Mosman Municipal Band

Band music was very popular in the early 1900s, with regular newspaper music columns advertising who was playing where. Mosman had no band of its own, but other suburban and military bands, and the St Clements Fife and Drum Band, provided music for events and processions. However in March 1903 the Mosman Mail reported that “a movement is on foot among local musicians to get up a local brass band”. Led by trombonist Mr Bibb, amateur and professional musicians formed our first band which played regularly at Trafalgar Square (Spit Junction).

In 1912 Mosman Council agreed to sponsor a brass band when Mr F.J. Dansey approached it for financial assistance in running his Junior Cadet Band. Council Minutes report approval of a £25 subsidy, “the band to give performances for the Council when required”, and being known thereafter as the Mosman Municipal Band. A sub-committee was formed to oversee Band affairs, putting it on a firmer footing, and in May 1912 it made its first public appearance at a sports carnival at Mosman Oval. Under the conductorship of Mr. G.W. Sattler the Band played at local events – opening of the dressing sheds at Edwards Beach, charity events, “welcome home” processions for soldiers back from war etc. It featured in a 1915 Mosman Musical Society production, and also a large patriotic service at Mosman Oval that year. During summer months it regularly performed at Balmoral Beach.

Fund raising was a constant necessity. The Council’s small subsidy was insufficient to pay for the Band’s music, instruments, and uniforms, which had cost £100. Apart from collecting donations at their Balmoral and other performances, balls, fetes and even an art union were held for their benefit. Attracting sufficient bandsmen was also a problem, but world events intervened. In August 1915 the Daily Telegraph reported that “owing to the war, the Mosman Band has been unable to maintain sufficient playing strength ... and the instruments have been stored away”.

Not until 1924 did plans to revive the Mosman Municipal Band emerge. The Taronga Park Trust wanted the Band, which they would subsidise, to play at the Zoo on Sundays and public holidays. Council argued that if it was a Municipal Band, they should have final say on where and when it would perform. By Oct 1925 Council had decided to re-establish the Band. Some of the old instruments were eventually located, and new ones purchased after a plan to buy instruments, uniforms and music formerly used at Willoughby fell through.

Advertisements for musicians appeared in The Daily, practice began, and by Oct. 1926 the Mosman Municipal Band was back in action. Concerts were played around the streets, at the Oval and Town Hall, collections being made to cover costs, and Mayor Carter encouraged residents to support their local band.

The Mosman Municipal Band played regular performances around Sydney, at carnivals, sporting events, marches and civic functions, as well as providing
regular entertainment at the Zoo and particularly Balmoral Beach. In 1927 plans for the beautification of Balmoral began, including building of a band rotunda. Using State Government unemployment relief funds, the Balmoral Rotunda was completed by 1932 and was used regularly thereafter by the Mosman Municipal Band for Sunday afternoon and summer evening concerts.

During the Depression concern was expressed in The Mosman Daily and in Council about the cost of the Band. It played for free at many charitable events around Sydney, but the small Council subsidy of £80 for 80 concerts in 1932 did not even cover the players’ tram fares. By 1935 the situation had improved and Mosman was seen as a model for municipal bands, having a Band Committee and providing seemingly strong financial support. However by late 1936 it became apparent that the annual £150 grant was not nearly sufficient. New uniforms and music were needed and instruments required refurbishment. With little remuneration for expenses, bandsmen were reluctant to attend practice, and the presence of a full complement of 24 players, or even a minimum of 20, could not be assured for performances. Though the Band was popular, people were now more cautious with their money, and donations previously made by shopkeepers and audiences decreased.

In early 1937, despite much effort to keep it afloat, Mosman Council disbanded the Mosman Municipal Band. It was cheaper, they said, to hire outside bands rather than to continue supporting their own at a loss. The Commandant of the North Sydney 17th Battalion offered to take over the Band, but was unable to commit to the required minimum number of public and official performances. Finally, in March 1938, the Daily reported the sale of the Band instruments, and music at the Rotunda and elsewhere in Mosman was thereafter performed by a variety of visiting bands.

P. Morris. Mosman Historical Society References available on request.

Image: Mosman Municipal Band, 1930s? (Mosman Local Studies Collection).

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