A room to call their own: the space and place for bands

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The old Orange City Band Hall (Photograph taken by Jeremy de Korte, October 2019)

Introduction:

There is no doubting that bands need material items to help them function as a band, as they do now.  And so, a previous post was written regarding instruments, sheet music and uniforms and how bands obtained such items .  Perhaps it was remiss of that post not to mention band rooms as an added essential item.  However, when researching for this current post, that omission is now justified – there is lots of historical writing on band rooms!

For the early bands, finding a room to practice in was no easy task.  We shall see that some of them were housed in stables, auction rooms, schools, rotundas, and most were subject to the whims and mercies of their local councils.  Several bands had to solicit funds from the general public for a variety of items, rooms included.  For some bands, they were able to build their own band room.  Bands that were attached to an industry were lucky enough to have rooms provided for them.

There is a similarity in the stories from across Australia when it came to bands and their rooms.  No doubt the bands themselves would have shared some of the stories when they met at events and competitions.  Bands, while competitive, are also collegial.

It is regarding band rooms that we see bands being innovative and inventive.  For the early bands, finding their own place and space was an achievement. Here are some of the stories.

Space, place, and memory:

Before this post delves into the practical stories on band rooms, it is important to explore the meaning of a band room to a community, to bands and to people.  The concept of space and place helps to explain this meaning – it is what is termed, “humanistic geography”; “A place can be seen as space that has meaning” (Selten & van der Zandt, 2011).  However, the concept of space and place should not be seen as entirely geographical.  There is social meaning as well.  It is people who provide meaning to a place and within places communities are made.

For a local band, having their own room was of great importance, they needed places to practice.  And having their own room gave them a sense of connectedness to the local community.  As Mackay (2005) writes in his article, “…connection to place is vital to our sense of identity – both personal and communal.” (Mackay, 2005).  To be able to inform a local community that their band was rehearsing in a certain place also gave the band a sense of local identity.  Rooms were a place to call home, where band members could rehearse and were also part of a band’s history.  A room was a source of pride:

The powerful sense of that place – the look of it, the feel of it, the smell of it – will stir all kind of emotions in you, positive and negative, not accessible via mere memory.

(Mackay, 2005)
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Jerilderie Town Band, date unknown. (Source: IBEW)

For some bands people, the room gave them a sense of connectedness with the local community and their fellow band members.  Often, all it takes is a mention of the room to trigger a strong memory.  Mr H. A. McVittie, former bandmaster of the Jerilderie Town Band mentions reading a paragraph published in the Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser newspaper in April 1945 about the destruction of the old band hall by fire (“Jerilderie Shire Council,” 1945).  For Mr. McVittie, this act triggered very strong memories, not only for the band room, but for himself and his fellow band members.  The article published in May 1945 opens:

Mr. H. A. McVittie, writing from Collarenebri, where he conducts the Collarenebri “Gazette,” has had memories of his old home town awakened by a paragraph which appeared in a recent issue of this paper, in which the destruction by fire of the old band room in Eastern Park was recorded.  Says Mac:-

I was given some sort of a pulsation the other day when the “Herald” arrived and I read of the destruction of the old band room in the Eastern Park.  IF there was one place more than another that held for me many happy recollections of my old home town it was the old bandroom.  If I remember correctly it was built there by the one-time Jerilderie Municipal Council and placed at the disposal of the Jerilderie Town Band as a practice room.

(“The Old Bandroom,” 1945)

The remainder of the article is devoted to Mr. McVittie’s memories big and small, and it is wonderful to read these stories.  In the finishing paragraph, he wrote this poignant observation:

Well old towners, I must close down on this somewhat hurried and disjointed sketch.  But I feel that you will excuse me for just a passing memory of the old room that gave to me so many pleasant hours.

(“The Old Bandroom,” 1945)

This is just one example of a strong connection to place that a bands person has.  For Mr. McVittie however, the story does not end with the initial article in May as two months later, he writes to the Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser newspaper again.  One memory triggered many others, and old Jerilderie band people wrote to Mr. McVittie in Collarenebri and detailed their own connections with the band, the room and Jerilderie.

