A Brief History of The Geelong Concert Band, Inc. 1987 – 2008

The Geelong Concert Band is formed

By three quarters of the way through 1986 the decision to “revamp” the Geelong Regional Youth Concert Band had been made. A special meeting was held in December to advise members of the proposed changes and the introduction of “The Geelong Concert Band” and plans to incorporate the band. At the incorporation meeting, Mr Leslie Hatton was appointed the public officer, a position he still holds today.

The first official meeting of the Geelong Concert Band took place on February 6th, 1987. Membership fees were set at $20 for playing members.

The first rehearsal of the band surprised everyone with the number of people who turned up to participate In the initial two months of the GCB, the band remained combined with the vision of splitting it into two, i.e. those turning 19 before 1988 would automatically go into the Senior band with their peers. It was noted at the special meeting to deal with incorporation that 113 playing members had paid their membership fees.

The Band Logo

One of the first hurdles that presented itself was the design of a logo and the development of a uniform. The design for the GCB logo came from Jackie Marshall, an art teacher at Newcomb Secondary College. As a result, the lyre became the symbol of the Geelong Concert Band Inc. The cost of uniforms was estimated to cost approx $8,500 for blazers for all youth and senior band members.

Band Performances

One of the first performances of the GCB was at the Queenscliff Market other concerts the GCB has been invited to play include:

Geelong Gem & Mineral Club exhibition

Winchelsea Band Fest over many years

Eastern Garden Flower Show

Carols by Candlelight

The Heights

Bicentennial Celebrations in Geelong

Carols at Geelong Hospital

South Barwon Civic Centre

Geelong Outdoor & Living Expo

The Royal Visit of the Queen in 1988

Camperdown Community Festival

Pako Festa

Cobbin Farm

Rotary Club Garden Show

Ford Motor Company Family Day

Mildura Tour in 1989

The Arena for “Super Cats” games

Colac Kana

Provision of pit orchestra for “Sheerluck Holmes” – MD Mark Irwin

Deakin University Open Day

Opening of the James Harrison Bridge

Melbourne Festival

Geelong Advertiser 150 year concert

St Laurence Park, Lara

Canberra Festival

October Fest

Market Square Mall

Steam Packet Market

Winery Garden Party (in a double garage due to the rain !!!)

Formal Concerts

The GCB present a formal concert once a year and other smaller concerts are held throughout the year. The inaugural concert of GCB featured all three bands and was compered by Gerry Connolly. Paul Jennings who did a fantastic take off of the Queen compered the second formal concert of GCB. Mike Butchers farewell concert in 1989 saw a combination of the GCB and the RAAF Central Band.

In 1993 the band undertook a concert with the Tasmanian Festival Wind Symphony who were touring Victoria. In the same year we participated in a concert to help raise funds for the Geelong Outreach Mall project which assisted homeless kids.

In 1995 the band was asked to perform at the Victorian Congress Concert of the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors Association. As part of the days activities, the band participated under the direction of Mr Geoffrey Brand during his interpretation clinic.

In 1996 the Adelaide Symphonic Wind Ensemble came to Geelong and participated in a combined concert with the Geelong Concert Band. This trend has continued with both the youth and senior bands participating as invited guests at various Australian Band and Orchestra Directors Association (ABODA). Our formal concerts over the past 10 years have featured some outstanding home grown talent including, David Gardner (featured this evening), Tim McCallum, Lachie Joyce, The Yates Sisters in Jocelyn, Georgina and Laura, Ben O’Callaghan and Wayne Bowden.

Due to a change in the make-up of the Youth band to include adult players, the Youth band can no longer compete in junior competitions. As such the Youth band has enjoyed the opportunity to perform as part of the Melbourne Schools Music Festival Community Band Section. As participants in this concert, they receive feedback from international conductors which is very beneficial to the development of their playing abilities.

The National Band Championships

In 1988 the Youth and Senior bands ventured to Sydney to compete in their first National Championships as the Geelong Concert Band. Whilst the Youth band secured overall second place in the Junior A Grade section, the Senior Band won the Open B Grade section with the following scores:

Hymn Cwm Rhonda 46 out of 50

Test Piece The Hornets Nest 93 out of 100

Own Choice Impressions of Cairo 94 out of 100

The band didn’t compete in the 1989 Nationals as they were held in Ipswich Queensland, as it was too far to be affordable.

The band did however return to the Nationals in 1990 when they were held in Melbourne with the Youth Band doing well in the Junior A Grade bringing home 2nd place and the Senior band coming 3rd overall in the Open A Grade.

In 1991 a combined Youth and Senior Band ventured to Adelaide to perform in the Australian National Band Championships. The band won two third places for their Hymn (90/100) and the test piece Sinfonia Americana (90/100) and just finished outside the overall placing’s. The venue in Adelaide was a large hall with appalling acoustics, which didn’t help the band in reaching their goal.

The Youth and Senior Bands returned to Sydney in 1992 for the Australian National Band Championships. On this occasion the Youth band participated in both the Junior A Grade, which they won and Open B grade in which they came 4th against more senior bands. The Senior band performed in the Open A grade section in which they came 3rd overall.

The National Championships were held in Tasmania in 1993 and the band was unable to attend due to the cost in travelling and transporting equipment.

1994 marked the final venture of the band to the Australian National Band Championships, which were held in Melbourne. On this occasion, the Youth Band came 2nd in the Junior A Grade section and the Senior band came 4th in the Open A grade section.

