The History of Mitcham City Brass


In 1970 the Band had to limit its engagements to 17 due to the illness of the Bandmaster Mr. W. Hood, followed by the serious illness of his wife, and to sickness among the small membership, (21 members). Because of the unavailability of Mr. W. Hood the bulk of the conducting fell on the shoulders of the Deputy Bandmaster Mr. V. Carpenter, and Mr. Cyril Britton also helped out as a guest conductor on several occasions.

The Band had been carrying out an extensive membership drive over the previous 12 months but the results were very disappointing, also, because of lack of numbers, this was the first time in 24- years that the Band was unable to take part in John Martins Pageant. Even with the limited number of paid engagements, the Band concluded the year in a very good financial position, having a bank balance of $3058-79 made up as follows:-


Very little change took place in the Band during 1971, the membership was still rather small, but, nevertheless, they managed to take part in 13 engagements. It was at one of these, namely Mitcham R.S.l. Anzac Day March on April 25th, that Miss Sue Russell, Mitcham Band’s first ever female Drum Major, took control of the Band for the very first time and performed very creditably. During the year Mr. W. Hood was forced to resign as Bandmaster (due to illness) after holding the position since 1967, his place was taken by Mr. V. Carpenter, who had been Deputy Bandmaster and Learners Class Instructor for some time.

Also during July the Learners spent a very successful weekend camp at Aldgate. Upon hearing of the Council’s purchase of the Old Mitcham Police Station, the Band once more approached them seeking a permanent Band Room but still to no avail.

1972 was very similar to 1971 as far as Banding was concerned, with the Band still having a small membership and therefore could only take part in 12 engagements, so several ideas were mooted, and investigated on how to improve the Band, for example, change of uniforms, change of instruments to low pitch to assist players, and a greater effort be made by members to impress the Council, and general public. However the Learners Class had been taken over by Mr. E. Brook during the year and was progressing very well.

The membership of the Mitcham Senior Band continued to decline during 1973 and 1974. During this period the learners Class was taken over by Mr. H.C. Rault and a Junior Band was formed which competed in its first contest in March 1973 and was successful by winning its division. This being the first of many trophies they won over the next nine years. Although small in number, the Senior Band was still able to perform at 9 engagements in 1973 and 8 engagements in 1974.

1975 saw Mr. H.C. Rault, who at the time was in charge of the Learners Class and Junior Band, take over the position of musical director of the Senior Band (which was down to 12 active members, the smallest membership since the First World War) from Mr. J. Bost. Because of the small membership of the Senior Band it was decided to combine both Senior and Junior Bands on a trial period so that they could carry out some engagements (13 in 1975).

When the two Bands combined, some of the Senior members expressed their concern at the Bands keeping their separate identities and suggested that the Junior Band be disbanded, but it was felt by others that if this took place, the Band would be non-existent within 12 months, so the Junior Band kept its identity, this was a very wise decision as the Juniors were able to compete” as a Band in a number of Junior Championships over the years with a great deal of success.

After considerable discussions, the newly formed composite band decided to compete in “D” Grade at Tanunda in November 1975 and gained 3rd place, a very pleasing result as 75% of the Band were Juniors and inexperienced in Senior Competitions. Thus the future of the Band was looking very bright. It was also decided that seeing that most of the engagements would be carried out by the composite Band, that both Bands should have the same uniform and so the Junior uniform was adopted, this being a green and white striped shirt, yellow tie, grey trousers or skirt, green pullovers, black shoes, grey socks and black belt (for male members) at a cost of approx. $55-00 per set.

During May the Junior Band competed at Hahndorf gaining top honours in their grade for music, also Miss Sue Russell won the award for Best Drum Major. During the latter part of the year an extensive membership drive was carried cut, with both press adverts and visitations to various local schools, resulting in 6 new Junior and 1 Senior member. Also during this period a committee was formed to look into the price and availability of a new set of instruments. The Committee came up with a price of $12,000-00 for a set of Boosey and Hawkes instruments, for which an approach was made to the Council without any success. A Committee was also formed during the year to prepare a constitution for the Band after various members had expressed concern at the Band net having one.

