their work.

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MUSIC AND MUSICIANS : SCHOOL FOR CONDUCTORS : Urgent Need. (1934, 14 March). Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24918478

Musical band procession in Longreach, 1928. (1928). [photographic print : black & white]. [167364]. Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Queensland. https://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/132618

New Bandmaster. (1919, 18 January). Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW : 1882 – 1950), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105147517

New Bandmaster for Longreach : CONDUCTOR OF PARKES BAND APPOINTED. (1928, 27 July). Longreach Leader (Qld. : 1923 – 1954), 21. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37340861

NEW DIRECTOR FOR TRAMWAYS BAND : Mr. W. H. FOOTE APPOINTED. (1922, 18 February). Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 – 1924), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106648236

The Newly Formed Victorian Bandmasters’ Association. (1931). In S6.3.1 – Album Projects (Photocopies) (Photocopies of printed photographs ed., Vol. Album 3). Victoria: Victorian Bands’ League Archive.

Ord Hume, J. (1909, 04 November). Training a Bandsman : THE AFTER EFFECTS OF POOR TUITION : (By Mr. J. Ord Hume, in “The British Bandsman.”). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39381330

PERSONAL. (1924, 04 October). Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57882534

Rose, G. (n.d.). Conservatorium of Music, Sydney, N.S.W. [Postcard]. [The Rose Series P. 5055]. Rose Post Cards, Armadale, Victoria. 

SAVE THE BAND : VIEW OF MR. FOOTE : Corporation Levy Favored. (1925, 01 April). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129711540

Smith, A. (1907, 16 September). Advertising. Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892 – 1919), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87152593

Sutton, F., Gude, W., Opie, T., West, H., Mooney, J. T., Eyres, C., Bailey, J. C., Boustead, W. M., Hautrie West, W., & Herbert, G. (1908, 27 October). CORRESPONDENCE : THE CITY BANDMASTER : To The Editor of ‘The Star’. Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218563934

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

TRAINING FOR BANDSMEN. (1949, 03 November). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91771050

UNLEY MUNICIPAL BAND : Progressive and Ambitious : CREDIT TO CITY. (1925, 23 January). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129828551

Wales, N. S. (1918, 28 November). Advertising. Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15813101

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 newspaper 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, 2022).  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! (This video was updated in January 2022)

Besses o’ th’ Barn Polka (Cornet Solo: Broadcast 1940). Soloist Jack Allan. Band: Ballarat City

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. (2022, 02 January). Besses o’ th’ Barn Polka (1940) [Video (1940 Radio Broadcast)]. YouTube. Retrieved 02 January 2022 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE5vkyi1vIg

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

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

Drummers and drums: perceptions of percussion in early Australian bands

19280000_Concord-Citizens_phot16030
Concord Citizens’ Band 1928 (Source: IBEW)

Introduction:

It ain’t the blaring cornets,
Nor the fussy old bassoon
(Though of course I’m always willin’
To admit they helps the toon.)
Nor yet it ain’t the piccolo what makes your heart go thumpin’
Nor yet it ain’t the croonin’ flutes what sets your pulse a jumpin’:-
It’s the drums!
It’s the drums what makes the band

(Dean in Quickstep, 1921)

When reading and researching material related to old bands, it would be fair to say most of it relates to brass playing musicians in bands.  Of which some have been explored in previous posts on this blog.  However, what of the other musicians in the band, the percussionists and the instruments that they used?  It was a matter of how many mentions could be found.  To adapt an analogy; stories on brass bands are haystacks, stories on band percussionists are definitely needles.

It is very rare to find a photo of an old brass band that does not have the drums of the band featured prominently in the formation.  The photo above of the Concord Citizens’ Band from 1928 shows as much with the drums “posed” and the band crest visible on the bass drum.  The photo was picked at random.  The information it conveys is very typical of band photos in general (especially in the early years).  Photos aside, the sound of a band on parade, then and now, is very much defined by the beat of a bass drum and the patterns of a snare.  Mr Dean in his little ditty above alludes to this!

This post will examine three aspects of percussion in early Australian brass bands starting with some writing on percussion in general.  There are some articles on the drums themselves which was interesting to find, and included is a story on one of the many famous band drummers.  Admittedly there is a vested interest in this topic as I am a percussionist in a local brass band and a community concert band.  This post is dedicated to all those musicians who have made the percussion section their home.

Drumming:

We can see from early photos that percussion in Australian brass bands was limited to a side drum or two, and a bass drum.  This is no fault of the band; rather, it is the limit of the music that was written and what percussion was called for.  Bands did not see fit to expand the percussion section until music called for those instruments and it is only in later years that the range of percussion in a band was expanded to include more orchestral percussion instruments.

It was interesting then to read various mentions of side drums and bass drums (and drummers) in relation to brass bands. The main source of commentary comes from adjudicator comments in band competitions.  Thankfully, the newspapers of the day generally published full adjudicator comments so we can build a picture of their thinking.  Drums had a role to play in band music and some adjudicators comments were specifically directed to that role.

This being said, the number of comments on the drums varied.  Some adjudicators made a point of mentioning the drums in every section, others were more reserved and only mentioned them when they felt they needed to mention them.  One example of a reserved comment comes from the adjudicator of the 1928 Queensland Brass Band Championship Contests which was held over Easter in Townsville.  The article in the Townsville Daily Bulletin summarised the comments, but buried in this we find a succinct mention about the drums of the Brisbane Federal Band when performing their A Grade Oval March, “Red Gauntlett”:

The winning band, Brisbane Federal, made a fine, smart opening, cornets and drums being good.

(“THE BAND CONTEST.,” 1928)

That’s basically all that was said about the drums, which is perhaps understandable. If the adjudicator felt there was something notable, he probably would have said so.

As a complete contrast, we have the comments from Captain Harry Shugg at the 1936 Renmark Centenary Bands Contests where he gave a remark on the drums for every band.  And even when a band was unfortunate enough not to have a side drum like the Loxton Brass Band as these excerpts from the comments show:

(Selection): Tempo di Marcia: No side drum.  Third cornet does not balance.  Side drum much missed.

[…]

(Quickstep): MUSIC – “Victoria”.  No side drum.

(“Bands Contests Adjudicators’ Comment,” 1936, p. 4)

The selection that all bands played was “Songs of Homeland”.

For the most part, Capt. Shugg was firm, but encouraging to all bands as it was a D Grade contest, and this included remarks on the drumming.  For the seven bands that competed, of which came from the towns of Renmark, Moonta, Loxton, Nuriootpa, Waikerie, Mildura and Berri, all of them received some comment on the drums, especially in the Quickstep sections.  Capt. Shugg knew that drums help set the mood of the march so phrases like, “Good beat off by drums” and “Good drums; band begins with smart and crisp style” (“Bands Contests Adjudicators’ Comment,” 1936) were given to two of the bands.  However, if something was very wrong, Capt. Shugg made a mention of it, of which the Berri Brass Band found out in their playing of the march “The Australasian”,

Poor toned bass drum.  Tone of the band a little noisy, cornet’s in particular; side drum much too heavy in P. passages; does not vary tone at all

(“Bands Contests Adjudicators’ Comment,” 1936, p. 4)

Harry Shugg was a perfectionist, he was conductor of the Malvern Tramways Band at the time!

Perhaps the most interesting comments on drums in bands came from a Mr R. S. Kitson who adjudicated the 1933 Adelaide Royal Show Contest.  On a night that was notable for the pouring rain which affected many performances, a comment was made on the use of the bass drum in one of the sections:

Referring to the use of drums in operatic selections, Mr. Kitson said, “The use of the bass drum in operatic selections, especially in ‘lento’ passages, and on such a night, is not advisable.  Brass band arrangements are principally made from orchestral scores, and the kettle drum part is allotted to the bass drum in brass bands.  The bass drum cannot be tuned as a kettle drum, and therefore, except in martial movements, is quite of place.

(Allegro, 1933)

Then we have the writing of Cecil Clarence Mullen, of whom his work was reviewed in a previous post.  In a section of his booklet, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951) he took aim at bandmasters for not training their bass drummers properly (Mullen, 1951).  We know from the analysis of his work that Mullen was opinionated and a commentator.  In summary, Mullen was of the opinion that some bass drummers did not know how to read their parts properly, that some conductors did not teach the drum parts properly (or did not care enough), and that some bass drummers used “two sticks on the march” (Mullen, 1951, p. 8) – that is a questionable opinion!

It was not just bandmasters that drew the ire of Mullen, he had criticism for adjudicators as well,

Adjudicators are also open to criticism in not pointing out these faults to bands when doing the quickstep.  The average judge is quick to rush in with his “Out of tune at bar 20” but how many band judges have we known who have written in their notes that “Bass drummer is not playing his part correctly”.

(Mullen, 1951, p. 8)

The opinions of Mullen aside, we can see that the playing of drums was noted in aspects of competition, and performances in general.  To finish this section, here is an excerpt from the first paragraph of a 1914 article published by the Cootamundra Herald regarding the newly formed Stockinbingal Brass Band:

The music loving people of Stockinbingal decided that an up-to-date and progressive town like theirs should not be without its town band; and last Sunday morning late slumberous were aroused by the blast and blare of brass to the accompaniment of the thunderous boom of a drum.

(“STOCKINBINGAL BRASS BAND,” 1914)

The drums are always noted on these occasions!

