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A Selected Chronology of 19th Century Canadian Band Activities

This material is from a commissioned study carried out for Upper Canada Village by Dr Henry Meredith. It gives part of a picture of the North American Brass Band developments, the names and types of bands, their activities, etc.

1820Possibly the first civilian band in Canada was established at Hope (Sharon, Ontario) by David Willson's Children of Peace sect.
1822The West York Militia Band played at the Orange celebrations of July 12th in Toronto.
1831The first Canadian militia band was formed in Quebec City by Jean-Chrysostome Brauneis who came over with the British 70th Regiment Band c. 1814, but resigned in 1818 to pursue a career as a music teacher and musical instrument dealer in Quebec. His new band, attached to the Regiment d'Artillerie, disbanded following his death six months later.
1832The British 34th Regiment Band in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Harbour Grace was the first town in Newfoundland to boast its own civilian band.
1833The earliest school instrumental ensemble in Canada took shape at the Petit Seminaire de Quebec under the guidance of Adam Schott, a British Bandmaster stationed in Quebec City. The Societe Sainte-Cecile, as the band was called from 1869, existed without interruption until 1967.
1837An amateur band in Hamilton, Ontario, received permission from the Police Board to rehearse weekly. A fife and drum band, organized by the First Artillery Company of the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia Militia, eventually became the Lunenburg Citizens' Band (which survived until 1974). In Saint John, New Brunswick, a former regimental bandmaster named Weisbecker led a sacred Music Society organized in opposition to St. Andrew's Presbyterian Kirk's supression of music.
1840Joseph Maffre' was bandmaster of the 71st Highland Light Infantry Band
1842A Bytown Amateur Band was active in Ottawa (called Bytown, after Colonel John By, supervisor of the Rideau Canal construction, from c. 1826 until its incorporation in 1855). Father Kyran Walsh formed a Total Abstinence Band in St. John's, Newfoundland.
1843On January 6th, a garrison band and two amateur bands marched in a temperance parade in St. John's. The Royal Newfoundland Companies Band performed at Temperance Festivals for the Church of England Total Abstinence Society.
1844Concert was presented in Fredericton by the 33rd Regiment Band
1845The Toronto Philharmonic Society made its debut December 26th, and continued for two seasons with the help of the 81st Regimental Band under T.C. Crozier.
1846The Temperance Band (Montreal) was the first to appear in the parade of the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montreal (reorganized in 1843). Other bands soon joined the annual activities: in 1847 the band of the College de Montreal; in 1850 the band of the College de Ste-Marie; Joseph Maffre's Band in 1851; the Chasseurs Canadiens and the Christian Brothers' Band in 1868; the Bande de la Cite, the St-Henri band, and the Ogdensburg, New York band in 1877; and bands of Longueuil, Maisonneuve, and St-Vincent-de-Paul, and the Shamrocks in 1879.
1847A Temperance Society Band was formed in Bytown (Ottawa). In Quebec City, the Societe harmonique de Quebec was reestablished by recruiting bandsmen from English regimental bands garrisoned there to join the best amateurs in the city.
1849In Guelph, Ontario, Sunley's Brass Band gave public concerts. Records pertaining to Strathroy, Ontario mention a town band in existence in 1849. Harbour Grace, Newfoundland had its own Total Abstinence Band by 1849.
1850First band in Stratford, Ontario, formed when the town's population was less than 1000. The Charlottetown Brass Band and the Sons of Temperance Band were active in the capital of Prince Edward Island. One of the first bands in the Kitchener-Waterloo region was the Berlin Band under a Mr. Kelk.
1851A Sons of Temperance Band was founded in Hamilton, Ontario.
1852A band concert presented in Toronto for the benefit of black fugitives from the U.S.
1856Under the direction of Peter Grossman (d. 1901), a music and instrument dealer in Hamilton, the Sons of Temperance Band was reorganized and attached to the Independent Artillery Militia Company. Dyson's Cornet Band (Guelph, Ontario) was founded.
1857Wind instrument players from the Royal Canadian Rifles Band participated in Toronto's first complete performance of Handel's Messiah, which was repeated twice in 1858. Henry Prince -- a Montreal music dealer (until 1888?), composer, "fine talent on a cornet-a-piston," and bandmaster of note -- led the Volunteer Militia Rifles Band and played a cornet solo at a "Grand Military Concert" in Montreal on 17 September 1857. David Bennett, "the Sousa of Newfoundland," was appointed band instructor for the St. John's Total Abstinence and Total Benefit Society, which he then directed for 20 years. He later served as bandmaster of the Queen's Own Rifle Volunteers and of several other bands, sometimes referred to as Bennett's Band, Professor Bennett's Band [he did teach music at St.Bonaventure's College], or Bennett's Quadrille Band. His groups performed for many significant occasions during his career of more than 50 years, often playing his own compositions.
