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Caledonia - Along the Grand River
There Was Once a Concert Band


Gone are the days when Caledonia had its own Concert Band. However, there were times when the town just couldnít do without one. Records from as early as 1860 show the existence of a town band. In 1892 it was known as the Firemanís Band and was transported from place to place on the band wagon. During practice the music was supported on high stands equipped with coal-oil lamps. Light for playing at night was provided on the hat of each player or by the light of the moon. A good nightís rest often took place in the Band Wagonís straw.

Local boy, Jim Ingles, was a member of that early group. People would speak of hearing his piccola resounding throughout the town as he made his way home to the top of the Catholic Hill from band practise.

Two bandstands were in existence in those days, one at Edinburgh Square and the other in the Gore Park, the name used then for the area where the sixty-seven-year-old Oasis Drive-ln stands today, to the south of the bridge.

The town was without a band during the 1930ís Depression years until 1947 when the Caledonia Concert Band was organized in January of that year. A modern bandshell went up in 1949 in a picturesque setting along the Grand River.

Adorned in their impressive new uniforms, the musicians marched in parades, with drum majorettes adding flare to the occasion. They put on concerts, competed at the Canadian National Exhibition, played at Garden Parties in Caledonia and throughout the district, entertained at the Caledonia Fair and provided music for dances. Their second place win at the 1955 Canadian National Exhibition, as a result of being tied for first, was considered one of their great accomplishments.

A majority of the musicians had never played an instrument until they joined the band. Professional players, Jim Phillips and Keith Small are still playing the big band music and are often seen playing with the Hamilton Place orchestra.

Found among possessions of Arley Martindale, their business manager was a list of the top fourteen songs from the 1890ís onward. A good part of the Caledonia Concert Bandís repertoire was old favourites, including The Sidewalks of New York 1894; The Stars and Stripes Forever 1897; Sweet Adeline 1903; Take Me Out To The Old Ball Game 1908; Ah Sweet Mystery of Life 1910; End of a Perfect Day 1910; When Irish Eyes Are Smiling 1912; St. Louis Blues 1914; Dinah 1925; Ole Man River 1927; Star Dust 1929; Easter Parade 1933; God Bless America 1939; and White Christmas 1942.


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