Drums:

Regarding the instruments themselves, they were a source of pride to a band, and also triggered memories as well.  Often featuring prominently in photos, the drums were sometimes centred, sometimes at the side, sometimes used as a table for trophies.  And it is easy enough to spot the drummers of the band as they would be holding their sticks (and not holding brass instruments!).

Above is a picture of the Kew City Band taken in approximately 1915 when the band was on tour to Northern Tasmania.  While the band is not sitting down in a formation, they have made an effort to place their bass drum and side drum. The band crest is clearly visible on the bass drum where, despite the photo being in black and white, there is a clear distinction in some of the colours.  Fortunately, in a very rare newspaper article from 1910, there is a full description of how the bass drum was painted and what colours were originally used.

The amplification of the arms of the borough of Kew on the shell of the band’s bass drum is an artistic painting from the brush of a local artist Mr. W. D. Wentworth.  […] Two blues have, for many years, been the sporting colours of Kew and royal blue was accordingly adopted as the grounding colour, with linings of light blue.  The arms of the borough of Kew consist of a shield containing six wheat sheaves, and surrounded by the royal arms.  In a scroll at the bottom of the shield is contained the motto of the municipality, “Cresco”.  The body of the shield is in light blue, with gold outline, artistically shaded, and the artistic representation of the golden corn is richly effective.  The artists has discarded any assistance from transfers, and the whole production, with the royal arms in minutest detail, are in brushwork.  Notwithstanding that winter time is, as a rule, a dull period with bands, the Kew organisation keeps in symphony with the borough motto, ‘To Grow’.

(“Kew Brass Band.,” 1910)

This was a very detailed description and there is much to suggest that the bass drum in the picture is the same one that is described here.  The band would have been very proud to parade with this drum.

Not all music involved drums and we can find examples where drummers displayed not only a talent for playing their instruments but also making them.  In 1914, the drummer of the Australian Light Horse Band, a Mr E. Fowler, constructed his own set of tubular bells out of “brass piping cut to various lengths, suspended within an oak encasement, and tuned to concert pitch” (“A DRUMMER’S INGENUITY,” 1914).  The article displayed below from the Goulburn Evening Penny Post also tells us how the said drummer practises on his instrument and that it will be “a most useful addition to the band’s equipment” (“A DRUMMER’S INGENUITY,” 1914).

19140214_Goulburn-Penny-Post_Drummer
Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 14/02/1914, p. 2

We know that bands come and go over the years and in 1937 it was the discovery of the old side drum of the Diamond Creek Brass Band at the local school that triggered some memories.

Memories of the times when Diamond Creek echoed to the lilting strains of its own uniformed brass band marching along the streets were revived this week when it became known that the original side-drum of many years ago is now being used at the school.

For years, the drum and a ‘cello have lain in dust at the school.  Other instruments are to be found stacked away in the hall.  The school committee had a new skin fitted to the drum.

(“DIAMOND CREEK BRASS BAND,” 1937)

Drums and percussion are like many instruments, they provide meaning to organisations and people – they become a part of the musical family.  It is fortunate that we have these windows on the details and memories of these instruments here.

Drummers:

He could become personal, although never malicious.  To a drummer: “I love every hair on your bald head, but when I say roll on the drums — roll!!!

(Cleve Martin detailing the words of Major Adkins to a drummer of the A.B.C. Military Band during rehearsal in “STARS OF THE RADIO,” 1941)

There were many individual drummers who were recognized over the early years for their talent and as such, took up regular engagements with brass bands.  This section will highlight one of these drummers who was renowned throughout Victoria at the time, and also show where drummers were similarly recognized.  To end this section will be some lists reproduced from Mullen’s booklet listing famous side and bass drummers.

19121214_Malvern-Standard_Brassey-Allen-Scott
Malvern Standard, 14/12/1912, p. 4

When researching for this post, there was a drummer who kept standing out, Harold Brassey Allen (“A Famous Drummer Boy,” 1912; Quickstep, 1921).  In his later years, he was famous enough to be written about in one of the weekly Herald columns penned by the colloquial, ‘Quickstep’.  In summary, Brassey Allen was recognized for his talent very early in his musical career.  In the picture here we see him in his early years, dressed in full Scottish regalia, with side drum.  Brassey was no ordinary drummer and displayed a versatility that saw him perform with pipe bands, drum & fife bands, and brass bands (Quickstep, 1921).

Brassey had already been playing side drum for a number of years with the Armadale State School Cadet unit when he joined the South Melbourne District Band in 1910 (Quickstep, 1921).  Upon leaving the South Melbourne District Band a few years later, he joined the Prahran City Band under Mr E. T. Code and five years later joined the Malvern Tramways Band of which his talent was brought to the fore through his xylophone solos and drumming (Quickstep, 1921).  He was also recognized early at the South Street contests for his talent, winning his first prizes at the age of 13 although South Street never had any formal competitions for drummers.  Brassey, and his brothers, were all superb musicians Brassey and his brother Arthur are listed in the Mullen pages below (Mullen, 1951; Quickstep, 1921).

19210917_Herald_Quickstep-Brassey-Allen
Herald, 17/09/1921, p. 5

Drummers were recognized for other reasons as we see in this bold move, for 1941, the Warracknabeal Brass Band admitted two female side-drummers into the band, Misses Bette Clark and Margaret Vaughan (“WOMEN DRUMMERS IN WARRACKNABEAL BAND.,” 1941).  As we can see, The Horsham Times certainly gave the information in the headline, but most of the article was not about their ability as drummers.  Rather, it was about the fundraising for their uniforms and what kinds of uniforms they were going to wear!  No doubt the inclusion of two female side-drummers in a rural brass band was due to the Second World War which was raging at the time.

The Horsham Times, 18/02/1941, p. 2

Below are Mullen’s lists of famous side-drummers and bass drummers who have appeared with bands competing at the South Street competitions.  Given that Mullen’s lists only go to 1951, there were likely to be several more famous drummers after this time.  However, once again we can thank Mullen for his effort in compiling these lists of names.

19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p53-54-BD
Excerpts from pp. 53-54, “Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951), Noted Bass Drummers. (Source: Jeremy de Korte’s Personal Collection)
19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p54-56-SD
Excerpts from pp. 54-56, “Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951), Side Drummers and Kettle Drums. (Source: Jeremy de Korte’s Personal Collection)

Conclusion:

The early bands clearly valued their drummers and drums and people took notice of them.  We have seen how bands were marked up or down for the quality of the drumming in their playing, and where bandmasters were criticised for not teaching their drummers the correct parts.  We have seen where the instruments themselves had meaning to bands and also where the drummers developed their own substantial reputations.

The percussion section of a band is always a special place to be and no doubt the early drummers thrived in the band environments.  We say thank you to these drummers for their work which set the scene for future percussionists in community bands.

References:

Allegro. (1933, 21 September). BANDS AND BANDSMEN : Show Contest Marred by Heavy Rain. Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47003081

THE BAND CONTEST : Adjudicator’s Comments. (1928, 11 April). Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61026813

Bands Contests Adjudicators’ Comments : COMPLIMENTARY REFERENCES TO PLAYING THROUGHOUT : Decidedly High for D Grade, Says Capt. Shugg. (1936, 29 October). Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark, SA : 1913 – 1942), 4-5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109291574

Concord Citizens’ Band. (1928). [Photograph]. [phot16030]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

DIAMOND CREEK BRASS BAND : School Drum Revives Memories. (1937, 12 November). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56846146

A DRUMMER’S INGENUITY. (1914, 14 February). Goulburn Evening Penny Post (NSW : 1881 – 1940), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article98833598

A Famous Drummer Boy—Master Harold Brassey Allen. (1912, 14 December). Malvern Standard (Vic. : 1906 – 1931), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66391732

Kew Brass Band. (1910, 22 July). Reporter (Box Hill, Vic. : 1889 – 1925), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89698715

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

Osborne, B. (1915?). Kew Band [Photograph mounted on card of the Kew Band while on tour in Tasmania]. [2016.0088]. Victorian Collections, Kew Historical Society Inc. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/58269a46d0cdd11284b9d7ac

Quickstep. (1921, 17 September). BANDSMEN’S GOSSIP : The Art of Drumming. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242423372

STARS OF THE RADIO : Founder of the National Military Band : Picturesque Major Adkins. (1941, 27 November). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64402540

STOCKINBINGAL BRASS BAND. (1914, 09 January). Cootamundra Herald (NSW : 1877 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139522962

WOMEN DRUMMERS IN WARRACKNABEAL BAND. (1941, 18 February). Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72689341

Cecil Clarence Mullen: Enthusiastic commentator, historian and statistician of brass and military bands

19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p0-FC
Front Cover, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”. (source: Jeremy de Korte’s personal collection)

Introduction:

There has always been an ecosphere of activity surrounding brass bands, then and now ranging from retail to journalism, and people who take a general interest in day-to-day activities.  This level of interest varies among people, and especially in the bands of old, there was an amount of engagement in these ensembles.  One only has to read past newspapers as a measure of this engagement.  Most readers of this blog know I dwell in the Trove archive to find information for these posts; it is through these newspaper articles that the life and atmosphere of these bands can be fully appreciated.

This post is different from previous posts where the focus is not on bands per se, but on a bands person who described himself as very involved in the brass band movement, Cecil Clarence Mullen.  I am very thankful to have been gifted one of his rare booklets, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951).  He wrote another article on the history of Victorian bands in 1965 for The Victorian Historical Magazine.  However, there is more to explore in his writing, including some of the opinions on the band movement and the work he did as a brass band statistician.

