Testing times: the resilience of Australian bands during the Great Depression

165x215mm
A large room of tables stocked with fruit and vegetables with a brass band in the centre of the crowd. (Source: State Library of Western Australia: 8292B/A/6851-1)

Introduction:

From conversations I have had with bandmasters in Australia it would appear that the bands generally have been very hard hit by the depression, but I have been struck by the fine spirit and courage shown generally by them in these passing troubles.  Undoubtedly brighter times are coming, and they will be rewarded for the admirable attitude they have taken right through.

(Adkins, 1934)

The years from 1900-1950 are filled with historical events that caused great upheavals in society across the globe. Australia was similarly affected, and nominally our bands as well.  It was not all doom and gloom for bands as this time is one that I personally regard as a golden period.  However, when society experienced hardship, our bands did as well.  The Great Depression from 1929-1939 is just one of those events that was global, but it was felt right down to the tiniest country town.  As for our bands, numerous articles published in newspapers tell of struggle and hope.  The words from Capt. H. E. Adkins, quoted above, then conductor of the A.B.C. Military Band attest to this.

In a previous post the impact of the “Spanish” Influenza on our bands was examined.  Australian society could not have predicted that a decade later they would again be thrust into convulsions not because of a health crisis, but an economic crisis.  Australian bands that existed at the time relied heavily on local council support and the goodwill of subscriptions from the general public.  The money was necessary to keep them going and keep them supplied.  Yet, as can be seen, there were some bands that were formed during this time.  Music, it seems, was a way in which people could forget their struggles and enjoy some community.

This post will obviously highlight some of the struggles that were experienced by bands and band associations during this time; unfortunately, this is unavoidable.  It is also necessary to provide context.  This post will also highlight the resilience of our bands during this time.  Many survived in the most trying of circumstances.  They also kept up a regular pattern of concerts, parades, contests, and other events and in one instance, they also gave their support to the desperate of society. 

The Great Depression is but one event in history, as is the Coronavirus pandemic of today that is again impacting our many bands.  Resilience is a common term that defines the bands of the time.

The Great Depression in Australia: a brief history:

The headlines on an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 26th, 1929, did not mince words: “Wild Selling. New York Panic. Profits Wiped Out. £80,000,000 Slump.”  – the stock market in New York had crashed on October 24th and this sent the economy into a tailspin (“WILD SELLING,” 1929).  The crash on October 24th, 1929, has been well-documented and for much of the world, this had profound consequences.  However, there had been economic troubles in Australia leading up to this event during the 1920s and this led to a decade of financial hardship for all:

As for many other countries, the 1920s were a decade of mixed blessings for Australia.  State governments continued to borrow to finance important public works projects, but underlying problems remained.  Post-war inflation in 1919 and 1920 was followed by a recession.  Unemployment hovered at around 10 per cent during the 1920s.  Loan funds from London dried up after 1927, limiting debt-financed public works.

(Eklund, 2008)

The early years of the Great Depression were very hard in Australia with major unemployment, collapse of the wool and wheat prices, social unrest, displacement of people and governmental problems (Eklund, 2008; National Museum Australia, 2020).  Williamson (2009) tells us “it was the working classes and those who became unemployed who bore the greatest brunt of the Depression.” and that “Losing a job broke the work and leisure routines of an individual’s life, and the victim further lost the company of workmates.” (from Electronic Article).

From 1930 a form of welfare assistance was given to needy households and was either in the form of “sustenance”, “the dole” or “rations” which was “barely enough to survive” (Hutchens, 2020).  This later evolved into other forms of basic work on designated projects for governments and local councils.  In 1932, 60,000 Australians – men, women and children, were dependent on this scheme and unemployment hit a peak of 32% (National Museum Australia, 2020).  A small song sung by the unemployed and children basically summed up the situation that thousands found themselves in:

“We’re on the Susso now,
We can’t afford a cow.
We pay no rent,
We live in a tent.
We’re on the Susso now.”

(Hutchens, 2020; McAnulty, 2017; National Museum Australia, 2020)

The immediate effect of such large job losses and unemployment led to mainly men wandering the country in searching for work (Eklund, 2008).  As well as this, those that remained in work faced cuts to wages and underemployment, which added to the social problems.  Many who had lived reasonable well in the 1920s found themselves in employment situations that they had not previously encountered (Eklund, 2008). 

By the later parts of the 1930s, economic conditions gradually improved although unemployment was still a major problem (“Australia’s Rise From Depression,” 1936).  Recovery was slow, and then tempered by the advent of the Second World War – the next global period of strife.

Finances and Administration:

How did Australian bands weather this economic storm, and what do the available records tell us?  The Annual General Meetings of individual bands and associations provide snippets of information as to how they fared, and thankfully these meetings were detailed in local newspapers.  The Hills Central Brass Band from South Australia held an Annual General Meeting in March 1930, the early years of the Depression.  In their reports the band said they were faring well and had accrued a small credit.  A paragraph from the article that was published in the Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser newspaper provides an insight into their awareness of the economic situation.

The chairman, in moving the adoption of the report and balance sheet referred to the excellence of the report.  Mr. Duffield had made a very capable secretary, and took a keen interest in the band.  The report was the best they had had.  With regard to the financial position of the band the speaker though it was highly satisfactory, considering the present depression.

(“HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND.,” 1930)

The Devonport Brass Band from Tasmania took an insular view of the conditions when they held their meeting in March 1931 insofar as the rest of Australia was having problems, but their band was proceeding as best they could.  Their acknowledgement of the present conditions opened the report of the AGM as detailed in an article published by The Advocate newspaper.

The report of the year’s working of the Devonport Brass Band at the annual meeting this evening will reveal that there is little sign of the depression so far as the fortunes of this organisation are concerned.

(“DEVONPORT.,” 1931)
Peterborough Federal Band (date unknown) (source: IBEW))

Back to South Australia, at an Annual General Meeting of the Peterborough Federal Band held in July 1931, the financials were outlined, and credit was given to the secretary of the band for his sound management of the finances during the previous year.

The secretary’s annual report disclosed a very active and successful year, whilst the balance sheet showed the Band to be on a sound footing; two years ago the overdraft was in close proximity to £200, last year it had been reduced to £14/6/5, and this year closed with a credit balance of £15/0/3, the receipts being £116/19/1 and the expenditure £87/12/5; this in face of the terrible depression that has existed, is a wonderful achievement, and reflects great credit upon the secretary (Mr. W. H. Kaehne), whose sole aim has been a credit balance, and he is to be highly complimented on reaching his objective.

(“Peterborough Federal Band,” 1931)

In these early years of the depression, it is obvious that bands were well aware of the prevailing economic conditions.  However, it was not just individual bands that were taking notice, the band associations were as well.  In May 1932 the Queensland Band Association held their Annual General Meeting and mention of the depression was made in the annual report.

Fees received for registration for the year totalled £119 18s 6d., as against £106 8s 6d. in the previous year. The 1933 contests would be held at Mackay.  Notwithstanding the prevailing depression the association had held its own financially and closed a successful year with a credit balance of £91 11s 4d. compared with £105 16s 1d. last year.

(“BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1932)

Unfortunately, some bands inevitably ran into trouble during this period and either went into recess or disbanded.  Finances were certainly a factor in this, but loss of members was another – which will be explored in the next section.  In 1932 the Yeppoon Brass Band, located in North Queensland, announced that it would go into recess due to lack of funds and members (“INTO RECESS,” 1932).  However, in a generous move, the band allowed remaining members to keep their instruments while in recess.  The Franklin Harbour Band from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia lamented its struggles in an article published by the Eyre’s Peninsula Tribune newspaper in November 1936. 

… at present one of the depression periods is being experienced and unless a revival of interest by the young men of the town and district is evinced, there is a possibility of the band after 25 years of continuous existence, sinking into oblivion.

(“FRANKLIN HARBOUR BAND.,” 1936)
Franklin Harbour Brass Band (date unknown) (source: IBEW)

The Gawler Brass Band was another that faced growing troubles and in 1938 announced that it was disbanding due money being owed to the local council – they owed £100 for instruments – and lack of members as they had gone from 24 players to 12 (“Gawler Brass Band May Not Continue,” 1936).

The Mail, 18/07/1936, p, 2

This call for more support was a common one from bands and associations as their finances dwindled and membership became problematic. The then Secretary of the Tasmanian Band Association, a Mr W. H. Gray was one who called for more support in a long letter published in The Mercury newspaper in January 1932 (Gray, 1932).  The letter is interesting given that Mr Gray makes no mention of the Depression while calling for more support for the bands – the subject of the letter is mainly about bands playing in certain parks from which they gain revenue.  However, one cannot help but feel that the impact of the Depression was implied when Mr Gray writes in his letter,

The bands are prepared to carry on provided the necessary public support is forthcoming, but many of them are doomed to early extinction if that support is not more liberal from now on.  The Sunday evening concerts provide a most pleasant hour, and are a wonderful tonic and inspiration for the following week’s worries and cares.

