MUSICAL HISTORY: The Lakes Creek Band in Rockhampton.
MUSICAL HISTORY: The Lakes Creek Band in Rockhampton.

Battle of the bands in the Botanic Gardens

THIS is the latest instalment in our 1918 historical feature where we look back at the stories, people and events that shaped our region from the 1918 editions of The Morning Bulletin.


Recent events indicate that a strong effort is being made to infuse new life into the organisations formerly known as the Foresters' Band and the Lake's Creek Band, both of which have changed their names as an earnest of their intention to improve their status - presumably both musically and financially.

The former has now become the City Concert Band, and the latter takes the title of the Municipal Band. In the case of musicians as well as others, rivalry often proves an incentive to progress, especially so when it leads to more diligence in practice and a better understanding of the music they aspire to interpret. If this be the result of the present activity, both bands may rest assured of public appreciation.

An old adage says "Music hath charms.” Plato defined its influence more than two thousand years ago in the following term: "Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe; wing to the mind; flight to the imagination; charm to sadness; gaiety and life to everything.”

Shakespeare, who lived in the sixteenth century, summed up its influence as follows:-

"The man that hath no music is himself,

Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.”

These ideas may be said to embody the universal sentiment of humanity in regard to music. Recognising this fact, it was scarcely necessary for our correspondent "Music” in our issue of Thursday to plead for public appreciation of the musically qualities of our local bandsmen.

There are times and seasons, however, when music may be listened to and enjoyed with more zest and appreciation than at other times. A brass band, for instance, may discourse sweet music to an outdoor assembly, and be thoroughly appreciated, whereas it would be quite out of place in an art gallery or a flower show.

Again, the true lovers of nature - and they are probably far more numerous than is generally supposed - ask for no additions to the glorious panorama which nature provides. Those who love beauty will see beauty everywhere. To them, a brass band or any other sort of band located in the beautiful surroundings of the Botanic Gardens would irritate far rather than soothe, and detract from their enjoyment accordingly.

We neither underestimate music as an art nor depreciate the abilities of our local bandsmen as performers. Recent developments clearly reveal a tendency on the part of the two bands mentioned to ignore the fact that the Botanic gardens were not established, nor are they maintained, for the purpose of affording facilities for supplying their financial needs.

They are designed and set apart for the cultivation and preservation of plant life in all its most pleasing and useful forms. And who can deny that the most obvious beauty that everywhere strikes the human eye is the verdant covering of the earth which is formed by a happy mixture of plants and flowers of various magnitude and uses?

One of the principal conditions upon which the Botanic Gardens Trust holds its authority is that the gardens must be free to all. Access must not be barred to any so long as they observe and respect the by-laws. They must be as free as the public streets, and neither bandsmen nor anyone else should be allowed to intercept visitors and rattle collecting boxes in their faces before they can pass the entrance gates.

This practice, however, has now become a weekly event and is proving exceedingly distasteful to many. Granted that at the present time the Traffic Inspector is allowing a good deal of latitude in this direction in our public streets on account of the numerous patriotic and charitable appeals which are being made; but the bandsmen, however, when visiting the gardens, are not on the same footing.

A recent collection taken up is known to have reached nearer thirty than twenty pounds, and one instance is known where the takings were nearer forty than thirty pounds.

When the public understand this they will have no difficulty in accounting for the anxiety displayed by both bands to secure the right of performance.

When the Council passed a resolution to allow the bands to play in the gardens it was freely predicted that the privilege would be abused, and would become more of a nuisance than a pleasure to a great many visitors. The arrangement has now assumed that aspect.

The Curator and his staff are overburdened with work and anxiety, the expenses of the Trust are increased, and it has become necessary to secure police protection for the safety of the gardens. A few larrikins got under observation could do more damage in five minutes than could be remedied in five years. The Trust may reasonably ask the question - is it worthwhile?

There are other places in the city where the bands might play with far less trouble to themselves and equal satisfaction and comfort to the public. Some eight years ago Victoria Park was provided with an excellent bandstand at a big expense, and the bands were invited to use it as freely as they liked.

As a reward for the Council's consideration, the bandstand was ignored for years by the City Band, and it has never received more than one occasional Sunday visit, with the exception of a few night performances when they were allowed to make a charge for seats and take up a collection as well.

Leichhardt Park affords another fine central position where there would be no danger of injury to valuable plants. A subsidy of £20 was recently voted to the City Band, and the Municipal Band ignored. This was an invidious distinction not justified. A correspondent in Thursday's "Bulletin” also urged the public to show its appreciation of the efforts of the City Band in securing the services of southern bandsmen by liberally supporting it financially. It seems more than probable that "Music” in his letter reveals the true state of affairs.

The urgency and importance of the whole business is one of pounds, shillings and pence. There has been some talk about the band assisting the Gardens Trust by taking up a collection on its behalf. This would be somewhat in the nature of throwing out a sprat to catch a mackerel.

The Trust has been able so far to maintain the gardens without charitable assistance, and it is to be hoped that the bait will not be taken. There are numerous complaints by visitors who patronise the gardens for the pleasure they derive from them, and strongly object to being bailed up incessantly for contributions.

Patriotic and charitable calls are numerous enough, and bandsmen should recognise that they do not come under either designation.

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