From “Metro-Toronto Reservist Band” to “Heritage Brass”
In 1988, Bandmaster Victor B. Kingston (R) had the inspiration of forming a Divisional reservist band. He approached the Divisional Commander for the Metro-Toronto Division, Lieut. Colonel Norman Coles, who readily agreed with the proposal and gave it his full support. Bandmaster Kingston then undertook the organization of such an aggregation.
The formation of the Metro Toronto Reservist Band, as it was then known, was no mean feat since everything, instruments, music, uniforms, and practice location, had to be obtained. Divisional Headquarters helped financially to get things moving, along with generous discounts from the Trade Department. Lieut.-Colonel Coles continued giving guidance and encouragement by being personally involved in the Band’s formation. He had every confidence in Bandmaster Kingston’s ability to establish and maintain the group in accordance with Salvation Army principles.
Bandmaster Kingston was an excellent organizer and gathered about him people with similar abilities. With the aid of Toronto businessman Paul Willison, a Board of Directors was established which consisted of thirteen members and met the official approval of Commissioner Will Pratt, the Territorial Commander at that time. This kind of Board, reduced to ten, was required by the Canadian government for groups applying for funding grants from the New Horizons Program for projects in which seniors were involved. The first listing consisted of Paul Willison – Chairman, Lieut.-Colonel Nick Bell, Lieut.-Colonel Clarence Burrows, Bill Chinnery, Wally Court, Reg Cutler, Major William Davies, Wilf Dean, Ed Judge, Major George King, Vic Kingston, Captain (now Lt. Colonel) Mervin Leach, and Ted Robbins. The membership of the second Board was Paul Willison – Chairman, Major William Davies, Bill Colley, Lieut.-Colonel Clarence Burrows, Bill Chinnery, Reg Cutler, Wilf Dean, Ed Judge, Victor Kingston and Ted Robbins. New Horizons came through with a substantial grant which certainly helped in equipping the band.
There was little doubt there were enough band reservists in the greater Toronto area and elsewhere to form a band The first meeting for potential band members was held on Thursday, February 11th, 1988 and this was followed by its first band practice at Yorkminster Citadel on Thursday, February 18th, 1988. It was on March 30th of the same year that Bandmaster Kingston wrote an official letter to Mr. Ken Moffatt of the government’s New Horizons Program to report on the membership of the Army’s Metro Toronto Reservist Band, and Major William Davies did the same in listing the band’s roster to Captain Mervin Leach at Divisional Headquarters. Records seem to indicate that the initial membership was as follows:
|Bandmaster||Victor B. Kingston||Agincourt Temple|
|Solo Cornet||Bill Burditt||Hamilton Argyle|
|Herb Dowding||Burlington Corps|
|Aubrey Brookes||Etobicoke Temple|
|First Cornet||Bert Wormington||Brampton Corps|
|Second Cornet||Fred Ward||North Toronto Citadel|
|Flugel Horn||Major Bill Davies||Agincourt Temple|
|Solo Horn||Bill Chinnery||Agincourt Temple|
|First Horn||Stan Burton||Scarborough Citadel|
|Second Horn||Gord Hann||Scarborough Citadel|
|Dave Gillard||North Toronto Citadel|
|Euphonium||Ted Robbins||Agincourt Temple|
|First Baritone||Reg. Cutler||Etobicoke Temple|
|Second Baritone||Reg Gray||Scarborough Citadel|
|First Trombone||Lieut. Col. Len Knight||Yorkminster Citadel|
|Second Trombone||Keith Ketteringham||Yorkminster Citadel|
|Eb Bass||Fred Read||Mississauga Temple|
|Wally Court||Etobicoke Temple|
|BBb Bass||George Russell||Yorkminster Citadel|
|Ed Judge||London Citadel|
Commissioner Arthur Pitcher (R) was appointed the first Executive Officer of the MTRB
Looking back, although April 20, 1988 was the day when the band gave its first ‘less public’ musical program at the Super Sixties Club at Yorkminster Citadel, it was on April 23rd, 1988 that the official inaugural public concert of the Metro Toronto Reservist Band was performed at Agincourt Temple. The Metro Toronto Reservist Band was introduced by the Divisional Commander, Lieut. Colonel Norman Coles. Agincourt Temple Band also took part in this inaugural concert.
