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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

The Malvern City Band:

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

Punch, 2/5/1901, p. 22

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

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

Punch, 19/12/1912, p. 53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The views of Malvern City Council:

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

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

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

(“BAND COLLECTIONS.,” 1922)

This is not to say there were some other opinions.

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

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

The motion was carried

(“BAND COLLECTIONS.,” 1922)

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

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

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

It was decided that the request be not granted

(“BAND CONCERTS, MALVERN.,” 1924)

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

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

(“Malvern Parks and Gardens.,” 1925)

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

(Source: Victorian Bands’ League Archives)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 (“MALVERN PARKS AND GARDENS.,” 1927)

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

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

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

(“LOITERED NEAR CARS,” 1931)

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

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

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

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

(“Dandenong Shire Council,” 1937)

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

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

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

A local newspaper: fuelling the controversy:

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

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

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

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

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

(Long, 1927h)

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

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

(Long, 1927h)

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

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

(“The Official View.,” 1927)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

[…]

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

(Evans, 1927a)

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

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

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

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

(Leech, 1927)

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

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

(Prahran Telegraph Editor in Leech, 1927)

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

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

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

(Shugg, 1927)

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

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

(Snelling, 1928)

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

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

(Snelling, 1928)

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malvern Ratepayer. (1927, 18 February). MALVERN CITY BAND CONTROVERSY? : The Subsidy Question. : (To the Editor). Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 – 1930), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165180131

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International band tours of the early 1900s: bringing music to Australia

Introduction:

It is a massive undertaking to take any musical group on tour which stands true even today.  But let’s examine these undertakings from another time.  When we look back at the grand tours of brass and military bands in the early 1900s, we can only marvel at the schedules they set for themselves, the places they visited, and the effect they had on local populations.  Australians it seemed had an insatiable appetite for viewing the best in the business and visiting bands were not disappointed when they toured here.

Visiting bands did not come all the way to Australia just to return home again.  Often, Australia was just one stop on a world tour.  From reading the Trove archive we can see that the movements of the bands in foreign countries was eagerly reported on because Australians knew they were next to see them.  And when the bands did arrive in Australia, each concert was widely advertised.

This was a great age of band movements in Australia and around the World.  It must have been quite a sight too when each band was alighting from ships and trains which were eagerly awaited on by an adoring crowd.  Parades of massed bands, dinners, receptions, concerts, photographs, articles and other events all greeted visiting bands when they stepped upon our shores. Thankfully our libraries hold some ephemera and newspaper articles from those tours, so we can imagine just what it would have been like.

This post will highlight some of the visiting band tours and will see that some bands had vast reputations which preceded them. However, the famous bands were not the only groups to visit.  This post will not cover all tours or bands.  Undoubtedly there might have been other bands that visited that are buried in time (more stories to uncover).  However, for the bands that did visit, their tours last in memories, and even in some of the local bands that were beneficiaries of the expertise of visiting bandsmen.  There are some fascinating stories that surround these tours.

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band travels around the world, twice:

18900000-19200000_Tour_Besses_Card
Postcard: Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 1907 (Source: National Library of Australia: David Elliot theatrical postcard collection: nla.obj-145704095)

The reputation of this unique brass band is well-deserved. Besses o’ the’ Barn Band from the Manchester area, England is one of the oldest brass bands in the world and has been an ensemble of excellence since its establishment in 1818 (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 2018a).  So it was with a great deal of excitement the world over (and from the band itself) when Besses commenced its first world tour in 1906 (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 2018b).  This first tour took them to “North America, Canada, Hawaii, Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.” (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 2018b).  For each performance they attracted vast audiences and it is written in their history that their visit to Melbourne was most notable with no less than “twenty-two of Australia’s finest brass bands” (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 2018b) preceding them in a parade along Collins St.  This must have been quite the spectacle and sound!  Before they arrived in Melbourne they had been in Sydney and an article from The Sydney Morning Herald in 1907 gave an enthusiastic review of their performances (“BESSES O’ THE BARN” BAND,” 1907).  In July 1907 the Argus newspaper published an article which gives us an amount of detail about the parade and the massed bands that led it:

Immediately they alighted from the Sydney express the visiting bandsmen stepped across the platform into the railway yard and as they did twenty-two bands, under the conductorship of Mr. E. T. Code, commenced to play an inspiring march.  Each man in those twenty-two bands contributed his full share to the volume of sound the like of which has rarely been heard in Melbourne. […] A procession was formed and heralded by the twenty-two local bands, the Besses o’ th’ Barn Band were drive up Collins Street in two drags.  The street was crowded with citizens whose curiosity had prompted them to see the famous bandsmen at first opportunity.

