Birth of Brisbane XLCR – 1912 – 1930
Brisbane Excelsior: 1930 – 1961
Colin J. Thomas
Colin J. Thomas Years: 1961-1984
Brisbane Excelsior: 1984-1995
It has been a great honour and also a great pleasure to have been a member of the Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band for over forty years since I first joined in the early 1950s.
On behalf of the current members, I would like to express our gratitude to the Founders of the Band, and to the many people who have contributed to its well-being since 1912.
My fondest wish is that Brisbane Excelsior continues to be inspired by its motto – “Excelsior” – and strives to even greater heights in the future.
On 4 December 1992, the Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band formally moved into its own home, the very first that could be called its own in its eighty-one years of existence. From the beginning, the Band’s one nagging worry which never seemed to go away was where to meet for the mandatory rehearsals and practices expected of first-class Brass Bands. At the end of 1992, as a direct consequence of the Herculean efforts of President Colin Topp and Secretary Pam Schryver, Brisbane Excelsior acquired a permanent home: the historic Windsor School of Arts. The old timber building which was actually facing a bleak future with ominous rumblings about imminent demolition was procured from St. Andrews’ War Memorial Hospital and swiftly restored to its former glory. Massive renovations were organized, with major repairs to woodwork, measures for fire protection and security, new plumbing and electric wiring, a brand-new kitchen, five new stumps to prop up the sagging construction, and fresh coats of paint. All work was performed free by band members, the donations of materials by companies such as Taubmans, Dulux and British Paints helping to ease the huge financial burden of the undertaking. Not a cent in government grants was involved in the project, nor years of wasteful procrastinating over what had to be done. In four months, from initial approval of the concept, the old Windsor School of Arts was given a facelift by its new owners to become once more an attractive and vibrant part of community and cultural life. The historic name, Windsor School of Arts, was retained by these new owners, themselves a superior band of amateur musicians who have already earned a permanent and considerable niche in the history of music in Brisbane and Queensland.
It is of historical interest that the original Windsor School of Arts, was opened in 1911 by the Governor of Queensland, Lord Lamington. That was but one year before Brisbane Excelsior itself was born. In 1925, the year in which the Town of Windsor became amalgamated in the Greater Brisbane Municipal Council, open verandahs were added on both sides, the southern verandah (on the City side) being subsequently enclosed with casement windows. In its chequered career, the historic building was once the very hub of town activities, used not only as a community hall, for dances, public meetings, and other social functions but also as home for the second Windsor Brownie pack, and a major centre for dog, pigeon, fowl and flower shows. It is fitting that its life should be saved by a contemporary, a Brisbane band born almost at the same time.
President Col Topp (or “Toppie” as he is known) has been one of the many huge contributors to Brisbane Excelsior over the years since his first admission to membership in 1956. So has his wife Dulcie who has constantly backstopped from the beginning as fund-raiser, ticket-seller, sheet-music custodian, and general organizer. From his start with the Band on Euphonium, Col Topp was elected President of Excelsior in 1984, but his input as player, Trustee, and Concert Master has long predated his elevation to the top office. Banding is in his blood, his forebears of the Fassifern Valley having introduced him to brass bands as a boy.
Pam Schryver, wife of Principal Baritone player, K.C. (“Kasey”) Schryver, has served as Secretary only since 1990 but to her belongs much of the credit for Excelsior’s new-found success. Back in the 1960s, Kasey and Pam had relinquished active involvement with the Band with Kasey’s transfer by T.A.A. to New Guinea. At the time, the Executive refused to accept the resignation of their Baritone (and occasional Euphonium) player, opting instead for an indefinite period of leave of absence. When eventually the Schryvers returned to Brisbane, Kasey rejoined his former music-making colleagues, and his wife repaid the earlier favour with massive interest. Through indefatigable effort, she helped to procure a permanent home for the Band, today the envy of other bands across the nation.
The Topps and the Schryvers are but two families associated with Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band. There are other outstanding contributors in its eighty-two years of life. The following pages seek to unravel the story of the Band from its humble birth in 1912.
THE BIRTH OF EXCELSIOR AND ITS EARLY YEARS, 1912-1930
The roots of banding in Queensland and the Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band can be traced back to “Professor” Andreas Seal’s arrival in the colony in 1854. For his enormous contribution to music, he has been accorded the distinction of “Father of Brass Bands in Queensland”. Born in Wiesbaden on the Rhine, “Professor” Seal almost immediately made his mark on music in his adopted country, as a young musician of note. In 1857, Sir Robert Mackenzie engaged him to play for a season in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in his capacity as Bandmaster with the Colonial Defence Force. Later, as Bandmaster of the Queensland Police Band, he continued to exert potent influence on music in all its forms. It is fascinating to note that in August 1859, the year of Separation, Seal was one of the musicians who took part in a six-day festival in Sydney to mark the opening of Sydney University. Another musician also invited was the young W.H.Paling whose Brisbane music-house was later to have an important connection with Brisbane Excelsior as supplier of sheet-music and brass instruments. W.H.Paling Pty. Ltd. (Brisbane) under the management first of Harry Clarke, then his son, Marshall Clarke, was also the place of employment for some of its members, including Cornetist, Don Murray, and Tenor Horn, Helen Lashmar (nee Dempsey).
Another important root was the very first Queensland Band Championships, held in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens in 1877, four decades before the birth of Excelsior. The winning band was the Gympie Oddfellows Brass Band which had been formed only a short time before. Its players were mostly miners recruited from the ranks of the Manchester Unity Independent Order and the Grand United Order of Lodges. Its first conductor was John Snell who immediately set about elevating standards by tossing out simple marches and quadrilles and supplanting them with selections from “Rigoletto”, “Grand Duchess”, “Ernani” and other operatic selections. By its victory against all comers, Gympie Oddfellows Brass Band set a pattern for the future of banding in Queensland: to be a successful Contest Band, it was imperative that only bandmasters of top quality, with proven expertise, either as performer or conductor, should be appointed to the critical role of lifting a band’s competitive standard. Gympie was fortunate in its first choice and the Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band was to be similarly blessed over the years in its choices.
One other enduring lesson can be learnt from Gympie’s 1877 experience, as relevant today as it was then, over a century ago. It concerns the level of commitment by players to both the band and to music-making. Bandsmen had to make enormous sacrifices in the cause of their huge love. Witness the Brisbane Courier report of the Gympie experience at that first Queensland Championship:
“When one thinks of those far-back days and the difficulties of getting a band to Brisbane with no railway, it speaks much for the enthusiasm of its members, but friends came to our assistance with horses and vehicles, and after a few breakdowns we were able to reach Tewantin, where we spent the night, which was the night of Scott’s fire in Gympie, with its frightful explosion of dynamite, the force of which might be gauged from the fact that next morning bars of soap, tins of jam, and axes, were found on the neighbouring high hills.”
When Brisbane Excelsior was formed in 1912, some of its members actually were from Gympie’s celebrated band. Rich memories of the historic event have been preserved by Allan Napier (son of a Founding Father, J.D.Napier, who became the very first Bandmaster or Conductor), by Colin J. Thomas (whose Uncle Frank de Hayr was also one of the original members), and by W.D.(Billy) Veal, the first Secretary and subsequently long-serving President. Billy Veal’s history of the Band for the occasion of its fiftieth birthday in 1962 formally documents the events which saw Excelsior formed during the Tramways Strike of 1912. Some bandsmen caught upon the dispute used to meet daily, their talk being of a new band of A Grade standard. Billy Veal and Jim Napier were two of these. In Mr. Veal’s words:
“Mr. Badger, the general manager of the Tramways, decided to dissolve the Tramways Band. He stated that he did not associate the players in any way with the strike and indicated his regret at having to take this action. He also expressed a desire that the band should carry on, and as a gesture of goodwill, presented the members with their instrument and uniform… Coincidental with the dissolving of the Tramways Band, Mr. Bloomfield [eminent Conductor of the Tramways and other Bands at the time] became very ill, and decided to return to England.”
Out of this pool of players, supplemented by some unattached Gympie bandsmen in Brisbane, Excelsior was formed. A meeting was held at the Napier home (Jim’s parents) in Spring Hill at which Billy Veal boarded. Because of his professional expertise (he worked at the Lyceum Theatre as in-house musician at the time), Jim Napier was elected Conductor, with authority to select the players from the pool of available talent, and Billy Veal became inaugural Secretary responsible for setting up the administration and overseeing the first Rules and Regulations. They were admirable choices for they set the standard and established that enduring spirit which is embodied in the Band’s logo of a man ascending a mountain clutching a banner with the Australian flag, and proclaiming “EXCELSIOR”: onwards, ever onwards; high, higher, highest.
Colin J.Thomas has furnished the Band with an explanation of its historic name. When band members puzzled over what to call their fledgling group, the next-door lady watching the intriguing proceedings over her backyard fence called out, “Why not call yourselves Excelsior?” It was the title of a poem her child had been learning at school. In his own special way, with that disciplined intensity CJ always reserved for matters dear to his heart, Excelsior’s distinguished Conductor explained the meaning of “excelsior” as higher and higher, onwards and upwards, forever excelling. In his words, all translations meant the same: “improving yourself”. It was a judicious choice, epitomising a special spirit amongst players drawn from all walks of life united by a common love. Allan Napier has a slightly different recollection, attributing the origin of the name to his father’s sister, Gladys Napier (later Thorpe). Both versions (perhaps identical) deserve recording as part of Excelsior’s rich past.
It is instructive to reflect on the life and times of Brisbane in pre-and-post World War 1 days. As a professional musician, Jim Napier provides one insight into the recreational and cultural life of the city. For six days per week, he played in the Lyceum Theatre orchestra on the 2-5 p.m. and 8-11 p.m shifts to bring the silent movies alive. He was also required to man the pianola on morning shifts on a regular basis. Monday and Wednesday mornings each week were earmarked for mandatory rehearsals to learn the new musical scores which came with each week’s movie. It was the local, live musicians who controlled the rise and fall of emotions according to the silent actions on the screen, and it was their live music which conveyed the pathos and humour, the laughter and tragedy, so vital to “lift” the voiceless images on celluloid. At the neighbouring Tivoli Theatre (now long defunct), the orchestra numbered some twenty or twenty-five players. For these professional musicians, the highlight of each session was not the musicalscore accompanying the film but the Overture, the Orchestra’s own special selection to entertain the patrons and “show off their wares”. Allan Napier cites two of these richly talented musicians in the theatre orchestras who subsequently joined Brisbane Excelsior: Charlie Groves (who was Conductor at the Tivoli Theatre) and Frank de Hayr. Competent on brass intruments, both were percussionists extraordinaire. During the still-acclaimed visit of Britain’s Old Vic Company under Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in 1949, Frank de Hayr succumbed to pleas to journey to New Zealand with the Company as Principal Percussionist.
When Talkies came these men of music in Brisbane largely became redundant, and Jim Napier was compelled to uproot family and head for Dalby as Bandmaster. Later, in response to a request from Mr. Grice (of the celebrated Music House), Jim Napier went to Toogoolawah to establish a Brass Band where he trained every single player, brass-player and percussionist, on his instrument. Jim Napier’s own skill as player was amply demonstrated with his Open Championship on Flugel Horn at a Ballarat Contest in 1920.
