Visit from top brass
A total of 1000 bandsmen from 29 bands around New Zealand, along with hundreds of supporters, will gather in Timaru in just over two weeks for the national brass band contest.
It is the first time in more than 100 years since the national competition has come to Timaru in what is being called the Heartland Festival of Brass.
In 1903, when the bands also gathered in the city for a national contest, it created a festival atmosphere that the whole district turned out to witness.
October 7, 1903
Under no circumstances could better fortune have attended any series of open-air functions than that which has governed the weather conditions of the Band Contest.
On Tuesday, for the garden party, a more perfect day could not have been made to order.
Yesterday, quick-step day, was equally fine and all who had determined to be present at the contest were encouraged by a lovely morning to adhere to that determination.
Many family parties drove in from the country, bicycles were whirling along all the roads, and the morning trains brought in good loads of holidaymakers, especially the Waimate train, whose 11 full cars reminded one of show.
The main street from 10am was a scene of great animation and as the bands began to muster at the Ship corner at 10.30am and, by that time, there was a good number of people about the streets, and concentrated more particularly about the rendezvous.
A large crowd rapidly collected and, by the time the first bands moved off at 11am, the crowd lined Stafford St well up to Shepherd's corner. They were a very cheerful, a well-dressed, and prosperous looking crowd, as all holiday crowds at Timaru are.
The bands were marched straight into the oval, where they took a short spell on the grass. The public continued to arrive rapidly and continuously, in fact the stream of incomers was continued till well into the afternoon.
There was a large crowd present by noon and the attendances later on was a record one for the grounds, and indeed for any meeting held in South Canterbury; and it was roughly computed from the number of tickets sold, season tickets issued, and the probable number of young children admitted free, that nearly 8000 people were present.
The takings at the gate amounted to about 270, a long way above any previous record for Timaru. The crowd surrounded the whole track in a dense ring several deep, with a broader mass near the enclosure, which was well filled. It was quite difficult to thread a way among them and get round the track without an occasional slip down the steep embankment and the necessity for widening the standing room was very apparent.
Some tried an easier way by walking on the track. This, being newly top-dressed, was pleasant to walk on, but stern officials thought the track of more value than the comfort of the public.
There was a goodly proportion of ladies present.
It must be said, however, that there was reason for discontent in certain incompleteness in the arrangement, which while not serious in themselves, were yet productive of easily avoided annoyance to the interested public.
Chief of these was the lack of any means to inform the spectators what band was playing. This was the more necessary because several of the bands wore very similar uniforms, but the spectators had to find out which they were in the best way they could: and in such a crowds it was difficult to "ask a policeman".
October 12, 1903
Farewelling the bands
On Saturday, all the bands that had come for the contest, with the exception of the Oamaru Pipe Band, which went away on Friday, left Timaru by train.
The Waimate and most of the Oamaru men left by the early-morning train, and the express took away the rest of the bands.
The main streets presented a very lively appearance. All day there were a lot country people in town, and a great number of townsfolk were tempted by the excitement of the occasion and the beautiful weather to give up the greater part of the afternoon to a perambulation of the streets.
During the morning, some bands played occasionally in the air. The Timaru Garrison Band turned out in good strength to give their visiting friends a good sendoff, marching with them to the station.
The crowds who listened to the music during the day and attended the departure, first of Dunedin and Kaikorai bands for the south, and then of the three northern bands, testified by the expression of their faces that they had been really pleased with their visitors.
An air of friendliness prevailed that was notably in contrast to the attitude of mere curiosity which marks a crowd assembled to see some travelling notability, however distinguished.
The value of music in developing a spirit of cheerfulness and good humour was clearly demonstrated and perhaps not a little of the good feeling manifested towards the visitors was due to the camaraderie and excellent behaviour of the visitors, while the influence of beautiful spring weather must also be reckoned.
So far as the effect of the music on the spirit of the crowd was shown, it supplied an excellent arrangement in favour of municipal subsidies to brass bands.
All the visiting bandsmen were enthusiastic in praise of the manner in which they had been treated in Timaru, not only by their respective committeemen, but by everyone with whom they came into contact; and say that they will look back upon the past week, with all its hard work, as a really enjoyable holiday.
Remarks by the judges
Signor Squarie, being asked by Mr Siddall at the mayor's supper on Friday for some hint as to what brass bands should aim at, said the first thing was for each player to produce a good tone, and this was only through hard practice.
The Whanganui band stood out from all others in its clean, clear tone, and in the way it worked as one man. Next to tone they must aim at time. Some of the men simply blew into their instruments without any conception of playing time. Some have not a good ear for music and the bandmaster should reject such players.
Speaking of the heavy instruments, he said that few played slow movements decently for want of practice. The euphoniums and trombones, for instance, gave off cracked wheezy tones, because the players were "soft as butter", for they didn't practise enough to harden. In regards to separate judge's decisions of the contest, Signor Squarie remarked that on the whole they were very close, and in every case, of selection or solo, they had agreed in awarding first place.
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