By Elaine Moyle Era staff report
NEWMARKET - For 33 years, Bill Greig's stance at the conductor's podium has been a familiar and reassuring night for members of The Newmarket Citizens Band.
It's not surprising that last night's announcement stating that the 78 year old conductor is retiring from the band came as something of a shock to band members and those attending a band concert hosted by the Newmarket Historical Society. The event was held at Trinity United Church.
Mr. Greig is leaving the band to pursue other interests.
"I figured it's been a long time." the conductor told the Era. "I'm quite active with the Newmarket Lawn Bowling Club (he is president) and the indoor lawn bowling club"
A musician for 67 years, Mr. Greig joined a band in his native Scotland when he was 22 years.
"I was promoted to solo coronet (trumpet) player when I was 16" he says with a gentle Scottish accent. "I played for two years and then moved to Glasgow."
He pursued his love of music in the Scottish city by playing with The Dunbarton Band and participated in a number of tours throughout the British Isles.
Before coming to Canada in 1930, the young musician played in other bands including the Ayr Symphony'
"I joined the Newmarket Band the same year that I arrived." he recalled "I've been in it ever since."
The trumpet player was made conductor in 1948 and under his skillful leadership, the Newmarket Citizen's Band received a number of prestigious awards.
"We brought home quite a few prizes to Newmarket from the CNE and the Waterloo Society Festival" he said. "I was musical director of the Lions Club Minstrel Show in the early 1960's."
The highlight of his career, he says was receiving Newmarket's Citizen of the Year Award last fall During his 51 year term with the Citizen's Band, Mr. Greig has seen a great number of changes.
"There are only still two members remaining in the band since the time I started." he said. "When I arrived there were 18 or 19 band members - today there's 40."
The enrolment of women into the band was rather revolutionary during its time.
"There were no girls in the band when I began." he said "Now there's quite a few ladies."
The band's repertoire of Broadway show tunes and traditional band pieces is also changing to include a few modern tunes. Despite this concession the band leader has a few reservations.
"When the band plays band music they make a better job of it." he said. "They should have leave contemporary music to contemporary bands."
Mr Greig's achievements as band leader have not gone unnoticed by his cohorts.
"I've always liked the way he's conducted." said fellow musician Austin Brammar who has played with the Citizen's Band for 55 years. "He's always been very good."
"He's been a very dedicated member of the band ever since he began. As far as I know he's never missed a rehearsal or a concert (without just cause)." he added.
Eugene McCaffrey, a former clarinet and saxophone player with the band describes Mr. Greig's conducting talent as "one of the finest in Ontario." He recalled a 1940's concert in Waterloo which a music professor remarked that Mr. Greig "could be one of the finest band masters in Canada."