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History of the City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band

A brief history, with pictures, of this Australian brass band.
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BRIEF HISTORY

The beautiful, historic city of Ballarat, is nestled in the picturesque Central Highlands of Victoria, Australia.

Ballarat was founded in the heady days during the 1850's when large deposits of gold were discovered. Many of these gold-rush towns no longer exist but Ballarat steadily grew into a well-established leafy, garden city situated on the banks of beautiful, placid Lake Wendouree (1956 Olympic Games rowing site). Due to its close proximity to Melbourne (one hours drive by freeway) Ballarat's population is rapidly increasing and now currently numbers approximately 90,000.

In the 19th century, the lure of riches attracted a steady stream of people from all over the world and so in 1885 Thomas Bulch a 22 years old Englishman, left the UK seeking a new life in far-away Ballarat, Australia. Thomas was very musical and had already held the position of Bandmaster of an English band. Bulch's first march 'The Typhoon' was composed when he was 17, the first of many band and other compositions.

By 1886, Thomas had formed a band in Ballarat from musician friends which was called Bulch's Model Brass Band. Bulch quickly became a leading light in the local band scene and was partly responsible for initiating the South Street Band Contest, which was the first brass band competition in Australia.

Late in 1900, as the move away from private bands intensified, Bulch's Model Brass Band became known as the City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band. This is still the band's name in 2006 and, while the band has experienced fluctuating fortunes, unlike many bands over the years, the City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band is proud it has never amalgamated with any other band in order to survive.

The band has, at times, been ranked amongst the best in Australia particularly in the first half of the 1950's. At one stage the band was considered by some astute observers to possess one of the finest cornet benches in Australia. Players such as Percy Code, Frank Wright, Jack Allan and Alf Rowell were just some of extremely gifted players who graced the ranks of the band.

It is worth noting the extraordinary achievement of three players; Percy Code, Jack Allan and Jack Zilles (champion soprano cornet player) who were awarded a perfect score (100) in solo competitions from adjudicators, one being the famous J Orde Hume.

The City of Ballarat Municipal Band is no longer numbered among the top echelon of Australian bands however, it still maintains excellent numbers and is very active within the local community and a regular participator in regional and state level band contests.

With members spanning all age groups, the band looks toward the future with great confidence.




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Champion band of Australia 1909 - W. Partington, BandMaster
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Percy Code - composer, champion cornet player and Bandmaster 1913-21
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Band during the leadership of Percy Code
 
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Frank Wright (left front) and Percy Code (right front), two of the then finest cornet players in Australia, are shown with C. Sheehan (euph) and E. Jones (horn) in this City of Ballarat Band quartette
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Preparing for Quickstep competition 1922
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Being inspected at Quickstep Competition, City Oval, 1922
 
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Band in 1927
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Band in Adelaide - 1928
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Thomas Bulch, B/M Bulch's Model Band - the parent of the City of Ballarat Band
 
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1931 - A cricket team formed from band members
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1932- Band competing in a quick-step march competition
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1935- Jack Allan - one of the best Bb cornet players in Australia during the 1930's - 1940's. During this period Jack won many solo contests, including the Australian Championship
 
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1938 - under the baton of Frank Rowell
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Anzac Day 1947
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Band marching in the 1949 quickstep march competition
 
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1950 - Winner 'A' Grade South Street Competition
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Band winning 1950 'A' Grade quick-step competition
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"A" Grade Champions in 1953
 
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1970 - Winners 'B' Grade
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1973 - An open rehearsal in the recently opened bandroom
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1990 - Winner of "B" Grade winter competition
 
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1990 - City of Ballarat Training Band under the astute leadership of Brenda Beck (an American who emigrated to Australia and still plays in the senior band)
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1997 - Group of City band members dressed up as a period brass band in the film The getting of wisdom. This group played the march 'The New Colonial'
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Prior to participating in the 2000 Bendigo Band Competition under the leadership of Bob Pattie
 
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2004 - Bob Pattie M.D.
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2005 - Band on parade at Mount Gambier (South Australia)
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Playing Christmas music to the aged residents in the beautiful surrounds of Nazareth House, Ballarat
 
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Brian Milkins (on left), Musical Director, City of Ballarat Municipal Band (2nd place) listens to the response of the winner during the presentation of awards at the conclusion of the Mt Gambier (South Australia) band contest
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Hugh McKelvey playing 'The Actrobat' with the band in Bridge Mall, Ballarat
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I just wish they would play my type of music - Bach!
 
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A member of the trombone section trying to convince Santa he had been a good boy during the year
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One of our percussionists concentrating on a few hard bars
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Bob and Jim having take a rest in the gardens after blowing for most of the morning
 
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Hard at it during rehearsal
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Bound for South Australia
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Participating in Christmas Parade 2005
 
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Chris our flugelhorn player also doubles up as our coach driver


From the photographs it can be seen the band did not use music over many years when competing in marching competitions. Difficult marches such as Scindian, The Arabian, The Cossack etc. were some of the marches the band played. During the first half of the 1950's, the band was considered to be the level of any marching band in Australia. Also note the size of the crowds who used to assemble to view these prestigious events.


For any further information please contact Brian Milkins, on bmilkins@westnet.com.au.








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