Sterling music

The city of Sterling in Illinois supported a number of brass bands in the latter half of the 19th century. Some faded in and out of existence, one lasted, in various guises, to the present day. This PDF article, linked below, looks at the bands, players and activities in the city of Sterling and its twin across the river, Rock Falls.

Keystone Sixth Regiment Band

PDF – Sterling music – the bands that provided music in a typical small Illinois town, 1864-1910

Sterling and Rock Falls, 1872

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A Scottish Catholic Band from 1881

This photograph is of an unknown band, dated 1881, which consisted of 24 players – 7 cornets, 1 flute, 1 piccolo, 1 clarinet, 2 tenor saxhorns, 1 bass saxhorn, 2 tenor trombones, 2 bass trombones, 1 euphonium, 1 bombardon, 1 double bass, 1 bass drum, 1 side drum, cymbals, and triangle.

The bandsmen’s names are written on the photograph, but many are incomplete or indistinct. The best interpretation of them is, from left:

Father Cownall, M. McMullen, T. Walsh, ? Spillane, D. Haggerty, L. Dalton, W. Hearne, Father Butler, G. Kelly, D. Molony, H. Ashton, ?, ? Bassett, W. Spillane, W.H. Donnell, J .Wrafter, W. O’Leary, J. Whitaker, J. Shillier, H. Kennedy, ?, ? Bernard, F. Stephenson, V. Doyle, Father O’Reilly

There were a good number of catholic bands in and around the Glasgow area in the 1880’s and 1890’s many associated with the immigrants from Ireland. Attempts so far to pin down the specific band, in relation to the named individuals, have not resulted in anything at all helpful.

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Victorian Rock Bands

For all percussionists out there – here is an example of a Victorian Rock Band.

This is actually the Till Family Rock Band, who built large xylophone-type instruments with slabs of hornfel rock from the Lake District. These were one of a succession of lithophone playing groups over the Victoria era, the first being the Richardson Family’s Monstre Rock Band. Joseph Richardson spent 13 years creating the instrument which made its debut in 1840, and they toured with their performances for 10 years or so, even appearing before Queen Victoria twice. The Till Family were much later, in the 1880’s and made their way, on tour, from the Lake District, around the UK and eventually to the USA where they settled in New Jersey.

Richardson Family Monstre Rock Band c. 1845

For more details, see Dr A.M. Till’s webpage:

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The Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments

The Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments was a series of articles that appeared in Brass Band News. They were collected and published a 40 page booklet in 1918, subtitled ‘A scientific method for young and old players’.

Jesse Rupert Manley (1905-1976), who features on the frontispiece, is the son of Jesse Manley (1862-1933) the famous conductor (mainly with Aberdare Town Band) and adjudicator.

Jesse Manley, senior, in 1893

An 8MB PDF scan of the booklet is available as a download here:

The Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments

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Bandwagons – transports of delightful sounds

Most photographs of bands of the 19th and early 20th centuries show them posed formally in several rows, or perhaps informally in a loose grouping. Occasionally they will be pictured ‘in action’ marching, performing on the street, in a park or elsewhere. It is rare for bands to be photographed in or by their band wagon – typically only 1% of such images feature the band in or on some form of conveyance.

Many bands have used all sorts of transports to move them from one place to another, usually from their home to their performance location. Bandwagons or band chariots were specifically used or built for the band to perform in on the move. The article linked below gives a pictorial view of some of these ‘transports of delightful sounds’.

Sterling Cornet Band, Illinois, 1875

Transports of delightful sounds – a photographic exploration of the band wagons of 19th and early 20th century American town bands

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Bands of the Broch – the brass musicians of Fraserburgh

The photograph below is of the Fraserburgh Rifle Volunteers Band, one of several brass and military bands that called this north-east Scotland fishing town home from the 1850’s to WW1. The full story of the bands can be found in my latest article, available as a PDF from the link below:

Bands of the Broch – the civilian and military brass musicians of Fraserburgh

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City of London Artillery Band

The Band of the 1st City of London Artillery Volunteer Corps. This photo is dated some time between 1902, when the brigade was attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery, and 1908 when the Artillery Volunteers were disbanded and replaced by the Territorial Force.

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West Creek Cornet Band

A correspondent sent me this photo of the drum of the West Creek Cornet Band – from Ocean County, New Jersey. Nothing is known about its history other than it was acquired in an estate sale in the 1970’s. Charles Gibbons may have been the drummer or the band leader. A quick look online has not unearthed any further information about the band or Gibbons. The drum itself will probably be finding its way to a local museum or historical society in NJ.

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The Jarrow Navvies’ Band

The Congo Cycling Club of Jarrow developed a musical arm in 1904 The Congo Navvies’ Band quickly became a much loved (and laughed at) feature of cycle meets, carnivals and parades. Aside from their bicycling pursuits, the Band managed to raise significant sums for various national and local charities in the twenty years they existed. Details of their activities and times in the various charity events can be found in the article linked below:

The Jarrow Navvies Band – musical cyclists who played for fun and charity

Jarrow Congo Navvies’ Band, 1905

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A Yorkshire military band in New Brunswick, Canada

The East Yorkshire Regiment, originally raised in 1685, and also known as the 15th Regiment of Foot (York East Riding), saw service in Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1795 and 1809. It was shipped to New Brunswick in 1862, when Britain and the USA came close to war, where this photograph of the regimental band was taken. They were garrisoned at Fredericton and Saint John. A less usual band portrait, showing individual members pictures – a new photographic technique that became the rage for a while, for some group photographs.

15th Regiment (York East Riding) Band – 1862

The regiment also provided staff and drill instructors for the New Brunswick Militia’s 1865 “Camp of Instruction”, and some mention of the band is found in their activities there.

Following the training and platoon exercises, a grand review of the militia brigade was held on July 22 1865. Hundreds of civilians watched as the brigade, commanded by Colonel J. Amber Cole of the 15th Regiment, marched past in quick time led by the regulars. Following various manoeuvres they marched back to barracks in close columns, “to the soul-inspiring music of the band.” The militia force and the band of the 15th participated in a March Out under the commandant on 24 July.

Wilson, J. Brent – “The Vast Experiment”: The New Brunswick Militia’s 1865 Camp of Instruction – Canadian Military History – Volume 6 (2), Autumn 1997, pp. 39-53

Campbell, W.E. – The Trent Affair of 1861 – The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin [Canada’s Professional Journal on Army Issues] – Volume 2 (4), Winter 1999, pp. 56-65

Here are some much later pictures of the East Yorkshire Regiment Band from the 20th century – thanks to for some of these.

East Yorkshire Regiment Band, c. 1905
A Company, East Yorkshire Regiment, with band, c. 1911
East Yorkshire Regiment Band, 1916

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