My memories of the old band room, which were recently published in the “Herald,” seem to have stirred the embers of the past and rekindled interest in the good old days – the days when we were young.  Letters have come to me from the most unexpected quarters in which the writers touch on some old Jerilderie theme or other, prompted by my references to the old band room, sketchy and incomplete as they were.

(“OLD MEMORIES NEVER DIE,” 1945)

It would be fair to say that other bands people share similar recollections of their rooms and the social and musical connections that they made while associated with that place.  However, to allow this connectedness to develop, bands had to have their rooms…

Building:

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South Melbourne City Band Grand Opening of Band Room & Rotunda, 01/02/1925 – march card backing. (Source: Victorian Bands’ League Library & Archive)

Building a band room was an option open to many bands – once they had found a suitable site and had raised the funds.  This was a task that was undertaken only by the most committed ensembles as a reliance on their own labour and the goodwill of subscribers was taxing.  Nevertheless, for the most part, it became achievable, and the bands always had a sense of pride when they had a room they had built themselves.

Dealing with local councils and building regulations was the most difficult part as the Warragul Brass Band found in 1906.  They wanted to build a band room on a site that was currently being used by the local tennis and croquet clubs (“WARRAGUL BAND.,” 1906).  Unfortunately, the request was refused due to the incumbency of the said clubs at the site and the council wanting to build a new depot.  However, for the South Melbourne City Band, they had much more success with building a band room and a rotunda in 1925, as the march card backing above indicates.  They built their rotunda with labour provided by the bandsmen and friends for a total cost of £300 and held a grand opening and concert (“Albert Park Improvements.,” 1925).  This rotunda has unfortunately become a victim of change and is no longer in the park.

Then there was the fundraising aspect which either worked or did not work.  It is evident that communities were largely generous when the cause was right and the appeals from local bands were worthwhile.  The Hills Central Brass Band located in Adelaide was one group that laid out the reasons for their fundraising quite clearly in a 1912 article published in the Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser newspaper.  They held a concert to help with their building fund and implored the local community to help them:

It has been decided to hold a concert and social in the Mount Barker Institute on August 20 in aid of the Hills Central Brass Band building fund.  This is a most deserving institution and it is hoped that the public will recognise its usefulness and generosity by lending their patronage to this entertainment.  In all cases of distress and in many public festivities the band has volunteered assistance in the past and the least the public can do in return is to support it.

(“HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND.,” 1912)
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Collie Brass Band, winners of B Grade Championship, 1921 (Source: State Library of Western Australia: BA579/138)

Coming into 1918 we find that the Collie Brass Band from Perth was trying to secure land for a band room, and many supportive platitudes were written about the band by the colloquial writer ‘Bandsman’ in the local Collie Mail newspaper, and from this there was council support:

Some of the members are now playing in the leading Australian Military Bands in England and France and messages are continually coming through saying that they are keeping in form for the old band.  What would they say if on their return, they found the old band defunct?  It was within an ace of being so last winter solely through the lack of suitable practice room.

The Collie Council has realised the necessity and have promised to find a suitable block of land, knowing that a Band room will be an asset to the town and will always belong to the citizens as do the instruments and all other property of the band.

(Bandsman, 1918)

Some years later in 1926, the Katanning Brass Band from Western Australia found itself wanting to build their own room and they also called for public support.  In an innovative move, the Katanning Brass Band formed a committee out of representatives from many other community organisations to guide the fundraising and building of a new band room (“Katanning Brass Band.,” 1926).  They were ultimately successful in this strategy.  After a year of work, in January 1927 they opened their new band room:

Monday evening last marked quite an epoch in the history of the Katanning Brass Band, the occasion being the opening their own practise room.  A brass band may be regarded as a sort of semi-public institutions and a public utility.

[…]

They have been very thankful for the use of the fire station and other buildings loaned to them from time to time, but it has not always been convenient for both parties, and thus many drawbacks have been encountered. Then early last year a brilliant idea emanated from somewhere, a scheme to carry out a gala day.  The bandsmen recognised their own inability to put the matter through, and so they invited the assistance and co-operation of the various sports of the village, the ladies, and in fact all who had the welfare of the band at heart, and a willingness to join in.