Today, faces in that historic photo of 1912 in Allan Napier’s grandfather’s backyard in Spring Hill are difficult to identify with certainty, but some facts are indisputable. There was no uniform. That was to be resolved. Over twenty young enthusiasts attended the historic meeting, a Committee was elected, and Brisbane Excelsior Brass was formally established. Billy Veal cited twenty-five foundation members, their names deserving of note:
W.D.Veal, J.D.Napier, W.Pitter, F.de Hayr, G.Napier, H.Kingston, G.Jones, H.Cross, J.Foley, W.Duhig, W.Sorrensen, E.Byers, A.A.Klaas, R.Pitter, A.Dunn, A.Bell, J.Oakes, F.Parker, C.Rasey, G.Knott, W.Burgomeister, P.Anders, R.Nairn, G.Parker and S.Molloy.
From existing Minute Books, it is known that by 21 March 1913, twenty-five members all paid the sum of ten shillings into a Cap Fund to purchase the very first item of apparel worn by Brisbane’s latest Brass Band. Their names, together with that sizable donation (one dollar in today’s currency), are listed:
W.Perry, C.Racey, R.Ritter, W. Ritter, P.Anders, A.Dunn, J.Liddy, G.Parker, E.Byers, W.Abell, A.Walker, H.Cross, H.Kingston, W.Ricketts, A.A.Klaas, G.Jones, S.Molloy, A.Bell, F. de Hayr, T.Harris, W.J.Sorensen, J.Foley, G.Napier, W.D.Veal and W. Dewick.
It is not quite the same list, and there are minor variations in spelling. There are other names from that formative period which also belong to the record: T.Jarves, T.Plastow and G.Bizzell were on the Excelsior Committee by March 1914. That month, W.T.Lawson resigned and the Band was but two years old. Already, it was establishing a pattern of engagements, with public performances and special outings for members and families. In June 1914, plans were made for a trip to Dunwich on a Saturday afternoon, and vigorous discussion ensued over a special cap for the Conductor. In July that year, P.Anders became the Band’s first Life Member as a result of initiatives by W.D.Veal. Throughout its life, Excelsior has accorded this special award, its highest honour, to those who have made exceptional contributions to the Band. In 1915, Billy Veal himself became the second Life Member. Within a year, the Band similarly honoured H.Kingston and Frank de Hayr. In January 1915, Billy Veal felt constrained to resign as Secretary “on account of his transfer up-country”, later returning to Brisbane and becoming long-serving President. When Jim Napier resigned, W.H.Davis became Conductor in his stead.
Already, the ugly days of war were savagely disrupting every aspect of daily life. Excelsior made its own contributions to the national cause. When the call to arms came in 1914, seven members of the Band responded swiftly: Andy Bell, Bluey Dunn, Ray Pitter, Christy Veal, Sid Abell, George Knott and Jack Pitter. All were posted to Gallipoli. Andy Bell died “in foreign fields”. In the Minutes of 29 August 1915 – four months after the very first Anzac Day – there is a poignant reference to the death of the gallant young Anzac from Excelsior. Mr. Davis moved that the tenor horn held by Paling and Company on account of Andy Bell be purchased outright by the Band and suitably inscribed for “their brave young comrade”. He further moved that a cheque equal to the deposit paid by Andy be dispatched to Mrs. Bell “as soon as finances would allow”. It is a revealing glimpse at the human faces behind these makers of music.
Other intriguing threads of a continuing story appear in these first years: the beginning of a long association with the annual Corpus Christi procession, the warm association with beautiful and historic St. Brigid’s, fund-raising recitals at the Elite Skating Rink and the Brisbane Roller Rink (both long gone), and the link with the St. Patrick’s Day procession and sports. There were also bread-and-butter issues affecting bandsmen which Frank de Hayr put in words at one meeting in August 1915 when explaining his inability to attend a forthcoming Contest. As a professional musician at Brisbane’s Theatre Royal, he simply could not obtain leave from his employer and he “could get no other work”. Secretary Ball (the Band’s trombonist), had identical problems. As the Minutes note, “At present his daily occupation was not paying too well in time for him to register for the Contest, and he would stick tohis professional work.” The commitment of both to Brisbane Excelsior was beyond dispute. Colin J. Thomas recalls that his Uncle Frank’s devotion to the Band instilled in him “an awe” of its very name.
Other developments in these formative years merit noting: W.H.Davis resigned as Conductor in February 1916. As with other bands, Brisbane Excelsior was experiencing difficulties in raising funds to meet his modest salary. Some bands such as Toowong actually went into recess, though Excelsior struggled on. An attempt was made to coax celebrated Conductor Schugg from the famous Malvern Tramways Band, but when it was clear that he could not leave for another year, W.H.Davis was ultimately replaced by J.McKelvie. Brisbane Excelsior’s life revolved around public performances in the Botanical Gardens and at New Farm Park, at monthly dances, and recruiting drives. By mid-1917, under President A.H.Burgess, the Band appeared to have survived the worst of the wartime ordeal, the Minutes noting that “after informal discussions on the good and welfare of the Band, the Meeting closed in love, peace and harmony.”
With war’s end and the return to normalcy, J.McKelvie was replaced by S.Martin as Bandmaster. A.H.Burgess remained President, his Secretary being G. Alderdice. At one meeting in July 1919, the Band was introduced to Brisbane’s colourful Captain Dash, whose organizing skill and military bearing were to be utilized in the coming years. His plans for fund-raising brought about immediate promises of twenty “chooks” to be sold and raffled at a proposed fund-raising fete. In 1921, Mr. Burgess moved interstate and W. Dobinson became President. S. Martin was replaced as Bandmaster by R.H.(Bob) Elliott, and Brisbane Excelsior added to its growing collection of trophies by winning the Oval March athel Toowoomba Easter Contest, along with the prized A.N.A. Cup, and coming second in the Test Selection. Bob Elliott won the Bb Cornet Championship in 1920. There were always questions of finance to be addressed, the annual Shows held by the local towns which were to become amalgamated in a Greater Brisbane in 1925 offering regular pickings. Brisbane Excelsior was given the concession to run the Ice-Cream Stall at the 1922 Enoggera Show, along with permission to sell “any other little items that would not clash with other Stall Holders”. Accordingly, bandsmen and their wives and supporters sold not only ice-cream but jellies, fruit-and-salad, strawberries-and-cream, plus raffles for a cushion, a sunshine bag, and a crochetted handbag.
During this first phase, A.J.Longson joined the Band. He became a member in 1918, auditor, librarian and committeeman in 1921, treasurer in 1923, and secretary in December 1924. It was the beginning of a long and valued association with the Band, his office and headquarters in Adelaide Street (where he conducted his tailoring business) serving as meeting place for decades. Tom Roache, who was Excelsior’s brilliant First Cornetist for forty years, recalls Arthur Longson’s skill in renovating and revitalising worn and faded uniforms by turning them inside out. Thanks to Arthur Longson, the Band’s sparse funds were saved for more important matters such as Annual Contests while the members continued to look spruce and sharp.
It was also in this period that Excelsior experienced the first of its temporary name changes. In 1921, it became known as “A.N.A. Excelsior”, an acknowledgement of its role as official band at the A.N.A. Association’s annual Exhibition in Brisbane. That connection was severed in 1923, and the Band reverted to its original name. When the A.N.A. Association demanded that the letters “A.N.A.” be removed from the Band’s logo, President Dobinson feistily announced at a meeting in October 1923:
“that the Band have long since decided that the title A.N.A. was neither use nor ornament to the Band, consequently we dispensed with it some months back. At the same time we do not admit that the A.N.A. Association have the right to dictate to our or any other Band what name they shall exist under.”
By August 1924, Brisbane Excelsior was “at last out of the red”. All rolled-over debts on instruments and uniforms had been paid, and in his Annual Report, President Dobinson described 1924 as a “fairly good year” despite the disappointment of not winning at the Toowoomba Easter Championships. The next year, Excelsior did win under the baton of Goldie Holmes, defeating all-comers in the C Grade Championships held in Brisbane, and being elevated to B Grade. Goldie Holmes himself won the Bb Cornet Championship in 1926. At the time, A.J.Longson, then Secretary after G.Alderdice, expressed the hope that with a committed effort the Band could easily attain A Grade standing. It was disappointing, he said, to see only nine or ten players at practices, the public performances in the Parks, and at official engagements such as Albion Park Races and Saturday football matches all requiring regular and conscientious rehearsals. Within a handful of years, Excelsior fulfilled his prediction, scooping the pool in 1929 at the Mackay Contest, and being elevated to A Grade standing. At that landmark Contest, F.G.W.McLeod was Conductor. Brisbane Excelsior has remained an A Grade Band ever since.
BRISBANE EXCELSIOR, 1930-1961
From the beginning, Brisbane Excelsior has been fortunate in its choice of conductors. There were, of course, occasional partings of the way, but the Band’s record speaks eloquently of the wisdom of those who chose its Musical Directors. Not all were local musicians; some were recruited from far a field. In the formative years, J.D.(Jim) Napier, W.H.(Billy) Davis, J.McKelvie, S.Martin and R.Elliott laid the foundations for the mature Excelsior to compete against the very best bands in the land, their successors continuing their work. Following these first Conductors were C.Andrews, C.Wood, E.John, G.Holmes (from Mt. Gambier), F.McLeod (from New Zealand), Albert Wade (from England), Alf Paxton (from Victoria’s famous Hawthorn Band), Les Baxter, Captain J.Compton, W.Ryder and Norm Henstridge. All left a mark, for all were dedicated bandsmen. Old hands in the Band recall, mostly with warmth, their personal recollections or anecdotes handed down about these baton-wielders, but somewhere is an untold story. It involves the one missing Minute Book, the one submitted in a Court Case involving a sacked Conductor who took the Band to court. A skeleton in the closet? Rather it was merely one discordant demi-semi-quaver in a sparkling arpeggio spanning the period 1912-94.
By 1933, Brisbane Excelsior was the best Brass Band in the State. The previous year, under Albert Wade, it had won the Championship of Queensland, the Boosey Cup, the King and King Cup, the Besson Shield, the Morris Shield, and the Hawkes Shield – each one an indication of performing excellence by the youngest addition to the ranks of A Grade. In 1933, Excelsior scooped the pool in A Grade, winning the no. 1 Test Selection, the no.2 Test Selection, the Operatic Selection, the Diagram March, the First Oval March, the Street March, and the Hymn Tune. The heavy hand of depression lay menacingly over the whole band movement, and Brisbane Excelsior had sought temporary affiliation with the military band of the 9/15th Battalion led by Bandmaster Wade. Three years later at Maryborough, Brisbane Excelsior affiliated with the band of the 9/49th Battalion, again winning the A Grade Championship in 1936. By 1938, George Waller (principal cornetist in the Regent Theatre orchestra) was Bandmaster in place of A.Wade, whose death brought much sorrow. Brisbane Excelsior paid their last respects to their former Conductor by journeying to Ipswich for the Albert Wade Memorial service. It was under George Waller that the father-son combination of Edward (Ted) Roache and T.E. (Tom) Roache began to enrich Excelsior’s unique sound.