[…]

The bands which took part in the ceremony of welcome were as follows: St Kilda City, Prahran City, Code’s Melbourne Band, South Richmond Citizens, Collingwood Citizens’, Richmond City, Malvern City, Williamstown Premier, Footscray City, Stender’s, Doncaster, South Melbourne City, Brighton City, Brunswick City, Warneeke’s, Bootmakers, Camberwell, Box Hill, Fitzroy Military, Clifton Hill, Fitzroy Citizen’s, Kyneton City, St Vincent de Paul Orphanage, St. Arnaud, Castlemaine, Maryborough, and Ballarat bands were also represented.

(“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND.,” 1907)

Regarding the huge crowds, an 1907 article in the Quiz newspaper from Adelaide which reported on the progress of the Besses tour thus far, noted that 70,000 people lined the parade route in Melbourne, which is a staggering amount of people for this kind of event (“Besses o’ th’ Barn Band,” 1907).  Such was the popularity and reputation of this ensemble.

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band welcoming parade turning from Collins Street to Swanston Street, Melbourne, July 1907. The massed bands are led by Edward Code. (Source: Manchester Digital Music Archive: 13953)

However, Besses did not finish touring after this first monumental effort.  Not one year after they had arrived back in England, the band embarked on another world tour (“BESSES O’ TH’ BARN BAND,” 1909).  As noted in their band history (2018b), “Both trips lasted an incredible eighteen months.” (Besses o’ th’ Barn Band) which was a very long time for bandsmen to be away from home. Needless to say, Besses had not lost any popularity on their next world tour and again drew large crowds wherever they went.

Interestingly it was on their second tour where there were some changes in the Besses personnel due to one bandsman staying on in one city, and another bandsman joining them on their tour.  In a previous post, we can read the story of Besses Lead Cornetist William Ryder who absconded from the tour in Melbourne and joined the Wests Theatre Company before becoming the first conductor of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Employees Band in 1911 (de Korte, 2018; Stonnington City Brass, 2018).  This being done, it appears that Besses invited one of our most famous bandsmen, Percy Code to join them on the rest of the tour (Bradish, 1929; Gibbney, 1981).  The conductor of Besses during this world tour was Mr. Christopher Smith and after the tour ended he was secured by the Adelaide Tramways Band for his services in 1911 (Seymour, 1994).

Postcard: Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, 1906 (Source: Jeremy de Korte personal collection)

There is no doubt that Besses left their mark on Australian banding and were adored by audiences.  Certainly, in the succeeding years, many fine Australian bands dominated the landscape and as we saw some ex-Besses musicians now called Australia home.  Besses was one of the first bands to include Australia in their tour, but they were not the last.  Next to tour was the famous Sousa Band from the USA!

Sousa heads South:

18900000-19200000_Tour_Sousa-Card
Postcard: Australia welcoming the Sousa Band (Source: National Library of Australia: David Elliot theatrical postcard collection: nla.obj-145695597)

The band of John Phillip Sousa was no less famous than the Besses band, although much bigger with sixty musicians and some additional soloists in their touring party.  They toured Australia and New Zealand from May 12th to August 23rd, 1911 and like the Besses band generated huge excitement wherever they went (Lovrien, 2012).  In fact, the excitement had started brewing before they had even arrived with newspapers reporting expected arrival dates and schedules (“SOUSA’S BAND.,” 1911).  As with the Besses tour that had just finished, the Sousa band was feted with ceremony, functions, awards, parades and large audiences – upon arriving in Sydney there was a grand parade featuring twenty NSW brass bands (“SOUSA AND HIS BAND,” 1911).

Inevitably, given the timing of the Sousa tour to the previous Besses tour, questions were asked as to which the finer band was.  In an article from May 1911, the World’s News newspaper sought to answer this question from a reader (“Sousa’s Band,” 1911).  The article reported on the differences between both bands and diplomatically opens the article by declaring that: “Comparisons are odious in connection with bands, as well as with politics” (“Sousa’s Band,” 1911).  However, it came down to the fact that one was a brass band as opposed to a military-style band and one band was much bigger than the other.  Musically, they were both very fine ensembles.

The Sousa band was a very different ensemble and they enthralled Australian audiences.  However, there is no real indication that the Sousa band had an influence on Australian bandsmen, and if they did, it was not reported.  One could assume the reason was that Australian bands, which were mostly brass at the time, were very much tied to the band tradition of England, not the USA.

Postcard: Sousa Band at the Glacarium, Melbourne, 1911 (Source: Jeremy de Korte personal collection)

From Australia, the Sousa Band traveled to New Zealand where they again delighted audiences and received rave reviews (White, 2018).  And after this swing through the Southern Hemisphere, they returned to the mainland USA via a visit to Hawaii (Lovrien, 2012).