(Gray, 1932)

Of course, there were always some who resented that brass bands were getting any form of support at all, which was perhaps understandable. One person from regional South Australia wrote a pointed letter to the Advertiser and Register newspaper complaining that the Government was not doing enough to help primary producers and instead found some money to fund an Institute in Waikerie and buy instruments for the Waikerie Brass Band (to the value of £350) (Rogers, 1931).

Waikerie Brass Band, 1930s (Source: State Library South Australia: B 34089)

There are still more stories to be found regarding the experiences of bands in the Great Depression and thankfully, some are brought to light through community newspapers.  For example, two stories about the Walcha Brass Band, published in the Walcha News newspaper (Walsh, 2019a, 2019b).  The Walcha Brass Band suffered through the 1930s due to the impacts of the Depression but recovered soon after the cessation of the Second World War and survived until 1969 when it disbanded  (Walsh, 2019b).

If this small sample of AGM’s are to go by it is evident that bands were fully aware of the impacts of the depression.  Which made them all the more pleased to find they were riding the economic impacts as best they could. 

Employ a Bandsman:

Every band wants to retain their members as best they can.  This was no different for the bands during the Depression years where, as it was mentioned, people had to leave their localities to find work elsewhere.  Again, the fact that bands were losing members due to Depression conditions, factors that were really beyond their control, sometimes had a detrimental effect on the bands.  One strategy that bands used was to try to find employment for bandsmen in their own localities and on occasion implored local businesses to help them.  This was not an easy thing for bands to ask.

Freeling Brass Band (date unknown) (source: IBEW)

In 1931 the loss of members from the Freeling Model Brass Band from South Australia was noted as a significant factor affecting the survival of the band.  We can see in an article published in The Bunyip newspaper just how dire the circumstance of the band was in 1931.

The secretary (Mr. E. L. Anders) read the report and balance sheet on the year’s work.  He stated that the Band were in a financial position, but were unfortunate in losing eight playing members during the year; some having left the district through unemployment.  […] He also stressed the point, that little or no interest was shown by the playing members and the support from the public was very scanty.  This let the band down badly, and if not more support was forthcoming, the band would have to go into recess for a short period. […] A lengthy discussion arose, and for a time it was hard to distinguish what was being said.  It was proposed that the band go into recess.  After order was restored, it was proposed and seconded that the band carry on. 

(“FREELING MODEL BRASS BAND.,” 1931)

The Muswellbrook Brass Band, located in the Newcastle area of New South Wales, recognized that they might lose two members due employment issues and they made a request to the public in their March committee meeting.  This request was detailed in the local Muswellbrook Chronicle newspaper.

Employment Sought for Members.

Reference was made to the possibility of losing two valuable members of the Band owing to their inability to obtain employment in the town.  The hope was expressed that this matter would come under the notice of the general public, and that anyone in the position to offer employment would communicate with Mr. Wallace (hon. Secretary). 

(“MUSWELLBROOK BRASS BAND.,” 1935)

Similarly, in the same year, the Dandenong Brass Band from Victoria (as can be seen in the article below) also put out a plea to try to find employment for two of their members.

Dandenong Journal, 21/03/1935, p. 5

The Waratah Brass Band from Tasmania and the Port Adelaide Municipal Band were other bands that noted the loss of members due to employment issues (“WARATAH.,” 1935; “YOUR LOCAL BAND NEEDS SUPPORT!,” 1938).  It was a circumstance that many bands found themselves in during these years.

Port Adelaide Municipal Band (Source: The Citizen, 30/11/1938, p. 7)

Finding themselves in a slightly different situation, in 1937 a brass band located in Canberra was “disbanded as a protest against the refusal of the Department of Interior to guarantee all members permanent employment.”  (“BAND IS NOT TO PLAY,” 1937).  They were to play at an Armistice Service at Parliament House which forced the Department of Interior to hire a Sydney based band (“BAND IS NOT TO PLAY,” 1937).  However, in trying to defend this decision, the Secretary of the Department, Mr. Carrodus did say…

…that at least half of the members of the band had been given departmental jobs, but because of the stringent observance of the Returned Soldiers’ Preference Act it would be impossible to absorb them all.”

(“BAND IS NOT TO PLAY,” 1937)

It is hard to read of these circumstances and not feel saddened about the state some of these bands.  They were trying to exist in a time of history where outside forces were affecting how they operated; membership and commitment being a major part of those factors. No doubt they were doing the best they could under the circumstances.

The bands played on:

Brass band marching on Anzac Day, Sydney, 1930 (Source: National Library of Australia: 14446)

Music has always been known as a great reliever to troubles and during this time our brass bands rose to the challenge, not only for the good of the band and band members but also for the public and other causes.  In fact, some commentators suggested that there was no need for music making to stop.  In 1931 a Dr A. E. Floyd wrote in an article published in the Australasian newspaper,

The effect of the present financial stringency on every man’s music and musical progress need not be unmitigatedly bad; indeed it may be easily, with a little forethought, be decidedly good. 

(Floyd, 1931)

Admittedly, the context of Dr. Floyd’s article was more on making music in the home environment.  However, there is no doubt that his thoughts were cross-applicable to playing in ensembles outside of the home as well – his encouragement was for people to keep making music no matter the circumstances for health reasons.

For our bands it was a little more difficult as engagements slowed and money was scarce.  The bigger bands, often based in metropolitan centres were luckier than most as they could keep up with a regular pattern of performances, parades and competitions.  Indeed, the Victorian Bands’ League presented some very impressive massed band events during this time including one in 1937 that involved six hundred bandsmen! (“BIG BANDS DISPLAY,” 1937).  In Sydney, a grand competition was held in 1938 which drew together bands from across Australia (Bandsman’s year book, 1938).  While in the regional town of Wellington in New South Wales, their first competition in twenty five years was labelled a “Tremendous and Outstanding Success” by the Wellington Times newspaper (“WELLINGTON BAND CONTEST.,” 1932).

Music for a cause:

The brass bands also did their bit for charitable causes and lent their services to help the needy.  For the bands, this was not a new style of engagement as over time they were regularly engaged in helping raise money for charity – the Victorian Bands’ League massed bands event in 1937 raised money for charity.  However, during the Great Depression this was giving a new meaning and we find the bands involved in some distinct social causes as well.

We can see that bands were an uplifting presence.  In North Queensland the Mirani Brass Band helped to lift spirits during a harvest thanksgiving event and the band was noted for their playing – practices had lifted after harvest when more members were available (“DISTRICT NEWS.,” 1930).  While over in Western Australia, the Merredin Brass Band joined other local organisations in an engagement that raised money for the needy in the district (Branson, 1931).  The Matron of the Clare Hospital located in South Australia wrote an appreciative letter to the Blyth Agriculturist newspaper to thank the “generosity of the general public” and the Clare Brass Band was given a special mention for raising money for a new dressing table in the Isolation section (Pattullo, 1934).

The thanks went both ways.  In April 1930 a letter was published in the Burra Record newspaper co-written by the President, Bandmaster and Secretary of the Spalding Brass Band thanking a Mr. P. Clark of Burra for financing a trip and engaging them to play (Hewish et al., 1930).  No doubt the band was grateful for these kinds of opportunities.

Burra Record, 16/04/1930, p. 3

We can also see mentions of brass bands leading marches and demonstrations, which is perhaps understandable.  Many brass bands were supported by industry at this time and no doubt some of the workers were affected by the conditions around them.  Mention was made of a brass band leading an Anti-Eviction procession in Sydney in 1933 and in Newcastle, a brass band headed up 600 unemployed from the “West Wallsend District” who marched on the town hall in 1935 (“ANTI-EVICTION PROCESSION.,” 1933; “UNEMPLOYED,” 1935).

Sydney Morning Herald, 14/08/1933, p. 10

Resilience:

We have already seen that some of the effects of the Great Depression on brass bands led to them going into recess or suffering financial and membership difficulties.  We have also seen that bands kept up their activities as best they could.  They were resilient in the face of adversity.  And if it was one activity that brought people together, it was the brass band.  In this decade, some bands even started up again.

In the township of Leeton, located in the Riverina district of New South Wales, a long letter was published in the Murrumbidgee Irrigator newspaper written by a contributor with the colloquial name of “Has Been”.  In 1932 the Leeton Band resumed practicing and this writer waxed lyrical on how much this band would mean to the town.

