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 Bank 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.

References:

ABODA Victoria. (2018). About. ABODA Victoria. Retrieved 11 January 2022 from https://abodavic.org.au/about/

Advertising. (1911, 21 April). Areas’ Express (Booyoolee, SA : 1877 – 1948), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article219438866

Advertising. (1914, 07 November). Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178849383

Advertising. (1926, 06 August). Cowra Free Press (NSW : 1911 – 1937), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article262027016

Almond, H. C. (1916, 11 March). Advertising. St George Call (Kogarah, NSW : 1904 – 1957), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162766364

Amateur Conductors. (1933, 08 February). Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24710870

AUSTRALIAN BANDS : Lack Good Conductors : SAYS THE KING’S TRUMPETER. (1908, 13 November). Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229091651

BAND CHAMPIONSHIPS. (1934, 23 April). Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1192269

BAND CONDUCTORS : Criticism Justified. (1925, 13 June). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129736006

BANDMASTER PERCY JONES. (1907, 30 November). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149219732

Bandmaster’s Challenge. (1914, 20 June). Armidale Chronicle (NSW : 1894 – 1929), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187607478

Carmody, J. (2006). Verbrugghen, Henri Adrien Marie (1873-1934). In Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 29 December 2021, from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/verbrugghen-henri-adrien-marie-8913

CROTCHETS AND QUAVERS : CONSERVATORIUM PROGRESS : MILITARY BAND SCHOOL : THE MELBOURNE RECITAL. (1915, 17 October). Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 22. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221915763

de Korte, J. D. (2019, 05 June). Finding National consensus: how State band associations started working with each other. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2019/06/05/finding-national-consensus-how-state-band-associations-started-working-with-each-other/

de Korte, J. D. (2020a, 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/

de Korte, J. D. (2020b, 18 October). Testing times: the resilience of Australian bands during the Great Depression. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2020/10/18/testing-times-the-resilience-of-australian-bands-during-the-great-depression/

de Korte, J. D. (2021, 16 February). Influences from Britain: James Ord Hume and “The Besses Effect”. Band Blasts from the Past : Anecdotes, Stories and Personalities. https://bandblastsfromthepast.blog/2021/02/16/influences-from-britain-james-ord-hume-and-the-besses-effect/

Doak, H. (1908, 24 July). Advertising. Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238170790

Dulcet. (1925, 15 June). Band Conductors. News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129734100

Elwin, G. B. (1913). Wanted [Advertisement]. The State Band News, 4(6), 21. 

AN ENTHUSIASTIC MUSICIAN : Mr. W. H. Foote Interviewed. (1921, 16 March). Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63043619

A GREAT BANDMASTER : LIETENANT J. ORD HUME IN ADELAIDE : AUSTRALIAN BANDSMEN PRAISED. (1924, 30 October). Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73434557

Green, W. C. (1911, 23 March). Advertising. Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50467046

HALL OF BAND MUSIC : Australian Proposal. (1934, 05 April). Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 – 1956), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70310251

Harris, J. (1910, 08 November). Advertising. Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article238666818

HENRI VERBRUGGHEN ON BRASS BANDS. (1921, 06 December). Toowoomba Chronicle (Qld. : 1917 – 1922), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article253315624

IMPROVEMENT OF BAND MUSIC. (1912, 02 March). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 24. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197401629

Levy, W. (1925, 16 June). Band Conductors. News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129729171

LISTEN TO THE BAND! : Appeal by President : MORE PUBLIC SUPPORT NEEDED. (1925, 09 April). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129718612

LONGREACH TOWN BAND : FULL DISCUSSION ON BANDMASTER’S POSITION : APPLICATIONS TO BE CALLED FOR BANDMASTER. (1928, 15 June). Longreach Leader (Qld. : 1923 – 1954), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37342371

Madge, C. J. (1925, 15 June). Band Conductors. News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129734100

Michell, A. B. (1925, 29 June). Band Conductors. News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129735730

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. Verbrugghen’s Return. (1918, 03 April). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1919), 47. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article263622163

MUSIC AND MUSICIANS : Mr. F. J. NOTT : Bands and Band Music. (1932, 23 November). Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24688707

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.

The poetry of brass bands

Introduction:

While undertaking research for my blog posts thus far I have come across all manner of writing describing brass bands, their members and competitions.  Much of the writing is very useful in finding the “little stories” behind people, places and events.  Occasionally I have come across some oddities in the mix and this post is going to highlight an aspect of writing; poetry.

In this context of brass band history, penning up a poem about musicians, bands and competitions might seem very colloquial.  And in some respects, it is.  One only has to look at the style of writing and while the poems might not have won any literature awards, they were helpful in bringing to life some little stories in a unique style.