1858One of the earliest established in London, Ontario -- the Phoenix Fire Company Band
1859The Berlin Music Band was organized by Heinrich Glebe in Berlin (after 1916, Kitchener), Ontario. In 1863, the group received a $100 grant from the town council. The London, Ontario Artillery Band was formed about 1859 and was subsequently organized into a brigade band for the whole volunteer force of the city.
186030th Battalion Band was formed in Guelph. The St. Catharines Brass Band was founded.
1861Calixa Lavallee (1842-1891), composer in 1880 of "O Canada," enlisted as a "Musician, first class" in the 4th Rhode Island Regiment, soon becoming its principal cornetist. He fought in the U.S. Civil War, was wounded in the leg in the Battle of Antietam and subsequently discharged in the fall of 1862. Early in 1864, he was back in Canada, teaching and giving concerts as a virtuoso pianist, violinist, and cornetist.
1862The Queen's Own Rifles Band, a volunteer militia band still active today, was established in Toronto under the direction of Adam Maul. Other early directors included William Carey (1875-1879) and John Bayley (1879-1901), and the young Herbert L. Clarke was its cornet soloist from 1886 to c. 1891.
1863The 10th Battalion Volunteer Militia Band received its first set of instruments and began operations. It has been known successively (according to the name changes adopted by the regiment) as the band of the 10th Battalion Royal Grenadiers (1881-1900), of the 10th Regiment Royal Grenadiers (1900-1920), of the Royal Grenadiers (1920-1936), of the Royal Regiment of Toronto Grenadiers (1936-1939), and finally of the Royal Regiment of Canada Band (1939- ). The Lincoln and Welland Regimental Band was formed and gave regular concerts in St. Catharines, for the next 80 years.
1864In Victoria, British Columbia, the Victoria Musical Society was established by amalgamating two brass bands.
1865The Berlin Musical Society was established from the merger of the Berlin Music Band and Kaiser's own band. The group was selected as the band of the 29th Waterloo Battalion of Infantry. In 1878, under Noah Zeller, it boasted 22 musicians including a Quadrille Band of 6. An engagement in Toronto prompted this review: "Of all the bands which visit Toronto, except professional bands, it is the best." In London, Ontario the 7th London Fusiliers Band attained an excellent reputation.
1867The Forest Brass Band (Forest, Ontario) was engaged to play at the Dominion Day picnic at Strathroy, Ontario.
1868The Freeman Family Band, a sextet of 2 cornets, alto horn, tenor horn, over-the-shoulder bass tuba, and bass drum played by the parents and 4 children (2 girls, 2 boys) from one family, was active in the Dundas, Ontario region.
1870North of Toronto (just west of Sharon, Ontario), the Newmaket Citizens' Band was established in the 1870s and is still active today. The Bell Family Band was active in Strathroy, Ontario, in the 1870s.
1872Based on the personnel of the Ottawa Brigade Artillery Band, the Governor General's Foot Guards Band made its debut on June 15.
1874Edmond Hardy founded the Montreal Concert Band (Harmonie de Montreal). Winnipeg had an active City Band, the Rosebank Band was formed, interested citizens organized the Peterborough Citizen Band.
1876The Sharon Silver Band reportedly won a first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Joseph Vezina founded the Beauport Concert Band (Harmonie de Notre Dame de Beauport), which placed first in a national competition held in Montreal two years later. The first band of the North West Mounted Police was formed at Swan River, Manitoba. Their instruments were paid for by the 20 members themselves and shipped from Winnipeg by dog-team. The band's debut on Queen Victoria's birthday (May 24) was conducted by Sergeant-Major Thomas Horatio Lake. Seven additional RCMP bands existed in various locations during the first 30 years of the force's history. A new band was organized in Strathroy, Ontario, and it presented concerts twice a month at Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan. Known as the 26th Highland Band on military parades, it was called the Citizens Band when it performed at home. Moses White led the Moncton (New Brunswick) Citizens' Concert Band.
1877The first Canadian band festival occurred in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario. The Belleville (Ontario) Band imported a "quartet" of saxophones (SATB) from a manufacturer in Paris, France. Competing with bands from all of Michigan and Ontario at a three- day tatoo in Port Huron, the Strathroy Band took second prize.
1879The concert band Societe Philharmonique was founded in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec. In Sarnia, Ontario, A.A. Clappe, also bandmaster of the 27th Battalion Band, became conductor of the Sarnia Citizens' Band until he left for the USA in 1884. One of several Indian brass bands formed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was established in 1879 at the Tsimshian settlement of Metlakatla by pioneer lay missionary William Duncan, who picked up a set of instruments in San Francisco and encouraged a German bandmaster from Victoria to serve as instructor. A southwestern Ontario group, the Walpole Island Indian Band, was also active around this time.
1880The historic premiere of Calixa Lavallee's "O Canada", which Joseph Vezina added as a finale to his own composition for choir and band, Mosaique sur des Airs Canadiens, at a gala performance given by massed bands (from Quebec City, Beauport, and Fall River, Massachusetts) on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24). The Guelph City Band was founded (becoming the Guelph Musical Society Band in 1898).