Sir,- I notice by your advertising that the Leeton Band is commencing its practices again, which means that we are again to have the pleasure of hearing band music.  This, I am sure, will be very pleasing to quite a number of people in our town and district, for the band is a decided acquisition to any town, no matter how small.

(“Has Been”, 1932)

Of course, there was a trade-off to reforming the band and “Has Been” wrote an appeal to the townsfolk to look for employment opportunities for bandsmen.

Might I add another word to the employers of labour, whether it be shop, farms or factory, when in need of a man, give the band secretary a chance to supply you with a bandsman.  If there is not a man in town suitable for the job, ask the band secretary to see what he can do.  The band secretary, being a life man, would, no doubt insert an advert in the city papers, worded something like this: “Wanted – A mechanic (or whatever the position was that had to be filled), good man only; must be bandsman (cornet player preferred) – Apply Secty Leeton District Band.

(“Has Been”, 1932)

“Has Been” was probably working a bit ahead of himself but the initiative was warranted given the difficult times – and many other bands were trying the same initiative.

The Tully Brass Band from North Queensland was perhaps one of the luckier ensembles as six years prior to 1933, residents of the town subscribed to the band and £400 had been spent on instruments (“TO BE RE-FORMED,” 1933).  When the band was reformed in 1933 those instruments were still available, so the band was able to restart almost immediately.  We can see in the photo below what the band was like in the 1930s.  

Tully Brass Band marching. ca. 1930s (Source: State Library of Queensland: 33123)

To be resilient a band had to be able to handle the circumstances as best they could and gathering public and council support was a chief aim.  When these pieces fell into place, bands could survive reasonably comfortably despite the outside circumstances.  For bands to restart during this time was an additional challenge which some of them managed with success.

Conclusion:

Coming out of the 1920s where the world seemed to be recovering only to plunge into another crisis must have been a major shock.  For bands, this meant a greater focus on administration especially finances, engagements, and membership.  Some aspects were simply out of their control such as the movement of members due to employment – as enjoyable as playing in a band might be, the outside need was to find a job.  It was admirable that many bands sought to find work for their members and themselves become a social service.

No doubt the work the bands were doing was appreciated by their communities either through live performance or over the wireless.  Music is uplifting.  Music could help people forget about their predicaments, if only for a short time.  The bands did their best.

References:

“Has Been”. (1932, 26 February). REFORMING THE BAND : (To the Editor). Murrumbidgee Irrigator (Leeton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155893074

Adkins, H. E. (1934, 10 January). Britain’s Big Brass Bands. Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1158876

ANTI-EVICTION PROCESSION. (1933, 14 August). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16998155

Australia’s Rise From Depression : Story Told By Figures. (1936, 15 February). Northern Producer and Morawa and District Advertiser (WA : 1930 – 1947), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article257624349

BAND ASSOCIATION : The Annual Report. (1932, 12 May). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article180704011

BAND IS NOT TO PLAY : Demand Permanent Jobs. (1937, 11 November). Labor Daily (Sydney, NSW : 1924 – 1938), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article237760894

The Bandsman’s year book and official programme of the Australian Championship Band Contest. (1938). (Band Association of New South Wales, Ed.). Band Association of New South Wales. 

BIG BANDS DISPLAY : 600 Players. (1937, 25 September). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article180841683

Branson, I. N. (1931, 28 April). The Meldrum Benefit. Wheatbelt Wheatsheaf and Dampier Advocate (Merredin, WA : 1930 – 1939), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article251755519

DEVONPORT. (1931, 31 March). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article67710241

DISTRICT NEWS : Mirani : (From our Correspondent). (1930, 23 December). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170235248

Eklund, E. (2008). 10 June 1931. In M. Crotty & D. A. Roberts (Eds.), Turning Points in Australian History (pp. 48-61). University of New South Wales Press Ltd. 

Floyd, A. E. (1931, 03 January). MUSIC : Need the Depression Stifle Music? Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141416272

Franklin Harbour Brass Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot3437]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

FRANKLIN HARBOUR BAND. (1936, 26 November). Eyre’s Peninsula Tribune (Cowell, SA : 1910 – 1950), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article219473615

Freeling Brass Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot15438]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

FREELING MODEL BRASS BAND. (1931, 19 June). Bunyip (Gawler, SA : 1863 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96642544

Gawler Brass Band May Not Continue. (1936, 18 July). Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55830899

Gray, W. H. (1932, 09 January). BAND CONCERTS : Appeals for More Liberal Support : To the Editor of “The Mercury.”. Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29939058

Hewish, P. A., Carlson, A. C., & Mannion, F. J. (1930, 16 April). SPALDING’S BRASS BAND APPRECIATION : (To the Editor). Burra Record (SA : 1878 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37488195

HILLS CENTRAL BRASS BAND. (1930, 21 March). Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147845925

Hutchens, G. (2020, 29 March). The lessons of our past and our neighbours’ present could guide Australia’s economic response to coronavirus. ABC News. Retrieved 02 October 2020 from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-29/australias-history-of-economic-support-coronavirus-covid-19/12100194

Illustrations Ltd. (1932). Large group of people in shed near tables full of vegetables and fruit [picture] [1 negative : glass, b&w ; 17 x 22 cm.]. [101841PD]. State Library of Western Australia, Illustrations Ltd collection ; 8292B/A/6851-1. https://encore.slwa.wa.gov.au/iii/encore/record/C__Rb2649568

INTO RECESS : Yeppoon Brass Band. (1932, 26 April). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54737835

ITEMS OF INTEREST : Dandenong Brass Band. (1935, 21 March). Dandenong Journal (Vic. : 1927 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213964037

McAnulty, H. (2017, 13 January). History Talking: Surviving life in the dole-drums of the Depression. Central Western Daily. https://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/4403111/history-talking-surviving-life-in-the-dole-drums-of-the-depression/

MUSWELLBROOK BRASS BAND : Committee Meeting. (1935, 01 March). Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW : 1898 – 1955), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107669487

National Museum Australia. (2020, 15 April ). 1932: Height of the Great Depression, with 32 per cent unemployment. National Museum Australia. Retrieved 26 September 2020 from https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/great-depression

Pattullo, B. (1934, 12 January). THE CLARE AND DISTRICT HOSPITAL : | To the Editor |. Blyth Agriculturist (SA : 1908 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article217990434

Peterborough Federal Band. (n.d.). [Photograph]. [phot6378]. The Internet Bandsman Everything Within, Vintage Brass Band Pictures : Australia. http://www.ibew.org.uk/vbbp-oz.html

Peterborough Federal Band : Annual General Meeting. (1931, 17 July). Times and Northern Advertiser, Peterborough, South Australia (SA : 1919 – 1950), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110542695

Pohjanpalo, J. (1930). Brass band marching on Anzac Day, Sydney, 1930 [1 negative : nitrate, black and white]. [nla.obj-15268053]. National Library of Australia, Jorma Pohjanpalo collection of photographs of Sydney and Queensland, 1928-1931. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-152628053

Rogers, G. S. (1931, 15 April). POINTS FROM LETTERS : Brass Bands or Primary Production. Advertiser and Register (Adelaide, SA : 1931), 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45760607

TO BE RE-FORMED : Tully Brass Band. (1933, 13 May). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41214410

UNEMPLOYED : Meet Shire Council : MANY DEMANDS : 600 March from West Wallsend : Strikers State Their Case. (1935, 12 July). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138136031

Unidentified. (1933). Marching brass band, Tully, ca. 1930s [photographic print : black & white , ca. 1930s.]. [33123]. Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OneSearch. https://hdl.handle.net/10462/deriv/192004

Waikerie Brass Band. (1930). [Photograph]. State Library South Australia, Waikerie Collection. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+34089

Walsh, B. (2019a, 27 February). Walcha History: Band stands and delivers for Premier. Walcha News. https://www.walchanewsonline.com.au/story/5922107/walcha-band-stands-and-delivers-for-premier/

Walsh, B. (2019b, 13 March). Walcha History: Walcha Town Band’s final years. Walcha News. https://www.walchanewsonline.com.au/story/5947106/walcha-town-bands-final-hurrah/

WARATAH : The Band. (1935, 16 November). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86569751

WELLINGTON BAND CONTEST : THE FIRST FOR 25 YEARS : A Tremendous and Outstanding Success. : UNBOUNDED ENTHUSIASM. (1932, 04 January). Wellington Times (NSW : 1899 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143246369

WILD SELLING : New York Panic : PROFITS WIPED OUT : £80,000,000 Slump. (1929, 26 October). Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 17. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16596498

Williamson, A. (2009). The Cud on History — Looking Back on The Great Depression in Australia [Electronic Magazine Article]. The Cud: Entertain a new perspective: chew the cud. Retrieved 26 September 2020, from http://thecud.com.au/live/content/cud-history-—-looking-back-great-depression-australia

YOUR LOCAL BAND NEEDS SUPPORT! : A Short History. (1938, 30 November). Citizen (Port Adelaide, SA : 1938-1940), 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article236745262

Choosing music and grading bands: The unenviable tasks of band associations and their music advisory boards

Introduction:

Administering band associations was, and is even now, never an easy task.  Granted, the first focus of early band associations was managing the affiliations of member bands, forming rules and running competitions.  These tasks aside, there was little else they did.  In this arcane and insular world of administration, decisions that the early band associations made were at times difficult to understand and criticism was rife.  It can be seen in previous posts on the history of the National Band Council of Australia and the experiences of bands in South Street just how peculiar some administrative decisions could be.  In their defence however, we can also see that the associations were acting on the information that they had available at the time, and that some questionable decisions can simply be attributed to a lack of communication.