Mullen had a role to play documenting the band history of Victoria and it is unfortunate that his work is not well known.  We will see where Mullen’s work was at its most valuable, but also where some of his work could be questioned – this post will be taking a subjective view of some of his writing and opinions.  It must be recognised that at the time, Mullen did not have the information resources at his disposal like we do now.  However, what he did do was make an effort to record and compile results in a way that was unique.

C. C. Mullen (1895-1983):

It was difficult to build a full picture of Mullen’s life as some resources were not comprehensive.  Through the research of State records (Public Records Office Victoria and Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria), it is found that he was born in 1895 and initially lived in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond.  For much of his further life, he lived in the nearby suburb of Abbotsford and was still residing in that suburb when he died in 1983 at the age of 88 (Mullen, 1983).  As for employment, it is listed in some records that he worked as a Clerk at the Argus newspaper and various other local newspapers (Ruddell, 2010)

Mullen’s amateur interests were extensive and varied including music, sports, local history and it seems youth and education as well (Ruddell, 2010).  He was complimented on his work with local youth groups of which he made every effort to prepare youth for further work and education (“Richmond Boys’ Club,” 1932).  It is through further research in the Trove archive that we see a fuller picture of Mullen’s mindset as he was an avid contributor of letters to the newspapers.  He wrote on all sorts of topics; youth, education, transport, parks, library opening hours, manners at the opera, sports, politics, etc (Mullen, 1937, 1946, 1947, 1952a).  The articles displayed below are only a tiny sample of his letter output.

19371217_Argus_Mullen-Sport-Schools
Argus, 17/12/1937, p. 10
19401607_TheAge_Mullen_Volunteers
The Age, 10/07/1940, p. 6
19471218_Herald_Mullen-School-Holidays
Herald, 18/12/1947, p. 15
19520103_Argus_Mullen-Letter
Argus, 03/01/1952, p. 6

Regarding his letter writing, it seems he did not write to the papers on one of his favourite topics, brass bands, except for one instance when he requested photos of the Kalgoorlie brass bands for his brass band history collection (Mullen, 1951a).  It is also in this letter that we see that Mullen has described himself as a “statistician and historian of brass and military bands” (Mullen, 1951a).

19510113_Kalgoorlie-Miner_Mullen-Letter
Kalgoorlie Miner, 13/01/1951, p. 2

This post will not dwell on Mullen’s interests in other subjects however they do provide some clues as to how Mullen went about doing things, and what his personal attitudes were like.  He gives the impression of being an egalitarian person and was a firm advocate for youth groups (Mullen, 1952b).  He did not like some of the aspects of competition, taking aim through one of his letters at “the selfish competition of mankind, instead of the co-operation of mankind” (Mullen, 1940).  In another one of the newspaper letters he advocates for the abolition of school sports, and in his booklet, he advocates for the abolition of grades in band contests (Mullen, 1937, 1951b).  In saying so, Mullen still supported the aims of the Royal South Street Society band competition sections and sponsored trophies for “Best Drummer” in 1958, another trophy in 1959, and a trophy in 1964 for “Bandmaster showing Best Deportment” (Royal South Street Society, 1958, 1959, 1964).   As for his historical work, we will examine his band history research in the next sections, however, it should be noted that there is an amount of conjecture over the accuracy of his sports history writing and statistics (Hay, 2010).

An enthusiastic commentator is probably an apt description of Mullen given his penchant for writing on all manner of subjects.  His band history work is what provides the most interest (for this post) and we will see a person who clearly enjoyed his statistics.

C. C. Mullen: Historian of Brass & Military Bands:

There is no doubt, through reading his works, that Mullen was an enthusiastic advocate, documenter and historian of brass and military bands.   Both his main works on the subject, his booklet and his later article attest to this.  This section will review his booklet first, then his article from 1965.

1951: “Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”:

The first impression that is given about the booklet is that he clearly wrote this booklet as an outlet for his interest in brass bands and musicians. The aim of this booklet, as Mullen notes in the preface, was to publish

…for the first time in the history of brass bands in this country, a condensed history of bands and players who have taken part in most important annual band competitions in Australasia – that of South Street, Ballarat, Victoria.

(Mullen, 1951b, p. 1)

With this aim, he achieved his goal and the book contains the names of musicians, the bands they were associated with, and which instruments they played.  Below is small except from one of the lists which makes up many of the pages of this booklet.:

19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p15
Excerpt from p. 15, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”, Bb Cornets. (source: Jeremy de Korte’s personal collection)

In the preface, Mullen outlines his life in the brass band movement.  In summary he:

  • was a pupil of Edward Code,
  • apparently knew all the famous bandmasters of the day,
  • was embedded in the administration of the early Victorian Bands’ Association, and later the Victorian Bands’ League,
  • was a contributor of articles to all the famous band magazines (Mullen, 1951b).

He notes that the famous Bandmaster Edward Code was a great influence on his early life and that he felt honoured as a former pupil to have published this booklet (Mullen, 1951b).  Interestingly, both Edward Code and Mullen are buried in the same cemetery in Melbourne, the Coburg Pine Ridge Cemetery in Melbourne’s north – although 65 years apart.

Mullen was not afraid of expressing his opinions on bands and the administration of bands.  On page four of his booklet is a one-page treatise on the importance of brass bands to the community, with a paragraph (below) on his thoughts of bands in schools (Mullen, 1951b).  A previous post has touched on the historical discrepancies with the starting of school bands in Victoria and Mullen adds his own discrepancy when he declares “I had the first band in Victoria composed of schoolboys” (Mullen, 1951b, p. 4).  When reading this paragraph, it brings to mind a piece of writing in one of the old brass band magazines where the writer had some choice words for the headmasters of the day about not starting bands (“THE EDITOR’S BATON,” 1929).  Perhaps it was Mullen himself who wrote the article in this 1929 issue of The Australasian Band and Orchestra News, but we may never know for sure.

19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p4
Excerpt from p. 4, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”. (source: Jeremy de Korte’s personal collection)

In finishing his one-page treatise on the importance of brass bands, Mullen laments that the State and National controlling bodies have not done enough to promote bands.  He states,

It is up to our band controlling bodies and the Australian Band Council to take this matter up seriously and see that more cannot be done to keep the importance of brass bands before the people of Australia.

(Mullen, 1951b, p. 4)

The main aim of this booklet, as mentioned, was to document the prize-winning brass band musicians and bands who had participated in the South Street competitions over a number of years.  Two pages of the booklet are devoted to a poem Mullen wrote on South Street.  Another section of the book was written by a contributor, “Baton” who wrote a history of the band sections at South Street (Baton, 1951).  This contribution is comprehensive and valuable and adds to the existing histories of the band sections at South Street.

Mullen also wrote other small sections in the starting pages and ending pages of the booklet, where, we still see that he is using the booklet to express his own opinions – which is understandable.  Some section headings in the starting pages are telling;

  • “Test Selections need revising” (he felt that operatic works instead of technical works made better test pieces),
  • “Band grading should be abolished” (he felt the grading system had outgrown its usefulness)
  • “Bad drumming of class marches” (Apparently Bandmasters were not teaching or paying attention to the drummers about learning their parts properly) (Mullen, 1951b, pp. 6-8)

In the later pages of the booklet, Mullen provides some useful historical information on the South Street competitions, South Street judges, how Britain developed band music in Australia,  the Quickstep section and the formation of the Victorian Bands’ League (Mullen, 1951b).  Still, he is wanting to express his opinions in these pages and makes comment on how “Grand Opera assists bandsmen” (Mullen, 1951b, p. 61).  Mullen, as we’ve seen, is also a great advocate for the young and has used a section to advocate for young band conductors.  Also, in another section, while he congratulates young soloists for participating in South Street, he also took aim at their onstage deportment – Mullen obviously did not like young soloists who sat down while playing and he gave a serve to bandmasters “who encourage this sort of thing” (Mullen, 1951b, p. 62).

In one of the final sections of the booklet titled “High Cost of Running Brass Bands” (Mullen, 1951b, p. 62), we read that he is trying to advocate for more monetary support for the brass band movement.  He levels criticism at various entities such as the Federal Government on tariffs on musical instruments, the State Government on the money being spent on the upcoming Olympic Games, and the Australian Band Council for not talking to governments on behalf of brass bands (Mullen, 1951b).  Mullen takes a singularly myopic viewpoint, well-meaning, but possibly futile.  Of course, this is all in relation to his support for young musicians and their access to instruments and the expense of obtaining such instruments.  He laments that,

Unfortunately Australia is so “sports minded” that it is a much easier proposition to conduct a boy’s cricket or football team than to form a junior band and give youngsters the chance of a musical education or at least a musical mind.

(Mullen, 1951b, p. 62)

Meaning, that if all things were ideal in Mullen’s viewpoint, money would be better spent on the brass band movement.

Would it not be a good investment for the future education of this country for our Governments to spend something on band music in order to help Australia to have a cultured mind – something she lacks at present.

(Mullen, 1951b, p. 62)

In this section about the monetary challenges faced by brass bands and lack of support, Mullen has managed to draw in his other points of interest in sports, politics/government and education of youth!

In finishing a review of Mullen’s written paragraphs and opinions in this booklet, it is as has been mentioned; he used this booklet to express is many opinions, ideas and advocacy. His writing was well-meaning, but one wonders how much effect it had on the powers that be?  I personally feel that the lists of bandsmen, instruments and bands provide much more historical interest and meaning in this booklet.

