Newmarket Citizens Band
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Deputation to the Mayor of Newmarket
June 18, 2012 by Sally Leedham
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Mr. Mayor, members of Council, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow musicians. I am here tonight to speak to you about the long history of service by the Newmarket Citizens Band to the Town of Newmarket and our pressing need for a new home.

In the 7 years since the Lions Hall burned down the band has practiced in 8 different locations and currently divides its time between Sir William Mulock Secondary School, the Newmarket Curling Club, and the York Region Administrative building. Unfortunately, due to the size of the band, our current quarters are very cramped and none offer storage space. We are concerned that without room to expand we will lose potential members to other organizations such as the band recently established in Aurora.

Although there were bands in Newmarket as early as 1843, they were relatively short-lived. The current organization was established in 1872 and has been continuously in existence ever since. This year we celebrate 140 years of music. The origins of the Band are themselves entwined with the history of Newmarket. In your own front lobby there is a sculpture depicting the Newmarket Citizens Band beneath the Trading Tree in 1883.

In 1872 two teenage sons of local entrepreneur William Roe felt that it was a travesty that a town the size of Newmarket had to send to Sharon or Aurora to obtain a band for Town events. They circulated a petition, raising $319 for the purchase of instruments and to pay for musical training. Tragically, Walter and Fred Roe would drown in Lake Simcoe just 3 years later. The Newmarket Citizens Band remains an enduring legacy to their vision.

In the early years, the Band was a primary source of entertainment for the Town. It was not unusual to hold regular concerts on the lawns of Town Councillors during the summer months. In addition, the Band went along on such expeditions as the annual Firemen’s Excursion to provide entertainment. The earliest known photograph of the Band was taken at Niagara Falls in 1883 on just such an excursion.

There was however some personal risk involved in Band membership. At a celebration for the victory at Pretoria in the Second Boer War a box of fireworks ignited prematurely resulting in minor burns to half a dozen band members and a hole in the bass drum. In the ensuing confusion only the sturdiness of a railing prevented the Band from taking an unscheduled dip in Fairy Lake.

The Band has spread the word of the talent to be found in Newmarket far and wide in its long and illustrious history. In 1973 the Newmarket Citizens Band was the subject of a National Film Board documentary entitled “Goodbye Sousa”. This film was named Best Theatrical Short at the 1973 Genie Awards and was distributed to Canadian embassies worldwide.

In addition, starting in the 1920s the Band was a frequent entrant at the CNE and Waterloo festivals and regularly took prizes. We are proud to have resurrected this tradition, first in the 1980s at the Lions Music Festival, then the Canadian Band Association Cavalcade of Winds and, in recent years, at York Region Music Alive. In 2008 we were pleased to receive an invitation to the 2009 national Musicfest, where we brought home a Gold Certificate.

In keeping with the tradition of service to the Town established from the very beginning, the Band regularly performs at area nursing homes and retirement residences, appears at events such as the Canada Day celebrations and Decoration Day, and maintains a busy concert schedule here and further afield. We are also one of the few remaining community bands to parade on foot and are kept extremely busy during the winter months providing music for the Remembrance Day parade and service together with a full slate of Santa Claus parades.

In 1961 band members were instrumental in constructing the J.O. Little Memorial Band Stand, named for a former band member and Town councillor, in the Lions Park. This structure formed the basis of what would become the Centennial Amphitheatre in 1967, and later the Lions Hall.

As I’m sure you are aware, the band suffered a tremendous blow in 2005 when the Lions Hall was destroyed by fire. The band is in pressing need of a permanent rehearsal space which encompasses storage for our percussion and other equipment. We continue to attract new members and are rapidly outgrowing our current temporary solutions. We need a home which will enable us to maintain our high standards of performance, to allow the band to grow along with the Town, and present concerts to attract visitors and residents alike.

To celebrate this 140 th anniversary year, the Band has planned several special events in addition to our regular commitments. In conjunction with the Elman Campbell Museum the Band is presenting an exhibit all summer outlining its rich history. In addition we are organizing a mass concert with the local high school bands. Finally, we will be holding a special anniversary concert on September 30 th at Riverwalk Commons and invite the Mayor and Council to participate. With your continued support we hope to provide the Town of Newmarket with another 140 years of music.

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