History of Brass Bands in BC


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Research Project: History of Brass Bands in British Columbia



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

  • Squamish Band 1898P139.2

    City of Vancouver Archives, P139.2

    Squamish Brass Band, ca. 1889.

    In November 1886 a brass band was organized within the Squamish Nation. Bishop Durieu organized the band, which was lead by Henry Edwards who had previously lead the first brass band in British Columbia at St. Mary's Mission. Instruments were ordered from Eastern Canada and these apparently arrived in early January 1887 at which point Henry Edwards returned to Vancouver.1

    The Squamish brass band quickly developed into a capable ensemble and it was suggested that the band "aid in celebrating the arrival of the first train" in May 1887.2 This, however, did not occur and the Vancouver City Band, itself of no mean reputation, offered musical competition and is known to have performed that day. The Squamish brass band did not play in Vancouver's first Dominion Day parade either, a distinct contrast to the attitude towards the northwest coast Indian brass bands.

    The Squamish Brass Band played an important part in special events, especially those of the church and its missionaries. On September 11, 1887, the band played at a ceremony marking the visit by Archbishop Alexandre A. Tache, Archbishop Joseph Fabre, Bishop Paul Durieu, Father Albert Lacombe, and Father Patrick Fay to the Squamish Mission (sometimes called Ustlawn). One Vancouver resident, O. L. Charlton, related:

    "A large flotilla of canoes had proceeded to Vancouver, and met the Archbishop and Bishop and lesser clergy at Andy Union's boathouse, at the foot of Carrall street, adjoining Water street. As the flotilla was ready to leave Linton's float of logs, "Squamish Joe" he was a prominent Indian from that North Vancouver Reserve; he was a longshoreman at Moodyville not the same man as Chief Capilano Joe gave the signal to the band to play, and to the canoe men to move out; the bandsmen were all in the canoes ... And the band played I'll bet you couldn't guess "Yankee Doodle.""3

    In 1888 the Squamish Brass Band and the Fort Douglas Brass Band participated in the "Corpus Christi" celebration at the North Shore mission. The bands were photographed at this event by C. S. Bailey.

    Squamish Band Practicing 1900 P45

    City of Vancouver Archives, P45

    Squamish Brass Band rehearsing, ca. 1900.

    In 1905, the Squamish Brass Band participated in the Dominion Exhibition First Nations Brass Band contest, where they placed second.

    Like most brass bands in British Columbia, the Squamish Brass Band eventually became a brass and reed concert band.

    1. Vancouver News, November 27, 1886, p. 1; and January 7, 1887, p. 4.
    2. News-Advertiser (Vancouver), May 22, 1887, p. 4.
    3. J. S. Matthews, Early Vancouver, v. 6 (1945), pp. 74-75. Charlton's account is corroborated by articles on the visit in the Evening Herald (Vancouver), September 10 and 12, 1887, p. 4 and 1 respectively.
    Squamish 1898 New Westminster Public Library Photo Database 149

    Paul Okamura, New Westminster Public Library Photo Database, 149

    Possibly the Squamish Indian Band, which called at New Westminster on return from hop-picking at Chilliwack. They gave an open-air concert at the corner of Midway and Plaisance, ca. 1898.

    Squamish 1908 New Westminster Public Library Photo Database 3045

    F.L. Hacking, New Westminster Public Library Photo Database, 3045

    1908 May Day celebrations taking place by the New Westminster Court House. The crowd is gathered for the May Day parade. According to the "Daily Columbian" May 1, 1908. The celebration commenced at 1 o'clock with the assembling of thousands on library square and the departure to Queen's Park. Library Square was just above the Court House, seen in this photo. Members of a brass band, thought to be the Squamish Brass Band, are on the right of the photograph.

    Author: Brian Stride (2006)

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    Updated 2007 Jan 06, 18:23 EST/EDT

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