1965: “Brass Bands have played a prominent part in the History of Victoria”:

In 1965, fourteen years later after publishing his booklet, Mullen published another article in The Victorian Historical Magazine with the above title.  Mullen is aged 70 in 1965 and his wealth of historical knowledge about the brass band movement is evident in this article.  The richness of historical information about bands, conductors, adjudicators, the South Street competitions and Victorian musical life can be fully appreciated here – possibly more so than his previous booklet which contained a limited range of historical writing (Mullen, 1951b, 1965).

Mullen provides an amount of context in this article.  To build the narrative, he starts off with the large and then brings focus.  In the opening paragraphs, this means tracing brass instruments from biblical times to the development of bands in England and then to Victoria with a focus on immigration (Mullen, 1965).  In this article, Mullen also draws in some historical information about Victorian bands and events, and he has quoted large parts of various band magazines.  For example, the next section after the introduction is about bands playing at the Eureka Rebellion of which he used information from “The Australian Bandsman.  26th October 1923” (Mullen, 1965, p. 31).  This section on the Eureka Rebellion is useful as it focuses on the band history of Ballarat – which became home to the famous Royal South Street band competitions.

Progressing through the article, we can see that Mullen provides lots of detail throughout various sections while continuing his historical narrative.  When reading, there is an impressive list of bands, bandsmen, competitions and little stories to be discovered.  He has written a section on the “Famous Band Families” such as “James Scarff, Samuel Lewins and Thomas E. Bulch” and the “Codes” – brothers “Edward, John, Alfred and William” and sons of Edward, “Percy” and brother “Samuel” (Mullen, 1965, pp. 36-39).  The South Street band competitions were a subject that had a special interest to Mullen and he devoted another whole section to them, again, listing memorable bands, bandsmen and adjudicators (Mullen, 1965).

In the later writing of this article, there were some notable historical events that Mullen mentions such as the early tours of Besses o’ the’ Barn Band and the Sousa Band, the formation of the Victorian Bands’ League, the impact of the World Wars on local bands, radio broadcasting and in the band world, the activities of the ABC Military Band (Mullen, 1965).  The final section of the article gives praise to the Victorian brass bands for maintaining a high standard of playing, although Mullen attributes this to,

…bandmasters setting a fine example in teaching young players a love for classical works of the of the great composers relating to Grand Opera, Ballet, Symphonies, Oratorio, Sacred and Religious works, and good songs that have been set to music.

(Mullen, 1965, p. 46)

In other words, music that was not originally written for brass bands.

Mullen was ever fond of lists (which will be evident further in this post), and in this final section he has listed a number of notable brass band conductors, in addition to others previously named in his article such as “Harry Shugg” (Geelong Harbour Trust, Malvern Tramways & City of Ballarat) (Mullen, 1965, pp. 11, 43).  (The list below has been ordered into a bulleted list which is different from how it is presented in the article):

(Mullen, 1965, pp. 9-11, 47)

If there is one criticism of this article it is the way that Mullen has finished it, there is no real conclusion.  It just…ends.  Mullen leaves the article hanging by making mention of the most recent overseas visit of an international military band (prior to the publication of this article) in 1965).  The final paragraph reads:

The most recent visit of an overseas musical combination to Victoria was that of Her Majesty’s Scots Guards, under Captain James Howe, in March 1964, when it played at the Moomba Carnival in Melbourne.

(Mullen, 1965, p. 47)

It is admirable that Mullen wrote an article such as this given that lack of historical writing on the band movement in Victoria as a whole.  What this article does do is create many links between bands, bandsmen and historical context, which is no doubt due to Mullen’s interests in these subject areas.  We should thank Mullen; despite this article being written fifty-five years ago to this date, it is still relevant and serves as a useful guide to much of the band movement history in Victoria.

C. C. Mullen: Statistician:

Returning to Mullen’s publication on brass bands, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951), we will see what can be considered to be the real historical value of this booklet, the lists of names and bands.  Mullen was meticulous in the way he compiled his lists.  No doubt he had access to the names and competition wins through his work at the newspapers, but to compile the lists covering fifty-one years is quite remarkable.  All of the bandsmen and bands can be cross-referenced with the Royal South Street results database (Mullen, 1951b; Royal South Street Society, 2020).

A small excerpt of one of the lists has been displayed earlier in this post.  The way Mullen has compiled these lists is quite logical.  He has started with all the conductors and then listed all the prize winners for every instrument of a brass band.  Interestingly, although South Street never held any solo competitions for Side or Bass Drummers, Mullen lists the bandsmen he considers notable on these instruments.  In the closing pages of the statistics, he lists all of the bands from every State and New Zealand that have participated in South Street over the time frame of this booklet (Mullen, 1951b).  Below are samples of some of the lists, and they are fairly self-explanatory.

19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p19
Excerpt from p. 19, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”, Bb Cornets. (source: Jeremy de Korte’s personal collection)
19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p41
Excerpt from p. 15, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”, “Bass (G) Trombone”. (source: Jeremy de Korte’s personal collection)
19510000_Mullens-South-Street_p63-64
Pages 63-64, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951)”, “Bands which have competed at South Street Competitions 1900-1951”. (source: Jeremy de Korte’s personal collection)

As we can see above, Mullen clearly had an eye for statistical detail.  No doubt he felt he was doing the band movement service by publishing all of this, and to some extent he was.  This is the only booklet of its kind to emerge from this era.  Nowadays we can access all of these results through the South Street results database and find names in the Trove archive.  Mullen did not have these electronic means, and even though the lists do not include the competition scores and rankings of bandsmen, the lists are still very informative.  Another reason to thank Mullen for his work.

Conclusion:

Mullen has made a great contribution to the history of the band movement in Victoria through his own personal interest, dedication, and knowledge.  In the absence of any other work of this nature, both his booklet and later article provide an overall picture of the band movement.  Yes, his opinions were controversial when viewed in a new light.  However, I feel he meant well, and I also feel that Mullen’s work on the history of the band movement needs to be more widely known.

References:

Baton. (1951). South Street band competitions have achieved world wide fame. In Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951) (pp. 5-6). Horticultural Press. 

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

Hay, R. (2010). Cec Mullen, Tom Willis and the search for early Geelong football. The Yorker, Spring(42), 3-5. 

Mullen, C. C. (1937, 17 December). Sport in Schools. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11133645

Mullen, C. C. (1940, 16 July). Voluntary Service. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204409992

Mullen, C. C. (1946, 08 January). NORTHERN TRAMWAY ROUTES. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22221100

Mullen, C. C. (1947, 18 December). School Holidays. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243844022

Mullen, C. C. (1951a, 13 January). Goldfields Brass Bands : To the Editor. Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article256809482

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

Mullen, C. C. (1952a, 03 January). LETTERS (in a nutshell) : Too old. Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23155399

Mullen, C. C. (1952b, 03 January). Youth in the Wrong Jobs. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204978021

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

Mullen, C. C. (1983). This is the last will and testament of me…. In Wills and Probates (Vol. VPRS7591/P9 Unit 22). North Melbourne, Victoria: Public Record Office Victoria.

Richmond Boys’ Club : Fine Work by C. C. Mullen. (1932, 17 December). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189122433

Royal South Street Society. (1958, 25 October). 1958-10-25 Brass Band Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 27 January 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1958-10-25-brass-band-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1959, 23 October). 1959-10-23 Brass Band Contests. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 27 January 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1959-10-23-brass-band-contests

Royal South Street Society. (1964, 24 October). 1964-10-24 Victorian Brass Band Championship. Royal South Street Society. Retrieved 27 January 2020 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au/results/1964-10-24-victorian-brass-band-championship

Royal South Street Society. (2017). Results. Royal South Street Society (1891-2016). Retrieved 13 October 2017 from https://results.royalsouthstreet.com.au

Ruddell, T. (2010). Introducing Cec Mullen: pioneer sports historian. The Yorker, Spring(42), 2. 

Brass bands of the New South Wales Central West: Part 2: Association and competition

18991125_Sydney-Mail_Bathurst-Intercolonial_Massed-Bands
The Start of the Massed Bands. (360 Bandsmen) from Singer Company’s Premises, Howick-street, Bathurst, playing the “Singer March”. Photo by Beavis Bros., Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 25/11/1899, p. 1288

Part two:

In part one of this post, we saw stories of the development, running and challenges of bands together with a look at the longevity of one conductor.  However, as we know, the stories of early brass bands are linked together and with the bands of the Central West, they were very united in association and ideals.  In part two of this post, this will be explored further through the creation of the earliest band association in New South Wales and the competitions that were held in various towns.

The Western Band Association:

Like many band associations around Australia, the Western Band Association was formed out of mutual collegiality and location.  The early brass bands of the N.S.W. Central West started what is regarded as the earliest band association in New South Wales and over time, and through various iterations, one of the strongest associations that attracted bands from near and far to various events.  The towns of the Central West also benefitted from this association as they were keen to host competitions.  There was no shortage of events for bands to attend and this post will detail some of them.

We first see a mention of an association in 1893 with the creation of the Western District Brass Band Union.  This Union was established by “Messrs, John Meagher, A. Gartrell, and John Appleby” and the first bands associated with this Union were “District (Bathurst), Independent (Bathurst)” and bands from the towns of “Orange, Wellington, Blayney, Lithgow, and Hartley Vale”  (“Local and General.,” 1893; “Western Brass Band Union.,” 1893).  The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal article explained what the Union was hoping to achieve,

The object of the Union is to promote friendly discourse between the different companies by meeting at least once a year in each town represented, and holding contests, comparing notes, and otherwise advancing the cause of music.”