(“Katanning Brass Band.,” 1927)
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Millicent Brass Band, 13/04/1913. (Source: State Library of South Australia: B+57528)

In South Australia, local citizen, benefactor and Patron of the Millicent Brass Band, a Mr. H. F. L. Holzgrefe, J.P., proudly laid the foundation stone of their new band room (“MILLICENT BRASS BAND.,” 1928).  This had been an important project for the Millicent Brass Band and the significance was not lost on Mr. Holzgrefe who made these remarks after laying the stone:

The foundation stone was inscribed :- “This stone was laid by H. F. L. Holzgrefe, J.P., May 19, 1928.”  After it had been declared “well and truly laid,” Mr. Holzgrefe said the bandsmen had acted wisely in building a room for their own use.  It would tend to keep the members united, and make practising easier in many ways.  A band was a very useful institution, and no community should be without one.

[…]

Mr. Tothill warmly thanked Mr. Holzgrefe for his handsome contribution.  He then asked him to accept from the band an inscribed silver trowel as a memento of the occasion.  The president’s remarks were warmly applauded and Mr. Holzgrefe received an ovation when he acknowledged the gift.

(“MILLICENT BRASS BAND.,” 1928)

It was admirable that some bands around Australia managed to get the funds together and build their own band room.  Unfortunately, it is unclear just how many of these band rooms survive.  However, if the picture of the Orange Brass Band Hall at the start of this post is anything to go by, no doubt, there are some around Australia that may have been repurposed. We only must look for them.

Finding:

Short of building their own rooms, finding a suitable space was another option and whether the room was provided for bands by generous people or by councils, it was still a place to practice.  Again, there were instances when requests were mulled over as councils were sometimes very officious.

To start with it is worth exploring the experiences of some industry bands.  They were often luckier than most as they were provided with rooms on or near the sites of their industry.  The Thompson’s Foundry Band gained their first room in 1894 on the site of the Thompson’s Foundry in Castlemaine (“FOUNDRY BAND-ROOM.,” 1894).  As reported in the Mount Alexander Mail newspaper:

The opening of the new Foundry band-room erected in Parker-street, was made the occasion of a social last night tendered by the President, Mr David Thompson.  The room, which is a commodious one for practice, is 25ft long, 10ft wide, and 12ft high.  It is nearly painted green, with a dado of chocolate colour.

(“FOUNDRY BAND-ROOM.,” 1894)

It was also lucky for the Thompson’s Foundry Band that the head of the foundry was a great supporter of the band.  The Thompson’s Foundry Band still rehearse in a building associated with the foundry.

19129496_Advocate_De-La-Salle-Hall
The Advocate, 06/04/1912, p. 22. This building was added to the property of the nearby tram depot in 1930 and extended.

Likewise, the Malvern Tramways Band started out rehearsing in a room within the tram depot and then in 1930 they moved into old school buildings acquired by the tramways for the recreation of their employees (“BAND NEWS,” 1930).  The building, pictured above when it was De La Salle College, was renovated by the tramways to include two more spaces behind the original hall and was mainly used by various tramway employee clubs such as bands (both brass and harmonica) and sporting groups (Heritage Council Victoria, 1999).  It was soon after, in 1931, that the Malvern Tramways Band moved out of this building and into converted stables owned by the Malvern Council behind Northbook House.

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(Former) Northbrook House Stables. Now home to Stonnington City Brass (formerly Malvern Tramways Band). (Photo taken by Jeremy de Korte, July 2013)

As mentioned, the local councils had quite an influence on how bands obtained rooms and as early as 1896 we see that disagreements sometimes arose, as was the instance between the Palmerston Brass Band in Darwin and the District Council.  Published among the many news items on the 4th of December1896, we can see this snippet in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette newspaper:

The collision between the Brass Band and the District Council has, we believe, had the effect of raising the charge for the Town Hall to a fixed figure for all societies and clubs using it.  By and bye, when the Masonic Hall is an established fact, the social public will not need to bother the Council, and the revenue of the Town Hall will decrease rather materially.

