By L.G. Jackson the Editor of the ERA and member of Citizens Band
This caption reminds us of many things the present generation knows nothing about. As long as I can remember Newmarket had a Brass Band.
The first Band was organized about 1850 by Thomas Bishop, who was the first leader and wrote all the music that the band used, arranging for each instrument.
The only other Band in this section at the time was the Sharon Band, which was the first Band in Upper Canada, the instruments being imported direct from Boston and the horns were all silver.
Newmarket Band was very popular in the fifties and had many engagements for picnics. One of the troubles they has was this: there was no vehicle large enough to carry them all, so they proposed to build a Band Wagon big enough for that purpose.
The ladies of the village held a concert with local talent and presented the entire proceeds to the Band for the proposed Band Wagon. The Band then proposed to use the money in the purchase of materials and build the wagon themselves with the assistance of proffered help from mechanics of various trades. Various drafts were made and the idea was suggested of constructing a Band Chariot similar to that used by a traveling circus. Nothing daunted, the Chariot was built and guided by gratuitous labor and when completed was the admiration of the whole countryside.
In the summer evenings the Band was driven through the streets of the village and hailed with great delight. The writer was one of the crowd of little boys who followed the Chariot wherever it went, with Jack Mosier holding the reins of the double span of horses and his brother, Lon Mosier beating the big drum which was suspended outside of the chariot on two substantial iron hoops at the rear.
One of the big days for this Band was the annual temperance picnic at Kettleby which was a great event and drew immense crowds. As the Band serenaded the homes as they passed along the route, nobody, young and old, could resist the temptation to follow.
I remember the occasion in the Mechanics' Hall when during a Band Concert, Dr. J. J. Hunter presented the Band with a beautiful blue silk Banner just the right size to be carried in the Band Chariot and everybody was proud to see the chariot pass, decorated with the flag. (Wonder what became of this flag?) When Mr. Bishop died the Band was disbanded and the chariot was sold, but I never learned what became of the proceeds.
The next Town Band was organized in 1876 by Walter Roe, son of the postmaster, who was a fine pianist. He went around personally with a subscription list and secured sufficient funds to purchase a set of 12 instruments. He also selected a dozen young men of musical talent who promised to become members with a fee of $5 each. I happened to become one of them and was secretary-treasurer for ten years or more and made all engagements for the Band. Mr. J. D. Graham of Sharon was secured as instructor. Mr. J. B. Callwell allowed the use of a room on the second floor of his paint shop for Band practice without charge. The boys found coal oil lamps sufficient for light and a stove was loaned as long as the Band wanted it.
The boys took turns as caretaker and practiced three nights a week. The instructor came every Friday night and each member of the Band paid 25 cents for the instruction.
During the summer evenings the Band played down town every Saturday night (weather permitting) and the merchants "chipped in" sufficient to buy oil, fuel and new music. After the first year the Band held a concert on St. Patrick's Night, which was always well patronized, and raised sufficient funds to pay the Instructor, buy new music and pay running expenses.
During the summer season, (weather permitting), the Band played every Friday night and gave their services free to all church organizations, on holidays or in the evenings, so long as it did not interfere with the daily toil of the members. The accidental death by drowning of Walter and Fred Roe in Lake Simcoe was a great drawback to the Band.
As the years went by the Council permitted the Band to use the Fire Hall for practice, which was lit and heated after the electric light was installed, and also build a band stand on the premises now occupied by Dr. Dales. At that time the land was vacant, the residence of Dr. Nash being destroyed by fire.
Along in those years there was great competition among Brass Bands. Aurora had two-Military and Firemen; Holland Landing, Sutton and Mount Albert each had a Band with Jack Graham as Instructor; of course the Sharon Band was still in existence; Lemonville and Stouffville on the East and Schomberg and Nobleton on the West.
When half a dozen or more of those Bands came together on election nights there was some excitement in Newmarket and Aurora.
Newmarket Band being desirous to be in lead approached the Town Council with the proposition of engaging Col. Slatter of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto as instructor and was granted $100 to assist in the expenses. This was the first grant ever made by the Council to the Town Band. Just previous to this Mr. Jas Allan was the promoter of a Grand Garden Party on the Fair Grounds for the purchase of new instruments for the Band, in which the ladies of all the churches in the Town heartily assisted, and the magnificent sum of $600 was raised, all of which was spent for the purpose proposed.
Several new members were received into the Band and under the instruction of Col. Slatter made wonderful progress.
So far as I can remember there are only two of the original second Band boys still living besides myself - Albert Roe of Toronto and Fred Raper of Meaford.
Since then the Band has had a hard struggle to exist but just now as everybody knows, the Band is on its feet again and last year won the first prize in Class B at the Waterloo Band Competition in competition with the Small Town Bands of the Province.
A Town is dead without a Band and when generous with their music our citizens are always ready to applaud and respond to their appeals.
There is no sense in the Band paying rent for a practice hall when the Fire Hall is not in use and I am sure free light and heat would be given with pleasure by the Council for the asking.
When the Pearson Park is completed the Council should build a commodious Band Stand with a circle of lights around it and put a few benches in the grounds for people to sit on.