On 27th April 1880, Christchurch hosted New Zealand’s first intercity Brass Band Contest.
It is believed that the first time New Zealand crowds were delighted by the sound of a brass band was in Wellington in 1843. The French warship, ‘Le Rhin’ was arriving in Port and this musical sideshow was part of the welcome.
With the arrival of the British 58th regiment in 1845, Wellington, along with Auckland were treated to more musical performances of the brass band persuasion – the soldier/musician’s afterhours antics were as well known as their proud promotion of the British Army! This was the humble beginnings of what would become the ‘Royal New Zealand Artillery Band’, now New Zealand’s oldest military band.
But the golden age of the brass band didn’t begin till the 1880’s. With most Volunteer Army Units now set up with brass bands of their own, civic pride was put on display in contests all around the country. It was also not unusual for big businesses, such as a railway company, to produce a brass band from within their own ranks as well.
Cantab father and son, Fred and Joshua Painter took the love of brass band playing to a whole new level. They took their music on the road in the form of a bicycle. The Christchurch Bicycle Band (or Painter’s Band) rode our streets from 1895 until 1910, adding their own charming style to many of the city events (pictured).
In 2014, thirty brass bands competed in the 2013 National Championships. Overall though, there are over fifty bands still carrying on the tradition countrywide today.
*Image courtesy of the Canterbury Public Library – http://my.christchurchcitylibraries.com/– Reference: CCL Photo CD 5, IMG0053 *