(“Notes of the Week.,” 1896)

Four years later we find the Palmerston Brass Band is using a room provided for them by a Mr. H. Dwyer, of which he was thanked in an annual general meeting (“Palmerston Brass Band.,” 1900).

The Hawthorn City Council found the plight of the Hawthorn City Band more favourable.  In May 1909 it was reported in the Richmond Guardian newspaper that “the patronage of the Hawthorn City Council has been bestowed upon the above band, and a room had been provided for the band to practice in.” (“Hawthorn City Band.,” 1909).  In 1918 however, the Daylesford Brass Band, wishing to reform, found themselves in differing circumstances.  The Secretary of the Daylesford Brass Band sent a letter to the local Borough Council asking if the council could provide a room where the band could practice, a perfectly reasonable request.  It seems that at the time, the band instruments and music from a former iteration of the band were stored in the Town Hall Lodgeroom, and “could the council supply the bandmaster with a key?” (access was needed every so often) (“BAND PRACTICE ROOM WANTED.,” 1918).  Which, unfortunately, touched off a debate within council on why the instruments were in the Town Hall in the first place – not so much the fact that the band wanted a practice room!  However, it also seems that a number of the instrument were in fact owned by the council so they stayed where they were. (“BAND PRACTICE ROOM WANTED.,” 1918).

Similar stories of councils deciding when and where bands could rehearse make up a large part of stories around rooms.  The Picton Council could find no objection to having the Picton District Brass Band wanting “free use of the supper room on Monday nights for band practice […] providing they pay for the electric light.” (“Picton Brass Band,” 1931).  However, there were other cases when councils could not, or would not help their local bands locate rooms, and a couple of instances in Queensland involving the Warwick City Band and Mackay City Band Association reflect this (“NO LARGER BANDROOM AVAILABLE,” 1945; Scotia, 1941).

Daily Mercury, 27/11/1945, p. 2

There was obviously a delicate balance involved when trying to find rooms and it seems that dealing with councils formed a major part of negotiations, as councils tended to be the judges of where things were put, and they controlled some of the funding.  Nevertheless, for some bands it all paid off and they were able to practice in rooms provided for them.

Using:

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Portrait of the Nerang & District Brass Band, Queensland, formed in July, 1902. (Source: State Library of Queensland: 3612)

Once rooms were found or built, bands were free enough to use them as they saw fit although by today’s standards, some of the locations were a bit unusual.  We can see little stories in the articles above where bands rehearsed in fire stations and the like.  This section will highlight where some of the bands rehearsed and some of the problems that were encountered.  The Nerang & District Town Band for example started out rehearsing in the stables of the Nerang Nestle Milk Factory which cannot have been a wholly comfortable experience (Gold Coast City Brass Band, 2014).  Down south in Victoria, the Horsham Brass Band and the Oakleigh District Brass Band found themselves in rooms provided for them by generous supporters, until they found something else (“BAND ROOM.,” 1908; “Oakleigh District Brass Band.,” 1918).  The Kempsey Brass Band from N.S.W. were pleased to report that they were in slightly more appropriate quarters as they found space in the local School of Arts (“KEMPSEY BRASS BAND.,” 1921).  Whilst the Frankston Brass Band in the southern reaches of Melbourne managed to gain space in the local Mechanics’ Institute (“Frankston Brass Band,” 1924).  Out west the Narembeen Brass Band rehearsed “in the old Westralian Farmers Buildings” (“Narembeen Brass Band.,” 1937).

However, like any building, band rooms were not immune to the problems faced by any other building in towns and cities and there were some unfortunate incidents.  In February 1925 it was reported by the Blue Mountain Echo newspaper that the Katoomba District Band room had been broken into twice since Christmas (“Band-room Vandalism,” 1925).  While the damage was easily fixed, some instruments had been shifted and sheet music was strewn about.  The local police believed children were the perpetrators (“Band-room Vandalism,” 1925).