(“Local and General.,” 1893)

On a side note, the Band Association of New South Wales formed in 1895 of which they are the oldest State band association in Australia (Greaves, 1996).  It is unclear whether the Western Band Association recognised or affiliated with B.A.N.S.W. at this early stage.

Geographically, the reach of the Western Band Association extended well-past the Central West region.  We see in an article published in the Western Herald newspaper that the town of Bourke in far north-west of N.S.W. had its own branch of the WBA and in 1896 was given permission to hold a band contest – this was not going to be the first time a band from Bourke participated in the activities of the WBA (“WESTERN BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1896).

During the early 1900s, there is little to indicate if there was any activity from the WBA, no doubt the later war years intervened. However, in 1925 we see another burst of activity, first through accounts of a meeting in Bathurst and then a meeting a month later in Orange.  In October 1925, a meeting was held at the headquarters of the Bathurst District Band and presided over by Mr Sam Lewins (“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925).  The meeting involved members of the bands located in Bathurst and Orange, but their resolve and ambition were mostly united.  The article that was published in the Bathurst Times proclaimed under the main headline; “An Association Formed : Better Music – More Bands” which seemed to be an initial aim of this preliminary meeting as well as the usual planning on competitions in various towns (“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925).

One cannot be sure if these bandsmen who met in Bathurst experienced some déjà vu, because what they were discussing, and indeed the whole concept of a Western Band Association had all been done before.  It was written in the article,

The chairman, in explaining the conference, said that the primary object was the formation of an association having as its purpose the fostering of band music and the promoting of yearly contests.  Before him on the table were the minutes of a meeting held in Bathurst for a similar purpose just 32 years ago.  From the gathering in 1893 came the Western Band Association, the first Band Association in New South Wales.

The old rules governing the former body were still intact in the minute book.  In the event of another association being formed these rules could well be adopted, as he did not think they could be improved upon.

(“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925)

Letters regarding this project were read out from bands located in “Coonamble, Blayney, Orange, Dubbo and Nyngan” and with this in mind, the meeting resolved to start the Western Band Association on the 1st of January 1926. (“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925).

One delegate, a Mr Harrington from Orange was thinking of a bigger association and he “put in a strong plea that the title of the organisation should be altered to read “The Country Band Association of N.S.W.”” (“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925).  His reasoning was that bands from Cootamundra, Albury, and other towns to the north could join – however the other delegates did not support this suggestion so it was subsequently dropped (“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925).

The relationship with the State Association was part of these discussions as they were officially the body to be dealing with, despite some misgivings from the delegates in Bathurst.  An interesting exchange ensued between the delegates themselves with some choice language,

Mr. Johnson wished to be informed whether the association should affiliate with the head Sydney body.

The chairman : Well if we do we are not going to give them £1 for every band.

Mr. Johnson : We should absolutely shun them and keep to the western district: country players get no benefits from the Sydney Association.

Mr. Lewins : The trouble is a western band might want to play in Sydney at some time, and if we were not affiliated the head body might not allow it to compete.

In the opinion of Mr. Harrington it would be unwise to fall out with the head body.  “At the same time,” he went on, “we could be equally as strong as the N.S.W. Association.  In fact, it is not so very powerful as it is; you could drive a horse and cart through some of its constitutions.  We should place ourselves in a position not to dictate to this body, but to agree with it if possible.”.

(“WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE,” 1925)

The November meeting of the W.B.A. went ahead in Orange, and we have an account published in the Nepean Times newspaper as a representative from the Penrith Band attended the meeting.  While the W.B.A. had decided to confine itself to “districts along the Western Line and branches”, it also decided not to progress “no further east than Penrith township” which is why delegates from Penrith attended this meeting (“Western Band Association,” 1925).  The meeting also had delegates attend from bands in “Bathurst, Portland, Grenfell, Orange, Millthorpe and Penrith, numbering about 23” and correspondence was read out from other Western District bands that wanted to join (“Western Band Association,” 1925).  If the WBA did extend to Penrith, then geographically it encompassed the Blue Mountains as well.  A measure of just how parochial the WBA was about the bandsmen in their region is detailed in the last paragraph of the article,

The object of the Association is to form a working bureau for the purpose of keeping country players in the country instead of allowing them to drift to the City.  The assistance of business people and employing organisations is to the sought in this matter.

(“Western Band Association,” 1925)

In February 1926 a tiny article published in the Lithgow Mercury tells us that the W.B.A. has been reformed and will hold its first contest in Bathurst with a number of bands wanting to participate (“WESTERN BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1926).

19260222_Lithgow-Mercury_Western-Band-Ass
Lithgow Mercury, 22/02/1926, p. 1

In 1932 we see yet another iteration of the W.B.A. through accounts of a meeting in Wellington.  Through this account published in the Wellington Times, we see a whole range of thoughts from enthusiasm for a new Association to bordering on cynicism – relationships with Sydney being part of the discussions (“MEETING OF BAND DELEGATES.,” 1932).  Generally, the delegates felt that they could form an Association that would be a branch of the N.S.W. Association.  Although a Mr C. Brown from Dubbo had some misgivings by noting,

Something was certainly needed, as no country Band had yet received any benefit from the head association in Sydney.

(“MEETING OF BAND DELEGATES.,” 1932)

Further comments on this matter were provided by other delegates regarding the role and independence of this association,

Mr. Appleby (Bathurst) thought an Association should be formed independent of Sydney, as they need no expect any support from that quarter.

[…]

The contest adjudicator (Mr. F. H. Philpott) was also much in favour of running an association independent of Sydney.  Even the suburban centres, realizing the increased benefits, were endeavouring to form associations of their own.

(“MEETING OF BAND DELEGATES.,” 1932)

These sentiments mirror the ones made in Bathurst in 1925.

The delegates resolved that the headquarters should be in Wellington, but the formation of the Association was also met with pragmatic caution by the delegates from Orange,

Mr. W. Eyles (Orange) reiterated the necessity for an Association of some kind.  They owed it to the younger members.  It was their bounden duty to give them contest experience.

Mr. Howie (Orange) hoped that the matter would not start on a wave of enthusiasm, and then die a natural death.  Everybody would have to get behind the movement.

(“MEETING OF BAND DELEGATES.,” 1932)

Perhaps Mr. Howie was prophetic when he spoke about enthusiasm for an association only to have it die off. No less than three years later, the WBA did exactly that and in 1935 a decision was made to wind the association up with remaining funds being distributed to member bands (“Western Band Association,” 1935).

Post Second World War in 1946, we see the Western Band Group again being reformed.  Except on this occasion, it was being sponsored by the N.S.W. Band Association as they were also supporting similar groups in Newcastle and Wollongong.  A meeting was held in Bathurst and was attended by delegates from “Cowra, Lithgow, Portland, Katoomba, Blayney and Bathurst” with other bands indicating that they would join (“WESTERN BAND GROUP FORMED,” 1946).  This group evidently decided to move some of its focus away from contest and instead started coordinating Band Sunday events in various towns which were well attended by bands and townspeople (“WESTERN BAND GROUP,” 1947).  Unlike previous iterations of the W.B.A., this new group appears to have been stronger and much better organised as they were still in existence in 1964 – the Bourke Shire Band were special guests at a contest in Wellington attended by five other bands (“Bourke Shire Band,” 1964).

19640814_Western-Herald_Bourke-Shire-Band_WBG
Western Herald, 02/08/1964, p. 8

What we have seen here is a perfect example of how enthusiasm comes in waves and there is no doubting that the various bands in these iterations of the Western Band Association meant well but were probably hamstrung at various stages.  No doubt some social conditions and events beyond their control were influences.  However, the fact that there is a long story behind these movements is remarkable.

Towns and contests:

18991125_Sydney-Mail_Bathurst-Intercolonial_Codes
Code’s Melbourne Band, First prize in “Singer March”. Second Prize in Championship. Photo by Beavis Bros., Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 25/11/1899, p. 1288

One activity that this region became famous for was the quality, friendliness and hospitality of their band competitions which were held in various towns.  So much so that some contests were written up in the major band newspapers as being the ones to attend.  This part of the post will highlight some of them, and as with everything band related in this region, the competitions started in very early years.

In 1894 we first find a record of a contest held at Orange under the auspicious of the Western Band Association.  Held in conjunction with the fire brigade sports, this was reputedly the first contest held by the Association.  The contest appears to have been well-attended as it involved bands from the towns of Bathurst, Orange, Lithgow, Peak Hill, Wellington, Blayney, Stuart Town and Bourke with the bands competing in either first class or second class grades (“ORANGE BAND CONTEST AND FIRE-MEN’S SPORTS,” 1894).

Five years later, the town of Bathurst was the focus of attention as W.B.A. and the Bathurst Progress Association combined efforts and held an Intercolonial Band Contest which attracted numerous bands comprising of 360 musicians in total – the picture at the head of this post is testament to this!  This contest attracted bands from as far away as Wellington, New Zealand (of which their unfortunate loss of points is detailed in another post), and Code’s Melbourne Band from Victoria (pictured above).  The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser listed all the bands that participated:

…Wellington Garrison, New South Wales Lancers, Bathurst District, Code’s (Melbourne), Lithgow Model, Armidale City, Hillgrove, Newtown, Bathurst City, Lismore, Nymagee District, Warren Town, Hibernian (Sydney) and Cobar United.