The Sousa tour, despite the number of places that they visited and the largeness of the audiences, did not generate a huge financial windfall and it was very expensive to take the band around the world (Lovrien, 2012).  However, in 1913 a court case was heard regarding the profits from the Australian leg of the Sousa tour.  From the brief flurry of newspaper articles that were written at the time, it appears that a series of contracts were entered into by the promoter of the tour, Mr. Branscombe with a Mr. Quinlan, and later a Mr. Singer over £30,000 in profits (“SOUSA’S BAND IN AUSTRALIA,” 1913).  It is interesting that this case was heard two years after the tour had finished, and that these profits were not intended for the Sousa band itself.

Bythell (2000), writing on the band tours and exchanges between countries during this time says that “…the logistics and high costs or international tours and exchanges made them exceptional” (p. 229).  Certainly, it was noted in the New Zealand article on the Sousa visit that the tour (through Aus. & NZ) was costing “over £2,000 per week” (White, 2018).  Given the logistics of moving a sixty-piece band plus soloists around Australia and New Zealand, this figure is hardly surprising.

Despite this, the Sousa tour appears to have been a success for the band and audiences as Sousa was a renowned conductor and composer.  The time frame between this tour and the previous Besses tour had not dimmed the enthusiasm of the Australian public in wanting to see these kinds of entertainments.  The Sousa band did not disappoint.

The visit of a Belgian Band during the First World War:

Postcard: Belgian National Band, 1915 (Source: Jeremy de Korte personal collection)

The Besses and Sousa bands were undoubtedly famous, but that did not stop other promoters searching for bands that might tour, which is exactly what happened during the early stages of the First World War.  In 1915, a band from Belgium visited the country and apparently went on tour through Australia and New Zealand. (“MUSIC.,” 1915).  A paragraph in a Leader newspaper article from May 1915 provides some detail on this band, but the band had no name – they were simply known as the Belgian Band:

A Belgian Band comprising some of the finest instrumentalists in Belgium, has been engaged by J. and N. Tait for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, commencing in June. […] After considerable trouble, many cables and much correspondence, the band has at last been got together, and will prove on its arrival one of the finest aggregations of talent that have yet visited Australia.  The band comprises of 28 instrumentalists, recruited from the foremost bands of Brussels, Antwerp and Ostend, and augmented by half a dozen English players, and will be conducted by the brilliant M. Phillipe Meny, a remarkable musician, whose reputation is not only Belgian, but European.

(“MUSIC.,” 1915)

The reaction of the Australian press to this visit was understandable.  A number of articles expressed admiration that the musicians had actually left Belgium, while also expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Belgian people under German occupation.  An example of this kind of article was from the Daily News in Perth (“THE BELGIAN BAND.,” 1915).  Notwithstanding the circumstances of this visit, the band drew the interest of an Australian public and received good reviews for their performances (“Visit of Belgian Band,” 1915).  In an act of decency, the band promoters donated all profits to “…the Belgian Relief Fund and the Wounded Soldiers Fund” (“BELGIAN BAND VISITS AUSTRALIA.,” 1915).

First came the Royal Marines, then came the Guards:

After the war, visits from overseas bands resumed quite early on with a visit from the Royal Marine Band, H.M.S. “Renown”.  This band was brought to Australia by J. and N. Tait, the same promoters who engaged the Belgian Band in 1915 (“RENOWN BAND.,” 1920).  The Royal Marines actually visited twice; their first visit was in 1920 and they followed up with another visit in 1927.  The concerts of 1920 received some very favorable reviews with one article printed in the Argus praising the sound and playing of this ensemble, and making a comparison of conducting styles with the great Sousa (“Concert by Renown Band.,” 1920).  On the second tour, a concert in Melbourne was presented as a massed bands concert in combination with the “Returned Sailors and Soldiers Memorial  Band” and the “Victorian Railways Military Band” with the Lord Mayor’s Hospital Appeal Fund the beneficiary of the proceeds from the concert (“FOR MAYOR’S FUND,” 1927).

19270508_Massed-Mil-Bands_Green-Mill_FC
Programme (front cover), featuring: Royal Marines Band H.M.S. “Renown”, Victorian Returned Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Band & Victorian Railways Military Band. (Source: Victorian Collections : Victorian Bands’ League)

In 1934 the Band of the Grenadier Guards visited Melbourne as part of the Centenary of Victoria celebrations, with a subsequent tour of Australia as well.  There was some initial confusion as to which Guards band was going to visit with the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Welsh Guards being mentioned in some press (“GUARDS’ BAND VISIT.,” 1933).  It seems there was also some objection to the tour on the part of the Musicians’ Union. A letter to The Herald in September 1933 berated the Union for their stance with the writer stating that “Their visit will be education and beneficial to our unemployed musicians.” (Musician, 1933).  A visit to Australia by a band of this caliber was beneficial to all who witnessed them (not just unemployed musicians).  The band made a special appearance at the South Street competition of 1934 with a concert presented to an appreciative audience which included the Duke of Gloucester who was also visiting Australia (“South-street Band Contests.,” 1934).