In the eighty-two years of its life, four generations of this gifted family have been playing members. E.Roache was Champion of Champions in 1932 and 1935, and Queensland Champion Soprano Cornetist in 1929, 1932, 1934-36, 1954, 1956 and 1961. Tom won the Australian Championship twice on Bb Cornet, six times being Champion of Queensland. At the Commonwealth Jubilee Band Contest in Murwillumbah in 1952, father and son came second and third respectively, in itself a noteworthy achievement but less spectacular than other achievements of the duo, alone or together, as their record amply demonstrates. Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band was declared Champion of Champions at that Jubilee Contest. It is worthy of note that at the Queensland Band Contest at Rockhampton in 1958, the father-son combination won the open cornet duet, their fourth Queensland championship as a duet. Earlier, Edward (Ted) had won the “old buffers” solo, an event restricted to players 60 years and over. In a lengthy article in 1958, Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin described Tom Roache’s playing as “an inspiration”:
“An outstanding musical treat was presented last night by Mr. Thomas Roache of the Brisbane Excelsior Band to win the Bb cornet solo championships and gain his fourth title in band contests. Last year he was Australian champion at Ipswich and prior to that he had won two state championships in Queensland and one in N.S.W. Perhaps the proudest man in the audience was his father, Mr. E.Roache, who had given his talented son his early training with band instruments. The adjudicator (Mr. W.S.May) described the champion’s performance as an inspiration.”
In an interview after the contest, Tom paid homage to both his father and to Captain J.Compton, Brisbane Excelsior’s Conductor immediately after Les Baxter and Alf Paxton. James Compton had also been a gifted Bb cornetist, winning the Champion of Champions title and the Queensland title in 1922-24 and 1927. Captain Compton was Brisbane Excelsior’s Bandmaster from 1944 until 1955, another of its Conductors with an impressive record as soloist. He was succeeded briefly by W.Ryder and then by Norm Henstridge (1955-58), who had arrived in Queensland from Melbourne in 1933. Norm Henstridge was Champion of Champions in 1933 and 1949, Queensland Bb cornet champion in 1933, and Soprano Cornet Champion in 1937-39, and 1946-49.
There was, of course, no contest during World War 11. It is of special note that missing from that audience in Rockhampton in 1958 was Jim McKelvie, former Bandmaster of Brisbane Excelsior. Failing health had prevented his attendance at the contest, the first he had missed in twenty-five years. As music selector of the Queensland Band Association in that time, Mr. McKelvie had been responsible for the choice of test pieces to be played.
In this phase of its life, Brisbane Excelsior played a key role in the development of the City. In 1940, it was the Band chosen to play for the formal opening ceremonies of the Story Bridge. The Band was then under the baton of Alf Paxton, formerly Bandmaster of Victoria’s celebrated Hawthorne Brass Band. By May 1940, President Billy Veal was speaking at band meetings of the “new spirit” directly attributable to Mr. Paxton who had lifted them to “a very much higher pinnacle than had been attained in the past”. Allan Napier, who first joined Brisbane Excelsior in 1943 while still in the R.A.A.F., still recalls with respectful affection Alf Paxton and his influence. Paxton himself felt constrained to note that not all members were of A Grade standard, but only because some were not prepared to undertake the daily grind of practice. He also mentioned his pleasure at the Band’s performances in the Botanical Gardens and the Parks (22 performances during the past year), at the Rosemount and Diamantina Hospitals (1 each), at Doomben Racetrack (2), at the R.N.A. Exhibition (5), at the Corpus Christi and other Processions (several). It is also interesting to note that at the Annual Meeting in May 1940, Ted Roache (sen.) moved that the Band’s name be altered to “Brisbane Excelsior Silver Band”. The motion was carried unanimously, but the name-change appears to have been very short-lived. Amongst the treasured memorabilia of Allan Napier is a copy of the 1941 rules and constitution of the “Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band”, the last page bearing the distinctive signatures of Billy Veal (President) and J.W.Box (Secretary).
During the remaining years of war, Brisbane Excelsior not only gave many of its players for the larger call but contributed enormously to cultivating a national spirit by establishing the practice of playing whenever Australian troops were leaving Brisbane. Enlistments from the Band included R.Pickering, C.J.Thomas, T.E.Roache, J.J.Turner, T.Peden, D.Barlow, A.Napier, E.T.Selby, F.Walker, E.Cousins, R.Robinson, N.Baxter, L.Roberts, W.H.Johnson, E.Warden, R.Pleaven, R.Ricketts, C.Lees, R.Schmidt, H.Williams and R.Dodds. When the Korean War erupted in 1950, D.Webb, L. Radford and K.Gordon also joined. Alf Paxton and Billy Veal actually interviewed various firms throughout Brisbane in order to explain the Band’s patriotic motivation and seek leave without loss of pay for bandsmen to pay their respects to valiant young warriors heading off to war. Undermanned as they were, the Band maintained a busy schedule with practices at the South Brisbane Town Hall (soon curtailed because of unsuitability of the premises), a highly successful recital in Kingaroy which earned a “rave” review in the local paper, temporary use of the Rifle Club Hall in Boundary Street, and regular practices at 130 Adelaide Street in the City (A.J.Longson’s premises). There were also the regular duties: recruiting rallies for Army and Air Force, weekly playing in the Gardens and Parks, and commissioned radio broadcasts for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Rallies were perceived as obligations, no request ever being refused and every rally attracting a full Band. At one huge Rally in City Hall attended by the Lord Mayor and the Prime Minister of Australia, the Band excelled itself. President Veal observed with pride at the Annual Meeting in May 1941 that “he did not think it possible for a Brass Band to get down so fine.” To Alf Paxton he gave the full credit. For his part, Mr. Paxton appears to have possessed a finely-honed sense of humour (or execrable mathematics). At that Annual Meeting he informed members that he thought fifty percent of the Band gave very loyal service, but that “the other 33-and-a-third did not give of their best”. Was this Irish humour or had the Minute Secretary simply made a human error in basic maths? It was characteristic of these men that, apart from the Conductor, not one earned a single penny from music yet they unanimously decided to establish a Spitfire Fund within the Queensland Band Association. To commence the project, Brisbane Excelsior donated 111 pounds towards purchase of an aircraft. The funds were to be raised through recitals at either the Post Office or Anzac Square. Somewhere about this time, the Band appeared to use the mnemonic “XLCR” for the first time, the simplified and catchy spelling attracting attention.
Bandmaster Paxton continued to draw the highest praise from his corps, President Veal freely confessing to immense pride whenever he heard or saw the Band play. He referred to Alf Paxton’s special musical gifts including his skill at arranging items to “meet the wishes of those requiring the services of the Band”, and his art at utilising the individual talents of his players in “competent combinations”. What concerned him was that the other artists featured with the Band received the lion’s share of press attention while the Bandsmen “who give their afternoons or evenings to assist, get no recognition at all”. It was but another price of duty, he explained, especially since music had a unique role to play: “It is a most soothing influence in a troubled world. We can at least say that we, as a Band, have contributed our share in assisting the War Effort.”
Alf Paxton’s words also merit attention, uttered as they were in special times. There was a need, he emphasized, “for middle-aged and older members to stand fast”. Other Brisbane Bands had already gone into recess for the balance of the War. Some had simply folded. Paxton exhorted his players to “hold the fort”. To the Cornet line, he had special words. “Don’t let us go out of business or be pushed out,” he urged. In other ways, too, Alf Paxton maintained the banding faith as one bandsman who joined Brisbane Excelsior in 1942 observed half-a-century later. Jeff Herbert, who has been with Excelsior for fifty-two continuous years, regarded him as “a man ahead of his time” in musicianship, in ideas on banding, in the need for a professional approach to public performance. Jeff himself has been a tower of strength to the Band with his 21 years with the Northern Command Band as principal cornetist and 19 years as instructor on brass instruments with the Queensland Department of Education. He began banding on cornet with Maryborough’s Boys’ Band in 1936 under Sam Whitaker, and continued on cornet after he joined Brisbane Excelsior. In 1948, Jeff came second on Flugel Horn in the Queensland Championships, and finished second to Tom Roache on Bb Flat Cornet at the Southport Contest. With Tom Roache, Billy Wallace and Len Radford, he won the Quartet at the Ballarat Contest in 1949.
The year after Jeff Herbert first joined Brisbane Excelsior in 1943, there was an animated discussion on whether to reduce practice sessions from two nights to one. According to the Minutes, the motion “lost by a large majority”. Buried in the Minutes of that Annual Meeting was a reference by Billy Veal to an A.B.C. radio broadcast:
“I am sure I would be unappreciative if I did not refer to the magnificent playing of Mr. Les Baxter and Mr. Tom Roache in the recent Broadcast. Both soloists were in excellent form and their items were almost faultless.”
There was also a reference to a ballot for an adjudicator for a solo contest.Dr. Dalley-Scarlett, eminent musician from the University of Queensland, was chosen. Such contests, however, were small and modest affairs at local band level. During World War 11, no Q.B.A. Band Contests were held. In 1946, Brisbane Excelsior resumed contesting at the Ipswich Contest which was won by Maryborough under the baton of the celebrated “Massa” Johnson, one of what was colloquially known as “the big triumvirate” (as Allan Napier puts it): Harry Schugg, J.J. Kelly, and “Massa” Johnson – three of the biggest names in Australian banding. The photograph of Brisbane Excelsior, led by Captain James Compton, reveals clearly the blending of old and new. Billy Veal and Frank de Hayr, foundation members, are to be seen along with new faces. Also clearly visible on the big bass drum is the Band’s logo featuring the Australian flag.
On 19 July 1948, a special meeting of the Band was convened to discuss playing at public concerts and in New Farm Park under the sponsorship of ETA Peanuts, Tristrams and Peters’ Delicacies. It was a matter of enormous moment, and Brisbane Excelsior at last decided to proceed with the deal by which they were guaranteed 10 pounds per performance. Down the track, that decision was ultimately to lead to another important name change. The Band was in keen demand, the following year Radio Station 4BK signing the Band to a contract worth 300 pounds over twelve months for twenty-six performances.
In 1949, a more ambitious project was undertaken: a visit to Ballarat, the Mecca of band-music in Australia, in order to compete for the “holy grail”. It was a huge undertaking requiring much husbanding of resources and a vigorous campaign of fund-raising to raise the necessary money. Brisbane was wholly behind the endeavour, with massive crowds turning out to greet the Band as it marched through city streets on its way to South Brisbane Railway Station. On route, at the Sydney stopover, the Band gave a performance at Bondi Beach Pavilion, before resuming travel southwards. It was a marvellously successful tour although no major trophies were won. St. Kilda won the A Grade Championship from Ballarat and Brisbane Excelsior, although individual players performed admirably. Colin J.Thomas won the Eb Tuba Solo Championship, Bob Campbell-Stewart the Junior Open, and Billy Wallace the Horn Solo. Tom Roache was third on Bb Cornet and Cliff Reece fourth. Brisbane Excelsior also won the Brass Quartet. Existing photographs of the historic visit also reveal that Billy Veal, foundation President, managed to establish contact with Australia’s much-loved Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, during a break in a Victorian Park. Jeff Herbert recalls with gratitude the part played by 4BK in employing the Band for its Sunday recitals during which over 200 different band tunes were performed without a single repeat.
