Thursday 1 August 2013

Hitting the right note - banding in Camden

 Camden Town Brass Band

Camden Town Brass Band 1877 with this picture taken on a visit to Newcastle (Camden Images)

Camden band heritage

Camden has a long heritage of bands and musical groups in the local community. Playing music has been one of the longest surviving voluntary sector activities in the town. Banding in the Camden area has a rich history of involvement by amateur musicians who held a variety of paid-day jobs. These folk contributed a large number of hours at community concerts, military parades, remembrance ceremonies, fetes, garden parties, and a host of other community events.

Camden District Band c1911-1915 (Camden Images)

Banding in Camden followed the British tradition of brass bands from the 19th century that was based around a village, town, industry, profession or business. Community brass bands traditionally competed in competitions. 

 Brass bands, especially military bands, have a long tradition going back to the middle ages in the Ottoman Empire. From the late 19th century English military traditions dictated that bandsmen served as battlefield stretcher-bearers with their regiment when not playing morale enhancing music. The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom has used brass bands as part of their ministry since 1878.

The Camden Town Brass Band was one of the first bands in the Camden area. It was formed in 1876 and the first bandmaster was HP Reeves who was in charge of the Camden school which was located in Hill Street. The first band practice was held at the school. There were 8 members of the band: Henry Stuckey; John Sanderson; Herbert Ferguson; Harry Simpson; HP Reeves; Albert Stuckey; Jacob Young; and William Derriman.

The band was quite a versatile group and performed as a marching band for a town parade, community concerts, dances, garden parties and the opening of the Camden Show in 1886.(Picton Post, 7 Sept 1932). The band went into recess during the late 1890s.

Camden District Band leads Frances Day procession 1917 (Camden Images)

The band re-formed in 1911 as the Camden District Band. During the First World War, the band was called on to perform at patriotic events of all sorts. One event was Frances Day in 1917 when the band led a procession down Argyle Street. The participants in the parade were in fancy dress, started at the Royal Hotel and ended at the showground on 17 July 1917, and was supported by a sports day.

The sports day raised 374 pounds. Frances Day was organised to raise funds for the widows and children after the defence of Verdun (21 Feb 1916-18 Dec 1916) and ended with a French victory with over 370,000 French casualties. It was the longest and most devastating battle of the First World War. The city of Verdun has played a part in the strategic defence of Paris since the 5th century.

Camden District Band 1930 (Camden Images)

The bandmaster in the 1930s was Stan Kelloway, who also served a term as Camden mayor. Other band members included: Eric Kelloway; W Pattison; Lesley Kelloway; B Price (Deputy Bandmaster); W Coates; A Meylan; L Dowell; Irwin Dowell; AE Doust; I Huthnance; J Hickey; J Hunt; C Coleman; AS Huthnance (Band Sergeant); Len Burnell; F Thorn; W Lipscombe; T Lipscombe; F Smythe; G Burnell; F Ravillion; T Thornton; and R Murdoch. (Picton Post 6 June 1935). The Second World War saw the demise of the band.

The Campbelltown Camden District Band

Campbelltown Camden District Brass Band 1960 (Camden Images)

The Campbelltown Camden District Brass Band started after the Second World War and filled the gap left by the closure of the Camden District Band and other bands in the area at Picton and Campbelltown.

The new district brass band formed up in 1946 and lasted until 1976 when it re-formed as a concert band with the addition of woodwind instruments. Many instruments for the new district brass band came from the old Camden Brass Band.

The instruments had been held by Horace Kelloway who had been a member of the band. Other instruments were also located by Frank Curnow under the old Campbelltown Hall. Initial rehearsals were held alternately between Camden and Campbelltown. The first bandmaster was Frank Curnow, followed by Harold Pollard in 1954.


The Camden Community Band

Camden Community Band 2013 (CCB)

The Camden Community Band is another local concert band. The band was originally formed up in 1989 as the Camden Rugby Band, community members were invited to join in 1994 and Jeanette Saunders became bandmaster in 1995. 

The band was re-formed as the Camden Community Band Inc in 2005. The musical director is Murray Bishop who joined the band in 2004. The band can be heard at a variety of community events in and around the Camden district throughout the year.

Further reading

D Brunero, Celebrating 50 Years, The Campbelltown-Camden District Band 1946-1996 (Campbelltown: Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, 1996)

Updated 3 January 2021. Originally posted 1 August 2013.