Below are just three of these brass band poems.  I have not been actively searching for these.  However, if while searching for material on other topics and they appeared, I have made a note of them for the novelty.  These are defiantly the needles in haystacks!  Two of the poems were published in local newspapers by writers using pseudonyms while the third poem was composed by brass band writer C. C. Mullen in his rare book, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900 – 1951).

I am quite sure there are other brass band poems in other newspaper articles so this post might be expanded in the future.  Please enjoy the language and stories that are being told here and remember that they were for another time.  Perhaps this blend of artforms might be used again one day.

“A Welcome” by ‘Bannerman’ (1918):

Herald, 23/10/1920, p. 4

One of the first blog posts in Band Blasts from The Past was about the famous Cornetist and Conductor William Ryder who travelled to Australia in 1910 with the renowned Besses O’ Th’ Barn Band (de Korte, 2018).  Just eight years later, after stints with bands in Victoria and New South Wales, he arrived in Maryborough, Queensland to take the reins of the Maryborough Naval Band and we found that an enterprising contributor, under the pseudonym of ‘Bannerman’, had penned a poem to welcome him to town.  No doubt this would have been perceived as a very friendly gesture, and it gave the town some insight into the prowess and reputation of Ryder as a musician.  This poem was published in the Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser on Wednesday, 8thMay, 1918.

A WELCOME

Here’s a hearty welcome “Billy”,
To our pleasant country town,
And may Fortune every lead you,
And misfortune never frown.
We are pleased to have you with us,
And we hope you long may stay
To encourage local talent
In the latest style and way.

When you played the “solo cornet”
With the finest in the land,
You were classed as England’s champion
In the famous “Besses Band.”
And here in fair Australia
You can show us all the way
As the Champion of the Champions
From the South to old Wide Bay.

“Because” we all remember
When you played it at New Year,
When the silvery notes were finished
How the crowd did clap and cheer.
May our town and climate suit you,
May your notes prove ever true.
Here’s good-luck to wife and kiddies,
And long life and health to you.

(Bannerman, 1918, p. 6)

“Back to South Street” by Cecil Clarence Mullen (1951):

There is one brass band musician and writer among many who is significant to early Victorian brass band history, Cecil Clarence Mullen (C. C. Mullen).  His writing might be rare and hard to find now, however, being a band journal representative he had a unique insight into the workings of brass bands and was associated with many famous bands, conductors and administrators (Mullen, 1951).

It is in his little book, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900 – 1951) that we find his poem, “Back to South Street”. In this piece of writing Mullen has cleverly highlighted the nostalgia of the South Street event while noting many of the famous names of bands and bandsmen.  It is a worthwhile poem to read for the sake of history.

19510000_Mullen
Front Cover Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951) (Source: Jeremy de Korte Personal Collection)

BACK TO SOUTH STREET

Just let me go back to South Street
For a week with the famous bands,
And take with me others who would compete
In Australia’s Golden City of renown.

Just let me alight at the station
With cornet, trombone and drum,
And meet bandsmen from all over the Nation,
To whom South Street once more come.

Just let me line up in the station yard
And play through Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,”
Or “The Heavens Are Telling” by Haydn – just as hard,
As bands played in the days before us.

Just let me march along Sturt Street
With gay crowds lining the way,
With step by step and beat by beat,
Is South Street just the same to-day?

Just let me see who is judging again,
Is it Stead or Bentley with ears for tune?
Short, Beswick, Sutton or Morgan – men of fame,
Or King of them all – J. Ord Hume.

Just let me go through Inspection
As we did when we dressed with much care;
With the gayest uniform in our section,
That made all our rivals stare.

Just let me compete in the solos again
From the grand old Coliseum stage,
With “Adelaide” or “Gipsy’s Warning” – or “Pretty Jane,”
“Zelda” and “Miranda” of a later age.

Just let me mount he platform
And play through “Beethoven’s Works.”
Or any Alexander Owen’s selections
That South Street bands would not shirk.

Just let me play through the Test piece,
Be it “Mercandante.” “Mozart” or “Liszt,”
“Wagner,” “Chopin” of “Meyerbeer,”
The tests that were tests on our lips.

Just let me march in the Quickstep
With Ord Hume’s “B.B. and C.F.”
“The Challenge,” “Cossack” or “Ravenswood”
Or was the “Twentieth Century” the best?

Just let me see the others swing past,
Code’s, Prout’s, Rozelle and Boulder.
Wanganui, Newcastle and Bathurst Brass,
Great names that come dear to the older.

Just let me see those fine Geelong bands,
St. Augustine’s, Municipal and Harbour Trust.
Also Collingwood, Malvern, Richmond, Prahran,
Perth City – all great power among us.

Just let me see Geelong Town again
With Sharpe Brearley at the head of affairs.
They ranked with Prout’s in quickstep fame,
First in marching honours was often theirs.