It was actually this special mission south which brought E.Selby and Brisbane Excelsior together. Keen to attend the Contest himself, Selby sought permission to travel with the Band and stay with them. Captain Compton thought that it would be “an excellent cover in the event of accident to any of the Band’s regular trombonists”, and agreed, with the stipulation that Selby “adhere to the discipline of the Band”. For this special occasion in Ballarat, the Band had new uniforms made by A.J.Longson’s firm. The very first public appearance of that uniform was during the street collection march on the way to South Brisbane Railway Station. It is of note that during the forties, one young Tenor Horn player in the Band – Alex Henderson – was dispatched overseas to the famous Kneller Hall, the training centre for British Army Bandmasters to learn the skills of their trade. Alex Henderson returned to Australia ultimately to become Director of Music in the Australian Army, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
In 1951, Brisbane Excelsior won the A Grade title at Murwillumbah, the group photograph clearly showing not only the existing band uniform but names and faces which have become part of the Band’s rich history. Col Thomas (tuba) is in the mid-back row next to celebrated Drum Major R.Pickering. Cyril Radford, already valued percussionist, was to be principal percussionist for decades to come. The back row also shows E.Selby, gifted trombonist, who was Queensland Champion Bb Trombonist in 1949 and Jubilee Champion of Champions at the Murwillumbah Contest in 1951. In the front, amongst others, are to be seen Jeff Herbert, Billy Wallace, Len Radford and Bert Williams, wonderful stalwarts of Brisbane Excelsior. Father and son cornetists, E. and T. Roache, are also shown. They finished second and third respectively in the Champion of Champions judging. Brisbane Excelsior, overall Champion band, won every event, although the A Grade Street March had been a narrow victory from Brisbane Waterside and Brisbane Model Bands in front of some 2000 spectators. On the occasion, the Adjudicator, A.H. Baile, described the three finalists as outstanding, but the winning band – unidentified except by number – stood out even amongst the top three. Billy Veal was ecstatic, attributing Brisbane Excelsior’s success to months of hard work. “The only key to success is intense rehearsal, ” he told the Murwillumbah press: “For the last two months, Captain James Compton has practised our players every Sunday and Tuesday.”
At Rockhampton in 1953, Brisbane Excelsior again performed well. J.Butt, on E Flat Bass, became Champion of Champions. Until nine months earlier, he had played only Euphonium, changing only at the suggestion of Captain Compton. A Railway Department employee, Mr. Butt had been stationed in Rockhampton from 1934 until 1942, during which period he had played with both the Rockhampton City and the Rockhampton Federal Bands. He had actually been a bandsman since 1923 when he had first joined the Ipswich Model Band and learned to play Euphonium. In 1930, he had won the Champion of Champions title at Nambour, and in 1934, had won the Open Duet title with E.T. Roache. In 1935, he won the Novice Euphonium title at Bundaberg. E.Roache also drew special praise from the adjudicator for exquisite playing on tenor cornet at the 1953 Contest. It was the “Old Buffers” entrants who attained the artistry which the Adjudicator said he had been seeking since the Rockhampton Contest began. The playing was excellent, he told the local paper, “and it touched him to find men of that age giving such artistic performances.” The newspaper report quoted his words:
“Mr. Roache, who played Silver Threads among the Gold, had given a performance that was a musical treat. The player displayed splendid control and he had never heard better soprano playing.”
The next day, he won the Open Duet with son Tom. Brisbane Excelsior and South Brisbane Federal were joint winners of the A Grade championship.
Present at the Contest was Norm Henstridge whose life had virtually been spent in banding. He had commenced at the age of eight on Bb Cornet, arriving in Brisbane from his native Melbourne in 1933 and winning the Queensland Champion of Champions title. His last contest was in 1949 at which he again won the Champion of Champions title on Bb Cornet. In October 1955, Norm Henstridge became Conductor of Brisbane Excelsior, reporting eight months later at the Annual Meeting that he was “quite satisfied” with both support from bandsmen and attendance. That year, Brisbane Excelsior had relinquished its title as Queensland Champion but not its standing in public opinion. At the Mackay Contest in 1955, it had actually shared honours with South Brisbane Federal Band , each scoring 373 points. It was the first time such a complication had arisen, the Queensland Band Association being compelled to adjudicate on the difficult dilemma. At individual events, Brisbane Excelsior won the A Grade Test Selection (93 points to South Brisbane Federal’s 91, and third), was unplaced in the Hymn section (at which South Brisbane Federal finished second), was second to South Brisbane Federal in the A Grade Test Selection No.2 (94 points to 93), and second in the Street March (South Brisbane Federal unplaced). Brisbane Excelsior also won the Best Set of Drummers trophy.
At a meeting that year, Billy Veal made reference to a forthcoming presentation of Dr. Robert Dalley-Scarlett’s world-famous composition, “The Messiah”, in which Brisbane Excelsior was to be involved. Dalley-Scarlett, of course, was the inaugural Head of the Faculty of Music at the University of Queensland and the world premiere in Brisbane was perhaps the outstanding event of the City’s musical calendar. It is interesting to note that reference was also made at that meeting to a recent attempt to have all players from the Australian Army Northern Command Band excluded from registration with the Q.B.A. It failed since these players were vital members of the amateur bands as well. In 1956, Colin Topp was elected Band Sergeant, the first of the duties to be performed by this outstanding contributor to Brisbane Excelsior. From a boyhood on his parents farm and on cattle stations, Colin served with the Northern Command Army Band from 1950 to 1956, thereafter being a continuous member of Brisbane Excelsior. His enduring love for brass instruments had been awakened in the family home at the age of nine, his skill, particularly on Euphonium at which he was Queensland Champion a number of times, being mirrored in his rapid elevation to Deputy Musical Director and the subsequent formation of his much-acclaimed group, “Topp Brass”.
At the State Contest in 1957, success again eluded Brisbane Excelsior, but not individual soloists. Tom Roache won the Champion of Champions title at the Toowoomba Contest, and competent judges observed that “they had never heard better playing” than the Band’s performance in the March. Norm Henstridge commented on the perfect balance: “You could hear the fine passages!” The Eta Concert Band ( Brisbane Excelsior) won the A Grade diagram march from the highly-favoured Preston Municipal whose Drum Major was Mr. Jack Marchingo, today Queensland’s deeply-respected Q.B.A. Secretary (retired). Jack Marchingo graciously stepped down as Drum Major to lead the massed bands, to allow Eta’s Neville Smith (filling in for Drum Major Pickering) to take his place. It was also the year in which Brisbane Excelsior linked up with the Zillmere Marching Girls and the long reign of Drum Major Pickering approached its end. At the Annual Meeting, Mr. Pickering thanked bandsmen for their support and expressed the hope that they “would soon get a young man whom he could help to take his place”. By 1962, there was such a man, Bernie Hoesman, who was to become not only valued cornetist, Drum Major and Assistant Musical Director, but a much-respected professional musician at North Brisbane C.A.E. (later Queensland University of Technology). Bernie had actually joined Excelsior at the pressing of a teaching colleague, Col Thomas’s mother a couple of years earlier. In October 1958, Brisbane Excelsior formed its historic connection with National Foods Pty. Ltd., the Company’s Queensland Manager, E.Olsen, agreeing to sponsor the Band for 500 pounds per annum. The money, a huge windfall at the time, was to be paid in quarterly sums, and in return Brisbane Excelsior was to become known as the “ETA CONCERT BAND”. It was the commencement of a fruitful association to last a decade. There were other noteworthy events, too, at the time. The Bandsmen received a new uniform, the old ones being sold to Bullen Brothers’ Circus in June 1959. In March 1959, the Band made a wedding presentation to its Principal Percussionist, Ken Clark, later to join the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. In August 1960, ill-health compelled Norm Henstridge to submit a verbal resignation, the vacant position of Musical Director being widely advertised. In July 1961, Colin J.Thomas was appointed to take his place, the wisdom of the decision amply demonstrated in the ensuing two-and-a-half decades in which he guided the Band’s musical fortunes to new highs.
COLIN J. THOMAS
Mr. Colin J. (“Colin J”) Thomas is one of the huge contributors to Music in Queensland, especially the Queensland Brass Band movement. From a talented musical family, his abiding passion for the Muse was aroused by his mother, first on piano, then violin and cornet. At the age of eight he joined the Brisbane Institute of Social Services Brass Band (BISS Brass Band), and at twelve, the Naval Reserve Band where he transferred from cornet to tuba. At seventeen, he joined the Naval Reserve Band which used to practise at Kangaroo Point. Colin J remembers with clarity lugging the heavy tuba down the 130 steps to rehearsal below the Kangaroo Point cliffs, then back up the 130 steps at conclusion of practice. It was superior musicianship which brought about his promotion to Band Sergeant and the ensuing skills as Conductor and interpreter of music.
In 1942, Colin J joined Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band, begun in 1912 and arguably the most outstanding band in the State at the time. Thus commenced a relationship which has continued to this day. From a humble start as probationer for six months (that being a requirement imposed on all potential members), Colin J progressed from valued member of the Bass Section to Musical Director in 1961. He remained Conductor until failing eyesight compelled him to step down in 1984, after twenty-four years of devoted service to his beloved Band. The achievements of Excelsior during this period owe much to his outstanding gifts as Musical Director.
When Band Contests were resumed in 1946 after the wartime recess, Colin J won his first Queensland Championship (BB b), a feat repeated another three times. He was also the Australian Champion on three separate occasions, his virtuosity such that he was invited to play with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and to join the South Australian Symphony when it urgently required a tuba player. His reputation as musician is by no means limited to Brisbane and Queensland. At Brass Band Contests across the nation, he was in demand as highly-regarded Adjudicator, the long-serving State Secretary of the Q.B.A. (Jack Marchingo) recalling the visits of Colin J to Victoria (where Jack had also been State Secretary). And in 1977, Colin J was one of the few Australian bandsmen invited to the International Congress of Brass Musicians held at London’s Royal Albert Hall where he was specially requested to conduct a number of Britain’s best-known Brass Bands at workshops and performances.
In arranging he had a reputation for excellence. The celebrated Australian baritone, Peter Dawson, sang a number of his arrangements, and banding groups played many of his Brass Band arrangements especially the “miles of hymn tunes” (Colin J’s phrase). Less well known are other related facets of his work life, including weekly stints on Radio in the late 1940s as “Tiny Tim”, a little boy character who was one of the show’s comedians, and his work as Compeer, a role to which he brought a special dignity.
Colin J’s gifts brought untold pleasure to those who heard him play or witnessed his conducting of Excelsior, but his measure as musician ultimately depends upon his peers. There appears to be universal regard for him from both amateur bandsmen who play for sheer love of brass music and from professionals. Brisbane Excelsior made him a Life Member for his work with them. Witness also the action of the celebrated Dr. William Lovelock, first Director of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. Dr. Lovelock as Patron of Excelsior, composed a special score, “The Diamond Jubilee Overture”, for Excelsior’s fiftieth anniversary. He dedicated it “To Excelsior Brass Band and to Colin J. Thomas” as token of his admiration. It was an outright gift, with all royalties waived forever, an expression of admiration for a much-respected fellow-musician.