Much more serious was the threat of fire and two bands in the same year suffered the consequences.  In February 1926, fire consumed the room at the back of the Richmond Town Hall which was being used by the Richmond City Band  and unfortunately all band property was presumed lost, and the room and stock were uninsured (“FIRE AT RICHMOND.,” 1926).  This had a detrimental effect on the band and within four years the band had folded – on a side note, two artefacts survived and are now being held by the Richmond & Burnley Historical Society (Langdon, 2014).  Similarly,  in April 1926, fire broke out in the building used by the City Concert Band in Rockhampton however in this incident, all instruments were saved (“FIRE AT ROCKHAMPTON.,” 1926).

To finish off this section and to backtrack a little bit, we have the case of the Collingwood Citizens’ Band and their wanting of space to rehearse.  In early years, as can be seen in the photo at the end of this post, it is rumoured that they used to rehearse in a quarry due to the lack of a room.  There might be some truth to the rumour however they too had to make applications to council for additional places to rehearse, in this case, wanting a park where they could practice their marching – which raised debate on whether this was appropriate on Sunday mornings (“THE SUNDAY QUESTION.,” 1905).

Moving:

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Northern Star, 15/06/1933, pg. 5

Yes, it had to happen every so often of which the early bands did the best they could to adapt.  Although at times, it involved the moving of buildings, as detailed in the article above (“BAND-ROOM REMOVAL,” 1933).  And moving buildings was sometimes a condition set upon bands by local councils, as the Albury Brass Band found out when they wanted to move the old fire station to a new site owned by council (“OLD FIRE STATION AS BANDROOM.,” 1916).

Conclusion:

There is obviously much more that could be written about bands finding their own space and place as band room stories are intertwined with the histories of the bands themselves.  Rooms have their own histories.  How often do we see band rooms displaying the history of bands in the form of trophies, photos, shields and other ephemera?  Perhaps it is time we celebrated the rooms.

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Collingwood Citizens’ Band rehearsing in a quarry, 1906. (Source: IBEW)

References:

Albert Park Improvements : New Band Stand Opened. (1925, 02 February). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155554629

BAND NEWS : Malvern Municipal and Tramways Band. (1930, 07 August). Malvern Standard (Vic. : 1906 – 1931), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66452967

BAND PRACTICE ROOM WANTED. (1918, 18 October). Daylesford Advocate, Yandoit, Glenlyon and Eganstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119561430

BAND ROOM. (1908, 16 June). Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72810141

BAND-ROOM REMOVAL : Building for Practices. (1933, 15 June). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94219810

Band-room Vandalism. (1925, 27 February). Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 – 1928), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108852760

Bandsman. (1918, 28 March). THE COLLIE BAND ROOM. Collie Mail (Perth, WA : 1908 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189243021

Collingwood Citizens’ Band rehearsing in a quarry. (1906). [Photograph]. [phot19034]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

de Korte, J. D. (2013). Malvern, Vic. : Northbrook Stables : South side [Photograph]. [IMG_0413]. Jeremy de Korte, Malvern, Victoria. 

de Korte, J. D. (2018, 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. (2019). Orange, N.S.W. : Old Orange City Band Hall, 1888 [Photograph]. [IMG_4453]. Jeremy de Korte, Sydney, N.S.W. 

De La Salle Brothers’ Boys’ School, MALVERN : Blessed and Opened by the Archbishop : His Grace on the Education Question : Fair Play for Catholic Schools. (1912, 06 April). Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), 22. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170941033

FIRE AT RICHMOND : Band Hall Destroyed. (1926, 27 February). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155771911

FIRE AT ROCKHAMPTON : City Band Instruments Saved. (1926, 13 April). Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21021996

FOUNDRY BAND-ROOM. (1894, 10 October). Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198243209

Frankston Brass Band : First Practice on Friday, February 18. (1924, 06 February). Frankston and Somerville Standard (Vic. : 1921 – 1939), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73498546

Gold Coast City Brass Band. (2014). History : If it happened on the Gold Coast then the Gold Coast City Brass Band was there to help Celebrate the Occasion. Gold Coast City Brass Band. Retrieved 07 August 2020 from http://www.goldcoastcitybrassband.com/history/