This post is focusing on aspects of band administration where the difficult decisions of band grading and choices of music were made by sub-committees known as Music Advisory Boards.  These noted groups of bands people, often adjudicators and conductors, made recommendations to band associations.  While some records are not as informative as they could be, the Trove archive gives us some clues as to how they operated.

It is an interesting portion of band history where some bands people desired more of a focus on the music but recognized the value of association.  Balancing these two ideals was a challenge!

Music Advisory Boards and Choosing music:

19330706-(19330714)_VBL-AGM-P1
A section of the Victorian Bands’ League Annual Report 1933, p. 1 ( Source: Victorian Collections: Victorian Bands’ League)
19200814_Herald_J-Booth-Gore
Herald, 14/08/1920, p. 16

Above is part of the first page of an annual report presented by the Victorian Bands’ League at their second Annual General Meeting on 14th July 1933.  Prominently displayed on this first page are all the officers of the League; Delegates, Administrators, Conductors and Adjudicators, representing country, regional and metropolitan areas.  A good mix of people at the time to run the fledging League!  There is one group of musicians listed on this page that warrants special mention and is nominally the focus of this post – the Music Advisory Board.

It was not always possible to discern why the Music Advisory Boards existed in the first place.  Through research in the Trove archives, it was mentioned that they did exist, but their exact purpose in assisting the Associations was harder to find – however their contemporary counterparts operate in much the same way so we can apply this knowledge back over the years.

This post is not trying to dismiss the operations of other State band associations and their MAB’s.  However, the Victorian Bands’ Association and Victorian Bands’ League provided the most information through newspaper articles as to who was included in their MAB’s over the years.  Which means it presents a perfect case study of how the personnel changed (or did not change) over the years.  Below is a table detailing the members of the Victorian MAB over a time period of thirteen years.  Knowing Victorian band history, we can see that these musicians were all eminent conductors/adjudicators who displayed an extensive knowledge of brass band repertoire.  And they were all conductors of Victorian A Grade bands.

1920 – VBL1922 – VBA1927 – VBA1933 – VBL
P. CodeJ. Booth-GoreP. CodeJ. Bowden
P. JonesL. HoffmanF. C. JohnstonJ. Booth-Gore
H. R. ShuggF. C. JohnstonP. JonesF. C. Johnston
 P. JonesR. McCaskillA. H. Paxton
 H. NivenH. R. ShuggH. R. Shugg
 H. R. Shugg  
(Source of table data: “BAND ADJUDICATOR,” 1920; “BRASS BANDS REGRADED.,” 1927; Drummer Boy, 1922; “VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1920; Victorian Bands’ League, 1933)
19200807_Herald_J-Bowden
Herald, 7/08/1920, p. 17

What is obvious here is the consistency of some of the appointments namely Percy Code, Percy Jones, Frank “Massa” Johnston, and Harry Shugg.  Some pictures of these bandsmen are on the side of this post.  We could assume that with the passage of time, if the same people were well-regarded in that role then they would continue to serve.  The interesting fact about the Victorian MAB members is that they carried through the changeover from the VBA to the VBL.  On a side note, given that many of these conductors were working with metropolitan bands at the time they would have been the instigators of the VBL in the early 1930s.

There were some occasions regarding band competitions where MAB’s were not involved in choosing music.  We can see articles published in the Advocate newspaper in 1921 and 1927 that Percy Jones was the adjudicator of the popular New Year’s Day Burnie carnival band competition (“BURNIE.,” 1927; “BURNIE CARNIVAL.,” 1921).   However, it is in the 1927 article where we can see that Percy Jones himself made recommendations to the Burnie Athletics Club on the choice of music for the next carnival band competition:

Last year’s band adjudicator, Mr. Percy Jones, wrote recommending that “Gournod (Rimmer)” and “A Garland of Classics (Rimmer)” be chosen as test pieces for the B and C grade contests respectively, at the next carnival.  The recommendation was adopted, on the motion of Messers Southwell and Trethewey.  It was also decided to continue negotiations with a view to obtaining an adjudicator from New South Wales for the next carnival.  Last year’s rule that the own choice selection be made from National Airs was again adopted.”

(“BURNIE.,” 1927)

One notable criticism of the music choices made by MAB’s came from Cecil Clarence Mullen in his booklet, Mullen’s Bandsmen of South Street (1900-1951).  We know from a previous post that Mullen was very opinionated, and it is not clear how much influence he wielded through his writings, especially his booklet.  He wrote:

Some years ago the Advisory Board of selectors introduced a new type of Test Selection for South Street band contests.  These are mostly technical works and appreciated by bandmasters and players, the musicianship point of view has only been taken into consideration.  Our contests promoters and managers have been overlooked the fact that one party – the public who pay to attend contests – have been left out.  Statistics show clearly that all the largest crowds at the South Street competitions were in the years from 1900 to 1924, when the operatic brass band arrangements were chosen for Test Selections. […] Technical works are all very well for those of us who understand them, but they are cold and colourless to the general listener as he cannot follow them and does not know what they are all about.

(Mullen, 1951, p. 6)
19200911_Herald_P-Code
Herald, 11/09/1920, p. 14

Now while Mullen might be right about the years when the largest crowds attended the brass band competitions at South Street, it must be recognized that he was merely expressing his opinion and it might be a short stretch to link crowd numbers with choices of music.  He went on further in this section of the booklet to explain his reasons for wanting more operatic arrangements in the band competitions with the implied belief that they were far more musical than what current brass band composers were providing, and that they were more pleasing to the ears of the audience (Mullen, 1951).  He was especially taken with the operatic arrangements of Alexander Owen and he also wanted a sight-reading section to be introduced (Mullen, 1951).  This was not the first time Mullen wrote with favour on operatic works being played by bands.  In a later article he attributed the fine playing of bands in the early years to their playing of operatic works (Mullen, 1965).

Aside from Mullen, there appears to be a distinct lack of criticism in early newspapers regarding the choices of music made by the MAB’s.  Which contrasts with the criticisms levelled at State Band Associations and MAB’s regarding grading of bands.  Grading was a vexed issue, and this will be explored in the next section.

Music Advisory Boards, State band Associations and Grading:

To understand why grading does or does not work, it’s important to know a little history on how Associations applied grading to bands.  The first competition that included grading of some sort was in New South Wales at the 1896 Intercolonial Band Contest held in Sydney in November where bands were grouped into “first division” or “second division” (Greaves, 1996, p. 23).  In Victoria, the first five years of South Street from 1900-1905 were ungraded and, Mullen (1951) has provided some history as to how grading developed from 1905.

In 1905 the first “B” grade contest was arranged owing to some bands having progressed so much from the experience and tuition of former English bandmasters that it was thought younger combinations and country bands would have a better chance in a second class contest.  So fast did the better class bands progress, however, that it was thought that with many new bands starting that a “C” grade was held in 1909.

(p. 7)

Having only three grades was the status quo in Victoria until, according to available resources, a D grade was introduced in 1922 (“Victorian Bands’ Association,” 1922).

19210108_Herald_L-Hoffman
Herald, 8/01/1921, p. 11

Let us take a look at how bands moved up or down grades over some years.  Below are links to files that show the grades in certain years from Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.  The Victorian dataset is more condensed as they show the grades in the years 1920, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926 & 1927.  For Queensland, the dataset is more spread due to limited information and the files are based on information from the years 1913, 1919 & 1937.  Included is an example of grading presented by the Western Australian Band Association in 1932, which is very limited, however there’s an interesting discussion from the WABA meeting that took place that year.  All band lists were obtained from newspaper articles held in the Trove archive and can be accessed from the links in the citations.  The grade files will appear as PDF’s and can be downloaded.