THE COLIN J. THOMAS YEARS, 1961-1984
On 10 July 1961, a formal contract was entered into by Colin J.Thomas and the Committee of Management of the Eta Concert Band (as Brisbane Excelsior was now known). The duties of the position were straightforward, requiring him to “undertake control and supervision of all musical activities of the Band”, diligently and competently conducting the Band at all public and private performances, and arranging programmes and tuition for players in need. He was also empowered to recommend expulsion of incompetent or delinquent members, though expulsion itself was the prerogative of the Committee of Management. The terms of the Contract were drawn up by Allan Napier (son of the first Conductor) and J.McShane, Band Sergeant. Allan Napier himself was made a Life Member the following year, the Golden Anniversary of the Band’s birth. On the occasion, President Billy Veal spoke of Allan’s “consistent loyalty” to the Band, and his ability as player and administrator. He also delivered a talk on the Band’s fifty years of life, the history itself subsequently collated into booklet form. It is worthy of note that Percy Brier, one of the giant’s of the musical world of Brisbane (founding member and subsequent President of the Music Teachers’ Association of Queensland) congratulated the Band on its history booklet and requested further copies for himself and the M.T.A.Q.
In December 1962, a new contract of 250 pounds per annum (a 50 percent drop) was entered into with Marrickville Holdings (ETA Foods), the terms again providing quarterly payments. During the ensuing eight years, the connection with ETA Foods continued, but the parting of the ways came in May 1970 when the Queensland operations were scaled down, and the last quarterly cheque was received. The sponsorship was formally terminated and Brisbane Excelsior reverted to its own historic name.
It is also of interest that with the regularly diminishing funding provided by ETA Foods, the Band was impelled to seek other sources of income. In the Minutes of 29 October 1968 is a reference to one such potential avenue of extra funds. Kasey Schryver outlined “a conversation which took place at Toombul Shoppingtown after our performance on Saturday last between three members of the Band Committee and the Manager of Toombul (Mr. W.Petrie).” Mr. Petrie was keenly interested, promising to discuss the matter of a fee with his superiors in Sydney. A subsequent letter from Westfield Shopping (Qld.) Ltd. mentioned a fee of 1000 pounds, but the Band was loathe to appear disloyal and ungrateful to ETA Foods at the time, and declined. With hindsight it is easy to offer advice about what they should have done but the simple fact is, the Band acted with impeccable honour.
Other items of interest are also mentioned in the Minutes. In late 1963, the ETA Concert Band played for the official opening of a new Supermarket at Kedron. On 8 February 1965, Ken Clark resigned from Excelsior to pursue his career as Percussionist in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, though it was not, by any means, the end of a warmly harmonious relationship. Whenever he was needed, Ken returned to the fold either as percussionist extraordinaire or trombonist. It should also be noted that Ken Clark has for years been responsible for the Queensland Youth Orchestra percussion ensemble many of the members of which received their initial training in Brass Bands. Indeed, other instrumentalists in the Q.Y.O. also derived the foundations of their skill in exactly the same nursery.
In May 1967, W.Box became a Life Member. Two years later he was President. That year, 1969, E.Roache died. At the Annual Meeting in 1969, the Band happily agreed to play at the Sandgate Freemasons’ Home where their inaugural President, W.H.Veal, was a resident. Sadly, Billy Veal died that very year, his contribution to the Band being simply beyond recompense. Amongst the lovingly-preserved memorabilia which were acquired from Arthur J.Longson in 1982, was a letter from Mr. Veal’s son, thanking the Band for its “excellent playing of the hymn” at his father’s gravesite. At Contests, Excelsior had always excelled at the Hymn item but on that occasion they also wished to convey to the grieving family the depth of their respect and affection for their Founding Father.
There were also two letters from Dr. William Lovelock, inaugural Director of Queensland’s Conservatorium of Music. The first noted his huge enjoyment of the fiftieth birthday concert in the S.G.I.O. Theatre in 1962. The second, dated 1 October 1970, was his acceptance of the invitation to become Brisbane Excelsior’s Patron. “One of these days, I hope to write something especially for the Band, but time always seems to be lacking,” Dr Lovelock wrote:
“However, I see you are due for your Diamond Jubilee in 1972, so I will make a real effort. Meanwhile, have you been able to have a sight of that Western Land Suite which I wrote for the Perth Competition? I had hoped they would send me a tape of it, but have had no reply to a letter about it.”
He honoured his promise with a special composition,”The Diamond Jubilee Overture”, which he dedicated exclusively to the Band and “Colin J”, whose musicianship he respected enormously. Trevor Stanley, gifted trombonist, recently described the Lovelock piece as “musically outstanding.”
The actual sixtieth birthday celebrations in 1972 drew enthusiastic commendation from respected musician and music critic John Villa me who attended the Diamond Jubilee Concert at the SGIO theatre. “The meatiest music brought out the best in the band,” Mr. Villa me wrote:
“Dr. William Lovelock’s Jubilee Overture, written for and dedicated to the band, had a first performance which displayed plenty of apt and effective writing for this particular medium.”
His words brought immense pride to these dedicated amateurs, especially since he himself was a hugely respected professional from the Conservatorium, Dr. Lovelock’s own alma mater. Dr. Lovelock had been the very first Principal of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music back in 1956. Mr. Villa me also found “a welcome sense of power in reserve” in the Band, gone forever “the days of careless oom-pahing through each and every score”. Under Colin J. Thomas, the bandsmen had become “stylists in the best sense of the word, with the appropriate touch and tone (lovely tone, too) for each number”. Soloists Tom Roache on Cornet and Colin Topp on Euphonium drew particular attention: both gave brilliant accounts of excerpts from Rossini and Mozart”. Amongst the other cornetists that special night was Brisbane’s distinguished tailor, Arthur Longson, aged 72, who had first joined Brisbane Excelsior back in 1918 and had continued an unbroken connection ever since both as bandsman and as the Band’s own exclusive tailor.
Other events of the time merit recording. Frank de Hayr, foundation member, died in 1970, the year Allan Napier became President for the first time. On 7 February that year, Helen Dempsey, talented Tenor Horn player from Scotland, married Allan Lashmar. Fittingly, the Band played at the wedding of these two players who were to continue contributing to its welfare: Allan as Treasurer and later as Secretary, and Helen a tower of strength on Committee. During the bicentennial commemoration of Captain Cook’s arrival on our coastline in 1770, the Band took part in a massed band performance on April 18. In May that year, Bernie Hoesman was elected Drum Major and Len Radford became a Life Member. The Minutes also show that even at this time of his involvement with Brisbane Excelsior, Peter Hiscock was drawing attention to the need to provide tuition to junior band members, the life blood of the future. At the Annual Meeting in 1971, Peter suggested that special tuition classes (even at night) be conducted for younger players. In future years, he and Toppie did just that, freely giving of their own time for a cause to which they had devoted their lives. So too did others, including Jeff Herbert whose special classes for juniors furnished the Band (and other bands, too) with an invaluable pool from which to draw. For over a decade, Jeff ran the “Junior XLCR Band” with over twenty players, providing them not only with tuition but opportunities to perform in public: at Church services, at Fetes, at Schools. In one report to the Band, Jeff publicly thanked Don Murray “for his able assistance” and Graham Boyle for help with the rehearsal venue. Jeff’s own prowess on Cornet was such that he became Principal Cornetist when Lloyd Robins (who filled the top chair vacated by Tom Roache) had to seek temporary leave from the Band.
At the Annual Meeting in May 1973, President Allan Napier commented on the Band’s “good image” throughout the year, and its healthy financial position as a consequence of the “Chardon’s Raffles”. These raffles, which had substantially replaced the huge void left in finances after the termination of the Eta Foods sponsorship were the direct result of initiatives of the Roache Family, especially Tom and his wife Beatrice, and son Roger. Without doubt, they helped to sustain Brisbane Excelsior and keep the Band afloat with the proceeds of the Sunday “chook” raffles (short-lived) and meat trays conducted at the celebrated Chardon’s Hotel. Brisbane’s much-loved author, Hugh Lunn, has drawn attention to Annerley, but band-members of Brisbane Excelsior have also known since 1972 of this special part of Brisbane, and the wonderful generosity of both the licensee of the Annerley Pub and its Sunday patrons. The Band attempted to repay some of its massive debt by conducting an annual Christmas Band Recital in the Public Bar. It was Roger who signed the legal agreement with Chardon’s Hotel concerning the raffles, and it was family members who unfailingly organized the purchase of trays, tickets, and the myriad details, including rosters of bandsmen, attendant on such matters.
The Band was not the only beneficiary of the voluntary labours of all involved with the project, however. The Minutes show that by August 1975 the Chardon’s Trust Committee had generously disbursed funds into the wider community: Dutton Park Opportunity School received $1,000; Meals on Wheels, $1,000; the Deaf Pre-School, $500; and St. Vincent de Paul Society, $500. There was more, another side to Brisbane Excelsior little known outside the Band: the remaining sum of $1746 was ear-marked to purchase an ambulance for the Moorooka Q.A.T.B. Within a decade, the Chardon’s meat-tray Raffles had purchased two ambulances which were handed over to the Q.A.T.B. Unpaid, amateur Brass Bandsmen are not just music-makers and pretty faces! A similar venture planned for the Sportsmen’s Hotel at Spring Hill in the early 1970s was mooted but it simply failed to get started. After all, there was only one Roache family, and they could hardly be expected to organize a similar venture across the River as well. For the Band, the success of the Chardon’s venture was of critical financial importance.
In November 1974, Col Thomas, Col Topp and Ron Barlow were all awarded Life Memberships. For the record, that motion was moved by A.J.Longson and seconded by Kasey Schryver. Already, Colin J had left an enduring mark on the Band as Musical Director since 1961, and the regard for Col Topp was formalised in President Napier’s Annual Report earlier that year:
“Mr. Topp is again congratulated and thanked for the manner in which he carried out his duties as Deputy Conductor in the absence of Mr. Thomas. It is again stressed that this Band is fortunate in having the services of a musician like Mr. Topp.”
Ron Barlow had been a stalwart on Double Bass since 1949, his value to the Band recognised by its highest honour. For Colin J, 1974 was a “purple patch” for the Band, the improved playing the result of increased attendance at rehearsals and a willingness to “give extra rehearsals when called on”. There was still room for improvement, however:
“I must say that this does not apply to the less glamorous engagements which are accepted and when the time comes the fee is being earned by a small handful of stalwarts.”
Much of Colin J’s profound commitment to Brisbane Excelsior is evident in his gentle rebuke of 7 May 1974:
“I have said so many times in these reports [his fourteenth] that to a Band of your reputation there is no such thing as a second-class engagement and that when the name of Brisbane Excelsior is announced, the listener expects, and is entitled to do so, to hear a first-class A Grade Band, which you are, when in attendance.”
There was another event of 1974 which left a mark, too. That was the Great Flood of January which had been particularly savage on Peter and Joan Hiscock. Allan Napier made reference to this cruel act of Fate: “Mr. Hiscock and his wife suffered the worst blow of all, but it was gratifying that members of the Band offered swift help.” A.J.Longson and Mr. Radford were also badly affected by the Flood. Mr. Napier’s Annual Report also acknowledged the Band’s huge indebtedness to the Roache family – he singled out Mrs Beatrice Roache – for the life-giving financial support of the Chardon’s Hotel venture.
From August until November 1977, Colin J was given leave by the Band to travel overseas to attend the “International Congress of Brass Musicians” held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was a rare honour accorded him – and Brisbane Excelsior – with only seventy-odd invitations sent to musicians outside Great Britain. Colin J was specially requested to conduct a number of workshops and performances, his introduction from the stage mentioning that “his reputation is already well-known to us in Britain”. During his absence, his place was taken on the podium by Bernie Hoesman.
