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Research Project: History of Brass Bands in British Columbia

Job Nelson


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

  • Neylan, S. with Meyer, M. (2006). “Here Comes the Band!”: Cultural Collaboration, Connective Traditions, and Aboriginal Brass Bands on British Columbia’s North Coast, 1875-1964. BC Studies, No. 152, Winter 2006/07, pp. 35 - 66

  • Job Nelson was a First Nations band trainer, conductor and composer in northern coastal British Columbia, particularly in the Nass River Valley. He was the director or trainer of a number of bands, including Metlakatla, New Metlakatla (Alaska), Port Simpson, and Aiyansh. At Port Simpson the band's name was changed to Nelson’s Silver Cornet Band. With his departure, the band became the Port Simpson Concert Band.

    In about 1891 Job Nelson was brought from New Metlakatla to be an instructor for the Aiyansh Band. For several winters in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Nelson would be escorted by canoe from New Metlakatla on Annette Island to Aiyansh, where he would spend the winter months.

    Job Nelson led the Aiyansh Band at the Dominion Exhibition in New Westminster in 1905. Reports at the time indicate that the band played the march “Aiyansh” that had been composed by Job Nelson. This march was subsequently published in 1907 by Whaley- Royce of Toronto under the title “Imperial Native March”.

    The Imperial Native March was performed in an arrangement by John Beckwith at the Sharon Festival in July of 1985 and was subsequently broadcast on the CBC.

    Job Nelson wrote music for specific communities and bands. Most of this music was never published and has disappeared. Two titles that are known to have been written for the Hartley Bay Brass Band were "Promise Island Waltz" and the "Antifreeze March." The “Antifreeze March” was composed to be played during the wet winter months, with a limited use of valves - obviously composed by someone who was all too familiar with the problems of cold weather outdoor performances on brass instruments.

    Front cover of the piano arrangement of the Imperial Native March

    Front cover of the Imperial Native March, piano arrangement.

    Author: Brian Stride (2006)

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    Updated 2012 Feb 24, 23:57 EST/EDT

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