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 couldnt do without
one. Records from as early as 1860 show the existence of a town band. In
1892 it was known as the Firemans 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
nights rest often took place in the Band Wagons 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
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 1930s
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 1890s
onward. A good part of the Caledonia Concert Bands 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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