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Markham Concert Band's Spring Concert Sure To Be A Hit

Markham Concert Band, Gold Standard winners
at the Ontario Band Association competition, Feb. 2007

Music Director Doug Manning

(Apr. 28. 07)        The Markham Concert Band presents its Spring Concert at the Markham Theatre For Performing Arts on Sunday, May 6.  Entitled An Afternoon At The Bandstand, the program will include classics like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pineapple Poll and Sousa’s Century of Progress.  There will be new favourites as well, from Cats, and the Hannaford Overture, a work by local composer J. Scott Irving.

     2007 has already been a rewarding year for the Markham Concert Band.  In February they participated in two important music competitions and came off with top honours for their classification at both, earning the Gold Standard at the Ontario Band Association competition held in Markham, and the Platinum at the York Region Music Alive Festival which took place at Newmarket.

     Earlier this week, visited the band at their rehearsal venue at Markham Village Community Centre and enjoyed a sampling of many of the pieces that will be in the program.  Conductor Doug Manning put the band through its paces, a fine tuning of the most challenging segments.

     A full-time high school music teacher by day, Doug is finishing his fifth year with Markham Concert Band.  He is also director of music for the Unionville Theatre Company and was at the baton for that company’s production of The Music Man in February, conducting a smaller orchestra made up mainly of musicians drawn from the Markham Concert Band.

John Kent, Skye Sweet
and Judy Needham
Front row: Jessalyn Parina. Middle row: Shelley Toivonen,
 Cathy Parry, Cathy Fraser, Rob Wells, Bruce Marshall.
Back row: Jeremy Cheevers and Irene Walsh

     Doug described conducting as a “high wire act”.

     “It is very satisfying,” he said, “to see the growth in the process and then the excitement of a live show.  Trying to take everything you’ve worked on and make it happen at that particular moment is exciting, hopefully for the players but for the conductor too.”

     Now in its twenty-ninth season, The Markham Concert Band counts, among its 65 members, five who were there at the very beginning. 

     One of the founders is trumpet player Wally Osbaldeston.  Wally told us how it all began, with a meeting in the Hockey Puck Lounge at the Markham Centennial Arena in June of 1978 at which an executive was formed.  The next month they held their first practice, attended by fifteen players, “nine trumpets and six others.”

     Their first concert was that same summer at the Markham Fair.  In subsequent years they performed concerts in the same hall at the Markham Village Community Centre which they now use for rehearsals only.

Meagan Rowatt Amy Pipher and David Rose
Ron Titka and Michele Rodrigues

     One of the highlights in the band’s history was a European tour in 1991 that took them on a twelve-day eight concert tour to Vienna, Zurich, Lichtenstein and Munich.

     Nowadays, the orchestra has a very full schedule.  They perform four concerts per year at Markham Theatre.  The band also does a number of summer shows, including street festivals such as the Music Festival on Main Street Markham and the Unionville Festival.  They also play regularly in the bandstand in Unionville.

     The MCB appears each year at the Orillia Waterfront Concert and at Markham Fair and has made appearances on Canada Day at various local venues over the years.

     Current band President Rob Wells informed us that the band is the largest long-term community band in Canada and has built up over the years the largest library of music.

     I asked him what was the key to the band’s success.

     “We are made up of young and old, or younger and older,” he smiled.  “Our youngest members are in their teens.  The oldest members are in their eighties.  And everybody loves music.  We’ve got a great library of tunes.  We’ve got a great conductor who likes to get the best out of us.  And as a result we tend not to lose too many members.  We tend to attract members.”

Tim Bond, Eric Cousineau,Vern Kennedy
Martin Neuland, Gord Neill,
Wally Osbaldeston, Mike Young

     Indicative of that, the band has had only four conductors over its twenty-eight years.

     “Every year we’ve built more and more,” explained Wally Osbaldeston.

     Band members come from all walks of life: doctors, bricklayers, school teachers, a retired school principal, lawyers, accountants.  Wally himself is a tree planter.

     It draws people not only from Markham but from Toronto, Aurora, Newmarket, Pickering, Mississauga and Ajax.

     I asked why they are able to attract players from so far away.

     “You get a chance to play challenging music, music that is up to your level or a little bit beyond,” Rob Wells explained.  “In a lot of community bands you don’t have that opportunity.  They’ll pull it back and play easier music just to keep some membership.  And then you’ve got another scale of band that requires auditions just to play the parts.  We fit in between the two and enable everybody to come out and be challenged.  We’ll roll people around the sections so that each person can try new music.

From foreground to background: John Brooker,
John Sutherland, Dragan Veljkovic
Scott Morrison and Sean Breen
The person on first clarinet today was playing base clarinet last show.  I was playing first clarinet, I’m playing second and e-flat clarinet now.  You move around, the trumpets move around all the time.  So you get a good chance to be challenged and that way it never gets boring.”

     Rob explained to us a little about how the executive is set up.  There are eight members, a President, a vice-President who is in charge of bookings, a treasurer, secretary, publicity person, business agent who goes out and works on getting advertising for the printed concert programs, a fundraising officer and a librarian.

     As with all executives, balancing expenses and revenues is a key task.  Costs include rental of the practice hall, purchase of music, equipment costs, the rent at Markham Theatre.  But they do raise money through their summer series.  They hold a fifty-fifty draw at the rehearsals.  People can also make donations to the band as it is a charitable organization.  Some corporate donations are made through the purchase of advertising in the band’s programs.

     And, the orchestra is always open to new members.  You can learn more about the Markham Concert Band at

Left to right: Gay Lambert, Leslie Coulson,
Beth Crichton, Dina Cox, Peter Ottensmeyer


John Williams, Daniel Walsh, Pat Marshall, Bob Hilliard

Juergen Kalzer and Ron Robbins

Jill Morrison, Ernie Devenyi, Ed Jackson
Keith Chapin, Jill Morrison Indy Mudhar, Hugh Wallis Wendy Sinha, Wendy Dickson,
Jack McQuarrie
Brett Carr and Melanie Carr Odette Wells Milan Chvostek

     “It is so easy to sit in front of the TV,” conductor Doug Manning told us, “and spend your life watching somebody else’s entertainment. But to make your own is pretty powerful.”

Grant Weaver,


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