The History of Mitcham City Brass
In 1911 a set of rules were drawn up as follows:-
- This Band shall be known as the Mitcham Brass Band.
- That the ownership of all instruments, stands, music and all other property shall be vested in the Trustees.
- That no member shall have any ownership, in any of the Band Property, beyond what his vote as a member entitles him to, and, on leaving the Band, must give up all Band Property to the Secretary and pay any monies due.
- That a Committee of 7 members be appointed to conduct all business. Such Committee not to hold office for more than 12 months without re-election. Should a vacancy occur, such a vacancy is to be filled at once.
- That the Band’s accounts be audited once a year.
- That the entrance fee be 2/6 ($0-25) and weekly subscriptions of sixpence ($0-05).
- That such fines as the Committee may think fit shall be imposed for:-
- Playing instruments on the Kings Highway.
- Being late or absent from practice.
- Using bad language.
- Disobeying Bandmaster or his Deputy during practice.
- That the Band must meet once a week for practice and the Secretary shall call the roll and list all who are present.
- No member shall play in another Band without the consent of the Committee and the Committee shall expel any member for misconduct or systematic non-attendance or for being in arrears with contributions.
- Any member leaving the Band shall return all property to the Band and make good any repairs if requested by the Committee.
- The Bandmaster, or, in his absence, the Deputy Bandmaster shall have charge of the Band.
- That the Committee refer all decisions to the full Band for confirmation.
- That this Band cannot be disbanded as long as there are six (6} members opposed to that cause.
- That every member, on being admitted to the Band, must sign his name to the above rules.
(At this time the Trustees were within the Band, but, some years later, the Trusteeship was entrusted to the Mitcham City Council, for security and posterity.)
In 1912 Mr. Laurie Chenoweth assumed control as Bandmaster, a position he held for 34 years and in 1913 the Band won its first of many contests. This was at the Strathalbyn Championships, gaining first place in the March, Waltz and own choice sections. Also during the year the Band completed 22 engagements.
In 1914 the Band purchased its first set of uniforms from G.J. Plenty and Sons at a total cost of 34 Pound 10/- and it was at this time that the Band changed its venue to the Mitcham Institute (Now Youth Centre’) for practice, which, at this stage, and for the next 40 years was held on Monday Nights. At this stage the Band played at the pictures on the Price Memorial Oval. This they did until 1915.
During the first few years of Mr. L. Chenoweth’s leadership, the Band would stand in a circle for 2 hours of practice, this was also done during engagements and contests or any time that the Band played as a whole.
When the Band decided to sit, Mr. Chenoweth nearly resigned, he was so upset, he said that if it was good enough for him to stand, it was good enough for the rest of the Band to do likewise, his theory was that it affected the breathing.
During the First World War (1914-1918), the Band gave regular concerts at the Mitcham Army Camp at Colonel light Gardens although its membership had fallen to 12 players due to a great number of members enlisting in the Armed Forces, never the less it always seemed to survive. As well as entertaining the troops, the Band also presented the First Expeditionary Force with an E flat Bass and 36 pieces of music.
During this period, Mr. W.A. (Bill) Walters, who, at the time was Treasurer of the Mitcham Band, a position he held until 1932, became President of the Band Association (now S.A.B.A.) a position he held for a number of years. At this stage the Association meetings were held in the Jeweller’s Shop owned by Mr. H.G. Dali (who was Secretary of the Association), situated in the Central Market Arcade. Mr. W.A. Walters was followed by Mr. Eric Smith (also from Mitcham Band’) as Chairman of the Band Association.
During 1917 when Friday night shopping was in vogue, (this continued until World War Two when, for security reasons, it was discontinued and not re-introduced until the late 1970’s) the Band had a permanent engagement playing on the balcony of Peoplestores until 9-00 p.m.
In 1918 the Band contested in the Australia Day Competitions held on the Jubillee Oval where the University of Adelaide now stands and for three months they practiced 2 nights a week in addition to Sunday Afternoon Drill Practice. All this work was not in vain as the Band and Members returned from the Contest in a very honourable position. Of the six players who entered the Solo and Party section of the competitions one gained a first place, one a second, two thirds and two fifths. In the Band contest, against six other-City and Suburban Bands, Mitcham gained second place in the Quickstep and third place in the selections.
With the signing of the Armistice and on Armistice Day, the Mitcham Band headed the Motor and Allied Trades in the procession that was held in Adelaide, and after the procession was the only Band to remember the sick, and visited firstly the Children’s Hospital, then the Keswick Hospital, and the Home for Incurables, finally playing through the streets of Mitcham.
In these days, Christmas Eves were very busy when the complete band would go carolling. They would hire a pair of horses and a trolley from Mr. Ben Johnson of Brownhill Creek, and leave the Hall at 8-00 p.m. sitting around the outside of the trolley, jumping off at each home, play 3 or 4 carols, partaking of refreshments of every kind, then moving on to the next place. This would continue until about 7-00 or 8-00 a.m. Christmas Morning. In the weeks prior to Christmas, the Secretary, Mr. A.B. Michell would write to each Vice President (13 in all) advising them what time the Band would- arrive, but you can imagine with eating, drinking and talking how difficult it must have been to keep up to time. The lighting was supplied by means of kerosene torches, but by the time the Band was half way through the night, the members had memorised all the carols so that running out of kerosene did not affect the carolling.
As was previously stated, when the war broke out in 1914, many players were lost when they joined the Armed Forces and things looked very blue, but young players kept coming along to keep the old machine operational until after the end of the war in 1918 and the return of the troops.
1919 started with 26 active players and, by the end of the year, this number had increased to 34, this being the greatest number of active members on the roll at any one time in the history of the Band up until this stage.
In 1919 and 1920 the Band again competed at the Jubillee Ova] on Australia Day, but only gained minor placings.
Mitcham City Brass
Through the Decades
About the Author
This history of Mitcham Brass Band was written in the early 1980s by band member Peter Harvie and partially based on notes written by Alf Michell that were published in 'The History of the City Of Mitcham' (Norman, 1953).
Peter was a member of the band from 1976 through to the early 1990s. He held the position of Treasurer for a number of years and was at various times a member of the General Committee and a SABA delegate.