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Celebrate Good Times: Bands and Music in East Gwillimbury

Now that the weather has become sunnier and brighter, we are sure that everyone is anxious to get out and have some fun, possibly at concerts or other performing arts venue. Due to the excitement and anticipation of upcoming summer fun, today we are going to learn about some of the brass bands that used to exist in East Gwillimbury for the benefit and entertainment of the settler families who came to live here in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Music was extremely important to the members of the Children of Peace, lead by David Willson. It was a way to bring people together in community and fellowship. By 1820, a brass band was organized under the direction of Patrick Hughes, and subsequently afterwards by Richard Coates. Mr. Coates was a musician and woodworker and had built three large barrel organs built for use in the temple and in the meeting house. After many years in the position, Mr. Coates retired, and Jesse Doan became the bandleader. He left the position because of ill health in 1866, when he was replaced by his nephew John D. Graham.

Everyone thought well of the brass band, as it played a prominent part in religious services and gained a good name for itself. Later, its name got changed to the Sharon Silver Band, when in the year 1860 “a set of silver instruments was purchased from Boston at a cost of $1,500.”[1] Additionally, the talk of the June feast in 1861 was the Sharon Silver Band who were playing in their brand-new blue uniforms. This band played at many important celebrations, including St. Patrick’s Day parade in Toronto in 1871, competing in band tournaments, and performing at Dominion Day Celebrations until about the1880’s.

The earliest reference to a band at Mount Albert is found in the May 8th, 1891, edition of the Newmarket Era. A notable event taking place that year was the annual Tea party at the Franklin Christian Church. The Mount Albert band was performing there, and “no pains will be spared to make this affair a complete success.”[2] On March 6, 1903, it was advertised that the Mount Albert Band would give a Good Friday concert on April 10th. It was reported that the band “made excellent progress during the winter and deserves every encouragement.”[3] During the 1910’s, the band master was a man named J.D. Howland. This band would play at garden parties, farmer’s markets, and other important community events. The band was also present for the first Sports Day held in Mount Albert on June 3rd, 1925. Below is a picture of some of the people who were in the band in the 1920’s.

Figure 1: Members of the Mount Albert Brass Band, c. 1923.

Back row (left to right): Norman Smith, Alfred Park, Bruce Lapp, Roe Crone, Donald Ross, James Slorach, Oliver Wagg.

Front Row (left to right): James Smith, Frank Stokes, Bruce Ross, George Price, Kenneth Wagg, Oscar Dike, William Slorach.

Do you have any fond memories of going to see any bands of this kind in East Gwillimbury? Let us know in the comments section below!

[1] Trewhella, Ethel Wilson (16 August 1951). “The Story of Sharon”. Newmarket Era. Retrieved from [2] [3]

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