Victorian Grades – 1920-1927:

(Source of Victorian grade data: “BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1923; “BRASS BANDS REGRADED.,” 1927; “CLASSIFICATION OF BANDS.,” 1926; “VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1924; “VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1920; “Victorian Bands’ Association,” 1922)

Queensland Grades – 1913, 1919 & 1937:

(Source of Queensland grade data: “Band Association.,” 1919; “GRADING THE BANDS.,” 1913; “NEW GRADING LIST,” 1937)

Western Australian Grades – 1932:

(Source of Western Australian grade data: Delegate, 1932)

19200828_Herald_P-Jones
Herald, 28/08/1920, pg. 19

The Victorian context is possibly a better example of grade history given the range of years.  Here we see a bulge– a smaller number of bands in A Grade and D Grade while B Grade is larger and C Grade having the most numerous amount of bands  Taking a look at the C Grade in particular, while the D Grade was introduced in 1922, in 1924 there is large expansion of bands in C Grade.  Whether this is down to the number of bands that affiliated that year, or general musical standard is open to interpretation.  1924 was certainly a golden year of bands, except for perhaps the A Grade where there were only three bands.  Regarding the A Grade, once the top bands were placed in that grade, they tended not to leave.  In 1926 and 1927 we see a jump in that number due to bands moving up from B Grade.

In Queensland it is a little more difficult to interpret the grading history given the lack of information, so a reliance on the available years is necessary.  However, there are some similarities with Victoria, especially in the middle grades.  In 1919 there is a large expansion in the number of bands in C Grade.  We also see some innovation on the part of the Queensland Band Association in 1937 where there is a D Grade, but there are also grades to cater bands that are from specific locations or age groups.  Here we see a “Sub D Grade (Country)” and a “Boy’s Band (Under 15 years)” (“NEW GRADING LIST,” 1937) which no doubt helped more bands participate in events.

The example from Western Australia is obviously small, but the list originates from an article published in the Sunday Times regarding a wide-ranging meeting held by WABA.  The regrading of bands was included in the discussion as an agenda item:

The matter of regrading the bands affiliated with the association was then proceeded with.  There are 17 in all, and prior to the 1931 contest these were graded as B or C.  This grading has since remained unaltered officially, but for the purpose of giving the 1931 contest a high “tone”, the grades were officially announced as A and B.  The question raised on Wednesday evening was whether to create a D grade from the smaller C grade bands or raise the status generally and make them A, B or C.  The latter course was eventually decided upon and each band was, after submission to the meeting, graded by a majority vote.  A suggestion that they should be graded according to the points awarded them by the adjudicator at the last contest was not accepted, though the idea found a good deal of support.

(Delegate, 1932)

Victoria offers more information on the roles of the MAB in the regrading process as the Queensland Band Association seems to have undertook this role themselves (there is no mention of a Queensland MAB).  The role of the MAB’s in advising on regrading is evident although it seems, at least in the early stages, that the V.B.A. undertook the regrading process with their MAB offering limited advice.  We see in 1920 that,

A report was submitted from the executive of the association dealing with the regrading of bands.  It contained replies from Messrs H. Shugg and P. Code, two of the advisory committee who both concurred in the proposed regarding as submitted by the executive…

(“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1920)

However, in 1922, the Victorian MAB was responsible for the regrading process:

The advisory board of the Victorian Bands’ Association, the headquarters of which are at Ballarat, has regraded bands for the ensuring year as follows…

(“Victorian Bands’ Association,” 1922)

And mention of the role of the MAB in regrading bands is again mentioned in articles from 1926 and 1927 (“BRASS BANDS REGRADED.,” 1927; “CLASSIFICATION OF BANDS.,” 1926).

This is not to say grading was always a smooth process and there were always levels of criticism from various parties, as well as disagreements between States – the rules were never fully unified.  As early as 1914 we can see letters in the papers regarding the grading of bands.  One letter from Mr S. E. Hambleton, then Secretary of the Collingwood Citizens’ Band stood out for its candidness.  Part of his letter was criticism while contributing his own ideas:

The band of which I am secretary has not won a cash prize for five years, and although I have made applications to be re-classified (claimed on two years’ rules), I am told that the Victorian Band Association would not listen to it as we are an A Grade band.  The other bands know this, and, of course, will not enter for the higher grade, with the promise, perhaps of a life sentence hanging over them.

Our band of 24 could be divided into three parts and absorbed by B Grade bands and allowed to play in B Grade.  Why not classify the individual players and thus stop good players in A Grade bands from becoming members of a lower grade through better inducements.  Collingwood and Prahran are the only two bands classed as A Grade, although there are four or five others advanced enough to compete in this grade.

Bands that have won C or B Grade contests should be placed in the class higher up and stay there for the stated time.  If they fail to secure a cash prize, allow them to go to the next grade down again.  Bands will not enter for a higher grade than they are classed in, for fear of winning a cash prize in it, being thereby debarred from competing in the grade that they had been classed in.

(Hambleton, 1914)

Again in 1914, a letter was published in Brisbane’s Daily Standard newspaper lamenting the grading process carried out by the Queensland Band Association after the Maryborough contests.  The writer, Mr W. Jackson, a Delegate of the Childers band, was obviously annoyed at the whole process and made this quite clear in his letter.  He wrote (in part),

…We were promised that the matter of grading the bands would be thoroughly gone into at an early date by the Q.B. Association.  What is the result?  Here we are three months before the August contest, and still in the same sorry plight.  Is it encouragement for the small country bands to go to Brisbane to contest against bands from the large cities as at Maryborough when the “C” grade championships was won by a band that probably should have been graded “B” at least?  I am afraid the same thing will occur again.  What I contend is that the “C” grade should be open for bands from the small country towns only, thus giving them some encouragement for them to fight on to better class music.

(Jackson, 1914)

It would be fair to say that both Mr Hambleton and Mr Jackson made some fair points re grading problems in their respective states.  They both knew their bands and how the administration worked.  We could assume that the State associations were trying their best in trying to please everyone but in some respects, it was never a perfect process.  Perhaps this was the reason MAB’s were formed to advise on grading.

As mentioned above, at times the rules and administration of different State associations came into conflict with each other regarding registration and grading.  One notable example was highlighted in Tasmania after another one of the contests in Burnie.  At a meeting of the Tasmanian Band Association in 1930, this was raised as an agenda item:

Very grave concern was expressed by the committee relating to the methods of grading and the registering of members of mainland bands which compete at the Burnie contests.  It was discovered by the delegates at the recent Burnie contests that one of the competing bands from the mainland had been able, only a few days before the closing date of registrations, to register no less than nine prominent players of other bands, and perhaps of a higher grade.  The regrading of bands on the registration for every contest might overcome the somewhat unfair aspect of this matter, but what is more desirable is uniform contests rules for all the States.  The T.B.A. is approaching the State association concerned on this occasion, with a view to a general tightening up of grading and registrations.

(“BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1930)
19210219_Herald_H-Niven
Herald, 19/02/1921, p. 16

…which is fine in theory but as discovered in the history of the National Band Council of Australia, unification of rules was an ideal that never really reached fruition despite the best intentions of State associations.

What we have seen in this small history are situations where the grading process was fraught with difficulty, did not please everyone and criticism was rife.  And it was a thankless task as the reputations of the early bands hinged on success in competition and the decisions of the State associations.  Most of the time it was done correctly.  On occasion there were problems.  With the influx of bands starting up and wanting to participate in events, grading them was a necessity that called upon the State associations to try to find solutions.  When this went wrong, the administration was generally found to be lacking.

Conclusion:

For the MAB’s involved in the processes of choosing music and advising on band regrading, generally they did the right thing and all they could really do was offer advice.  Thankfully, the reputations of the MAB members carried them through some of the decisions made by State associations.  Evidently the fact that many of the Victorian members held their positions for many years is a testament to their authority as prominent bandsmen.

We should thank these early members of the MAB’s for the foundations that they laid as the members of the modern MAB’s carry out their tasks in much the same way as they did back then.

