A recent post in the Australasian Brass Bands Facebook group about Hilda Tansey, leader of the Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band, led Eric Brisse, a French brass band enthusiast, to ask if there had been any French ladies’ bands. The only one that I am aware of is the Louverne Ladies’ Brass Band.
This was a professional band that fled France during WW1 and toured the USA with the Billy “Single” Clifford Company, which provided musical theatre entertainment. The Band was used by Billy Clifford to advertise his evening show, of which they were part, by them giving a free lunchtime concert in whatever town they were appearing in. One report states that the 14 band members were originally studying at the Louvre Seminary in Paris, before fleeing to the USA, another that they had been playing for years in France before coming to the USA.
The band, together with some other, American, ladies [Ruth Coughlin, Florence Bentley (leader), Sylvia Kelly, Grace Fields, Evolena Guthrie, Cozy Lewis, Jessie West, and Glentora Wolf] made up the Imperial Orchestra.
Some of the tour dates that the Louverne Ladies’ Brass Band fulfilled as part of Billy Clifford’s shows were:
- 19 September 1914 – Bristol, Tennessee
- 29 September 1914 – Staunton, Virginia
- 3 October 1914 – Greensboro, North Carolina
- 5 October 1914 – Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- 6 October 1914 – Durham, North Carolina
- 16 October 1914 – New Bern, North Carolina
- 17 October 1914 – Lumberton, North Carolina
- 2 November 1914 – Salisbury, North Carolina
- 9 November 1914 – Greenville, South Carolina
- 4 December 1914 – Lakeland, Florida
- 7 December 1914 – Orlando, Florida
- 4 January 1915 – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
- 25 January 1915 – Monroe, Louisiana
- 10 February 1915 – Pawhuska, Oklahoma
- 16 February 1915 – Chanute, Kansas
- 28 August 1915 – Billings, Montana
- 2 December 1915 – Lawton, Oklahoma
- 12 January 1916 – Demopolis, Alabama
- 4 April 1916 – York, Pennsylvania
- 7 January 1917 – Jackson, Mississippi
- 28 March 1917 – Columbus, Indiana
Also travelling with Billy Clifford, between 1913 and 1917, were the Weston Sisters (Carrie, Florence, and Juliette) who had performed as a cornet trio since around 1905 (after their father Sam Weston, a former minstrel artist, went blind).