Brass bands have held a prominent place in the life of Guelph since 1845. The original bands of the last century tended to be small, with usually less than a dozen players. Their chief activity was leading parades and playing at town functions.
Musicians from these groups formed the new Guelph City Band, founded with support from prominent citizens on June 27, 1878. They hired the famous Professor William Philip as Bandmaster. The band, which had about 30 members, held its first rehearsal August 17, 1878. Instruments were provided through the generosity of citizens.
The Band moved its rehearsal location several times in an attempt to minimize the cost of rehearsal space. Guelph City Council has contributed a grant to the band since 1878 in recognition of the services the band contributes to the community. The grant is still used to fund the conductor’s honorarium and rental of rehearsal space.
When the Guelph Musical Society was founded in 1899, the band became part of this organization. The Society now raised the necessary funds, and provided uniforms and instruments. The Guelph Musical Society (G.M.S.) Band continued in name to 1966.
By the 1960s the nature of band activities had changed. Following the lead of many other community bands, the band changed its name in 1968 to the Guelph Concert Band. Musicians now provided their own instruments.
The city required the Guelph Concert Band to perform a series of concerts on the city’s various bandstands during the summer months. These were located in Trafalgar Square, Jubilee Park (now the VIA RAIL station), Lyons Park and Exhibition Park. Today, two Concert Shells – the Riverside Park Bandstand and Royal City Park Gazebo – are used by the band for summer concerts.
Parades were an important part of band activities for many years, but the Guelph Concert Band has not appeared in a parade since the 1980’s. Instead, the band has evolved into a concert symphonic band, bringing live music to various venues including summer festivals, street fests, music competitions, and memorial occasions.
Concerts are the Guelph Concert Band’s major exposure. The type of music on the program varies, depending on the audience and the season. The band has a library of more than 2,000 titles, and modern arrangements are continuously being added to provide new and exciting repertoire!