19200724_Herald_H-Shugg
Herald, 24/07/1920, p. 11

References:

BAND ADJUDICATOR : For Newcastle Contest : Mr. Percy Jone’s Career. (1920, 04 December). Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162621130

BAND ASSOCIATION : Deciding Championship. (1923, 21 August). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213824101

Band Association : Grading for the Contest. (1919, 20 November). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176840373

BAND ASSOCIATION : Registering and Grading. (1930, 24 January). Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29151289

BRASS BANDS REGRADED. (1927, 18 October). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3885887

BURNIE. (1927, 17 June). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68241846

BURNIE CARNIVAL : New Years Day : Bright Prospects. (1921, 16 November). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69316043

CLASSIFICATION OF BANDS. (1926, 18 May). Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3782670

Delegate. (1932, 21 August). BRASS BANDS : W.A. Association News : And General Notes. Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58669392

Drummer Boy. (1922, 21 October). BANDS AND BANDSMEN. Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93411340

GRADING THE BANDS. (1913, 27 October). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118654062

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

Hambleton, S. E. (1914, 13 January). EFFECT OF GRADING. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article241657411

Jackson, W. (1914, 08 May). BAND GRADING : (To The Editor). Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178879778

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

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

NEW GRADING LIST ISSUED BY QUEENSLAND BAND ASSOCIATION. (1937, 12 November). Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183521534

Quickstep. (1920a, 28 August). Bandsmen’s Gossip : A Knight of the Baton. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242311544

Quickstep. (1920b, 14 August). Bandsmen’s Gossip : A Meritorious Career. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242305795

Quickstep. (1920c, 07 August). Bandsmen’s Gossip : An Enthusiastic Conductor. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 17. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242306287

Quickstep. (1920d, 11 September). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Australia’s Great Soloist. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242308980

Quickstep. (1920e, 24 July). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Leader of Two Famous Bands. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242308343

Quickstep. (1921a, 19 February). Bandsmen’s Gossip : Noted Musical Qualities. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242256082

Quickstep. (1921b, 08 January). Bandsmen’s Gossip : St Vincent’s Bandmaster. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 11. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article242259553

VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION : Classification of Bands. (1924, 19 August). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213535974

VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION : Special and General Meeting. (1920, 18 May). Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211906214

Victorian Bands’ Association : Grading for the Year. (1922, 24 August). Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205773169

Victorian Bands’ League. (1933). Victorian Bands’ League : Annual General Meeting : Annual Report [Annual Report]. Victorian Bands’ League. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5b6a740621ea691478e4b482

The politics of affiliation: Victorian Bands’ Association to the Victorian Bands’ League

19380000-19370000_VBL-Officials_pg50
Source: The Bandsman’s Year Book and Official Programme of the Australian Championship Band Contest. 1938, pg. 50

Introduction:

Although the history and reputation of Victorian banding lies partly with individual bands, the history of the associations that they formed shows Victorian banding in a different light.  This post is focused on a period from 1901 to 1933, where, during the development of the various associations and leagues lies a somewhat rancorous battle for the heart and soul of Victorian bands of which was covered in the newspapers of the day and laid out in detail.   

The focus of this post is the general history of the Victorian Bands’ Association (V.B.A.) from 1901-1933 and the official formation of the Victorian Bands’ League (V.B.L.) in 1931.  Tied into this is the history of various early geographical groupings of bands and the eventual move to form much larger associations.  However, with association came division and as will be shown the seeds of division started much earlier than 1931.  This is a tale of the Victorian band movment that is probably not well known to most Victorian bands people.  

My curiosity has been growing over time as I wondered why there were no records that existed prior to 1931.  I knew that the headquarters of the V.B.A. had been in Ballarat, yet whatever records that may have existed were not provided to the V.B.L.  When researching for this post the reasons became obvious – they were two entirely separate organisations that wanted little to do with each other.

The research for this article has been informed by involved searching through the Trove archive with the aim of building a chronology of articles and events.  With this searching has come some revelations as to the Victorian band movement in the 1900s. This history is important to the band community as it highlights what once was, and how the administrations operated.

1900 – 1920: The V.B.A. and other associations:

The first seeds of a State association were sown in 1901 when delegates from Geelong and Ballarat brass bands decide to form a “Ballarat and Geelong District Band Association” with the rules of the new association to be presented to a conference of bands at the next South Street competition (“BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1901).  Here we have an association that had been set up based on a small geography, but most importantly developed ties to the South Street competitions which became increasingly important to the band community (Royal South Street Society, 2016).  It should be noted that there was already a Geelong Band Association in existence, although this small association broke up after 1908 (“BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1908).  In 1907 it becomes obvious that the V.B.A. is expanding as they had a meeting in Bendigo where discussion took place about lobbying the council to let them use a reserve to hold a band competition with the aim of attracting bands from across Australia (“BANDS ASSOCIATION.,” 1907).  This is one of the earliest reports of the V.B.A. promoting competitions in regional areas.

Within other geographical regions, distinct band associations started around the same time although not all of them affiliated with the newly formed V.B.A. In the Melbourne area, a new association called the “Melbourne and Metropolitan Band Association” (M.M.B.A.) was formed in 1906 (or 1907) by twenty-five bands (“MELBOURNE AND METROPOLITAN BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1907).  This new association formed their own rules and constitution with the encouragement of the V.B.A., of which a representative attended the meeting.  It is not until a meeting in 1908 that the M.M.B.A. discusses aligning with the V.B.A. and a committee of five is set up to investigate this (“MELBOURNE AND METROPOLITAN BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1908).  In contrast, a new Gippsland Band Association (G.B.A.) started in 1908 and emphatically ruled out associating with the association in Ballarat (“GIPPSLAND BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1908).  It should be noted that while Gippsland bands did eventually join with State band associations, the G.B.A. was still going in 1947 and possibly longer (“Gippsland Bands’ Association,” 1947).

Despite the seemingly good running of the association there are some indications that some bands wanted the headquarters moved from Ballarat for various reasons.  In 1917, a letter was sent to the Bendigo Citizens’ Band by the Metropolitan Bands Association proposing a shift of the next meeting of the V.B.A. to Melbourne.  This letter was read out at a meeting of the Bendigo Citizens’ Band and the responses were detailed by the Bendigo Independent newspaper in an article.

Correspondence from the Metropolitan Band Association was read, requesting the bands’ support in having the meeting of the Victorian Band Association held in the metropolis instead of at Ballarat.  Several members spoke in favour of the Victorian Bands’ Association meeting being continued in Ballarat, as it was only another move to have everything of any importance held in the metropolis.  The secretary (Mr. E. K. Varcoe) in commenting on the matter, said it clearly showed that centralisation was at the back of the suggestion, and Melbourne desired everything in Melbourne with the exception of the mice plague… 

(“BENDIGO CITIZENS’ BAND.,” 1917)

Obviously, there were a few choice words used at this meeting (by 1917 standards).

The letter was countersigned by representatives of the Fitzroy, South Melbourne, Collingwood, Brunswick, Malvern and St Kilda brass bands and it was sent to all country bands affiliated with the V.B.A. at the time.  The Bendigo Citizens’ Band did end up sending a representative to a meeting in Melbourne.  Subsequently, in a vote on the matter at a later V.B.A. meeting, the motion to move the V.B.A. headquarters to Melbourne was defeated 23 to 6 (“BANDS’ ASSOCIATION.,” 1917). 

Warrnambool Standard, 22/11/1917. p. 3

1920 – 1929: Division – the first V.B.L.:  

If the V.B.A. felt that issues of division from the late 1910s had been placated, the early 1920s showed them otherwise.  The Melbourne and Metropolitan Band Association was still in existence and were running their own contests, within the oversight of the V.B.A.  In February 1920 they held a series of contests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in conjunction with the R.S.S.I.L.A., Vic. Branch with entries received from 30 bands – one highlight was a challenge contest between the Hawthorn City Band and the Collingwood Citizens’ Band (“METROPOLITAN BAND CONTEST.,” 1920).

Over the next few years however, the V.B.A. found itself dealing with a rival Victorian band association, the Victorian Bands’ League which was formed by a grouping of disgruntled metropolitan bands and apparently some country bands.  At a meeting held on the 23rd of May 1921, the new chair of the (first) V.B.L., a Mr. H. G. Johnson stated that,

…one of the objects of the new league was the control of band contests, also the fostering of a better feeling among bands and bandsmen. 

(“VICTORIAN BAND LEAGUE.,” 1921)

…and further in this article we see some further reasoning as to why representatives of these bands had met.

Several speakers expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which the affairs of bands and band contests were at presented being controlled by the Victorian Bands’ Association in Ballarat.  Band matters generally could be better managed by having headquarters of the controlling body in Melbourne. 

(“VICTORIAN BAND LEAGUE.,” 1921)
Herald, 23/04/1921, p. 17

One of the main driving forces behind the new V.B.L. was an official of the M.M.B.A, Mr George S. Tucker.  Formerly associated with the Malvern Town Band and the St. Kilda City Brass Band under conductor Mr. F. C. Johnston, he mainly focused on administrative work (Quickstep, 1921).  A weekly column in the Herald newspaper from April 1921 penned by “Quickstep” provides an outline of his band career, but it is the opening paragraph that really introduces Mr. Tucker.

The foremost figure in the band world at present moment is George S. Tucker, the hon. secretary of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Band Association.  A firm and fearless official, a keen debater, and an acknowledged authority on contesting and administrative matters, he has held office for a record term.  Melbourne is recognized as a centre of advanced thought in regard to band politics, and the formation of a new controlling body to be knowns as the Victorian Band League is now receiving attention of the bands.  Mr Tucker has been entrusted with the organisation of this new venture. 

