The Maple Ridge Concert Band will celebrate its 70 anniversary in June with a bash at the bandstand in Memorial Peace Park.
Laurie Dumas, a member of the band for close to 30 years, said members discovered the official date the band was formed two years ago, by accident, in an old choral concert program.
Laurie and her husband, Ed Dumas, band conductor for the past three decades, were given music donated to them by a local choir member in the community who had passed away. It was amongst these music books that they discovered the program.
“It talked about the conductor of the choir who also conducted the Maple Ridge Concert Band and it credited him with forming the band in 1946,” she said of George Sheldrake.
Before becoming the conductor, Ed Dumas was a trumpet player in the band in the late 1970s, when he was still a student at Maple Ridge secondary. Back then the conductors included Floyd Johnson and Bob Brown, a band teacher at the school.
President Gale Yip has been with the group for 28 years. Ever proud of the band’s history, she points out that it was the Maple Ridge Concert Band that built the bandstand that sits in the middle of Memorial Peace Park today.
After a hiatus in the 1980s, the band reformed and started playing festivals across the province.
In the early 1990s, the band started hosting two-day festivals in the park on makeshift stages.
When it started playing a summer series, called Twilight Tuesday Pops in the Park, members decided they needed a permanent outdoor venue.
“We had bands coming from Revelstoke and Terrace and that sort of thing here to do a band festival and we had no place for them to play. So we said, ‘You know what, we need to build a building and they will come,” Dumas said.
Construction of the bandstand started in 1992, finishing two years later.
“One of our band members is an engineer and he was responsible for designing and presenting it to council for approval,” said Yip.
“Then they went through fundraising in the community. A fellow by the name of George Price from the Legion spearheaded a lot of the fundraising. This is the result of it,” she said.
Yip is also proud that the Maple Ridge Concert Band is one of the few that offers three levels of programs – beginner, intermediate and performance.
“Essentially, anybody who’s just interested in learning how to play an instrument, we have an area that fits people. If they’ve got a music background, we’ve got an area for that. And people who are diehard band geeks from high school, we’ve got an area for that, too,” she said.
It even hold a band camp every year at Loon Lake.
Standing under the canopy of the bandstand, six of the members swap stories of some of their favourite band moments.
Cathy McNeil, whose been with the group for 17 years after answering an ad in the paper for the beginner band, remembers marching in the Maple Ridge Mountain Festival Parade.
“One of the girls I played French horn with, she was playing bass drum and she was real strong and short. We’re going along and near the end of the parade, she’s going faster and faster, and by the end of the parade we were running,” McNeil said.
Noreen Moss, who plays the clarinet in the performance band and the trombone in the intermediate band, has been with the group for 40 years. She recounted one of the first Santa Claus parades the band marched in.
“We were following the Legion Colour Guard and we were marching right along with them, right behind them. We were finished the parade before anyone else had even started. Nobody was behind us,” she said.
Colin Murray never thought he would be playing the saxophone again after high school. But after 40 years, he picked it up and has been playing with the band for six years.
For Moss, as with the others, the band is much more than marching in parades. It is about teamwork and friendship.
“You know, for me, one of the really great things about being in the band is music brings together people from all different communities and all different walks of life and occupations. You’ll be sitting next to a student and we can learn from them and they can learn from us, so it’s always a teaching experience,” Moss explained.
“It doesn’t matter what you do. When you are playing together in the band, you’re together, you’re a team, you’re working together and everybody’s there to help one another,” she said.
“I’ve been in it for more than 25 years and I’m really proud to say that these people, as well, have been with me in that journey for over 25 years. I think it is really special to have friends and acquaintances that you get along with, play with and be with for that long, it makes it really a valuable institution,” added Dumas.
The 70th anniversary concert will kick off to the annual Twilight Tuesday Pops in the Park on June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the bandstand in Memorial Peace Park, downtown Maple Ridge.
The band will be playing music from James Bond and Mission Impossible, along with Harlem Nocturne and the Muppets.
All of the concerts in the Maple Ridge Concert Band series are free events with activities for children.
Local Farm Nature and Living will be hosting a summer veggie and flower planter fundraiser with 10 per cent of the sales going towards the completion of the bandstand’s rooftop finish.
The original rooftop is made out of copper and it’s tarnished. It never got the proper coating that’s supposed to make it a patina colour.
The band needs to raise $40,000 to complete the project of removing the tarnish and putting on a proper refinishing surface that will turn it green again.
• Concert dates also include July 5, 12, 19 and 26.