At the 1976 A.G.M. it was again suggested that the two Bands amalgamate, but, after considerable discussion, it was again decided that they keep their separate identities, but, however, it was decided that both Bands be looked after by the one common Committee, having equal representation from both Bands, instead of the two separate Committees as had been operating in the past.

During the year many Senior members stated that they were not happy with the idea of too many competitions and the time taken practicing for them, and some indicated that they did not want any competitions at all, but were willing to help the Juniors in their venture, thus the Senior Band did not compete in the State Championships again until 1979. Nevertheless, the Juniors kept on competing with a considerable amount of success at Hahndorf winning the Oval March and Music trophy for their section, also Mr. G. Sadler won the Drum Majors Award for the Mitcham City Band.

As many instruments were wearing out fast and repair costs were increasing, it was decided that the Council should again be approached concerning assistance in purchasing a new set of instruments. But before the approach was made, a sub-committee was formed to carry out a thorough investigation regarding what assistance other Councils gave to their Bands etc. and, armed with these reports, a very successful approach was made to the Council early in 1977.

It was stated by various members during 1976 that in their opinion the Band had been selling themselves short on many occasions in the past, in the light of various functions having outlaid large amounts of money for such attractions as Humphrey B. Bear, Pat Cat etc. whilst the Band was only paid a mere pittance for its services, and, as the cost of maintaining the Band was increasing at an alarming rate, and the present income was not covering the expenditure, so a minimum fee was raised to $60-00 for any engagement.

During the year the Junior Band again combined with the Kensington and Norwood Junior Band and held a concert of very high standard in the Norwood Town Hall. Also during the year Mr. Norm Pedlar was awarded life Membership of the Band for completion of 21 years continuous service.

1977 saw a slight increase in the combined bands repertoire as the Junior members gained experience, but, still not reaching anywhere near their potential, much to the disappointment of the Bandmaster and the Committee. * The Junior Band once again competed in the Junior Band State Championships organised by the Hahndorf Contest Committee at Lobethal (as the Hahndorf Oval had been ruined earlier in the year) and again won their music section and came 2nd in the Street March, also, at his first appearance for Mitcham, Mr. Robert Tremethick won the Drum Majors Award, this he was to repeat again in the following two years. As had been done in previous years, another recruiting drive was carried out among the local schools and in the local paper, but, as had happened so often in the past, there was little success. During the year various members expressed a wish to have a change in uniform to short sleeved shirts and hat for the summer, but after much discussion by the Committee, it was decided to leave the shirts as they were and that a white towelling hat could be worn at outside engagements to protect members heads from the sun, these hats were to be purchased by the individual members.

Although the Council had offered to purchase a new set of instruments for the Band, it was not until 1978 that they all became available, but the Band did purchase two new Side Drums for the Junior Band from “John Reynolds Drum City” for $254-40.

As in the past couple of years, the number of engagements performed by the Band during the year increased slightly.

* After considerable amount of investigation, writing and rewriting etc., 1978 saw the introduction of the much overdue constitution which was received with a great deal of enthusiasm.

** This was a very memorable year as far as the Band was concerned, for it was not only the year that the constitution was introduced, but it was also during the year that the long awaited set of new instruments arrived and were duly handed ever to the Band on behalf of the Council by the then Mayor Mr. J. Morris at a special night held in July, to which all Councillors and their wives, Aldermen and their wives, and a representative from each service club in the Mitcham District and their wives were invited.

Before the official hand over, however, an instruction night was given by Mr. Bob Size from Brass and Reed Centre (the firm from which the instruments were purchased) on the care and cleaning of the new instruments.

The Band decided during the year that they would compete at the National Championships at Mt. Gambier in 1980, this however was later withdrawn as it was thought that with such a young and inexperienced Band, and with the ever escalating transport costs, it was not worth the effort.