(Quickstep, 1921)

Perhaps the new league was a little overzealous in the way it announced itself.  It is all very well stating that a meeting had been attended by several bands, but it might have helped if the new V.B.L. had sought assurances from the bands themselves that they would be affiliating with the new body.  This was revealed at a meeting of the V.B.A. held in June 1921.  

A letter was received from the St. Kilda Band Association stating that at a meeting of delegates from several bands in Melbourne in May it was decided to form a new league, and it was opined that this would prove to be a very successful body.  It was stated that the Geelong and Coburg bands had agreed to join.

A delegate stated that as far as Geelong and Coburg bands were concerned both had notified their intention of sticking to the V.B.A.  The Malvern Band – which band had a delegate at the meeting – said that he was surprised to find himself elected to the league without authority.  They were also sticking to the V.B.A.

(“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1921)

As well as this, State associations were nominally affiliated with each other and almost as soon as the new league was announced in May, the Band Association of N.S.W. and the South Australian Band Association wrote to the V.B.A. expressing their continued affiliation and refusal to recognize the new V.B.L. (“NEW BAND AUTHORITY,” 1921).  Letters were also received from the Tasmanian Band Association and West Australian Band Association, although W.A.B.A. asked for further information and expressed an opinion that “there was no need for a second body” (“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1921).

Sunraysia Daily, 17/05/1921, p. 4

Nevertheless, the fledging V.B.L. was not to be put off and in early August they announced that they would be holding a massed bands event for a hospital charity at the Exhibition Oval involving 250 bandsmen (“MASSED BANDS PERFORMANCE.,” 1921).  Bands were given permission to march from Prince’s Bridge and the Collingwood Band was to march from Collingwood.  The massed band was conducted by Mr. F. C. Johnston who was titled as “the Victorian Band League conductor” (“MASSED BANDS PERFORMANCE.,” 1921).

Argus, 10/08/1921, p. 7

Early in 1922 we can see that the new V.B.L. is holding meetings at a favourite haunt in the form of a café located at the corner of Swanston Street & Queen’s Walk.  At a meeting in January, plans were put in place for another “massed bands display on February 12, in aid of the Homeopathic Hospital”. (“BANDSMEN’S GOSSIP,” 1922).  Furthermore, it also appears that some bands were reluctant to join the new League, probably because South Street regarded the V.B.A. as the governing body. This statement from the meeting is telling.

Collingwood Citizens’ Band is now affiliated and it is to be hoped that other “A” grade bands will follow. 

(“BANDSMEN’S GOSSIP,” 1922)

A meeting of the associations took place in June 1922 when a delegation from the V.B.L., including Mr. Tucker, travelled to Ballarat to meet with the V.B.A. to see if a workable solution to governing and/or amalgamation could be found.  The opening paragraph of an article published by the Ballarat Star newspaper provided some background, of which an excerpt is below.

The V.B.L. was originally the Metropolitan Band Association, but enlarged its title and scope in the hope of getting control of brass bands in Victoria.  Evidently this ambition has not been realised, as last night the V.B.L. came with a humble request for authority under the V.B.A. constitution to perform certain local functions while subject to the authority and endorsement of the V.B.A.

(“BAND CONTROL,” 1922)

It is clear in this long article that relations between the V.B.A. and the M.M.B.A. had not been as good as they could be with Mr. H. A. Farrell, President of the V.B.L. calling the bickering between the two associations, at times, “childish” (“BAND CONTROL,” 1922).  This article reported in detail the proceedings of this meeting, and for the sake of brevity, will not be fully covered in this post.  The discussion was amicable, but the differences were not fully resolved. The main issue was how to manage any confusion between the two associations regarding the running of contests and player registrations (“BAND CONTROL,” 1922).  The V.B.A. promised to take this request to a full meeting of the Executive where the answer came in August – the V.B.A. rejected the proposal of admitting the V.B.L. into some form of relationship (“BANDSMEN’S DIFFERENCES,” 1922).

The Herald, 23/08/1922, p. 6

Whatever relationship the two associations had, soured considerably in 1923 when the V.B.L. held a contest in South Melbourne over Easter.  Eight bands took part in this contest, these being; “South Richmond, South Melbourne, Nunawading, Preston, Moorabbin, Deep Rock, Caulfield District, and Socialists.” (“EASTER BAND CONTESTS,” 1923).  Action from the V.B.A. was swift and punitive in the form of disqualifications and fines.  Two bands, Preston Citizens’ Band and the Socialist Party Band were fined £5/5/ and “their bandmasters, conductors, and players be disqualified for three years…” (“CONTROL OF BANDS.,” 1923).  Additionally, Mr. James Scarff (Adjudicator) who was registered with the Malvern Tramways Band and Mr. Ivan Hutchinson (Official) of the Footscray Municipal Band were also fined “and disqualified from membership of any associated band for three years…” (“CONTROL OF BANDS.,” 1923).

This action by the V.B.A. obviously did not sit well with the V.B.L. or any of the bands that participated in this contest and a few days later Mr. Henry Hellinger, Bandmaster and Conductor of the Preston Citizens’ Band wrote a scathing letter to the Herald newspaper regarding this punitive action by the V.B.A. – he was not impressed as shown by the middle paragraph of his letter.

In the first place, both of these bands are members of the Victorian Band League, and as such, the interference in their private business by any other association becomes a piece of intolerant impertinence.  The Victorian Band League, in organising this contest, open only to members of the Band League, have done something that the so-called Victorian Band Association has never done during its existence.  Furthermore, the V.B.A. has never organised a contest.  Its headquarters are in a country centre, and it can never be a great success, as the bands connected with it have no direct representation no matter what part of the State the band hails from. 

(Hellinger, 1923)

The V.B.L. also acted against the V.B.A. in the form of a resolution which was carried in their June meeting.

At the last meeting of the Victorian Band League a resolution was carried as under: – “That in view of the drastic, and also unconstitutional attitude adopted by the Victorian Band Association with regard to bands and officials who took part in our recent contest held at South Melbourne in future no band affiliated with the Victorian Band League will take part or assist in any way any performance, & c., or assist or organised by any band affiliated with the Victorian Band Association.

(“A BANDS DISPUTE.,” 1923)

The animosity displayed by both associations was hardly conductive to the good administration of bands in Victoria.  It might be fair to say that neither association helped themselves here and festering problems did not seem to go away. Early in 1924 it was reported that band secretaries and band members complained that the V.B.A. was not treating competitors at Ballarat and elsewhere fairly and that there was a “movement to reorganise the Victorian Band League.”  – of which a special meeting was called of metropolitan bands (“BANDSMEN’S DISCORD,” 1924).

Later in 1924, a much more serious issue occupied a meeting of the V.B.A. in Ballarat when a number of Melbourne based bands wanted to set up a branch of the V.B.A. in Melbourne with the power to conduct the affairs of the V.B.A. as they saw fit (“METROPOLITAN BANDS’ PROPOSAL,” 1924).  It seems that the bands listed in this move were not affiliated with the first Victorian Bands’ League, but they did express similar issues and complaints.  Now, the V.B.A. was up against the metropolitan bands on two fronts.

A proposal from a number of Metropolitan bands that they should be allowed to form a branch of the Victorian Band Association in Melbourne, which came before the association at its meeting last night, was viewed with suspicion by many of the delegates, who saw in it an attempt to shift the centre of government to the metropolis. The subject was debated at considerable length.

The president (Mr E. Ballhausen) reported that Messrs Frank Johnston (Collingwood bandmaster), Ben J. Warr and Hanson had waited on the executive of the association, with a view to having steps taken to form a branch of the association in Melbourne.  The secretary read letters in support of this request from the Kingsville-Yarraville, Footscray, Coburg, Prahran City, Hawthorn City, Turner’s Brunswick, Collingwood, St. Vincent de Paul, Brunswick City, St Kilda City, Newport Workshops, Malvern Tramways and Richmond District Bands. It was suggested by a committee of the bands interested that the branch should be known as the Metropolitan branch of the Victorian Band Association, the branch to consist of all bands within a radius of 25 miles of the G.P.O., Melbourne affiliated with the V.B.A.; the branch to have power to conduct all association business of the branch  according to the constitution and rules of the association.

(“METROPOLITAN BANDS’ PROPOSAL,” 1924)

Some of the delegates at the meeting were suspicious of the metropolitan bands’ intentions.  A Mr. Hewett of the Soldiers’ Band was quoted as saying, 

…the move was only the thin edge of the wedge to shift the headquarters of the association to Melbourne.  Some of the bands concerned were sympathetic with the Metropolitan Band League.  

