History of Brass Bands in BC


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Research Project: History of Brass Bands in British Columbia

The Gray Cup


Much of the information in this article is summarized from the following publications:

  • Mattison, D. (1981) On the March. Indian Brass Bands, 1866-1915. British Columbia Historical News, Vol. 15, No.1 6-14

  • McIntosh, D. (1989). History of Music in British Columbia 1850 1950.Victoria: Sono Nis Press

  • The success of the Dominion Exhibition First Nations Band Contest, held in September 1905 at New Westminster, prompted the citizens of Prince Rupert to institute a series of contests in their community. These contests started in 1908 and ended around 1914.

    The contest consisted of the following:

    • Best rendition of a march.
    • Best rendition of an overture or selection.
    • Best rendition of the National Anthem.

    A ballot was held to determine order of play and awards were made for each of the three components of the contest, with the J.S. Gray Cup awarded for best overture or selection. The cup was named after John Gray of Prince Rupert, a conductor and trainer of bands.

    1911 Contest

    May 24, 1911, seven bands competed from the communities of Kitkatla, Kincolith, Nass [Greenville?], Upper Nass [Aiyansh?], Port Simpson, Metlakatla, and Skidegate. The Skidegate Band won the J. S. Gray Cup and one other cup. The Kincolith, which had two days' notice of the competition, took second place.

    1912 Contest (postponed)

    In May, 1912 the contest was postponed but the Skidegate Concert Band, not aware of this, showed up and won by default. The band successfully argued their case for retention of the trophy and agreed to play for its permanent ownership at a playoff competition during the visit of the Duke of Connaught that fall.

    1912 Contest

    On September 23, 1912, playing on the Government wharf at Prince Rupert, bands from the communities of Skidegate, Port Simpson, Kitkatla, Metlakatla, Aiyansh and Kincolith competed.

    At 3:00 the judges, Mr. Werner, J. E. Davey, William Godson, Fred Renworth and Hamilton Douglas, took their seats. When the Duke of Connaught and party arrived the march contest began. This was followed by a ten-minute interval, after which the contest for the best overture or selection was conducted. The contest was concluded by a competition for the best rendition of the National Anthem.

    The awards were made that evening at the Westholme Theatre.1 Port Simpson won the march competition and each member of the group was given a gold medal by the Duke of Connaught. The first prize for the overture was won by the Skidegate Band, which was awarded the Gray Cup, also presented by the Duke, with Kitkatla coming second. The conductor of the Kitkatla Band was awarded a conductor's baton for the best rendition of the National Anthem.

    The Gray Cup became the property of the Skidegate Band that year, since they had won it three times in succession. The cup is still displayed in the Skidegate longhouse.

    1. Information on the Skidegate Concert Band triple victory was compiled from articles in the Queen Charlotte News, Prince Rupert Evening Empire, and Victoria Daily Times.

    Author: Brian Stride (2006)

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