A look at the Red Deer Community Band Society

Red Deer Community Band Society held its 49th annual spring concert April 22nd

On Sunday, April 22nd, 2018, the Red Deer Community Band Society held its 49th annual spring concert at the new Kinsmen Field House at St. Joseph High School.

It was a wonderful evening of entertainment as well as some special presentations by this important community organization.

The roots of the Community Band Society actually go back to the turn of the last century. It was in April 1902 that Canon Joshua Hinchliffe, the local Anglican minister and H.G. Stone, the local undertaker, proposed the formation of a Citizen’s Band. Red Deer’s newly-formed Town council greeted the proposal enthusiastically. It consequently made the first municipal grant in the community’s history ($50) to the new group.

The more modern roots of the community bands go back to the early 1960s.

In 1961, the Red Deer Optimist Club formed a community trumpet and drum band and two years later, the Elks Club restarted a junior concert band.

However, finding consistent funding was always a challenge.

More critical was the difficulty in securing bandmasters who could afford to donate the literally thousands of hours necessary to keep a proper band going.

In 1966, the Department of National Defense disbanded the Kings Own Calgary Regimental Band, which had acted as a senior band in Red Deer for a number of years.

However, a number of ex-bandsmen, particularly Ron Dale, who was then sitting on Red Deer City council, began pushing for the creation of a new Community Band Society.

Their efforts were met with widespread support.

City council agreed to the concept in principle. In the fall of 1968, a ways and means committee was established. It included such prominent people as Charles Merta, head of the junior band program for the Red Deer Separate School District, G.H. Dawe, superintendent of the Red Deer Public School District; Major Watson Stewart of the 78th Field Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery; Kees Vandenbrink and Mel Cunningham of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce; Dick Glenfield of the Kiwanis Club; Doris Burrington of the Parkland Music Festival; Nancy Neivem of the Red Deer Allied Arts Council; Jim Wocks of the Red Deer Shrine Club and of course, Councilor Dale.

In 1969, City council agreed to provide a $4,000 grant, $2,000 of which was to be used for a music library and music stands and the remainder to help underwrite the cost of a part-time music director.

The two major school districts also agreed to use the music director on a ‘per day’ basis.

While initially a request was made for prospective band members to bring their own musical instruments, several of the instruments also came from the old KOCR regimental band.

Some of the pieces actually dated back to Central Alberta’s 187 Battalion Regimental Band from the First World War.

In February 1969, steps were taken to formally incorporate the Red Deer Community Band Society in order to ensure eligibility for municipal and provincial grants.

Extensive fundraising took place with local service clubs and the general public.

Meanwhile, Victor Wright agreed to become the Society’s first director.

He was the former director of the music for the King’s Own Calgary Regiment Band in Red Deer and more recently had worked as the director of the Ponoka school band program.

A decision was made to initially create a band with both skilled musicians and students so that the young people would be able to learn together with more experienced musicians.

However, this was soon changed to have two different bands.

The first rehearsal took place in late March 1969. Plans were made to have the band participate in Red Deer’s first International Folk Festival in July. The special guest at the Folk Festival was Bobby Gimby, the famed Pied Piper of Canada from the highly successful Centennial Year.

Soon the Community Band Society was surging ahead with both a senior Monday night adult band and a junior band, which eventually became known as the Red Deer Royals Concert and Marching Show Band.

(to be continued)

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