1882The Waterloo Musical Society Band was founded by Noah Zeller. The civic band participated in many competitions in the 1880s, winning nine prizes in a single year. Harmonie de Sherbrooke (Quebec) was formed.
1883Harmonie de Montreal performed in Boston at a Foreign Exhibition. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Band, an outstanding volunteer militia band, was founded and is still active. The Peterborough Citizen Band was first prize winner at the Toronto Exhibition.
1884The Forest Excelsior Band was founded (Forest, Ontario), one of the oldest continuing civilian bands in Canada. The Brampton (Ontario) Mechanics Band (becoming the Brampton Citizens' Band in 1903) was established. The Regina (Sakatchewan) Brass Band was formed, possessing 14 instruments by 1886.
1885The Calgary (Alberta) Brass Band, the town's first civilian band, was organized. Sponsored by the Odd Fellows, it existed until 1890, when it gave its instruments, music, and uniforms to the new Calgary Fire Brigade Band. A competition sponsored by the Waterloo Music Society attracted 16 bands. Thomas Claxton (1837-1923), a Toronto music and instrument dealer, established Claxton's Celebrated Orchestra (highly regarded by H.L. Clarke, who played in it 1887-1888) and Claxton's Military Band. A photograph of the smartly uniformed, 12-piece St. John's British Society Band is dated 1885 and indicates that this was one of many civilian groups active simultaneously in Newfoundland during this period.
1886At Calgary, Fred A. Bagley founded the North West Mounted Police "E" Division Band, performing on special occasions at the Banff Springs Hotel (opened 1888).
1887The Calgary Salvation Army Band was established. The Tera Nova Constabulary Band existed in Newfoundland at the end of the century.
1888Patrick Gilmore's Grand Boston Band visited London, Ontario. The Ailsa Craig Brass Band sponsored a Grand Concert at the Ailsa Craig, Ontario town Hall on February 27. The newly formed Taylor Safe Works Band in Toronto engaged rising cornet virtuoso, Herbert L. Clarke (then only 21 years old), to instruct and conduct their group.
1889The first Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army was formed in Toronto.
1890The newly established Calgary Fire Brigade Band was presented with all the instruments, music, and uniforms of the disbanding Calgary Brass Band. The Heintzman Piano Company Band, having established a reputation in Toronto during the 1880s under Thomas Baugh, secured the services (until 1892) of cornetist/bandmaster Herbert L. Clarke as his replacement. The Peterborough Fire Brigade Band was established. The Haliburton Citizens' Band played in the Town Hall, at the Agricultural Fair, and for other special occasions. The Bandsman (The Canadian-American Bandsman), a newspaper "published every month" in Burford, Ontario, emerged and provided sample marches (lead cornet parts) for sale, a "Catalogue of Our Band Music," a news column "Among the Bands" which listed want ads for second-hand uniforms and used instruments for sale, and agricultural news and articles and stories of general interest. The extensive History of the County of Middlesex (published in 1889), reports that "At the present time there are also three other excellent bands here [in London], viz, the London South or Foresters' Band, Mr. Kettlewell, leader; the Forest City (colored) Band, led by Mr. Ions; the Salvation Army and several string bands."
1892The 18-piece Claremont "B" Band was active in the early 1890s in the small village east of Toronto. "The band at Dutton, Ont., wants to buy a set of good second-hand band coats. Bands having such for sale will please write immediately to B.J. Schultz, Dutton.
1893The Strathroy Reed and Brass Band was formed and competed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1894.
1897In London, Ontario, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations (marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne) included the city's largest parade, with several bands participating. Among these were the 7th Battalion Band, the 27th Battalion Band, the 33rd Battalion Band, The Musical Society's Band, the Fife and Drum Band, and the 26th Battalion Band. Moncton, N.B.-- three local bands performed for the visit of governor-general Lord Aberdeen -- the Citizens' Band, the Orange Band (called the Loyal Protestant Band after 1907), and the band of the 74th Battalion.
1900The Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band was established with a nucleus of Italian immigrant workers at the tannery in Huntsville, Ontario by the plant's owner, Charles Orlando Shaw, a wealthy amateur cornetist who provided rehearsal space, instruments, uniforms, and music, and had a bandstand built. Vincent Grosso was the first conductor, followed by George Simmons of Bracebridge, until 1918, when Shaw, taking lessons from Herbert L. Clarke in Chicago, persuaded the well-known cornetist to become the director of the band (which he did for 5 years). Clarke recruited a number of musicians who took regular jobs with the Anglo-Canadian Leather Co. as clerks, machinists, electricians, etc., received a bonus salary, and were provided with housing.



Other Canadian bands active during the late nineteenth century, according to photographs in the author's and other collections which may be undated or which seem to indicate some prior history of the band, include: Goderich, Ontario Band, c. 1880s, with 15 members; Grimsby Independent Band; Petrolia Cornet Band; The Brandon City Orange Band; The Winnipeg Free Press Boys Band, a company sponsored youth group; The Preston Silver Band of Preston, Ontario near Cambridge;