Just let me see the giants of the baton,
Riley, Code, Bulch and Prout,
McMahon, Barkel, Jones and Hoffman.
Many, alas, have gone out.

Just let me see others again,
Partington, Shugg, Johnston, Bowden.
Men who kept time in South Street’s fame;
Wade and Baile must be among them.

Just let me think if I missed any,
Yes, there was Davison, Niven, Lewins – any more!
Hopkins, Ryder, Billy May among many,
Not forgetting Frank Wright and J. Booth Gore.

Just let me see the best of officials
And critics like Davey, Gartrell and Hellings,
Humphreys and Boyce – Kings of staff and whistle,
May march us again – well, there’s no telling.

So to-day just let me go back to South Street,
Most famous contest in the land,
Where many old timers I will heartily greet,
And yarn over years that were so grand.

(Mullen, 1951, pp. 2-3)

“Dungog Brass Band” by ‘Mad Mick” (1954):

19120000_Dungog-BB_phot16862
Dungog Brass Band, 1912 (Source: IBEW)

Above is a picture of the Dungog Brass Band from around 1912 and unfortunately, this is one of the only pictures I could find of them.  However, some thirty years later this prose was published in the Dungog Chronicle : Dungog and Gloucester Advertiser newspaper by a member of the band writing under the pseudonym of ‘Mad Mick”.  One may wince at some of the language, but this was the 1950s.

From reading the poem it appears that ‘Mick’ is a third cornet player.  This poem is quite good in describing who the band is, what it does and where it goes, but the prose hints at some problems like attendance issues.  We can appreciate that this was a local town band, and this was the way they did things. I think every band has a ‘Mick’ in their midst and we can thank him for highlighting the Dungog Brass Band in the way that he did.

DUNGOG BRASS BAND

I’ve heard it said that Old King Cole was happy, gay and free,
And he liked music sweet and low, played by his fiddlers three,
But in Dungog we’re luckier than King Cole in his day,
We have a band of 25 with band-master, Bob Gray;
And of this band we all feel proud, a mighty job they do,
They play in aid of charities, and spastic kiddies too.
Some Saturdays they entertain at each and every pub,
They finish off the evening playing at the Bowling Club.

Now I would like to tell you all the names of those who play,
And how old Bob the baton waves, and gets them on their way;
Soprano cornet heads the list and that’s I. Kennedy.
That solo cornet it is played by little Johnny Lee;
Keith Kennedy is downstairs for he is baritone,
And forwards, backwards, goes Stan Leayr upon the old trombone;
Now solo tenor horn Barry Schofield plays alone,
Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot! Don Redman goes upon his saxophone.

First tenor horn’s Wal Arnold, third cornet Mick Neilson,
Johnny Schofield’s second cornet, Hector Robson the side drum;
Ken Wade with his euphonium, gets down to bottom D,
While second solo tenor horn is little Barry Lee;
Then there’s E bass Freddy Schofield and Ted Mathews is the same,
And there’s one more solo cornet, Artie Redman is his name;
The secretary is Jack Kerr, he’s also big bass drum,
While tenor horn number three is played by “Butch” Neilson.

There’s only six more instruments and players for to pen,
For to conclude the roll call of Bob and his merry men;
And Bob calls them “some-timers,” they don’t attend a lot,
Sometimes they’re there for practice and sometimes they are not.
There’s the E bass and the B bass, and repiano cornet too,
And they’re played by Tommy Ferris and Keith Lean and Shelton, Blue,
Well now I’ve two trombonists whose attendances are poor
And they are “Sambo” Neilson and offsider Dennis Moore.

Well, those are all the players who go to make this band,
But there are two more people who lend a helping hand;
First of them the Drum Major, he makes them look so fine,
And that of course is Perry, Bill, he sees they march in line.
Then last of all is Paddy with collection box in hand,
You’ll always find him snooping round somewhere behind the band,
He sticks his box beneath your nose and thinks he’s doing right.
No wonder folks have christened him the “great Australian bite!”
P.S. – Sorry folks I missed one out, it’s Ray Monaghan I’m sure,
He plays quite well, but still in all, attendances are poor.

(Mad Mick, 1954, p. 3)

…and something from me:

In concluding this next blog post in Band Blasts From the Past,
Some tales of bands and bands people, but they won’t be the last.
For as we know from history, stories wait until they’re found,
Of the many tales of bands people who were there to make a sound.

References:

Bannerman. (1918, 08 May). A WELCOME. Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article151083205

de Korte, J. D. (2018, 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/

Dungog Brass Band. (1912). [Photograph]. [phot16862]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Mad Mick. (1954, 29 September). DUNGOG BRASS BAND (By ‘Mad Mick). Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140539879

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

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