Hawthorn City Band. (1909, 22 May). Richmond Guardian (Vic. : 1907 – 1920), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257211806

Heritage Council Victoria. (1999, 08 September). Malvern Tram Depot : Coldblo Road Armadale, Stonnington City. Heritage Council Victoria. Retrieved 09 August 2020 from https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/2138

HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND. (1912, 19 July). Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147747963

Jerilderie Shire Council. (1945, 19 April). Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser (NSW : 1898 – 1958), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134629256

Jerilderie Town Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot6408]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Katanning Brass Band : Proposed Band Room. (1926, 13 February). Great Southern Herald (Katanning, WA : 1901 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147654428

Katanning Brass Band : Opening of new practice room. (1927, 24 January). Southern Districts Advocate (Katanning, WA : 1913 – 1936), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209839059

KEMPSEY BRASS BAND. (1921, 30 August). Macleay Argus (Kempsey, NSW : 1885 – 1907; 1909 – 1910; 1912 – 1913; 1915 – 1916; 1918 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234195704

Langdon, D. (2014). Brass bands [Newsletter article]. Richmond & Burnley Historical Society Newsletter, 31(5), 2 & 4-6. 

Mackay, H. (2005, 15 October). A sense of place. The Age. https://www.theage.com.au/national/a-sense-of-place-20051015-ge11sy.html

Millicent Brass Band. (1913). [Photograph (b&w print)]. [B+57528]. State Library of South Australia, Millicent Collection. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+57528

MILLICENT BRASS BAND : Successful Building Appeal : A Generous Patron. (1928, 22 May). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77706076

Narembeen Brass Band. (1937, 11 March). Bruce Rock Post and Corrigin and Narembeen Guardian (WA : 1924 – 1948), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211359163

NO LARGER BANDROOM AVAILABLE. (1945, 27 November). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170630099

Notes of the Week. (1896, 04 December). Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT : 1873 – 1927), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3333362

Oakleigh District Brass Band : A Valuable Local Institution. (1918, 16 February). Oakleigh and Caulfield Times Mulgrave and Ferntree Gully Guardian (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88808027

The Old Bandroom : Former Bandmaster in reminiscent mood. (1945, 03 May). Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser (NSW : 1898 – 1958), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134632025

OLD FIRE STATION AS BANDROOM : Removal and tenure of occupancy. (1916, 16 September). Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW : 1903 – 1920), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109967848

OLD MEMORIES NEVER DIE : Further reflections from Collarenebri. (1945, 05 July). Jerilderie Herald and Urana Advertiser (NSW : 1898 – 1958), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134633491

Palmerston Brass Band. (1900, 23 February). Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT : 1873 – 1927), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4259300

Picton Brass Band : To practice in Town Hall Supper Room. (1931, 14 October). Picton Post (NSW : 1907 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112760838

Portrait of Nerang and District Brass Band, Queensland, formed in July, 1902. (1902). [photographic print : black & white]. [3612]. Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, South Bank Collection. https://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/143348

Scotia. (1941, 20 May). CORRESPONDENCE : Band Practice Room : (To the Editor). Warwick Daily News (Qld. : 1919 -1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189029180

Selten, M., & van der Zandt, F. (2012, 25 October). Space vs. place. About Geography. Retrieved 20 August 2020 from http://geography.ruhosting.nl/geography/index.php?title=Space_vs._place

South Melbourne City Band. (1925). South Melbourne City Band : Grand Opening [March card backing]. South Melbourne City Band, South Melbourne, Victoria. 

THE SUNDAY QUESTION : Band practice at Collingwood. (1905, 29 August). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198599129

WARRAGUL BAND : Request for Bandroom Site. (1906, 12 June). West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic. : 1898 – 1930), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68669583

Williams, H. W. (1921). Collie Brass Band, winners of B Grade Championship [1 negative : acetate, black and white ; 3 x 4 cm.]. [024861PD]. State Library of Western Australia, Collie Museum collection of photographs. https://encore.slwa.wa.gov.au/iii/encore/record/C__Rb3507727

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:

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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:

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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).

