While some of us might be scampering to get a last-minute gift for our dads, the New Westminster and District Concert Band knew a year before that they would be celebrating June 19, 2022 — Father’s Day — with a performance at Queen’s Park Bandshell.
The band, which consists of around 50 members today, has been performing at the same venue on Father’s Day every year, since the mid-1960s (though, COVID broke their streak in 2020).
Turns out, Father’s Day and Christmas are the two occasions in a year that the band never fails to blow their trumpets and saxophones in public. That apart, there is a spring and fall performance, besides the numerous events that they get called for through the year. But whether there is a performance or not, the practice sessions happen every week.
“Rarely is it cancelled,” says Kerry Turner, a longstanding member of the band.
In fact, the band’s motto has been to inculcate a sense of discipline and commitment among young players. With a fair share of fun, of course.
How the New Westminster and District Concert Band began
The community band evolved from what used to be the New Westminster and District Boy Scouts Band in the 1920s (when the fee per lesson for the bandmaster was just a 50-cent piece). In the 1930s, the Scouts band became the New Westminster Junior Band; the older members formed a separate band called the Royal City Concert Band. The latter, however, faded away after most of its members left to join the Armed Forces during the Second World War. The juniors’ band, meanwhile, performed in parades that represented the Canadian Army, Navy and the Air Force during the war years.
At that time, Turner’s dad, Fred Turner, was the conductor of the band; and growing up, Turner says, it was “ordained” that he would be part of it. He joined the band as a student in 1949, when he was all of six years old, and never left. He is 80 now and will be seen playing the saxophone in the band on Sunday.
“Music has been a big part of our lives, and it still is,” says Turner, who has served as the director of the band in the past. “Now I just get the thrill of being able to play.”
When little Turner joined the band, it was an all-boys’ band, with zero adults. It was only in the early ‘50s that it expanded to include girls, and only in the late ‘80s that it turned into an adult group. Today, the band has a good mix of people of all ages. Turner’s sister, two daughters, a niece and a nephew, and a grandson are all part of the band.
Besides himself, Turner counts about five other members who have been associated with the band since the ‘40s and ‘50s. Some rejoined after going away to play with other bands, while some, like Turner, never left. The most senior member is 90-year-old John Hagen, who joined the band in 1938 and continues to play the trumpet even today.
The band has been performing for over eight decades now and has represented New West in Japan, Australia, Germany, England, and across Canada, among other places.
“It’s a great history; we have been part of the city for a long long time,” says Turner.
While he has little idea of what’s lined up for the rest of the year for the band, what he knows without a doubt is that he would be rehearsing with the band next Monday for two hours, and all the following Mondays, too.
Catch the band’s free performance at the bandshell in Queen’s Park, at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The band is accepting new members. Visit their website to apply.