Whatever Happened To The Vancouver Saxophone Band?

A few weeks ago I was digging through the City of Vancouver’s virtual archives when I happened upon this interesting shot… It is a photo taken on July 1, 1925, of the The Vancouver Saxophone Band. You can see them riding on a float for the Dominion Day Parade.

Vancouver Saxophone Band, 1925 Dominion Day parade, City of Vancouver archives, William Ward, historical photos of Vancouver

Photograph attributed to William Ward

(Here is a link to the full-size version of the photo.)

According to the City of Vancouver:

Photograph was taken from the apartment of Mrs. Wilson on the north side of the 100 Block of East Hastings Street and shows part of the White Lunch, Baxter and Sons Furniture, the entrance to the Howard Hotel, The Modern Company and other businesses on the south side

Because I love old urban photographs—and like to compare them to what places look like now—I did some digging, and thanks to Google Maps was able to make out one of the buildings. It turns out that this photo is actually looking towards the intersection of Hastings & Columbia.

Now, if you’re familiar with Vancouver at all, you likely have realized that this area is now called the Downtown Eastside (DTES). It is now the worst part of town, and you will not find a parade of any sort winding through its streets.

The DTES is home to North America’s first supervised safe injection site: Insite (which also happens to be in 100 block of East Hastings, and literally right next door to where this photo was taken in 1925). But I digress…

This is what this street looks like now from roughly the same spot. The apartment building that Mrs. Wilson lived in appears to have been torn down however, and now there is just a hole in the ground.

100 block East Hastings, Downtown Eastside, Vancouver BC, DTES,

Source: Google Maps

Enough of the DTES, what about Vancouver Saxophone Band?

Sadly, the Vancouver Saxophone Band was harder to find information about, than this city’s constantly changing urban landscape. All the Googling I did turned up nothing about this band. I have no information about them at all. When did they form? How long did they exist for? How many members did they have? What kind of events did they participate in?

(Here is the link to the full-size version of the photo again.)

If I had to guess, I would say that the Vancouver Saxophone Band was a product of the sax-happy 20s, and sprang out of the public’s love of the instrument that so many others hated.

Other than the one curved soprano that’s clearly visible, I would hazard a guess that a number of the saxes we see are C melodies. Do you see any baris? How about a straight soprano? A bass? Of course we can’t see the horns on the other side of the float, so we’ll likely never know what types of saxes those players were playing.

That said, check out the clown hats, and check out the clowns walking in front of the float. Do they look familiar to you? It seems they took a page from Canada’s own Brown Brothers, who were at the height of their popularity during this point in time…

The Six Brown Brothers saxophone band

It’s a shame that I didn’t stumble across this photo a couple of years ago, I would have contacted Dal Richards and asked him. I suspect he would have known something about them. Hell, he might have even played with them.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

Chuck Brush Musical Instrument Fountain

Any classy musical instrument fountain needs to be topped with a saxophone

Yesterday I found out that the theatre I performed in for over two weeks, had a really interesting fountain in its lobby.  Sadly I never saw it, but luckily my partner did, and was kind enough to snap a quick picture of it…

musical instrument fountain, Chuck Brush, musical instrument sculpture, Chilliwack Cultural Centre, alto sax, piano key, brass bells

This fountain—made up of a bunch of old musical instruments—is by the American artist Chuck Brush. Brush is from the San Diego region of California, and when making this piece of art, used a tuba bell, a French horn, two trombone bells, a frumpet, concert and marching mellophones, a marching French horn, a piano keyboard, and of course an alto saxophone as a topper.

When I saw this photo yesterday, I decided to do some research and see what I could come up with both about the artist, and the sculpture itself. I was also interested about what kind of saxophone Brush used in this sculpture, since it was a little hard to positively ID from the single photo.

Luckily Google was my friend, and I came across this dedication video of the sculpture from 2013.

