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History of the Whitby Brass Band

In 1863, the Whitby Brass Band was formed and attempts were made to secure public funding. While the town council rejected their proposals, the band members were not deterred. It is recorded in the Whitby Chronicle that the band openly solicited funds from townspeople and in just a year, the Whitby Brass Band was advertising for business.

The band has been a positive presence in the community since the beginning, with honourable mention in the Whitby Chronicle just a few years after its conception. The article claims the town was, “enlivened by its cheery, inspiriting music” and continues to praise the band on behalf of the town, “our public gatherings been made pleasanter, our streets more attractive, our evenings more enjoyable”.

During the First World War, the band became associated with the 34th Regiment. Members wore new military-style uniforms and they were renamed the “Whitby Citizens’ Band” donning new, military-style, uniforms.

By 1915, the band had stopped altogether and then regrouped in the 1920’s with another uniform change. The Whitby Citizens’ Band donned more relaxed looking uniforms in 1922 when they performed at the Whitby Music Hall with admission costing 35 and 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children.

The Whitby Christmas Fair, in December 1925, reinforced the band’s commitment to the community by showcasing a convoy of the latest General Motors models lead by the Citizens’ Band. In 1929, the Whitby Town Council decided to pay the bandmaster’s salary because they were “…anxious to retain the effective organization which has contributed so largely to the success of the Whitby Citizens’ Band.

The 1930’s brought much success to the band, including first prize at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto in 1931. Although they had entered for a number of years, it was the first year they had won a top prize. The great tradition of junior band began in 1933 when a few youngsters, Alvin (“Sam”) Church, Walter (“Moe”) Church, and Ted McCormack, received instruction during the hour before the adult rehearsal. Furthermore, the band was granted permission to use the old Public Utilities Commission building near Town Hall for rehearsals.

Before WWII broke out, the Whitby Citizen’s Band was very active within the community, playing many concerts and parades. At that point, band members joined up to fight in the war while the instruments were put into storage in the Town Hall. In 1944, Cecil Greenfield (previous bandmaster) tried to revive the band. Since only a fraction of the former members were available, he recruited youngsters. The band led a celebratory parade marking VE Day a year later, which marked its last recorded event in the 40’s.

Former bandmaster, Eric Clarke, was desperate to start up the band once again. In 1954, the band was renamed the Whitby Police Band was made up of a few youngsters from a boys’ band and other adult players. “Police” was dropped from the name the following year. The new era brought a need for fundraising. Members, wives, girlfriends, and mothers played a crucial role in raising money and organizing social activities for the band. 1955 was the year Clarke led the band to victory at the CNE and managed to convince the town of Whitby to give the band an annual grant. To ensure a constant stream of new, seasoned players for the band, the Junior Band was started. It used to be that junior referred to the age of the players, but now it refers to ability (adults and children alike).

After yet another CNE victory in 1963, and the death of their present bandmaster, Clarke, Stanley Redfearn took over. The band enjoyed a string of wins in the 1960’s.

The 1970’s marked the beginning of female players in the band. Without a bandshell in which to perform, the band found many venues, including the lawn of the library and the plaza on Brock Street. In 1971, the Haydenshore Pavillion became their new place for rehearsal, performances, and socializing. Stan Redfearn retired as bandmaster in 1977 and handed the baton to Barrie Hodgins. Under Hodgins’ leadership, the band’s success continued, winning first place at the Toronto Kiwanis Festival.

In 1980, Roland Hill became the bandmaster. In June of that year, the town of Whitby celebrated its 125th anniversary at which the band played a special concert on the lawn in front of the Municipal Building. They competed in the annual event of North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) in 1984 and managed to place fourth even though they were up against bands comprised of professionally trained players. In the late 80’s, the band played the national anthem for a Blue Jay’s game and apparently brought them good luck when they played the anthem at six consecutive games where the Jay’s won each time. In 1986, the bandstand was completed in Rotary park, for summer concerts. So began the summer tradition (which continues today) of playing on alternate Thursdays for no charge through July and August. 1988 is when the band recorded the album “As Requested”, a mix of traditional and contemporary music.

1990’s brought the purchase of black tuxedos for the band members. In 1993, the town requested that the band move their rehearsals to the historic Centennial Building which was the former Ontario County Court House as the Heydenshore Pavillion would be rented out for community events. Their rehearsals are held at the Centennial Building to this day. 1993 was also the year Stan Redfearn died. In memoriam, the band’s rehearsal room was named for him.

Today the Whitby Brass Band invites past members to visit or members’ visitors to join if they’re in town. Their passion for music has remained strong as they continue to perform throughout the community in a variety of capacities.

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