19341101-19341103_South-Street-Centenary-Contest_p6
1934 South Street “Centenary” Brass Band Contest program, p. 6 (Source: Victorian Collections: Victorian Bands’ League)

These two British military bands were highly regarded, and it appears that their tours were more genuine with concerts in combination with Australian ensembles and presenting inspirational performances.  There was no comparison with the previous tours of Besses and Sousa as these were again, very different groups.  However, Australians were no less enthusiastic about the visits of these bands and made them feel very welcome.

Conclusion:

What we have seen here is only a small sample of the bands that visited Australia within a shorter time frame.  Each group was very different, yet they elicited an amount of excitement from the Australian audiences, bandsmen and public authorities.  Yes, they were expensive undertakings.  But musically they were invaluable.  This truly was a great age of banding.

References:

Australia extends the glad hand of welcome to Sousa and his band. (1910). [1 postcard : col. ; 9.6 x 13.9 cm.]. [nla.obj-145695597]. National Library of Australia, David Elliott theatrical postcard collection. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-145695597/view

THE BELGIAN BAND. (1915, 24 May). Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81173645

BELGIAN BAND VISITS AUSTRALIA. (1915, 20 June). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120796314

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. (1907). [Postcard]. [nla.obj-145704095]. National Library of Australia, David Elliott theatrical postcard collection. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-145704095/view

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. (1909, 04 November). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145853191

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (2018a). A Glorious Past. Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. Retrieved 04 October 2018 from http://www.besses.co.uk/about/blasts-o-th-past/history-of-besses

Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. (2018). From Whitefield to Wellington. Besses o’ th’ Barn Band. Retrieved 04 October 2018 from http://www.besses.co.uk/about/blasts-o-th-past/history-of-besses?showall=&start=1

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

“BESSES O’ THE BARN” BAND. (1907, 15 May). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14867586

Bradish, C. R. (1929, 05 September). Prominent Personalities : PERCY CODE | CONDUCTOR OF NATIONAL BROADCASTING ORCHESTRA. Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146712994

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. 

Concert by Renown Band. (1920, 04 June). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1708206

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/

FOR MAYOR’S FUND : Renown Band Concert. (1927, 06 May). Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243915027

Gibbney, H. J. (1981). Code, Edward Percival (1888-1953). In Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 20 April 2018, from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/code-edward-percival-5707

Glanville Hicks, E. (1927). MASSED MILITARY BANDS : (Including Band of H.M.S. “RENOWN”) : GRAND RECITAL  [Programme]. City of Melbourne. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5caad8b321ea6703e46303f4 

GUARDS’ BAND VISIT : Centenary Tour Almost Certain. (1933, 10 October). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205104515

Lovrien, D. (2012, 13 June). The Sousa Band 1910-11 World Tour. John Philip Sousa. https://sousamusic.com/sousa-band-1910-11-world-tour/

MUSIC. (1915, 15 May). Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918), 35. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91368715

Musician. (1933, 11 September). GUARDS’ BAND VISIT. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article243423748

RENOWN BAND. (1920, 05 July). Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62924146

Royal South Street Society. (1934). South Street “Centenary” : Brass Band Contest : A, B, C and D Grades  [Programme]. Royal South Street Society. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5d425e0c21ea6b1a84382033 

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 

SOUSA AND HIS BAND. (1911, 14 May). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120777076

Sousa Band – Immense Audience, Glacarium, Melbourne. (1911). [Postcard]. Sousa Band, Melbourne, Victoria. 

SOUSA’S BAND. (1911, 09 February). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10877792

SOUSA’S BAND IN AUSTRALIA : Question of profits : Writ for £7926. (1913, 01 October). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196234795

Sousa’s Band : An interesting question asked by readers. (1911, 13 May). World’s News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 1955), 18. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128266800

South-street Band Contests. (1934, 02 November). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205082990

Stonnington City Brass. (2018). Band History. Stonnington City Brass. Retrieved 13 May 2018 from https://www.stonningtoncitybrass.org.au/history.html

Visit of Belgian Band : An enjoyable concert. (1915, 10 August). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954),7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121995771

Walmsley Bolton. (1915). The Great Belgian National Band. Conductor – – Mons Jules Ardenois (of Antwerp) [Postcard]. Walmsley Bolton, Nottingham, U.K. 

White, T. (2018, 13 July). Memory Lane: A famous musician brings his band to town. Manawatū Standard. https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/lifestyle/105412732/memory-lane-a-famous-musician-brings-his-band-to-town