During April the Junior Band once again competed in the championships held at Mt. Barker and organised by the Hahndorf Contest Committee with excellent results, winning 5 out of a possible 6 trophies, these were:- “B” Grade Music, Oval March, Stage Presentation, Drum Majors Award (R. Tremethick) and Highest aggregate points in music by a South Australian Band (this being a perpetual trophy, and only lost the Street March by one point.

During the year the South Australian Govt, gave the S.A.B.A. a grant of $25,000-00 to be allocated to registered Bands on a dollar for dollar basis up to a maximum of $1,500-00 per Band to be spent purchasing new instruments, and after much thought and discussion, it was decided that Mitcham Band should apply for $1,500-00, and, with the $1,500-00 put up by the Band, purchase a new Bass Drum for the Junior Band (for which the Mitcham R.S.L. payed half), 2 Cornets, 1 Baritone, 1 Euphonium and a Tenor Horn, this application was duly lodged and approved by the S.A.B.A., but it was net until 1979 that the Cornets, Baritone, Euphonium and Tenor Horn became available, and it took until March 1980 before the Bass Drum arrived.

The Committee decided that this was a good time to investigate the possibility of incorporating the Band as this should have the effect of moving liability from the Committee to the to the Band as a whole, in case of accidents etc. but after a great deal of investigation and discussion, and seeing that the Govt, were talking about passing a new act regarding rules of incorporation, it was decided to leave this idea for the time being.

As has been the case since the combining of the two Bands, the number of engagements carried out by the Bands increased slightly during 1978, (14 paid engagements and a number of unpaid ones) e.g. Brighton Rotary Club Mardi Gras Lions International Convention Australian Canadian Assoc. Australian Lutheran Aid Assoc. Labor Day Celebrations Edwardstown Primary School Girls Brigade, South Australian Camera Club R.E. Millard (100th Birthday), Glenelg Christmas Pageant Mitcham Senior Citizans Glen Osmond Baptist Carol Night Blackwood Apex Christmas Tree Festival, John Martins Pageant (this engagement the Band managed to get back in 1976 and had done ever since.)

1979 was a very busy year for the Band as it was in great demand, with many repeat bookings and quite a few new engagements, far more than they had done for many years, (total of 24) 10 of which included street marches, which, at the time, was very good because most Bands objected to marching.

* In November the Senior Band took part in the State Band Championships at Willunga in D Grade (the first time in 50 years that it was not held at Tanunda). Although the Band performed very creditably, they could only gain second place in everything (marches, music etc.) which, however, was quite an achievement considering that half of the members were still Juniors with the youngest member being only 11 years old, and all they needed was a little more effort and they would have easily taken home one or more trophies.

On March 31st the Junior Band however continued on their winning way by winning 5 out of a possible 7 trophies at the State Junior Championships held at Hahndorf, and the Drum Major, Mr. Robert Tremethick won his 3rd trophy, a very commendable effort, and Mr. Cliff Sorrell, the Adjudicator, gave the Mitcham Junior Band a great compliment, when, in his summing up prior to announcing the winners and presenting the trophies, by saying that the Mitcham Band was the most exciting he had ever seen in a Junior Band as far as Marching and discipline were concerned.

As had been done on many previous occasions, the Band carried out another recruiting campaign with newspaper advertisements, school visitations etc. but without success.

During the year the Band approached the Council requesting them to display the trophies in the Council Chambers in a position where they could be viewed by the rate payers, to this proposal the Council agreed to display some of the Junior Band trophies in the Council Chambers in November, the Band’s intention, however, was to find a permanent display case for all the trophies.

With the ever increasing costs and inflation the Committee of the Band decided to raise the fees for engagements to $70-00 within the Mitcham Council Area and $75-00 outside, as this was not thought to be excessive compared with some other Bands and other forms of entertainment.


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Mitcham City Brass

Through the Decades

1900s 1910s 1920s

1930s 1940s 1950s

1960s 1970s 1980s

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.