This video also allowed me the following screen grab, which confirmed my suspicions that the alto saxophone that Brush used in this musical instrument fountain was an Bundy, likely circa 1970s.

musical instrument fountain, Chuck Brush, musical instrument sculpture, Chilliwack Cultural Centre, alto sax, brass bell, Bundy alto saxophone

The saxophone was important to the creation of the first musical instrument fountain by Brush

Chuck Brush apparently likes to keep quite a low profile, since Googling him didn’t turn up a website, or any social media links that appeared to be his. I did find a couple of interesting articles about his work as a sculpture which are note-worthy however.

The first is from the October 14, 2008 edition of the Houston Chronicle. It in part reads:

One peek inside a small shed loaded with band instruments for sale got Chuck Brush humming a new tune in creating workable fountains and other metal sculptures.

It was about two years ago, at a time when the Spring Branch sculptor was looking for less expensive copper. He bought the shed and its contents. Trumpets, french horns, sousaphones, tubas and, Brush’s personal favorite, the saxophone, became the impetus for his sculptures, with or without water-flowing components, of animals and other curved-metal images…

“Brass instruments are expensive, but they were getting relatively cheaper as the cost of copper went up. A sheet is now about $300. I was looking for more cost-effective methods, but it hasn’t worked that way,” said Brush, 60. “Working with brass is so time-consuming.”

Using musical instruments saves on his time, he said, because instruments already incorporate in their shapes the hardest thing to make in working with sheet metal: the compound curve.

“The most difficult part of working in sheet metal is the compound curve, the bell curve on the instrument. Over the years of forming sheet metal to my will, I developed a kind of lust for the compound curve,” Brush said. “And instruments are just filled with them.”…

Though he now scouts musical instrument sales for his art, he acknowledges that he’s never used an instrument for its intended purpose.

“I’ve never played,” he said.

Chuck Brush’s work has not gone unnoticed. According to this article on the Musicstar (formerly Southern California Music School) website, a musical instrument fountain that Brush made was sold to a member of the Rolling Stones. That sculpture was, in 2014 anyway, at a New York gallery. The instruments used in that sculpture were in part donated by Musicstar.

So now that I know that such a musical instrument fountain exists relatively close to home, I will have to go and Chuck Brush’s sculpture for myself. If I had the space for a sculpture like this, I would put one in my home. How about you?

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

2016: The Summer Of Oz

I have been rather absent, and have been getting rather behind this summer. Even comments on this weblog have piled up without getting answered. My apologies. I’m trying to figure out where the time has gone… Although I do kind of know… This has been the summer of Oz.

The Wizard Of Oz musical, Secondary Characters Musical Theatre, pit orchestra, bari sax, music stands, soprano sax, clarinet, the summer of Oz

I am in the middle of playing in the pit orchestra for Secondary Character’s summer production of The Wizard of Oz. After a few days off, we start up again tonight. If you live the Fraser Valley/Metro Vancouver region and would like to see the show before Dorothy goes home to Kansas one last time, check out the Chilliwack Cultural Centre’s Box Office for ticket info.

Prior to the show starting, I obviously spent some weeks getting the Reed 3 bari sax and clarinet parts under my fingers. (And when the clarinet parts were just above my pay grade, I subbed in some soprano sax.)

Once the summer of Oz wrap up over the weekend, I will need some time to get back to want has become my normal. My neuro issues are not happy right now, but I’m pushing through. Once the production wraps, I will just crash for a few days, and do what my neurologist recommends: rest, to give my body the proper time it needs to recover.

After a few days however, I will get back to regular programming. ;)  I have some great articles that I started before the summer of Oz began, and I want to get those finished and published. Also, I have some research that I started months ago that I would like to finish and publish the findings for.

On top of all that, my bass clarinet is sitting in its stand and waiting to be played… It is also waiting for its photo shoot. There are very few—none really that I have found—good quality photos of Richard Keilwerth bass clarinets available online for people to peruse.

In the meantime, I’ve uploaded some shots from the dressing room and pit orchestra setting for you to see how I am spending my summer of Oz. Yes, we’re Ozians, and run basically the full length of the stage because there are too many of us for the actual pit.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!