The Senior band returned to National level competition in 2007, winning the Open B grade National Band Championships in Melbourne over the Easter weekend with the following scores:

Hymn 45/50

Test Piece 195/200

Own Choice 196/200

March 46/50

These results gave the Senior band a win in every section and an overall win. The senior band were then regraded to Open A Grade.

State Band Championships

Each year for 8 years the Youth and Senior Band entered the State Band Championships held at the Box Hill Town Hall. Both bands were successful in winning the majority of the competitions at Junior A, Open B and Open A grade level. Our main rivals during this time were Westgate Concert Band and Southern Area Concert Band and in the later stages of our membership to the Victorian Bands League the Eltham High School band gave the Youth band a run for their money.

The Senior band returned to competition in State Championships in 2006 when the competed against themselves as no other bands entered the competition at any open level. They were however able to perform to the junior concert bands who became the audience for their performance. Needless to say that the Senior band won the Open B grade section but were unable to defend their title in 2007 due to a change in date on the VBLs behalf.

The end of an Era and beginning of something new

At the start of 1995, Suzanne Moodie put a proposal to the committee for the formation of a new style of workshop band. One that involved group lessons as well as a full band rehearsal. The use of experienced youth and senior band members as tutors was to be implemented and the targeted membership was aimed at primary school students in grade 4 and 5. This foundation continues today with the program being restarted every two years, thus enabling the member’s sufficient time to improve to a standard high enough to enter the youth band.

In 1996 the band made the decision not to renew our membership with the Victorian Bands League due to the expense involved in registering a full concert band. There was great concern that the standard of the band would drop as resignation from the VBL resulted in not being able to compete in State and National Band Championships. As a result, a collective group was formed including other bands that also resigned from the VBL around the same time. This group included the Geelong Concert Band Youth and Senior Bands as well as Westgate Concert Band, Ballarat Memorial Concert Band, Werribee Concert Band and Melton Concert Band. Whilst these bands are of differing standards, the purpose of forming the group was not to compete but to participate in a Festival style event. Whilst the rivalry between Westgate and the GCB continued, it simply pushes the band to perform at its best without the need to win.

The Festival of the Bands allows each band to perform a selection of music of their choice whilst an invited ‘critical friend’ provides feedback on the performance. The ‘critical friend’ then takes control of the band and assists them in learning some of the difficult passages. Some of our ‘critical friends’ have included Rolland Yeung, Squadron Leader Graham Lloyd, Rob McWilliam, Andrew Mathers and Andrew Van Gemert.

The decision was made in 2006 to withdraw from this bands group in 2007 as the Senior band had returned to State and National Competition and the Youth band were receiving a similar experience by participating in the Melbourne Schools Music Festival.

Changing of the Guard

In June 1988 Michael Butcher advised that he was retiring from the RAAF and would be returning to his hometown of Sydney early in 1989. With 9 months notice, the committee set out to find a suitable replacement. For a brief period of time, Michael’s brother Robert took over the reigns of the Youth and Senior Band before being replaced by Captain Mark Witham of the Army Band. Mark continued as conductor of the Youth and Senior band until resigning at the end of 1989 to take up a teaching position at Hailibury College. Flying Officer Stephen Wright took over the role of Musical Director for the Youth and Senior Bands in 1990 where he remained until the end of 1992. In 1993 Mark Irwin took over as conductor of all three bands, a role he held until the start of 2003 when he passed the Workshop baton to Veronica Thornthwaite. Then half way through 2005 Mark handed the youth band baton over to Amy Wert. He is however 14 years later still dedicating a significant amount of his time to the role of Senior band conductor and overall director of music the Geelong Concert Band.

Geelong Concert Band’s 10th Anniversary Concert

On November 29th, 1997 the GCB celebrated their 10th anniversary as the GCB. On this occasion, the following 22 members were eligible to

receive a 10 year service badge:

Josh Fraser Bruce Elshout Mark Elshout *

Terry Long Terry Reidy Daniel Zampatti *

Trish Elshout * Mark Irwin * Tim Cole *

David Board Louise Thacker * Maureen Zampatti *

Heidi Graham Peter Nouwen Suzanne Moodie *

Trish Kinrade * Simoen Perrott * Michael Thacker *

Michelle Visser Nich Wauchope * Clarrie Rains

Brendan Alsop

The people marked with a * are still actively involved in the concert band, most having continued to play through whilst other have had a break (long service leave!!).

This year is our 20th Anniversary and from the collection of people listed above, the following will receive their 20 Year Service Badges:

Trish Elshout Simoen Perrott Nich Wauchope

Mark Elshout Louise Thacker Daniel Zampatti

Mark Irwin Michael Thacker Maureen Zampatti

Trish Kinrade

In addition the following people are still playing members of the GCB but have had time off in the last 10 years and as such are not eligible for their 20 year service badge just yet:

Tim Cole Suzanne Moodie

Non-Band Activities

In 1991 Carol Gowty took on the task of organising a debutant ball for members in year 11 or above. We were only able to offer this opportunity to 18 debutants to participate and the positions filled very quickly. The night was a huge success for the concert band.

Car rallies and trivia nights are the other fun things that we like to do within the Geelong Concert Band. Michael Thacker started to organise car rallies and then when the Elshout family kept winning them, they took over to allow Michael and his helpers to participate. Trish Kinrade followed by Daniel Zampatti took on the role of organising trivia nights which much success. In more recent times Michael Thacker has once again put together a very challenging car rally that involved participants singing as many versions of Advance Australia Fair at they could in a public part in the pouring rain and with an audience of picnickers. We have also had a number of movie nights and bowling nights and always like to try new social activities.


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