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After 140 years, band searches for home

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By Teresa Latchford at THE ERA Sunday June 24, 2012
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Band member. Ken Wright has been a member of the Newmarket Citizens Band, which turns 140 this year, since 2005. By Susie Kockerscheidt
Ken Wright has been a member of the Newmarket Citizens Band, which turns 140 this year, since 2005.
The Newmarket Citizens Band is 140 years old and homeless.

The concert band plans to celebrate nearly a century and a half of music despite not having a permanent home, past-president Sally Leedham said.

The band lost its permanent practice space in 2005 when the Lion’s hall burnt to the ground, causing the band to bounce between three venues: Sir William Mulock Secondary School, the Newmarket Curling Club and York Region administrative building.
“Because of our size, we find it very cramped in some of these spaces,” Ms Leedham said. “If the venue gets booked, it’s frustrating because we then don’t have anywhere to practise.”

Finding a suitable location is difficult because the band also wants to make sure it doesn’t disturb others in the same venue with noise.

The band also continues to expand, gaining new members from Newmarket, Aurora and elsewhere.

Band organizers fear the lack of a permanent venue to call home may deter new members from joining.

The band was one of the community groups contacted during the consultation process for old town hall. The town has offered the band practice and storage space in the building. The problem is the band will have to get through another two years before the project is complete.

“Nevertheless, we are looking forward to celebrating another 50 years of music,” Ms Leedham said.

The money needed to start a local band in 1872, $319, was raised by circulating a petition through the business community. The initiative was led by fur trader William Roe’s three sons.

The concert band competed in the Waterloo music festival and at the Canadian National Exhibition during the 1950s and ’60s.

Goodbye Sousa, a documentary released by the National Film Board in 1973, featured the band, which, today, has more than 60 members.

The organization remains one of the few community bands whose members still march while they play and its performances continue to be in high demand at area events.

The band participates in parades, concerts and competitions throughout the year, taking pride in knowing generations have been involved.

The band survives through the support of a town grant and member subscriptions.

Many of the instruments are owned by members, but the band still owns a few.

The band will play its annual Newmarket Canada Day fireworks concert at George Richardson Park July 1 and a 140 years of music concert Sept. 30.

• Have a memory involving the Newmarket Citizens Band? Send it to tlatchford@yrmg.com

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