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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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(p. 218)

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

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(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 4)

Instruments to play:

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Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 01/07/1905, p. 11

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

18961107_SMH_York-Band-Contest
Sydney Morning Herald, 07/11/1896, p. 2

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

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

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

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

19190626_ABN_Allans-Boosey
(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 18)

Music to read:

19190626_ABN_Allans
(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 15)

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

In addition to bands obtaining music from albums (or march cards), there were some people within bands who wrote and/or arranged their own music.  Certainly, Thomas Bulch was one of them, and his advertisement is below.  Bulch conducted his own band in Ballarat for a number of years – the “Bulch’s Model Brass Band” (Pattie, 2010, pp. 5-12) which later became the Ballarat City Band.  He also wrote an amount of music, sometimes under his own name, but also using pseudonyms (Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon, 2016b).  Bulch worked for himself but at times also worked for Allan’s and Palings as an editor and contributor of music.  A list of his compositions compiled by the excellent Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon website can be found here (Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon, 2016a).  In a similar way, Robert McAnally, the second conductor of the Malvern and Prahran Tramways Employees Band, also penned up numerous arrangements of existing orchestral works which the current iteration of the band still holds in its library (Stonnington City Brass, 2018).

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

19190626_ABN_Sykes-Besson
(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 16)
19190626_ABN_Bulch
(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 9)

Uniforms to wear:

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

19220830_TambellupTimes_Katanning-Uniforms
Tambellup Times, 22/08/1922, p. 2

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

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

19190626_ABN_Salvo-Band-Uniforms
(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 1)

Conclusion:

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

19190626_ABN_Lyons
(Source: Australian Band News, 12(10), 26/06/1919, p. 5)

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bythell, D. (2000). The Brass Band in the Antipodes : The Transplantation of British Popular Culture. In T. Herbert (Ed.), The British brass band : a musical and social history (pp. 217-244). Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press. 

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

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

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

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

Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon. (2016a). A list of Thomas Edward Bulch compositions and arrangements (including some known pseudonyms). The Wizard and The Typhoon. Retrieved 13 May 2018 from http://www.wizardandtyphoon.org/the-typhoon/a-list-of-thomas-edward-bulch-compositions-and-arrangements-including-some-known-pseudonyms/

Friends of the Wizard and Typhoon. (2016). Thomas Bulch. The Wizard and The Typhoon. Retrieved 24 April 2018 from http://www.wizardandtyphoon.org/the-typhoon/

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

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

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

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

Myers, A. (2000). Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands. In T. Herbert (Ed.), The British brass band : a musical and social history (pp. 155-186). Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Internet Bandsman. (n.d.). Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within. Retrieved 30 April 2018 from http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.htm

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

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William Ryder: The first conductor of the Prahran and Malvern Tramways Employees Band

19150000_William-Ryder_front
Postcard: William Ryder (source: Stonnington City Brass photo collection)

 Mr. William Ryder is mentioned in the Stonnington City Brass centenary book, “Bold as Brass”, yet is mentioned as a mere footnote in a long line of conductors of the band.  He probably would have passed attention even further had it not been for a donation of photos to the band.  These photos were not only remarkable for their condition but for the portion of the history of Stonnington City Brass they have now filled in.  Discovering the story of Mr. Ryder has been very rewarding, and has reinforced old ties with one of the most famous brass bands in the world, the Manchester Besses O’ Th’ Barn Band.

Some particulars of Williams Ryder’s life are unknown but we do know that he was born and raised in England.  He apparently started out learning the Violin but switched to the Cornet soon after.  By all accounts, he became a very gifted musician and was tutored by the great William Rimmer, a very famous conductor of the time.  Mr. Ryder even played in the company of royalty on one occasion.

We know that William Ryder came to be in Australia when he was included in the Besses O’ Th’ Barn band on their worldwide tour in 1909-1911 as their lead Cornet.  However, his reputation had preceded him and in 1910 he joined the Wests Theatre Company in Melbourne and in 1911 became the first conductor of the Prahran & Malvern Tramways Employees Band.  This is only a small tie with the famous Besses band and they were very interested to find out about Mr. Ryder’s whereabouts – Besses apparently joke at concerts about the bandsmen who went on tour and never came back!