(“INTERCOLONIAL BAND CONTEST AT BATHURST.,” 1899)

By all accounts the Bathurst contest was a huge success with the townsfolk, the Singer Company and the bands all enjoying themselves.  The band from Hillgrove, which boasted the six McMahon brothers,  won the “Australian Championship” with Code’s achieving second place and Newtown third while the Quickstep section was won by Code’s with Hillgrove gaining second place (“INTERCOLONIAL BAND CONTEST AT BATHURST.,” 1899).

It did not seem to matter which town in the region held a contest, bands were quite happy to travel an amount of distance to participate.  The 1919 Parkes Band contest was a perfect example as it attracted bands from the nearby region and one band from Sydney.  An article published in the Orange Leader newspaper listed the six bands that participated: “Royal Naval Brigade (Sydney), Lithgow Town, Orange Model, Forbes Town, Parkes Town and Parkes Peoples’ Band” (“THE PARKES BAND CONTEST.,” 1919).  The contest was held to benefit the Parkes Hospital fund.

There was one town that held a string of successful contests of which attracted a healthy number of bands each year; the town of Millthorpe which lies to the south of Orange on the Main Western railway line.  In the middle of the 1920s, Millthorpe seemed to be the contest to attend and accounts of the contest were written up in the well-regarded Australasian Band and Orchestral News.  Thankfully, through articles published in two editions of ABON we can see which bands participated in the Millthorpe contest over the years:

  • 1924: Orange, Blayney, Millthorpe
  • 1925: Dubbo, Grenfell, Blayney, Cowra, Millthorpe
  • 1926: Portland, Bathurst City- Model, Cowra, Penrith, Orange, Grenfell, Blayney, Millthorpe
  • 1927: Penrith, Orange, Wellington, Bathurst City-Model
  • 1928: Bathurst City-Model, Orange Town, Millthorpe Town

(“Millthorpe Contest,” 1928, pp. 30-31; “Millthorpe Contests,” 1927, p. 17)

The Millthorpe contests, which were run by a committee, would probably not have happened if a Mr H. H. Power, who was the then bandmaster of the Millthorpe Band had not driven the idea. The contests were always successful as each year they turned a profit.  However, it was also a measure of the contest that bands kept visiting and in 1927 Mr Power was presented with a gold watch in recognition of his services (“Millthorpe Contests,” 1927).

These contests were not the only ones run in the region and through searching the Trove archive we find that other towns also hosted contests – Cowra, Dubbo, Forbes, Grenfell, Mudgee, Portland, and Wellington.  The bands were spoiled for choice, and they made trips to compete on a regular basis.  As mentioned in Part 1 of this post, some bands ventured further afield with the Bathurst Band travelling to Ballarat and other bands competing in major competitions in bigger cities.  One can see how proactive the regional bands and towns were in hosting events.

18991125_Sydney-Mail_Bathurst-Intercolonial_McMahons
McMahon’s Hillgrove Brass Band, Winner of Championship of Australia and second prize in the “Singer March”. Photo by Beavis Bros., Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 25/11/1899 p. 1289

Conclusion:

While researching for this series of posts I was struck by just how rich and varied the band life was in this region, and also how the towns embraced their bands.  Parochialism aside, we can also see how bands put aside differences to work together, especially when driven by dedicated individuals.  Yes, the bands had to respond to changes in society and industry. However, this did not stop them from achieving and gaining notice for their playing, especially the Bathurst Band after its visit to Ballarat.  The bands were a credit to themselves and to their towns and they made sure this region was noticed for its music making.

<- Part 1: Bands for every town

References:

Beavis Bros. (1899a, 25 November). CODES MELBOURNE BAND, FIRST PRIZE IN “SINGER MARCH,” SECOND PRIZE IN CHAMPIONSHIP. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), 1288. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article163699422

Beavis Bros. (1899b, 25 November). McMAHON’S HILLGROVE BRASS BAND, WINNER OF CHAMPIONSHIP OF AUSTRALIA AND SECOND PRIZE IN THE “SINGER MARCH.”. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), 1289. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article163699422

Beavis Bros. (1899c, 25 November). The Start of the Massed Bands (360 Bandsmen) from Singer Company’s Premises, Howick-street, Bathurst, playing the “Singer March.”. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912),1288. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article163699422

Bourke Shire Band—Guest Band at Western Districts Band Championships, Wellington, on Sunday, August 2nd. (1964, 14 August). Western Herald (Bourke, NSW : 1887 – 1970), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141982006

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

INTERCOLONIAL BAND CONTEST AT BATHURST : Photos by Beavis Bros., Bathurst. (1899, 25 November). Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), 1288-1289. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article163699422

Local and General. (1893, 02 November). Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62183780

MEETING OF BAND DELEGATES : Progressive Movement. (1932, 04 January). Wellington Times (NSW : 1899 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143246371

Millthorpe Contest : Bathurst City-Model Victors. (1928). The Australasian Band and Orchestral News, XXIII(5), 30-31. 

Millthorpe Contests : Four Successful Years. (1927). The Australasian Band and Orchestral News, XXIII(1), 17. 

ORANGE BAND CONTEST AND FIRE-MEN’S SPORTS. (1894, 12 November). Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article236121302

THE PARKES BAND CONTEST. (1919, 27 August). Leader (Orange, NSW : 1899 – 1945), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article117864597

WESTERN BAND ASSOCIATION. (1896, 21 March). Western Herald (Bourke, NSW : 1887 – 1970), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104105388

WESTERN BAND ASSOCIATION. (1926, 22 February). Lithgow Mercury (NSW : 1898 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article224588875

Western Band Association : Decides to Disband. (1935, 19 July). Western Age (Dubbo, NSW : 1933 – 1936), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137139773

Western Band Association : Penrith Represented. (1925, 28 November). Nepean Times (Penrith, NSW : 1882 – 1962), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108681480

WESTERN BAND CONFERENCE : An Association Formed : Better Music – More Bands. (1925, 19 October). Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118043369

WESTERN BAND GROUP. (1947, 05 December). Blue Mountains Advertiser (Katoomba, NSW : 1940 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189918471

WESTERN BAND GROUP FORMED. (1946, 05 September). Lithgow Mercury (NSW : 1898 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article219610497

Western Brass Band Union. (1893, 02 November). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article156684544

Brass bands of the New South Wales Central West: Part 1: Bands for every town

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Orange District Band, 1928. (source: Central West Libraries)

Introduction:

Nearly every small town in New South Wales can speak of their own band, and why should a town with the population of Condobolin be so far behind the time?

(Band Enthusiast, 1902)

This question was asked in a letter to the Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder newspaper in January 1902.  The person who wrote the letter under a pseudonym, “Band Enthusiast” asked a worthy question as to why his town had not caught up with the times and started their own band.  Condobolin is a town located in the Central West region of New South Wales and at this time, they were lagging other towns in the region.  By the time 1902 has ticked around, some towns in the Central West have already had bands for the best part of a decade.  Condobolin was feeling left out and wanted a band to boost civic pride and give townsfolk something else to do.

There is always a bigger picture and if we were to examine layers of history, patterns of immigration and the development of towns, agriculture, and industry, we would find that the bands of the Central West were very much products of their location and people – and there were many of them.  For the purposes of this post, the focus will be on a large regional block of New South Wales; Lithgow and Bathurst in the east, Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo in the west, Mudgee, Galong Wellington & Tottenham in the north and Oberon, Blaney, Cowra, Grenfell, and Forbes in the south with many localities big and small in between.  It is just over 400km from Lithgow to Lake Cargelligo and from North to South around 200km.  As you can see from the brief list of towns, there are some famous places, some of which are etched into Australian psyche and history. The middle line of Central West can be drawn through the towns of Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange, Parkes, and Condobolin.  Below this introduction is a Google map of this area.

For the sake of brevity with reading and writing, this blog topic in two parts.  Part 1 focuses on a little history of the N.S.W. Central West and stories of the individual bands.  Part 2 focuses on the various iterations of the Western Band Association and regional competitions.  Given that there were twenty-eight bands that have existed in the Central West, this provides us with a rich history of music-making.  Much like a previous post on the bands surrounding Canberra, this post is a result of a visit to Orange in October 2019 where various resources were accessed thanks to the assistance of the excellent librarians at Orange Library.  They pointed out several features of their own town related to brass bands, and I was naturally curious about the other bands in the region.  The Trove archive has also provided an amount of information.

One might say the development of bands in this region is very typical when compared to other parts of Australia, and to some extents this is correct.  Well-might every town in the Central West have a band or want a band.  They were community groups to be proud of.

The Central West:

To provide some context to the bands in this region, it is important to appreciate the history of the region.  Early settlers travelled various locations, mainly to farm sheep on the vast plains although some towns were originally settlements to house convicts (Blainey, 2001; Kass, 2003).  The main impetus to population growth was the discovery of various minerals across the region namely gold, copper, shale, limestone, and coal and most of the miners originated from Wales and Cornwall (Kass, 2003; Payton, 2005).  With greater migration came town services and recreation as well as transport links – roads and railways.  Kass (2003) wrote of the migration, “These new people left their mark.  Sometimes, particular ethnic practices of skills affected the area” (p. 16).

Naturally, some towns grew bigger than others due to their location on major transport routes, the success of the mines or agriculture.  Some towns like Hill End dwindled due to the exhaustion of mines (“Hill End,” 2004; Hodge, 2013).  Others, like Bathurst, were regional centres in their own right – Bathurst, in particular, is one of the first towns established after the crossing of the Blue Mountains (Blainey, 2001).  European influences on some towns are obvious.  Below are some pictures of two bandstands in Orange located in parks at either end of the town centre.