In 1978, Brisbane Excelsior won the State Champion A Grade Brass Band title once again. Despite the huge demands of finance involved in travelling far a field, Secretary Roger Roache had strongly recommended the previous year that the Band attend. His Annual Report also acknowledged the Band’s indebtedness to Mr. Longson (for his wise counsel whenever it was needed) and to Treasurer Graham Boyle not only for managing finances but also for making his office available for Band meetings. At this time, the Band practised at the Police Youth Club. Finding venues for practices and meetings was a perennial difficulty which was not to be resolved until 1992.
Secretary Roache referred to the problem indirectly the following year in his opening remarks: “I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. John Carney for making available their home to us for these meetings.” John also gave sterling service to the Band as the willing and hard-working Collector during performances in the Parks. Roger mentioned two other unpaid labours-of-love performed by John. “The Raffles at Chardon’s once again ran smoothly due mainly to the efforts of Mum and Dad, ably assisted by John Carney,” Roger said of the first. “Thanks once again to John Carney with his Chook Raffle on rehearsal night,” he reported of the second: “This income almost offsets our rent on the premises.”
That year, 1979, was a good one, the highlight being the winning of the State Championship at Beenleigh. President Allan Napier described the Band’s performances in all events as “the best I’ve heard from this Band”. In his Annual Report, he repeated previous statements he had publicly made that Brisbane Excelsior “should be handicapped to give others a chance”. He too made mention of John Carney’s generosity in making available his home for meetings, and providing supper and drinks on every occasion. “The meetings seemed more like a social gathering instead of a place to argue,” he reported. There were words of thanks also for Graham Boyle for making his office available, and to Kasey Schryver not only for providing a safe haven for the Band’s accumulated treasure of trophies but for undertaking the difficult and costly restoration of these treasures. President Napier also congratulated Bernie Hoesman who had recently been appointed a Drill Judge by the Q.B.A.
One memory from the distant past was raised at that Annual Meeting in 1979. A.J.Longson, ever maintaining the impeccable sartorial standards of the players, men and women, reported that he still had Albert Wade’s Frock-Uniform “in perfect order”. He estimated that at current rates it would cost an exorbitant $400. “Pity Mr. Thomas is not a few stone lighter,” he sighed, regretful that a uniform of such splendour was not fully utilised. “I noticed in one of the local papers a photo of the Sunnybank Band and Graham Cox was not in uniform,” he added: “He is a prospect!” As was his wont at the Annual Meeting, Mr. Longson again called for the return of “all old blue uniforms with caps”, promising to go through them, destroying those unfit for use and selling the rest. “The last lot were sold to Bullen Brothers for 60 pounds,” he informed the meeting. A year later he reported that of the 40 blue uniforms returned, he had rescued 25 for sale. “Quite a few were badly faded, some as good as new, with caps in quite good order, also trousers,” he reported. He had one request: the name of any band or stage show requiring uniforms. Brisbane Excelsior’s exclusive tailor wasted nothing in the cause of band economy. In a postscript, Mr. Longson added a word about the importance of the office of Custodian, the official Guardian of the Band’s accumulation of treasures, including the hundreds of scores and manuscripts. “During the evening you will be called upon to select a Custodian,” he wrote to the President before the Annual Meeting in 1978:
“I trust you will appoint a person, lady or gentleman, with a good knowledge of instruments and music. In my book, this is a very important position. I think he should also be ex-officio on your committee.”
For the Musical Director, there was the ever-present matter of standards. “When the Brisbane Excelsior Band is heard, listeners expect and deserve to hear the Brisbane Excelsior Band not a representative party,” he said again at the 1979 Annual Meeting:
“and this is equally important at New Farm Park or on Easter Saturday night at the Contest venue. It is unfair to your colleagues if they, in addition to their own parts, have to fill in all sorts of cues to cover up for an absent member.”
The impeccable standards of Colin J provide one explanation of the reputation of Brisbane Excelsior in the public perception.
1980 was a milestone year for the Band: Jeff Herbert’s efforts with juniors drew praise from Mr. Napier; successes continued at Contests and in the Parks; and the year marked Tommy Roache’s fortieth consecutive year as Principal Cornetist. In a formal acknowledgement of the Band’s huge debt to their loyal and devoted colleague over four decades, Allan Napier (President), R. Roache (Secretary), and C.J.Thomas (Musical Director) articulated the collective feelings of gratitude and also relief that Tom’s unique qualities of example, of inspiration, and of leadership would not be lost:
“It is typical of your generous disposition that you desire to continue as a member of the Solo Cornet Section and so assist the young members …”
Secretary Roger Roache expressed the Band’s appreciation of the efforts of his parents for their countless hours arranging the Chardon’s days which continued to alleviate those perennial financial woes of all bands. His 1980 Report also noted the special contribution of Les Stiles and Trevor Stanley in the raffles at Chardon’s, and of John Carney in the Tuesday night chook raffles. Rent for Tuesday practices at Metro House was already double the previous rent paid at Chandler House. In his Report, the Musical Director spoke movingly of the decision of his “very dear friend” to stand down as Principal Cornetist. It had been the young Tommy Roache who had first invited Colin J to join Brisbane Excelsior back in 1942.
In 1982, Reg Oxley was elected Secretary after Roger Roache’s valuable period in office. In June that year, the Band lost two of its valued members – Helen and Alan Lashmar – who were transferred to Maryborough. Fortunately the break was but temporary, and both “La belle Helene” (Colin J’s epithet) and Alan returned to the Band down the track. On 29 June 1982, the Band celebrated its 70th birthday with a Concert at the S.G.I.O. Theatre. Brisbane’s celebrated musician-conductor-critic John Villa me described the evening as “a model of what unflagging amateur enthusiasm can do towards raising musical standards.” In his review published in the Courier Mail two days later, he singled out for special praise the solos by Tom Roache (still a virtuoso despite stepping down as Principal Cornetist), by Paul Radford on Trombone (playing a composition by Ronald Hanmer, distinguished British musician permanently resident in Brisbane who gave Australia the A.B.C. theme for Blue Hills), and Topp Brass (the group within Brisbane Excelsior formed by Col Topp). One of the pieces performed was Dr. William Lovelock’s 1962 Diamond Jubilee, composed especially for the Band’s 50th birthday. It was an outstanding success, fulfilling the hopes of Secretary Reg Oxley that the evening would not only honour the Band’s founders but establish its reputation as “the best band in Queensland”.
One small ingredient in the story of the 1982 Concert was the on-going saga of rehearsal venues. It came to the attention of the Band, through the diligence of members such as Bill Robinson and Graham Marsden, that the Morningside Scout Troop was contemplating terminating its lease on the Scout Hall. Bill Robinson’s wife, a Commissioner in the Girl Guides, knew of the impending moves. The premises were owned by the Brisbane City Council which was seeking to sell the building. In return for the right to practise therein, band members set to with a vengeance to restore the building to respectability. It was to provide a foretaste of things to come a decade later when the Band itself decided to become outright owners of its own premises.
In 1983, the onerous duties of Secretary fell upon Graham Marsden whose connection with Brisbane Excelsior had commenced in 1961, just after the Maryborough Contest. Tommy Peden had invited him to join as euphonium player but ironically he has never ever played his instrument, instead responding to the need for a Bass player. With Colin J, Tommy Peden and Ron Barlow, he won the 1963 Bass Quartet title, and as one of the Band’s Basses (along with Bill Robinson and others), he was dubbed by Adjudicator Charlie Turner as “the gorgeous Basses” at the 1963 Contest. With experience in bands in Emerald (on Trombone in his youth), in Ipswich (the Ipswich Vice Regal and Ipswich Model Bands), and in the R.A.A.F. Amberley Band, Graham took keen interest in the movement, inclining to the view that Maryborough under the celebrated J.J.Kelly was vying with Brisbane Excelsior in the 1940s and 1950s as the band to watch. When he too relinquished the role of Secretary, Graham became Drum Major. 1983 was also the year of resignation of Peter Hiscock after sixteen years of extremely dedicated commitment to the cause. It was not only as superb Baritone and committeeman that Peter was valued: he was also brilliant arranger. Many of his arrangements were featured on the “Bill Belcher Band Bazaar” on A.B.C. Radio, and he was also a member of “Topp Brass”.
On 31 July 1984, Colin J. Thomas’s stewardship of Brisbane Excelsior came to an end at a Farewell Concert for the Maestro, with rich and varied compositions from his beloved Mozart and Rossini, and from Rimsky-Korsakov and Leroy Anderson. There were brilliant arrangements by his erstwhile colleagues and peers, Peter Hiscock and Ronald Hanmer, and exquisite solos by his own bandsmen, Ricky Casagrande (Tuba), Col Topp (Euphonium) and Paul Radford. Roy Radford demonstrated his skill as percussionist in a novelty solo on Triangle, and both the Tenor Horn Section and the Cornet Section paid him homage in special items. As the Programme itself declared, “Farewell, and Thank You, Colin J!”
The 1985 Annual General Meeting was held on 2 June at the Colmslie R.S.L. Club, the venue obtained largely through the efforts of Graham Marsden, a Senior Vice-President of the R.S.L. In attendance was Paul Terracini, Colin J’s successor as Musical Director and Principal Lecturer in Trumpet at the Conservatorium of Music. President Colin Topp expressed the deep appreciation of the Band for the “excellent job” Paul was doing. He also voiced the concern of all members over the illness of Roy Radford and Bill Franklin, long-standing stalwarts, and delivered a “pep talk” on attendance at Park performances. On occasions the minimum attendance of sixteen required to qualify for Brisbane City Council endowment had been barely attained, and one source of Band funding had been accordingly put at risk. The major source of income was still Chardon’s, the magnificent work of Tom and Beatrice Roache having continued unabated ever since the Raffles had begun back in the early 1970s. Colin Topp also mentioned the Band’s “new home”, the former Scout Hall at Balmoral which was undergoing continuing repairs and renovations by the Band members. Other reports were presented, too. Paul Terracini described the past year as “most rewarding” for him, and exhorted the Band to strive for even better. “The sky is the limit!” he urged. Graham Marsden, as Band Organizer, complimented members on their “tremendous co-operation”, particularly at the State Contest. Treasurer Lloyd Pomeroy reported on the Band’s financial condition. And Jeff Herbert informed members of the activities of the Junior Band, two of whom (Nick Roper and Chris Beard) had already graduated into the Senior Band. Jeff also mentioned that during his sojourn in Europe, Warren Brewer, skilled solo cornetist, had filled the breach, even taking the Junior Band to the Nambour Contest.
On the Scout Hall which appeared to offer so much at the time, Mr. Topp explained that the Hall, freshly re-roofed just three years earlier, was owned by the Boy Scouts’ Association but “had to go to a charitable organization on a Council lease of 35-40 years”. Brisbane Excelsior had offered $1,000, and hopes were high. It was not to be, despite the untold hours of voluntary work, inside and out, yet down the track waited the Windsor School of Arts – immeasurably superior as a permanent home for the best Brass Band in Queensland. At the ensuing elections, Mr. Topp was returned as President, Lloyd Pomeroy was elected Secretary, and Mervyn Roper Treasurer. The Committee comprised Ricky Casagrande, Lloyd Robins, Trevor Stanley, John Palmer, K.Foster and Roger Roache.
