Thursday, December 01, 2022

One of Canada’s Oldest Bands Celebrates 150 Years of Making Music

One of Canada's Oldest Bands Celebrates 150 Years of Making Music

The group that performed before the Queen of England in 1873 celebrates more than a century of musical creation.

The Nanaimo Music Group has changed names many times over 150 years, although their passion for performance has remained the same.

“It’s the camaraderie of playing together and the joy of making music together, you know, an opportunity to give back to the community,” said band president John Parker, who has been with the band for 40 years and plays French horn.

Celebrating its 150th anniversary, a group of volunteer musicians will take the stage at the Port Theater in Nanaimo on Sunday.

Parker said in a CBC interview All points are west.

The Nanaimo Concert Band was seen wandering Nanaimo’s Commercial Street in the early 1900s. (Share Parker Archives/The National Commercial Bank)

Shari Parker, the band’s historian – and John’s wife – says the band started as a marching band in 1872, and has since grown to include woodwinds and percussionists as well.

“We have musicians in their 20s and the oldest instrumentalist in their 90s,” she said.

The member who has been with the band is the longest retired member recently, she said – after 80 years with the band.

Shari, who plays the clarinet, joined the band 40 years ago when she was 14.

“It becomes a family of a group. Everyone knows each other. We are all working towards the same goals,” she said. “When you leave, you appreciate the music. »

The Nanaimo Musical Ensemble has been performing continuously for a century and a half. According to the Barkers, they are one of the oldest groups in the country.

Maintain Morale

The marching band was formed when the Reverend James Renard, pastor of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, who had moved to Nanaimo from Barkerville, offered to form a marching band for the Vancouver Island city.

“Nanaimo has been a mining town for 10 or 15 years,” John said. And of course a lot of the coal miners came from Britain. And all the coal mines there have copper crews. »

“The musicians were coal miners from the local mines. They traveled to their concerts in large audiences, by steamboat, horseback and buggy. »

The band’s first performance in the UK was on 24 May 1873, Queen Victoria’s birthday.

“Many of the band served in both World Wars, lived through the Depression years, were killed in mining disasters, while performing concerts to keep Nanaimo’s spirits up,” Shari said in an email. at CBC. News.

Much of the community

Shari says the group has always been a big part of the Nanaimo community, especially back when there was no television.

“At the time, music was really the only entertainment. If there were big events, especially in small towns, everyone wanted live music. The band played at the opening of buildings, and at all royal visits and parades. »

One Of Canada'S Oldest Bands Celebrates 150 Years Of Making Music
The Nanaimo Musical Ensemble receives the city’s Cultural Excellence Award, as seen in this 1997 photo. (Share Parker Archives/The National Commercial Bank)

The group has performed at every Memorial Day celebration since the end of World War I, and in 1997 received the City of Nanaimo’s Cultural Achievement Award.

As part of the group’s 150th anniversary celebration, the city will illuminate the historic Bastion monument in gold and burgundy – the group’s colors – until April 14.

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