20191019-9.30_Orange_Robertson-Park-Bandstand1
Robertson Park Bandstand, Orange (Photo taken in October 2019 by Jeremy de Korte)
Robertson Park Bandstand – Plaque (photo taken October 2019 by Jeremy de Korte)
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Cook Park Bandstand, Orange (Photo taken in October 2019 by Jeremy de Korte)
Cook Park Bandstand – Plaque (photo taken October 2019 by Jeremy de Korte)

The history of this region is fascinating, and it is through the development of these industries and towns that gives rise to brass bands, an amount of which are still in existence.  These famous towns are historic.  The bands themselves developed reputations that extended far beyond this region.

British Influences:

If we consider that the main immigration of the time was from Britain where brass bands had already taken hold in certain areas, it stands to reason the ethnic practices that Kass mentions would include certain kinds of music-making.  Bythell (2000) tells us that this was no accident,

The successful transplantation of the brass band to the colonies in the late nineteenth century should not surprise us, given the importance of ordinary, wage-earning immigrants from Britain in building-up Australasia’s population and developing its communities and institutions.  The contribution of British-born bandsmen to Australian banding is particularly noticeable in mining areas whose counterparts in ‘the Old Country’ were major centres of the movement.

(p. 227)

More specifically and related to the regional area, Payton (2005) states that “Brass bands were popular among the Cornish at Hill End, Bathurst and elsewhere…” (p. 234).  The link between mining and brass bands cannot be understated, and the names of some of the early bands reflected this origin.  This was very much a transplanting of culture, and the Central West became blessed with several brass bands.

Where bands were formed:

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Parkes Town Band (Source: IBEW)

In most of the major towns, they could boast one band although some had two or three.  In the smaller towns, they could claim one band.  As is the case with some of these activities, some bands folded or merged.  In 1908 for example, the Parkes Brass Band merged with the nearby Parkesborough Brass Band to become a single entity (“Parkes Brass Band.,” 1908).  Below is a table showing a list of locations where brass bands were mentioned, most of which were in existence in the early 1900s.  Today, a number of bands remain in the major towns and these are highlighted by links – interestingly, some of the bands that exist today in this region are now concert bands.

BathurstBimbiBlayneyCanowindra
CondobolinCowraCudalCumnock
EugowraForbesGrenfellGulgong
Hartley ValeHill EndKandosLithgow
MillthorpeMolongMudgeeOberon
OrangeParkesPeak HillPortland
Stuart TownTullibigealWellingtonYeoval
(source of table data: Trove archive)

There was no doubting the enthusiasm, civic pride and motives of the early townsfolk when it came to starting brass bands.  However, it was not only townsfolk who started bands.  Robert Bartlett (2018) wrote in his book Orange and District: A History in Pictures. 2 that “…a volunteer band attached to the Volunteer Military Corps in Orange was established about 1874” and that “The Orange Town Band was formed in the late 1880s” (p. 48).  Here, this is an example of two bands that had existed in the town in relatively early times.  The Orange Town Band was afflicted with a few stops and starts in its early years, however, it still exists to this day (Bartlett, 2018).

It is interesting to see how local newspapers reported on proposals to start bands or reported on bands already in existence.  For example, a correspondent writing for the Peak Hill Express newspaper in August 1902 says of the newly formed Yeoval band,

One would scarcely think of hard times and drought at the small township of Yeoval, since the local Brass Band has commenced practice.  The Bandmaster, (Mr. Kennerson) came yesterday from Eugowra to give his pupils their first lesson.  I am afraid (although I should be very sorry to dishearten our amateurs), that some time will lapse before the Yeoval Brass Band will appear in a contest or even turn out a few professional players.

(“YEOVAL.,” 1902)

The optimism is admirable given that Yeoval was a small township located inland from the main road linking the major towns of Molong and Wellington.

Expressions of enthusiasm for staring a brass band in the town of Cudal, located on a road from Orange to Forbes was all very well.  But this enthusiasm was tempered by a pragmatic question over instruments, as written in an article from March 1902 in the Leader newspaper,

Cudal boys intend on starting a brass band.  Why not?  Mr. Walter Carter, who has been considerable time in the band at Wellington, and who is settling in town, will act as instructor and also conductor.  The trouble is, where are the instruments coming from?  Perhaps some person who is interested will push the thing ahead.

(“CUDAL.,” 1902)

This is, of course, another aspect of starting a brass band, finding the right people to start them and instruct pupils.  In the town of Cumnock, located near the towns of Yeoval and Molong, they found a person willing to start a band.  A local and popular factor manager, Mr R. E. Higgins pushed an effort to start a band and it seems he was successful (“CUMNOCK.,” 1904).  The Cumnock Brass Band was still in existence in 1927 (“CUMNOCK.,” 1927).

The township of Kandos, located south-east of Mudgee, provides an interesting example of how to start a band properly.  Aside from the fact that got started much later than other towns, an article published in the Lithgow Mercury in March 1918 tells us much.  It seems their town band was going to be supported financially by the N.S.W. Cement Co., so all they really needed from potential musicians was “determination and enthusiasm” (“KANDOS.,” 1918).  And they really wanted a band for the town,

As a town band is a means of pleasurable entertainment, a welcome relaxation from the workers’ daily round and common task that appeals more than any other, the committee confidently look to the citizens of our model township for aid and support, financial and other ways.  Meanwhile, a goodly number of names of intending members with more or less experience has been booked, and quite an encouraging number of names of intending pupils have likewise been handed in.

(“KANDOS.,” 1918)

Nine years later we find that the Kandos Town Band is thriving.  In the September 26th issue of The Australasian Band and Orchestral News, an article about the happenings of brass bands in New South Wales is published and there is a small paragraph on the Kandos Town Band:

Kandos Town Band has emerged from its winter seclusion and rendered a fine programme on Sunday, September 11 under the baton of Bandmaster Julius.  The band has always had strong financial support and its efforts are always appreciated.

(“New South Wales,” 1927, p. 23)

Then, of course, are the times when bands have, for whatever reason, gone into recess and then reformed.  Such was the case of the Oberon Brass Band in 1936 when a tiny article published in the Sydney Morning Herald makes mention of the reformation of this band (“OBERON BAND RE-FORMED.,” 1936).

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

Some of the brass bands mentioned above were in smaller towns and faced challenges that did not really affect bands in bigger locations, though that did not stop these towns trying to start them.  We know that bands in some of the bigger centres of “Bathurst, Wellington, Orange, Blaney, and Lithgow” were in existence by the early 1890s (“Western Brass Band Union.,” 1893).  The Orange City Band, as we can see above in the photo, was lucky enough to have its own band hall.   The band in the tiny town of Yeoval might have aspired of entering competitions but for the bands in bigger towns with more resources, this was a reality.  It was seen in an earlier post how the Bathurst District Brass Band travelled all the way to Ballarat to compete in the first South Street band sections in 1900 and gained high praise for their playing (“THE CONTEST.,” 1900; Nedwell & Hill, 1900; “To-Day’s Telegrams.,” 1900).  For many other bands in this region, travel to neighbouring towns or to Sydney for competitions became routine, no doubt helped by the early railways.  The nature of competing and competitions for these bigger bands will be examined in Part 2 of this blog post.

Challenges laid bare:

19230425_Grenfell-Town-District-Band_phot7150
Grenfell Town & District Band, ANZAC Day 1923 (Source: IBEW)

Operating a band was not an easy task.  And the early newspapers show numerous instances of where the local band put out a call for help.  Most of the assistance was to be in the form of small concerts or other events that would provide funds for a band.  In September 1900, a tiny article published in the Wellington Times newspaper asks the townspeople of Stuart Town to support their band,

At a public meeting held at Stuart Town on the 17th instant (Mr. A. G. Coleman in the chair) it was decided to hold a concert and social at Boehme’s Hall, on November 9, for the purpose of putting the funds of the Stuart Town brass band on a sound financial basis.  Tickets for the concert will be 2s and s, and for the social 3s and 2s.  Mr. Howard Warn is the hon. Sec.

(“The Stuart Town Band.,” 1900)

Then there was the distinct challenge of gaining and retaining members of the band which was either overcome…or not. The McPhail and Peak Hill District Band was one ensemble that managed to turn things around with an effective recruitment campaign.  Through an article published in the Peak Hill Express newspaper from December 1905, we see why there was a loss of initial membership and how they are progressing,

For some time past McPhail and Peak Hill District Band has not been heard so frequently as in the past, for the reason that the members being miners, were mostly out of the district.  As a result, the Band has had to recruit, and this being done, with some £30 worth of instruments, the Band is on the up grade again, and during the coming year will be heard to advantage.  The members have some really fine instruments, and everything points to a bright future.

(“McPhail and Peak Hill District Band.,” 1905)

One can sense the inherent frustration of a Mr W. H. Gray, committee member of the Grenfell Town Band through a supplementary report published in the Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser newspaper in August 1931 regarding some issues surrounding his band.  Firstly, Mr Gray has tried to justify the music library and choices of music for performances by stating,

In the first place the library referred to is an extremely important factor in the make-up of the band, and comprises all the music as used by them, and the same as in a reading library, there are good, band and indifferent pieces, and it requires a great deal of time to look through a quantity of music and make a selection of numbers that will be interesting to players to practice, and which will also please the majority of the listening public. […] Of course, there are numbers that will be uninteresting to the musically uneducated, but if we were to confine ourselves to the class of music that would appeal to that that type of listener we would get nowhere.  And so it is necessary to have an assortment that will appeal to the highbrow as well as the lowbrow, if I may be permitted to use that term.

