House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Parramatta Electorate: Parramatta City Brass Band

7:57 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On Saturday I attended the 100th birthday celebration of the Parramatta City Brass band. At 100 years old, it is probably the oldest surviving band in Sydney, and it is one of the few fully functioning bands in the local area. It is a local icon worth celebrating for what it is now and for the path that it has followed over a century.

St John's Church of England first formed the band in the early 1900s under the leadership of bandmaster AE Taylor, but within a decade the band had seceded from the church and renamed itself the Parramatta Citizens Band. In its early life the band was considered an A-grade band, and it placed in the New South Wales state A-grade championships in the early 1910s. The band developed a very close relationship with the military and joined the New South Wales Lancers regiment as a mounted band. Later, it became the 4th Cavalry Brigade headquarters band. However, in 1943, the military recalled their instruments, leaving a band with only the instruments owned by its members. Parramatta City Council then came to the rescue and purchased instruments for the band.

The separation from the military was short-lived. In 1948, the band reformed the lancer band to support the 1st Armoured Division, but in 1951 the military asked the older members to resign from the band, and the relationship with the military once again came to an end. The band stuck together and became a civilian band again. This was a committed lot—over the next eight years the band rehearsed at the Parramatta council's work shed and in the backroom of a local Chinese restaurant—and, finally, in 1959 they got their new hall and named it after Harry Todd, who had been secretary of the band from 1916 to 1968. In the same year they renamed themselves the Parramatta City Brass band, the name they still have.

The band went through a bit of a decline in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but then along came Ken Marks, who developed new crop of juniors, and the band began a long phase of recovery and improvement. Ken finished his term in 1994; A-grade conductor Steve Nolan then took over, and the band progressed from D-grade to C-grade. In the last seven years the band has progressed again, under the leadership of state and national tenor horn champion Jonathan Gatt. Jonathan has done a remarkable job, and the band has now progressed to B-grade, which is the highest rating that the band has held in its recent history. The bank currently has 33 members in its senior band and 24 members in its training band. It was a great night with great company, and I acknowledge this extraordinary Parramatta icon. (Time expired)