The next year, 1985-86, proved to be a “mixed bag”, despite the acumen and commitment of the Executive and the talent of members. Under Paul Terracini’s baton, the Band performed extremely well at Mackay. In the words of Colin Topp, “everyone was ecstatic”. For his part, there was the personal hope that Brisbane Excelsior might even become the Black Dyke Mills of Australia, and the Band set its sights on Armidale where the next National Titles were to be held. Finance and time were the perennial constraints weighing heavily on amateur bandsmen, and Armidale (six hours by car from Brisbane) appeared to offer the best chance in a long time to compete against the very best bands in the land. As it turned out, Brisbane Excelsior was beaten by one point for the National Title, a superb achievment but regrettably not quite good enough. In the words of Colin Topp:
“Perhaps a little more time would have given us a better chance but we gave the Champs an awful fright. A few slips and the odd mute detracted a little from our performance but soundwise we were a mile ahead. A good effort!”
From that pinnacle, Brisbane Excelsior then faced odd problems: poor attendance at both rehearsals and Park-jobs (training for Armidale had been hectic and demanding), finding a successor first for Paul Terracini (Perry Axford generously filled the breach temporarily), and then for Paul Cerizo. President Topp’s report for 1986 re-iterated a fundamental imperative of banding: “the need to keep every chair occupied by capable players prepared to make a commitment of time and effort”. His closing words drew attention to two such members: Tom and Beatrice Roache, whose fund-raising at Chardon’s was continuing without interruption through all the highs and lows of the Band. Both were also part of Paul Radford’s Social and Fund-Raising Committee which had been set up during the previous Warwick Contest. Its purpose was specifically to raise funds for the following year’s Contest at Charters Towers, and perhaps even the National Titles in Tasmania, or the coming State Titles in Queensland. Other members included Dulcie Topp, Joanne Radford, Lloyd Pomeroy and Betty Marsden.
At the Annual Meeting in August 1986, Long-Service Awards were presented to Cyril Radford, Col Topp, Roger Roache, Don Murray, Graham Marsden and Jeff Herbert by the Queensland Band Association. At the ensuing elections, Col Topp was returned as President, Graham Cox was elected Secretary and Lloyd Pomeroy Treasurer. Other officers included Rick Casagrande (Band Sergeant), Bernie Hoesman (Drum Major), Col and Dulcie Topp (Librarians), Lloyd Pomeroy (Property Officer), Don Murray (Roll Sergeant), and Graham Marsden (Organizing Secretary). Trustees were G.Marsden, J.Herbert, C.Topp and T.Roache. Over the years, Brisbane Excelsior had been honoured with the patronage of citizens of the highest rank in the City. In 1986, Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson, became Patron and took leave from onerous duties to see for herself the City’s historic Band at work, even making music on Double Bass herself, with personal tutoring from Rick Casagrande.
In November 1986, the Band offered Gareth Freebury a contract to serve as Musical Director, Col Topp’s unfailing graciousness in his Annual Report (26 July 1987) containing, nonetheless, a gentle rebuke for wayward members:
“I would like to pay a tribute to our Musical Director, Gary Freebury, for his tremendous efforts in his first year with the Band. He accepts the poor attendance at the Park jobs with a stiff upper lip, and the performances at the three Contests have been a credit to him.”
Those three Contests were at Nambour, the Valley, and at Yeronga. Toppie also mentioned the Band’s new home (the Scout Hall) – its first in its 75 years of existence – drawing attention to the special efforts of Mrs. Bill Robinson (who first brought it to the attention of the Band), to Graham Marsden, to Rick Casagrande for all his secretarial duties involved with the project, to John Palmer for his skilful repairs, and to David Denlay, Gary Freebury, and others on working parties. Also complimented was Anthony Denlay (David’s son) who expertly laid the carpet donated by Rick. With sadness, Col Topp noted the resignation of Tom Roache, the formal Report acknowledging “a lifetime of service” to the Australian Brass Band movement. At the time, Roger Roache, also a Life Member, resigned.
In the 1987-88 year, Allan and Helen Lashmar re-joined Brisbane Excelsior after their sojourn in Maryborough, their son Tony, also becoming a member . That year, Trevor Stanley, returned to the fold as well, President Topp commenting on the “welcome sight of Trevor’s smiling face, to say nothing of his ability on the trombone”. At the elections which followed, Allan Lashmar became the Secretary, subsequently being re-elected at the two following Annual Meetings. It was at this meeting that Brisbane Excelsior decided to become incorporated under the Incorporation of Associations Act. Gary Freebury had drawn attention to the advantages of such action, and on the motion of Graham Marsden, seconded by Graham Cox, the decision was made to take such steps. A framed certificate dated 6 October 1989, now amongst the Band’s memorabilia in its own home at Windsor, bears testimony to its new status.
1988-89 brought mixed success. The Band sponsored a permanent trophy for the Open Cornet Solo for future Ipswich Contests in honour of its former member, T.E.Roache. At the Nambour Contest, the Band did not perform to its best, but Mr. Freebury expressed pleasure at its performance at the Combined Bands Concert in the City Hall on 30 October 1988. Vigorous discussion took place on the Band’s new uniform which was to comprise navy-blue Yakka trousers with a red stripe, with a long-sleeve white shirt and red tie (for winter), and a Pilot-type short-sleeve white shirt with red slipover epaulets bearing the Band’s insignia (for summer). It was decided to retain the current Battle Jacket in the interim. Members were asked to donate $30 towards the cost.
On 10 June 1988, the Band celebrated its 75th birthday, its members on the occasion recorded in the commemorative programme, along with the feast of musical delights provided by Musical Director Gary Freebury. At the following Annual Meeting on 6 June 1989, President Topp made mention of Gary’s strenuous efforts to improve the Band. “If any assurance was needed on his ability to interpret music, one has only to listen to the Adjudicators’ comments at Easter,” Col observed. Only poor attendance at rehearsals prevented an even better result. Toppie was particularly pleased with the Bass Section, and the conduct and playing of the Junior members.
1989-90 saw a huge increase in attendances in the Parks. The Director of Music (as Gary Freebury’s Report was entitled) noted his “amazement” to see 32 players at the first performance in January 1990, the lowest attendance being 26. Both the President and the Musical Director paid tribute to Allan Lashmar, retiring Sceretary, whose untiring efforts had contributed enormously to the Band’s present equilibrium. His successor was Pam Schryver who was to launch the Band on perhaps the most important phase in its history. Who but Pam would have persevered with the Windsor School of Arts against such impossible odds? Gary Freebury uttered prophetic words in his Report on 19 June 1990: “Already Pam’s suggestions have had a profound influence on the Band. Let’s hope that keeps up and even improves!” On the musical side, Gary voiced his one difficulty: finding the most improved player during the year just gone. “There has been so much improvement all around by so many players that there are at least ten players – if not more – who could take it out this year,” he said. His words captured the prevailing spirit of optimism. EXCELSIOR! Good, better, best! Onwards and upwards! For the Band, the best was yet to come!
On 2 March 1991, a Special Management Committee Meeting of Brisbane Excelsior Band Incorporated was held at the Schryver home to discuss the submission for obtaining the Windsor School of Arts as a permanent home for the Band. For the plans to succeed, the St. Andrews’ War Memorial Hospital had to relinquish its deed of grant in trust over the property to make it possible for the Band to submit an application to the Lands Department to become the new Trustees. Thus began a long and complex series of negotiations with the St. Andrews Board of Governors, with the Lands Department officials, with the National Trust, with the Heritage Commission, with the Metropolitan Fire Department and the Brisbane City Council Building Section, all ultimately resolved in favour of one of the city’s oldest bands. It is not widely known that finance for this massive undertaking came from Kasey Schryver himself, with the extraordinarily generous offer of $25,000 interest-free, to be repaid at a nominal $50 per week. The Schryvers’ thirty-year-old love affair with Brisbane Excelsior Band Incorporated was not mere passing infatuation!
From 1991 to May 1995, Brisbane Excelsior’s Music Conductor was Robert Quick, a young American musician who had joined the Band first on Baritone and then on Tuba. On 8 September 1991, he was invited to join the Management Committee and soon afterwards to become its Conductor. Robert brought to the Band his experience as graduate in music from the University of Texas and instrumentalist (Tuba, Baritone, Trumpet, Trombone and French Horn). In charge of a number of high school bands in Texas, U.S.A., he had also been a member of both the Texas Longhorn Band (the celebrated marching group), and the University of Texas Wind Ensemble. On the occasion of the official opening of Brisbane Excelsior’s new home in December 1992, Mr. Quick conducted the Band in its formal welcome to Glasgow’s internationally-renowned C.W.S. Brass Band. That celebrated Band which Brisbane Excelsior was honoured to welcome to its own home had been formed in October 1918, six years after Brisbane Excelsior was born. It was a delightful evening, two of the oldest and best bands in the world joining briefly to entertain each other in music-making.
In June 1995, Brisbane Excelsior’s Music Director is Barrie Gott who commenced his career as a professional musician studying trumpet with John Robertson and Harry Larsen at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music. Later, he joined the National Training Orchestra and was a regular member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He brings to Brisbane Excelsior a rich background as composer of brass band music, particularly for Salvation Army bands, many of his pieces having been published in the United States and the United Kingdom, and some of his compositions and arrangements having been performed in Japan and Europe. In 1983, he obtained a Master’s Degree in Conducting from the United States, and spent five years at Azusa Pacific University in California as Director of Instrumental Music. Back in Australia in 1991, he became the Territorial Music Director for the Salvation Army. Currently, he is developing young musicians in primary and secondary schools in Queensland where he is the Regional Education Co-ordinator (Sunshine Coast) for the Australian Academy of Music. He has adjudicated State and District contests in both Queensland and New South Wales.
1912: Band born in Spring Hill. J.D.Napier (Conductor). W.D.Veal (Secretary).
1913-14: Won B Grade Paling’s Cup and B Grade March.
1914: Three contests held. Brisbane Excelsior finished second at Maryborough, second at Toowoomba, and third at Brisbane. Won 14 pounds at Brisbane.
1915: Fifth at Ipswich Contest. W.Sorrensen won State title on BBb Bass.
1916: Second at Maryborough.
1918: Second at Maryborough Contest. Won Quartette. A.J.Longson joined Band.
1919-20: Gympie Contest. Won Waltz Competition. Second Own Choice and Street March. Bob Elliott won State Bb Cornet title.
1921: First (as ANA Excelsior) in Street March.
1922: Toowoomba Contest. First in C Grade Street March, Second in Test Selection. J.Compton won Open Cornet and Champion of Champions.
1923: Second C Grade Test. Third Diagram March. J.Compton won Open Cornet and Champion of Champions.
1924: Toowoomba Contest. J.Compton won Open Cornet and Champion of Champions.
1925: Band won C Grade Test under Goldie Holmes.
1926: Maryborough Contest. Goldie Holmes won Australian Open Cornet title.
1927: H. Perkins won State title on Eb Bass.
1929: Won Australasian B Grade Competiton at Mackay under F.W.G. McLeod. Winner of the Garden Test and the Paling Cup. Brisbane Excelsior was promoted to A Grade from 1930, and has remained an A Grade Band ever since. H.Perkins won Australian title on Eb Bass. E. Roache (Ipswich Vice- Regal) won Soprano Cornet title. Later joined Brisbane Excelsior.
1930: Came second at Rockhampton Contest in first A Grade Competition. Col Perkins won Bb Trombone State Championship and Champion of Champions. E.Warden won State Bb Cornet title. S.Mitchell won Soprano Cornet title. E.Soady won Eb Tenor Horn title.