(Gray in “TOWN BAND,” 1931)

Mr. Gray went on to making other forthright comments in his report of which are quoted here.

Most of them think the instrument has only to be blown into and it will play itself

[…]

A lot of programmes could be much improved if I could get fuller rehearsals.  A lot to poor and bad spots in a performance are caused by members who only come along to rehearsal occasionally, and are not entirely familiar with the programme, and are not competent enough to read at sight, make mistakes which disconcert the rest of the players.

[…]

In a small town like this there is not the same chance or privilege to get a better combination, as there is only a certain percentage or average of all who take up the study of music who ever amount to much, and distance from other places are a bar to attracting other players here.

[…]

I would now like to appeal to the public for support.  We have to be continually adding to our library, instruments have to be kept in repair, and band room rent and lighting to be paid.  The bandsmen give a great deal of their time.  Of course it is looked upon as a recreation, but it is not always so, as duties often interfere with other plans, so that a band call is sometimes a sacrifice to the men.  […] You will now see it takes a certain definite amount of money to run a band, also a certain amount of sacrifice on behalf of the bandsmen, and as I hope the band gives a lot of pleasure to people that in the future better monetary support will be given that will enable us to continue and improve on the work already done.

(Gray in “TOWN BAND,” 1931)

This article was as informative as it was fascinating.  We see here a committee member who has outlined several frustrations yet still asks the public for support, as well as asking his bandsmen to give a greater effort.  The challenge of being in a smaller town without ready access to a pool of musicians and other resources is not unique.  To have laid it all out in a local newspaper to this extent is certainly brave – one wonders the comments he received from his bandsmen who might have read this.

Conductors and bandsmen:

00000000_Bathurst-Town-Band_phot18345
Bathurst Town Band (Source: IBEW)

It has been mentioned at times in this post certain names of people who were influences on their local bands.  Again, this is nothing new when compared to other bands in Australia – this was a time of the journeyman band member who frequently changed towns and bands.  To keep up retention for any length of time was a major challenge.  Yet there were some remarkable stories of longevity, and the lengths towns went to honour their brass band people.

The year is 1920 and, in an article, published in January of that year in the Bathurst Times newspaper, news breaks of a possible transfer of the conductor of the Bathurst District Band, a Mr Samuel Lewins, to somewhere else in N.S.W. because of employment.  This was a conductor who had been at the helm of the band for a considerable length of time,

Mr. Verbrugghen, the conductor of the State Orchestra, has been telling the public that he success of the orchestra is due to its conductor.  By the same line of reasoning the success of the Bathurst District Band is due to its bandmaster.  Is proof wanted?  It can be found in the fact that during the thirty-three years the band has been going it has had hundreds of members, but only one conductor.

(“BRASS BANDS,” 1920)

Rightly, or wrongly, there were fears the band would collapse if the conductor left the band,

Now there is a rift looming.  Bathurst is likely to lose Mr. Lewins, and in losing him the city is in danger of losing the District Band as we now know it.

This is how maters stand.  Mr. Lewins is an officer in the Railway service.  He is reaching the retiring age, and when that time comes (as will be in about two years), he proposes to remove to Sydney or some other centre.  Is Bathurst going to allow him to go without making an effort to keep him?

[…]

What will Bathurst do?  Will it get busy during the two years yet to go, and arrange to keep the District Band and its conductor, or will it sit down and allow matters to drift?  Two years is not a long time.  Some towns have been trying for a dozen years to get a man with the brass band knowledge of Mr. Lewins and with equal worth as a citizen, but have failed.  Bathurst has the musician man and the citizen, and should see that he is kept here.

(“BRASS BANDS,” 1920)

The story of Mr Lewins at the helm of the Bathurst District Band does not end here.  In 1926 we find that he is still conducting and as a measure of appreciation, the townsfolk honour Mr Lewins with a plaque as a testimonial to his now forty years as conductor of the band (“THE LEWINS’ TESTIMONIAL,” 1926; “MR. S. LEWINS’ TESTIMONIAL,” 1925).  Mr Lewins kept conducting the band for another twelve years until 1938.  In 1936 he was further honoured for conducting the band for fifty years with the erecting of commemorative gates at Machattie Park (“LEWINS COMMEMORATIVE GATES,” 1936).  In 1938, having achieved the record as the “oldest bandmaster in the Commonwealth”, is suffering from ill health and has had to retire from leading the Bathurst District Band – by all accounts, this is an astonishing record (“MR. S. LEWINS,” 1938).  Two years after his retirement at the age of 78, Mr Lewins passes away with tributes flowing from band people all around Australia (“MR. SAMUEL LEWINS,” 1940).  For a brief time afterwards, the band is conducted by one of his sons and soon after Mr Harold Walmsley takes over as conductor of this band and the Bathurst Boys’ Band (“BATHURST AND ITS BANDS,” 1941).

Samuel Lewins was but one of many remarkable musicians that have called the Central West their home and the legacy of these musicians lives on.  One must recognize that every musician made a contribution to their bands, and in some cases to Australia as euphonium player and conductor of the Orange Town Band, Herbert Rockliff did in the AIF (Orange City Council, 2015).  To my knowledge, not one band conductor has come close to the Lewins record yet.

Bands of the Central West:

To reiterate a point, the development and running of bands in the Central West were no less compared to other bands around Australia.  In fact, it was fairly typical – challenges were commonplace.  However, to have so many bands in the one region did bring out the best of bandsmen and they did their best to keep bands operating.  Perhaps circumstance was unkind to some of them – they were tied to their towns and if the towns dwindled the bands folded.  But for the most part, at least in some of the bigger towns, their legacy lives on.

19110000_Peak-Hill-Band_phot9371
Peak Hill Band, 1911 (Source: IBEW)

Part 2: Association and competition ->

References:

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Bartlett, R. (2018). Orange and district : a history in pictures. 2. Robert Bartlett. 

BATHURST AND ITS BANDS : Mr. Walmsley’s View. (1941, 30 September). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160522981

Bathurst Town Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot18345]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

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BRASS BANDS : The People’s Music. : The District Band Conductor. (1920, 08 January). Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111547245

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. 

THE CONTEST. (1900, 08 October). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206978024

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de Korte, J. D. (2018, 08 July). The unique position the Canberra City Band holds within the bands of the Southern Tablelands of NSW. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2018/07/01/the-unique-position-the-canberra-city-band-holds-within-the-bands-of-the-southern-tablelands-of-nsw/

de Korte, J. D. (2018, 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. (2019a). Orange, N.S.W. : Cook Park : Bandstand [Photograph]. [IMG_4472]. Jeremy de Korte, Sydney, N.S.W. 

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

de Korte, J. D. (2019d). Orange, N.S.W. : Robertson Park : Bandstand [Photograph]. [IMG_4443]. Jeremy de Korte, Sydney, N.S.W.

de Korte, J. D. (2019). Orange, N.S.W. : Robertson Park : Bandstand – Plaque [Photograph]. [IMG_4444]. Jeremy de Korte, Sydney, N.S.W. 

Grenfell Town & District Band : ANZAC Day 1923. (1923). [Photograph]. [phot7150]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Hill End. (2004, 08 February). Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/hill-end-20040208-gdkq2n.html

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Kass, T. (2003). A thematic history of the Central West : comprising the NSW historical regions of Lachlan and Central Tablelands. NSW Heritage Office. https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/heritagebranch/heritage/thematichistorycentralwest.pdf 

LEWINS COMMEMORATIVE GATES. (1936, 17 July). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160530723

THE LEWINS’ TESTIMONIAL. (1926, 09 February). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161492356

McPhail and Peak Hill District Band. (1905, 15 December). Peak Hill Express (NSW : 1902 – 1952), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107246068

MR. S. LEWINS : Retirement Reported. (1938, 12 August). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160909451

MR. S. LEWINS’ TESTIMONIAL. (1925, 29 December). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161496572

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Nedwell, J. W., & Hill, W. D. (1900, 22 October). CORRESPONDENCE : Soldiers’ Statue Fund at Ballarat. National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article156776396

New South Wales. (1927). The Australasian Band and Orchestral News, XXIII(1), 23 & 25. 

OBERON BAND RE-FORMED. (1936, 07 November). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17286874

Orange City Council. (2015, 01 February). Herbert Rockliff. Orange City Council. Retrieved 19 October 2019 from http://www.centenaryww1orange.com.au/service-men-and-women/herbert-rockliff/

Orange District Band. (1928). [Photograph]. Central West Libraries, Orange, N.S.W. 

Parkes Brass Band. (1908, 17 April). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111917460

Parkes Town Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot6375]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Payton, P. (2005). The Cornish overseas : a history of Cornwall’s ‘great emigration’ (Rev. and updated ed.). University of Exeter Press. 

Peak Hill Band. (1911). [Photograph]. [phot9371]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

The Stuart Town Band. (1900, 20 September). Wellington Times (NSW : 1899 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139003931

To-Day’s Telegrams : THE BATHURST BAND IN MELBOURNE. (1900, 04 October). Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63874689

TOWN BAND : Grenfell Band. (1931, 17 August). Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser (NSW : 1876 – 1951), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112830663

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