Postcard: Besses o’ th’ Barn Band (source: Jeremy de Korte collection)

Mr. Ryder’s prowess as a musician can’t be discounted.  Like the vast majority of bandsmen, he was active in competition and in 1912 he achieved 2nd place in the Open Bb Cornet section at Royal South Street (Ballarat).  What is more remarkable is that in 1914 he not only won the Open Bb Cornet title but the Open Eb Cornet title as well at South Street in two days of competition!  He also conducted the early Malvern band to competition wins.

According to an early history of the Stonnington City Brass (Malvern Tramways) compiled by Mr. Charles Selling, Mr. Ryder left the band in July 1914.  Mr. Snelling wrote that “With the change of Bandmaster, several of our men left us, and another Band was formed in Malvern under Mr. Ryder.  This combination was short-lived, however.”.  Which, I might add, was a situation not unheard of in these times.  Succeeding Mr. Ryder as a conductor was Mr. McAnally however he only had a short tenure and in early 1915 the great Mr. Harry Shugg was appointed.

19180508_Maryborough-Chronicle_William-Ryder
Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 8/05/1918, p. 6

After his stint in Malvern, Mr. Ryder traveled to NSW to take up an appointment with the Rozelle District Band, then transferred to the South Sydney Band.  From this point up until the end of the First World War, Mr. Ryder was part of the AIF forces as an acting bandmaster.  After the war, he proceeded to Queensland and according to articles from the Queensland Times (Ipswich) 1926 and the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 1931, he had been associated with the Maryborough Naval Band, Maryborough City Band, the Rossendale Band, the Ipswich Vice Regal Band, and the Rockhampton City Concert Band.  As a Cornet soloist, he also kept up his competing thrice winning the New South Wales Championships and winning the Queensland Cornet Championship. The last time he won this championship was in 1936 when he was 54 years of age.  Wherever Mr. Ryder went he was warmly welcomed.  A journalist from the Maryborough Chronicle in an article from 1918 even penned an enthusiastic poem to welcome Mr. Ryder to the town and the band.

Mr. Ryder did not slow down in the later years of his life having been appointed to the Gympie Band in the 1930s and in 1938 he took the band down to Sydney and won the D Grade competition against 16 other bands.  While in Gympie he also established the Gympie Boys’ Band and eventually handed over the reins of this band to his son, William Jnr.  In 1941 he joined the Military forces and conducted a Battalion band and was subsequently posted to New South Wales.  However, in 1942 he returned from New South Wales and entered a Brisbane military hospital where he died at the age of 60.  He was survived by his widow, three sons, and three daughters.

19150000_William-Ryder_back
Postcard: William Ryder (source: Stonnington City Brass photo collection)

Much of the story of Mr. Ryder’s life is anecdotal having come from the resources of the Trove archive and some of the Stonnington City Brass history.  I must acknowledge the active interest that representatives of the Besses O’ Th’ Barn band have in their own history as they were very forthcoming with material regarding Mr. Ryder, to which I thank them.

Mr. Ryder’s story is but one of many bands people who have played or conducted the Stonnington City Brass.  As I wrote in the opening paragraph, Mr. Ryder is a mere footnote in the Stonnington City Band history, however, he set a course for the early band and the band continues that legacy.

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

NOTABLE BANDSMAN : Mr. William Ryder : Vice-Regal Band’s Conductor. (1926, 18 December). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115649816

CITY CONCERT BAND : To contest in Sydney : Mr. W. Ryder As Conductor : A Distinguished Career. (1931, 14 January). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54688441

LATE MR. W. RYDER : Well-Known Band Conductor Passes. (1942, 20 May). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954),5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115078488

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

Prestwich, M. (1906). Besses o’ th’ Barn Band [Postcard]. Martin Prestwich, Manchester, United Kingdom. 

Stonnington City Brass. (2018). Band HIstory. Stonnington City Brass. https://www.stonningtoncitybrass.org.au/history.html

Tesla Studios. (1915). William Ryder [Postcard]. Tesla Studios, Q. V. Markets, Sydney, Sydney, N.S.W.