(“METROPOLITAN BANDS PROPOSAL,” 1924)

Well-might the V.B.A. be annoyed at repeated requests by the metropolitan bands to run themselves and move the headquarters, but the V.B.A. still held sway over the administration of bands in Victoria.  Harking back to the events of 1923, the V.B.A. saw fit to rectify some decisions relating to the South Melbourne contest at their July meeting.

“The following disqualifications were removed and the players given permission to play with bands as follows: – Ivan Hutchinson (Footscray City); F. L. Ellis (Malvern Tramways); Theo. Parrell (Brunswick City).  These three players were formerly members of the Socialist Party Band, which was disqualified for playing at  Victorian Band League contest.”

(“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION,” 1924)

As can be seen in these years of the 1920s, there were attempts to move the headquarters of the Victorian Band movement from Ballarat to Melbourne, but these repeated attempts were thwarted by the V.B.A.  The ideal aim of each association was to foster cooperation to further the aims of banding, as well as competition, however none of the associations behaved in an admirable fashion.  The political infighting can only be described as difficult, along with a whole host of other words.  What is interesting is the inherent divide between metropolitan and country bands with the metropolitan bands, of which were mostly “A” grade and powerful, trying to exert influence over the direction of the V.B.A.  Perhaps the V.B.A. was ill-prepared to deal with another attempt, as will be seen in the early 1930s.

1930 – 1935: Changeover – the second V.B.L.:

The early 1930’s saw the greatest upheaval in the governing structure of Victorian bands with another formation of the V.B.L. and the demise of the V.B.A.  The Royal South Street Society had worked closely with the V.B.A. for many years, and in the early years of the V.B.A. other State band associations had affiliated with the them (“BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1902; “BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1904; Royal South Street Society, 2016).  The coming years would highlight just how fickle this support for the V.B.A. would become as the latest iteration of the V.B.L. rapidly established itself.

In 1930 the V.B.A. was still holding a regular schedule of meetings in Ballarat attended by delegates representing bands from across the State.  An article published in The Age newspaper makes mention of a proposal to divide the Victorian band movement into districts administered by the V.B.A. (“VICTORIAN BANDS.,” 1930).  This proposal was to be discussed at the next V.B.A. State conference but there is no indication as to whether this proposal was enacted.

The Age, 18/03/1930, p. 11

Just over a year later in April 1931, news broke of a new organisation to be formed called the Victorian Bands’ League.  This new league was to be formed by many metropolitan bands who were agitating to have the headquarters of the Victorian band movement in Melbourne.  The Argus newspaper was one of the first to break the news and reported on the meeting and listed all the metropolitan bands who that sent representatives.

At a meeting attended by representatives of 28 metropolitan bands last night, it is decided that a new organisation to be known as the Victorian Bands’ League should be formed.  Delegates from Collingwood Citizens, Malvern Tramways, Brunswick City, Coburg City, Prahran City, Richmond City, Footscray City, Essendon Citizens, Heidelberg Municipal, Mentone Citizens, Fitzroy Municipal, Jolimont Workshops, St Kilda City, Kew District, Northcote Citizens, Williamstown City, Sunshine District, Caulfield District, Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Ringwood bands stated that those bands would join the new league.  Delegates from the Hawthorn City, Kingsville and Yarraville, St. Vincent de Paul’s, Oakleigh City, Kensington, Preston City, Returned Soldiers and Reservoir bands state that the subject would be discussed officially by the committees.  It is understood however that within the next few days these bands will signify their intention to associate themselves with the new league.

(“VICTORIAN BANDS LEAGUE.,” 1931)

A subsequent meeting of the V.B.A. in May 1931 acknowledged the formation of the new league, but was buoyed by the support of band associations from Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania (“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1931).  The official decision of this V.B.A. meeting was to treat the new league with “indifference” (“INTERSTATE BANDS TURN DOWN NEW LEAGUE,” 1931).

The V.B.L., in a proactive move, sent its officers into country areas to meet with district bands.  In June they headed to the Goulburn Valley region and met with representatives from the Shepparton, Kyabram and other bands and in July travelled to Bendigo to attend a conference of Bendigo bands (“NEW BAND LEAGUE.,” 1931; “VICTORIAN BANDS,” 1931).  The V.B.L. had simple, but effective messages for these country networks; that the VBA wasn’t functioning properly for Victorian banding and the VBL wanted to set up district associations and competitions.  The result of these meetings was that the Goulburn Valley bands were enthused by the new league and apparently bands attending the Bendigo conference promised that they would affiliate with the V.B.L. 

In August, the V.B.L .had its first substantial endorsement when S.A.B.A. broke away from its affiliation with the V.B.A. and decided to endorse the V.B.L. (“CONTROL OF BRASS BANDS,” 1931).  It’s interesting to note that only a few months earlier in May, S.A.B.A. had apparently indicated that it still supported the V.B.A.

The V.B.L. showed off its strength in September 1931 when it organised a massed bands event held at the M.C.G.  The Sporting Globe newspaper published an article highlighting how this event was to be undertaken.

Under the auspices of the newly-formed Victorian Bands’ League, a concert will be given at the Melbourne Cricket Ground tomorrow by 30 massed bands, which will march through the city, starting at 2.15.

An interesting feature will be the presence of bands from Mildura, Warracknabeal, Warrnambool, Yallourn, Trafalgar and Korumburra, which are paying their own travelling expenses to Melbourne.

Not for many years has such a gathering of bandsmen been held in Melbourne.  More than 700 bandsmen will take part in the recital of which a Fox Movie-Tone film will be taken.  

(“Bands League,” 1931)

In October the V.B.L. gained the affiliation of the South Street Society who were going to resume band competitions in 1932 under the auspices of the V.B.L. (“VICTORIAN BANDS’ LEAGUE.,” 1931).

Obviously the VBL had been busy since it was formed in April and such expansion and activity had not gone unnoticed by the V.B.A., of which had initially shown indifference to the VBL.  At a Ballarat conference called by the V.B.A. in November and attended by representatives of fourteen bands, consideration was given to the developments of the new league, however the V.B.A. did not consider it to be a real threat to its survival (“BAND CONFERENCE.,” 1931).  A final resolution of the meeting was “to wait upon the mayor and councillors of Ballarat and the South street society with the object of bringing about unity in the band movement, the governing centre to be in Ballarat” (“BAND CONFERENCE.,” 1931).

Coming into 1932 with the VBL firmly entrenched in the Victorian band movement and the V.B.A. fighting for survival, there was no slowing in the activities of the V.B.L.  In January the V.B.L. staged another massed band event at the M.C.G.  This event was reported on by a newspaper from Tasmania of which praised the V.B.L. for its initiative, and lambasted the V.B.A. for “failing to co-operate new League” (“Victorian Bands,” 1932).   The V.B.A. in the meantime continued to hold meetings of its remaining affiliated bands and tried to emphasise that their best interests did not lie in the V.B.L. with its perceived “centralisation movement” (“COUNTRY BANDS’ WELFARE.,” 1932).  By August the V.B.A. had lost the affiliation of the two Ballarat bands which were forced to affiliate with the V.B.L. due to the South Street Society band competition being run by the VBL (“SOUTH-ST. BAND CONTEST.,” 1932).

In 1933 we see the last meetings, and demise of the V.B.A. with reports noting the affiliation of most other State band organisations with the V.B.L. (“BAND UNITY MOVE,” 1933).  At a final meeting in July 1933, the V.B.A. reports that it “will shortly consider its future policy” and that “since April, the association has not received any registrations of bands” (“VICTORIAN BAND ASSOCIATION.,” 1933).  After these articles, there are no other reports on the activities of the V.B.A. with reports on banding activities focused on the V.B.L.

19330705_TheAge_VBA-Future
The Age, 5/07/1933, pg. 14

We can see in this picture of another massed bands’ event published in The Age newspaper, and from a pamphlet published by the VBL just how big these events are.  The V.B.L. had come unto its own. 

The Age, 25/09/1933, p. 13
Pamphlet: Victorian Bands’ League: Massed Bands’ Recital (source: Victorian Collections: Victorian Bands’ League)

Conclusion:

Such was the state of the Victorian band movement over a period of just over 30 years.  This was not just a story on the V.B.A. and the V.B.L., it is a story on the loyalties of the band movement, and the politics.  The repeated actions of the metropolitan bands, although questionable at times, eventually brought unity to the movement and a new energy.  Perhaps the V.B.A. did not have that same drive or had become too complacent with belief in its own longevity.  There are probably many questions still to be asked and hopefully, further details will come to light.

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Victorian Bands’ League. (1933). Massed Bands’ Recital : In Aid of the Lord Mayor’s Fund for Metropolitan Hostpitals and Children [Flyer/Pamphlet/Programme]. Victorian Collections, Victorian Bands’ League. https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/5b6a683c21ea691478cf383e

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