1932: Came second at Maryborough. E.Roache won Soprano Cornet and Champion of Champions. W.Selby won Australian title on Bass Trombone. E.Soady and W.Selby also won the Australian Duet title.
1933: Won A Grade with 9/15 Battalion under A.Wade at Mackay. F.W.G.McLeod was Adjudicator. N.Henstridge won Bb Cornet and Champion of Champions. Col Perkins won Qld. Bb Trombone Championship.
1934: E.Roache won Soprano Cornet. Col Perkins won Bb Trombone Championship and Champion of Champions. E.Roache and J.Butt won State Duet.
1935: Band won under A.Wade (148 points, next 140) at Bundaberg. E.Roache won State and Australian Soprano Cornet titles. Col Perkins won Bb Trombone Championship. W.Wallace won Baritone. J.Butt won Novice title on Euphonium.
1936: Band won under A.Wade at Maryborough. E.Roache won Soprano Cornet. Col Perkins won Bb Trombone Championship. Band won Duet (E.Roache and T.Roache) and Septet.
1937: Third to Cairns whose Conductor was J.J. Compton. Captain Compton later joined Brisbane Excelsior as Conductor. N. Henstridge began his victories on Soprano Cornet (1937-1949). Brisbane Excelsior second in Hymn to Cairns Citizens’ Band but won Diagram. W. Wallace won Baritone and E. Thomas won Bb Bass Contests. E.T. Masters won Tenor Trombone Title.
1938: F.Cullum won Australian title on Bass Trombone. E.F.Thomas won State title on BBb Bass.
1939: Fourth at Bundaberg Contest (conducted by A.Paxton). Contest won by Bundaberg under the celebrated J.J. Kelly. W.Wallace won Baritone.
1940-45: no contests.
1944-55: Band led by J.J.Compton.
1946: Won Diagram and second in Hymn at Ipswich, second overall. Maryborough won under J.J.(“Massa”) Johnson, former Conductor from Victoria with reputation as tough taskmaster but superb musician. Col Perkins was Champion of Champions. L. Baxter won Euphonium title. C.J.Thomas won State title on BBb Bass. Won State Trio.
1947: Maryborough again won under “Massa” Johnson. Brisbane Excelsior second but won Quartet. N.Baxter won Australian Bb Bass title. Band won Australian Trio and Quartette titles.
1948: Third behind Mackay overall at Toowoomba conterst. Won Diagram. Col Perkins again was Champion of Champions, closely followed by Tom Roache and Col Thomas. L.Baxter won Euphonium title. Tom Roache won Cornet solo, his first title. Jeff Herbert finished second in Flugel Horn Contest. C.J.Thomas won State title on BBb Bass. The Open Duet won by E.Roache and T.Roache. Brisbane Excelsior won State Trio.
1949: To Ballarat under J.J.Compton. Finished third. N.Henstridge Champion of Champions. Col Perkins won Trombone solo. C.J.Thomas won Eb Tuba solo. Bob Campbell-Stewart won Junior Cornet solo. Billy Wallace won Tenor Horn solo. Brisbane Excelsior won Brass Quartet.
1950: L.Baxter won Euphonium title at Bundaberg Contest. Alex Henderson won Tenor Horn solo. Col Topp (then with Toowoomba R.S.L. and Municipal Band) won Novice Euphonium and Champion Novice. K.Gordon won Baritone title. C.J.Thomas won State title on BBb Bass.
1951: Won the National title at the Murwillumbah Jubilee Contest. Col Perkins won Champion of Champions at Queensland Contest. E.T.Selby won Champion of Champions title at the Murwillumbah Jubilee on Trombone. Brisbane Excelsior won the Street March and Diagram March. K.Gordon won the Baritone title. Col Thomas won the Bb Bass title, with Noel Baxter third. R.Fisher won the Ephonium title. Brisbane Excelsior also won the Trombone title. E.Masters won the “Old Buffers” title (trombone). K.Gordon was a close second to Selby for Nation Champion.
1952: Won Australian Championship at Ipswich. Tom Roache won State Bb Cornet Championship. L.Baxter won Euphonium title. Ken Gordon won Australian title on Baritone. K.Bauer won Australian title on Eb Bass. W.Wallace and K.Stitt won Australian Duet. Band won Australian Septet title.
1953: Did not compete at Rockhampton Contest. J.Butt won Eb Bass title. T.E. Roache won State Bb Cornet title. T.Wahlin won Soprano Cornet title. Alec Henderson won Australian title on Tenor Horn. L.Radford won Euphonium title. E.Roache and T.Roache won Duet. Won Australian Quartette and Septet title. E.Roache won “Old Buffers’” title.
1953: B.Baartz and Jeff Herbert won Australian Duet title. Band won State Trio. J.Butt won Eb Bass Solo (hitherto a Euphonium player). E.Roache won “Old Buffers” solo contest on Soprano Cornet and Duet with son, Tom Roache.
1954: Did not compete at Maryborough Contest. Maryborough Federal won under J.J.Kelly. J.Butt won Eb Bass title. E.Roache won State title on Soprano Cornet
1955: Brisbane Excelsior equal first under Billy Ryder at Mackay, with South Brisbane Federal. Tom Roache won Cornet solo. Brisbane Excelsior won top marks for Test Selections, and best set of Drummers trophy. Best Drum Major was R.C.Pickering.
1956: Second to South Brisbane Federal led by A.Baxter. Tom Roache won Bb Cornet title again. Ken Gordon won Australian title on Baritone at Ballina where Harry Mortimer, one of the most celebrated names in Banding, was judge. R.Fisher won State title on Eb Bass. T.Roache and B.Drummond won Duet. Band also won Trio.
1957: Brisbane Excelsior fifth under N.Henstridge overall at Southport. Won Diagram. Tom Roache won Champion of Champions and Cornet solo. Jeff Herbert second in Cornet solo. Tommy Peden won Eb Bass title. J.Ryder won State title on BBb Bass. Band won Trio.
1958: Did not compete at Cairns. J.Butt won Eb Bass title. Tom Roache won Australian title. J.Ryder won Australian title.
1960: As ETA Concert Band came sixth to Maryborough Federal at Toowoomba. J.Butt won Eb Bass title.
1961: Competed in first State Championship under Colin J.Thomas at Maryborough. Tied for first. E.Roache won Soprano title. Roger Roache won his first Novice title on Tenor Horn.
1962: Second at Lismore National Contest. J.Butt won Eb Bass title. Eta Concert
Band (Brisbane Excelsior) named “one of the three best bands in Australia”, with Maryborough Federals and Sydney’s Bexley District Brass Band.
1963: Second to Maryborough Federal at Bundaberg. Band won Own Choice and Diagram and second in Hymn. E.Selby won Bb Trombone title. Roger Roache won Eb Horn contest. Col Thomas, Tommy Peden, Graham Marsden and Ron Barlow won the Open Quartet. E.Roache, T.Roache, D.Neilsen and B.Williams finished third, a mere two points behind. The Band was a close second in the Open Septet.
1964: At Brisbane Contest, second (190 to 191) to South Brisbane Federal which was under A.Baxter. Tom Roache won Champion of Champions. D.Smith won State title on Bass Trombone. Band won Trio and Septet.
1965: Second at Rockhampton, again by one point, to South Brisbane Federal.
1966: Tied for first with Ipswich Vice Regal Excelsior at Toowoomba. N.Robinson and R.Robinson won State Duet. Band won Trio and Septet.
1967: Won easily, 193 points to 180, at Townsville.
1968: Defeated by a visiting N.Z. band. ETA Concert Band won A Grade Hymn and Diagram, but fifth overall. Helen Dempsey won State title on Tenor Horn. C.Bierton won State title on Eb Bass. Won Septet.
1969: Third in Test and Own Choice, second in Hymn and Diagram at Maryborough. J.Dempsey won State Bb Cornet title. Noel Cassells won Tenor Horn title. Helen Dempsey and Noel Cassells won Duet.
1970: Won easily all sections except Hymn (2nd) and Diagram (2nd) at Southport. Won championship. Last contest as Eta Concert Band. Tom Roache won State title on Bb Cornet. Helen Lashmar (nee Dempsey) won Tenor Horn title. E.Roache and T.Roache won Duet.
1971: Competed at the Maryborough Contest, the National Championships. ETA Concert Band finished fourth to Malvern (Vic.) overall, but second in Hymn. Adjudicator was Alex Henderson. Won Australian Trio and Quartette titles.
1972: Did not compete at Stanthorpe.
1973: Won overall at Rockhampton. N.Dunium won Tenor Trombone title.
1974: Did not compete at Bundaberg.
1975: Finished sixth at Australian Championships in Sydney. N.Dunium won Tenor Trombone title and Champion of Champions.
1976: Third at Southport National Contest. Awarded highest marks of all bands in Hymn tune. Won National Trio and Quartette titles.
1977: Did not compete at Gladstone. Paul Radford won Tenor Trombone title. Rick Casagrande second on Bass. John Palmer second on Soprano Cornet. Rick Casagrande and Ron Barlow third in Open Duet. N. Dunian, third Open Solo.
1978: Won at Maryborough Contest. Paul Radford won Tenor Trombone title.
1979: Won at Beenleigh Contest. Col Topp and K.C.Schryver won State Duet. Noel Cassells was Champion of Champions. Band also won at Nambour, virtually scooping the pool of prizes.
1980: Second at Toowoomba. Trevor Stanley won Tenor Trombone title.
1981: Won at Ipswich. J.Palmer won Soprano Cornet title. Col Topp won State Euphonium title. Paul Radford won Tenor Trombone title.
1982: Did not compete at Townsville. Paul Radford won both State and Australian titles. 70th Anniversary Concert.
1983: Second at Bundaberg. Paul Radford won State title.T.Stanley and P.Radford won Duet.
1984: Second at Nambour. Col Topp won State Euphonium title. Paul Radford won State title. Rick Casagrande won State title on BBb Bass. Farewell Concert to C.J.Thomas.
1985: Won at Mackay Contest. Beaten by one point at Armidale Nationals, Paul Terracini conducting. P. Meneley won Tenor Trombone title.
1986: Finished second to Townsville at Warwick Contest, Perry Axford conducting. Rick Casagrande won State title on BBb Bass.
1987: Did not compete at Charters Towers. Rick Casgrande won BBb Bass title.
1988: Nominated but did not compete at Nationals in Sydney.
1989: Fifth at Ipswich. Paul Radford won both State and Australian titles, and with T.Stanley, B.Denlay and E. Winterstein, won State and Australian Quartette titles.This gifted player later transferred to the Gold Coast where he established the Ashmore Brass Band.
1990: Second at Bundaberg. H.Aitken won Eb Bass title. Won Trio and Ensemble.
1991: Won at Warwick, Gary Freebury conducting. Paul Radford won the State Tenor Trombone title yet again.
1992: Brisbane Excelsior acquired its own permanent home, the Windsor School of Arts. Did not compete at Rockhampton.
1993: Second at Townsville. T.Lashmar won Bb Cornet title. A.Gittens won Tenor Horn title. T.Lashmar and M.Smith won Duet.
1994: Brisbane Excelsior competed at the Nationals in Melbourne.
1995: Colin J. Thomas honoured in New Year’s Day Honours with O.A.M. Funeral Service for Allan Napier, former President and son of founder.