Since then the band has changed names, first to the Ontario Central Reservist Band and, in 2007, to Heritage Brass but, over the years has maintained a full schedule proclaiming the “Good News Gospel” through the avenue of music.
THE GLOBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC – 2019 TO 2022 AND ONGOING
In December 2019 it was reported that a new virus had been identified in Wuhan, China that was making dozens of Chinese people extremely sick. Within days China reported its first death. Little did the world know then that this virus would quickly spread throughout the world causing a major Pandemic that would disrupt every facet of life people knew and would be responsible for causing millions of deaths. At the time of writing (May 2022, 30 months later) the pandemic was still raging around the world. It was estimated at that time that worldwide, there had been 6.3 million deaths with 500 million current active cases.
On January 25th, 2020, Canada saw its first case. By March, just 2 months later the virus was in every Province affecting everybody and everything – employment, entertainment, travel – creating lockdowns where groups and families could no longer gather.
Heritage Brass resumed its weekly rehearsals at Agincourt Temple following the 2019 Christmas break, but within weeks, upon arriving at the corps, members were required to sanitize their hands and within weeks again it was announced that the band could no longer rehearse in the building. At about the same time, all corps in Ontario closed their doors. It was now early March 2020 and several HB members were vacationing in Florida with their families. The Federal government announced that in the middle of March the borders between Canada and the USA would be closed and that all Canadians should return home. Thankfully, every HB member and their family members got home in time.
December 14th, 2020, a day some have dubbed ‘V-Day’ was the day the first person in Canada received the Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccination program would be ongoing and at the time of writing, in May 2022, people were receiving their 3rd booster shot. We were then in what people were calling ‘the new normal.’ Though groups and families had re-assembled, including our Corps and Heritage Brass, we had been practising and continued to practice Covid 19 protocols. These protocols included, social distancing, wearing a mask, sanitizing and for our Brass bands, bell coverings. After 18 months of non-activity, the band finally got to have its first rehearsal.
It is worth noting that in that time of physical non-activity, the band remained ‘active’ virtually… the Band Sergeant, Alan Speed began what would become a regular online email communication with members which he entitled… “How are we doing?” Alan invited members to submit anything via email that would keep spirits lifted. From each other, members shared the news, good and sad, humour, inspiration and spiritual support. At the time of writing, Alan had posted “How are we doing #114.”
Band members also kept busy in their respective communities where Covid Protocols allowed.
- Two members on the Solo cornet bench donned Santa hats and played Christmas carols at a Seniors’ residence.
- Another member shared a story of the street where he lived. During the early days of the Pandemic, the residents would meet in the street each evening, banging Pots and Pans in support of Frontline workers who were putting their lives and health at risk tending to those struck down with the virus. The HB member concluded the evening by playing O Canada on his Euphonium.
- Another member, a retired Police Officer volunteered his time with a program called ‘Team Dog Rescue’ – a program that rescued, fostered and cared for dogs in and around the GTA. This involved picking up dogs at pre-arranged points such as veterinary offices, animal shelters and airports, and delivering them to foster homes. It also involved transporting dogs from foster homes to vets for medical care and home again.
- Another member downloaded his Home Corps’ weekly virtual service which had been uploaded to Youtube, then he burnt it onto a DVD. Then with his wife and other corps members, each week circulated the DVDs to corps members who were without the internet.
Sadly, in that time of non-activity, we lost two members (not victims to Covid) – Geoff Norton (Former HB Bandmaster) and Major Ted Kimmins. What made the situation even sadder was that the band could not pay their respects with what is always a ‘Promotion to Glory’ service (or ‘Celebration of life’ service) and the band would be on duty in full uniform. Sadly, we also lost one former member Doug Hindy to Covid.
In the end, the band was happy to report that in that long period of time with the band not meeting, all members returned with the exception of 3 members.
On reflection, a Pandemic is something no one would want to go through. We were all in the grip of a crisis, unlike anything anybody had ever experienced. This writer has been reminded that it had been our Christian Love and Faith that got us through, hoping that our ‘new normal’ would never again be the ‘old normal,’ taking for granted God’s wonderful creation, our country of Canada, democracy, peace, freedom, health, family & friends.
Major Alan Price (Retired)